Setting the Career Path in College: A Tale of Two Choices Five Years Later

College students notoriously have overwhelming schedules. Many balance going to school full time, having part-or full-time employment, living on their own, and maintaining relationships. In the whirlwind of the college lifestyle, students can lose sight of how college should support and propel their career, and instead become only focused on grades and graduation day.

According to a survey of over 1,000 employers, more than half of employers thought it was difficult to find a qualified applicant. The same study also found only 10 percent of employers thought colleges did an “excellent” job at preparing students for a career.1 At a time when college tuition is on the rise and job placement is still on the mend, students need to take advantage of the time and money spent in college. It’s essential that students are invested in their academic studies in their college days, but it’s equally important that they step outside of themselves as a college student and consider what can be done today to help them get where they want to be professionally tomorrow.

Consider the following two graduates.

Josh graduated from college five years ago. Today, he is in an entry-level position at a company he doesn’t plan on staying with long-term. He held another job prior to this one for two years straight out of college that wasn’t the right fit for him either. After having some real-world experience in the workforce, Josh feels he is finding his path. Looking back on his college days, Josh remembers working hard to support himself with part-time wages, going to school full time, and earning good grades. However, he wishes his college education would have given him a jumpstart to his career and helped him identify his personal passions and interests.

Emilio has also been out of college for five years. He landed a job right out of college with his political science degree, and is now making salary as a manager at the company he interned at. In college, he had a part-time job, had a full-time school schedule, and earned good grades. He was excited by his classes to get involved in the field right away and volunteered to campaign in his district for the upcoming election. He also held an internship at the State Capitol his junior year that showed him he didn’t want to work directly with the state or federal government. In his senior year, he got an internship at a nonprofit. They liked that Emilio had had the experience at the State Capitol that showed him he was a better fit for a smaller operation. They also thought it showed great passion and initiative that he volunteered in his district, even though he had a full schedule. The nonprofit offered a full-time position to Emilio after graduation, and he looks forward to growing with the company.

A college degree is increasingly important to be placed in today’s workforce; however, it’s not everything. The reality for students is they must expand beyond a literal mentality in college and ask bigger questions, set loftier goals, and bring something significant to the table. Students have vast opportunities for experiential learning in college, where they can explore, contribute, and make mistakes with some security. New college grads who leave school with practical skills and real knowledge of the workforce hit the ground running and get prepared for a promotion path throughout their career.

1“Employers Say College Graduates Lack Job Skills,” by Lacey Johnson. 5 December 2011. The Chronicle. Accessed on 21 May 2012.


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