Why many of my students will not have a job upon graduation

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By Jessica Rogers, {grow} Contributing Columnist 

If you have made any kind of a career change in the past decade, more than likely you did not find your new position through a job fair or want ad. Yet, this is how many of my college students expect to find a job this spring when they graduate. Surprised? Read on.

One of the most aggravating experiences I have as a teacher (at two different universities) is the lack of ambition demonstrated by students today and the almost total absence of a professional networking presence on the social web.

Sure everybody is on Facebook, but marketing undergrads are simply not utilizing social media platforms like LinkedIn and blogging to their full potential for business purposes. Last week, I conducted a non-scientific study on LinkedIn use among my undergraduate students and an underwhelming 10% of my students have a LinkedIn Profile! Note students are traditional and non-traditional undergrads, working and non-working, and a mix of majors.

However, nearly 90% mention “Job Fair” and/or “want ads” as a way they will find a career/job. Really?! So the big plan is to sit back for 4 years (or however long you intend to take courses), and then go to a job fair in hopes of finding your dream job?! Dream on. These students need to be proactive and take control of their careers.

Use your college years for more than beer pong

Just imagine the possible connections you could make through the social web during your college years.

If I had this opportunity when I was an undergrad I would have taken that social media bull by the horns. Instead, I spent my college career working for various companies gaining work experience through internships and finally during my senior year I browsed magazines looking at advertisements to pick businesses I would like to work for. If there was a mailing address anywhere on the page, I mailed my resume there. I did my research, mailed resumes all over the U.S., and networked however I could, but this was time consuming and a bit random to say the least.

Fast Forward to 2013! Students should be using the technological resources available to you to prepare for the job search before graduation and then again to finally cast that net for a job.

How about getting to work?

This is still a tough job market but there are certainly jobs out there for ambitious young graduates. But it’s not just going to be handed to you because you have a decent GPA and attended a job fair.

Employers want to see what you can DO, how you add value NOW, and that is best demonstrated through internships.

What about interning, getting involved in student chapter of industry groups (on and offline) and showing some ambition and drive! Show me (and your future employer) that you give a damn about your “career goals.”

There is no excuse to not be building a relevant portfolio of work while you are still in school, whether it is a paid internship, volunteering at a business or charity, or demonstrating leadership with a student organization. This work can also help you build new connections and specific industry knowledge that can help your employment outlook,

Set your self apart from the competition by showing a bit of enthusiasm and gumption.

Get cracking.

I addressed this topic on my own personal blog a year and a half ago and I share that post each term with my Marketing students. No matter how much I emphasize the importance of building personal brand and gaining experience, it doesn’t seem to be sinking in,

Even after my exhortations, a VERY small percentage do anything more to take control of their “Personal Branding” activity by the end of the term. If I read one more paper on how a Job Fair and Monster.com is going to fit right in with their “career goals” I will literally puke. That is just lazy.

At a minimum, before you graduate you should …

Have a complete LinkedIn profile, including multi-media, testimonies, noteworthy projects, and an active, relevant network

Have a personal blog about your career goals and aspirations. In fact every job-seeker should blog.

Demonstrate that you can create content, promote it, and build an audience

Have at least two work experiences relevant to your employment goals

I rant because I care.

There are several career paths that pretty much demand a social presence in my opinion. Social Media Marketing, Journalism, PR, and Communications … to name a few. If you are not online showcasing skills and interest, you are effectively sabotaging yourself. Do not think that you do not know enough people to make an effective network. You do, it will start small and grow over time. Stop making excuses. Get involved, Do the work.

By the way, if you have a great success story of how LinkedIn, blogging, or other social media platforms have opened doors for you, please share with a comment. I would love to shares these real life scenarios with my classes!

jessica rogersJessica Rogers is a Dallas-based Adjunct Marketing Instructor at Texas A&M University- Commerce and faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University. She is currently working on her PhD in Business with an emphasis on Marketing; her dissertation research is focused on Social Media. Follow her on Twitter and her blog. Views expressed are of the author and do not represent those of my employers.

 Illustration courtesy of BigStock.com

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  • Hi Jessica, this is an important topic but not only for “marketing” students. Obviously they should have a sense of how this works and leverage it (since supposedly schooled in this market) but what about the rest of the grads focused on business, engineering etc.? Who’s “teaching” them?

  • drjrogers

    Absolutely. I actually cut this post short and had a few recommendations for Faculty and Universities. Look for this next month. The post ended up being significantly longer than I expected. It is a huge disservice to students to not expose them to more ways to network, market themselves, and showcase skills no matter what major.

  • Tom Reber

    Jessica-

    The odd thing is that these are marketing students. If you want to go into marketing I believe you need to eat, breathe and sleep it. Not understanding or implementing the platforms available would show me as a potential employer that you really don’t know marketing at all..even if you have the degree.

    Just like building a brand with a company you must be known, liked and trusted. Your personal brand or lack of will determine if you get hired. Building a brand is understanding that everything you do (or don’t do) tells a story. The platforms available today allow us the opportunity to tell our stories in amazing ways.

    http://motorhard.com/marketing/at-least-it-wasnt-a-pair-of

    MOTORhard,

  • So much truth! I guess the good news is that the students who do know how to hustle will do very well, despite the dismal jobs situation. Great job!

  • drjrogers

    Hustle is way under rated Pauline! Thanks for the comment and have a great week!

  • Tiffany Hulsey

    Great article! I have been a middle/high school teacher for some time now and see the helplessness/cluelessness start earlier each year. I see so many students using social media inappropriately even into their senior year. Explaining that social media can be a tool during college recruiting and interviewing is eye-opening to most of them. I’m glad to know you are teaching them how to use it to get ahead.

  • Rebecca Alexander

    I totally agree! The job search environment is definitely not the same as it was when I was starting out 25 years ago (remember the want ad section of the Sunday newspaper??) so my advice to my sons (and your students) needs to reflect what works TODAY. I will definitely be sharing this information with my high school senior. Thanks, Jessica!

  • Conor Meany

    Great post. I did a masters about 15 months ago. We got a great piece of advice that whenever an guest industry speaker came in to talk to us that we should contact them immediately to thank them for coming in. This would also serve as a conversation starter. I quickly found out that not many of my classmates bothered to do it and as a result many were unknown to many people within the industry upon graduation. I was fortunate enough to follow through on the advice and quickly found an opportunity coming my way after graduation.

  • drjrogers

    Wonderful advice and so true. Read the link in the article on why every job seeker should blog… similar sentiment in the article by Mark. I tend to attempt to connect with everyone I meet (Virtual or IRL) via LinkedIn 🙂 http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jessica-rogers-m-s/2a/2a/767

  • drjrogers

    Thanks Rebecca.. he will be ahead of the class when he starts college!

  • drjrogers

    Tiffany and I am glad YOU Are guiding them in high school! Don’t give up the good fight!!

  • Aaron Conner

    Jessica,

    I wanted to get your advice on how I could utilize my network that I have access to. I am currently a Sports Management Major w/ minor in business. I just cant seem to figure out how to “break the ice” with my fraternal network, which is extensive. Any advice?
    -Thank you
    Aaron Conner

  • drjrogers

    Typically I just jump in.. most in these networks are looking to connect as well. Groups within LinkedIn are also great. Lots of good conversations going on that you can engage in, share relevant curated posts etc..I like to recommend Texas Young Professionals group for some of my Texas students. Have a look here http://www.linkedin.com/vsearch/g?orig=TRNV&rsid=1015832951385586170040&keywords=sports+management+&trk=vsrp_groups_sel&trkInfo=VSRPsearchId%3A1015832951385586170040%2CVSRPcmpt%3Atrans_nav

  • drjrogers

    Tom, Precisely. It is the equivalent of trying to establish a career as a baker but have no cupcakes to show prospective clients. Have a great Thanksgiving!

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  • Brittany Wright

    This is true for a lot, but not all people of this generation. Not to rattle off meaningless things, but I just want you to get a feel for where I am coming from. I am an African American 20 year old Junior at Columbia College Chicago, I have branded myself this summer as a public relations professional, I have two continual clients, I have had three internships (and will not stop here) all while carrying a great gpa and a five class course load.

    With this said, my problem is on both sides of the fence. Since my generation is so lazy and so entitled many employers will go into an interview with a preconceived assumption of my character. This makes it three times as hard for me to not only go into the interview and impress them, but to prove to them that I am different than the rest of them and that I eat, sleep and breathe PR.

    I truly believe that those who think that they are supposed to wake up with the job of their dreams, really mess things up for those of use who put their heart and soul into what we do.

  • drjrogers

    Kudos to you Brittany – you are a girl after my own heart! Success will surely find you as Passion is easy to spot. And, your generation is not the only generation covered in the article, as I mentioned some of my non-traditional students are also less than aggressive…

  • Hi Jessica, Mark and other readers!

    I am also a High School teacher in Spain, where I teach IT Vocational Training.

    I totally agree with this post.

    I always try to explain to my students the benefits of being “social media active in a professional way”, but the truth is most of them don’t care about that.

    Normally they don’t use LinkedIn, and it’s almost impossible to know a student who has a blog.

    They use Twitter to have fun and posting naive stuff.

    Now I am trying to change that: blogging myself and showing to my students the results of my job at my blog, and showing to them the work of some other bloggers that can help them to achieve their goals.

    But it’s a really difficult task.

    My blog is a newbie blog (just 3 months), and I don’t post very often, but since I opened my blog, I have been nominated to a local newspaper web award.

    Besides, I have readers from 50 countries, and I am getting some useful comments and good feedback. When I started to blog, I couldn’t imagine that people from 50 countries would read my posts.

    I write in Spanish and English (it’s a bilingual blog), and surprisingly, 20% of my readers go to the English version of my blog, even though I am from Spain and most of my “real network” is made of people who speaks in Spanish.

    So yes, blogging can open a lot of doors.

    Congrats on the post, Jessica!

  • drjrogers

    Jorge thanks for the comments.. I respect what you are doing for students in High school! I am a strong advocate of teaching Marketing to High School students, I wish more schools in the US would do this. You bring up a great point with trying to show them all of the positives and negatives of their social media use…

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  • drjrogers

    Please note I am not singling out millennials in this post. I have a healthy number of non -traditional (older) students as well (mentioned above) not utilizing social to its full potential. I do see my graduate students (regardless of age) really jumping in with social, as they should since I teach graduate level social media marketing. But, for undergrads .. I see a lot less “go and get em ” attitude.

  • This is great advice, and particularly relevant now. I love the idea that everyone should blog to show their involvement, passion, and skills. Something I think is particularly important in all of this is that students learn how to frame their skills, not only their job experience. A resume that reflects social media, communications skills, etc. is so valuable, and can come from almost any job or internship backgrounds.

    I don’t think many universities do a good job of communicating these proactive approaches and how to best take advantage. The specifics of pursuing a job are so messy and unclear when you first graduate.

    Thanks for this great post!

  • drjrogers

    Katie thank you so much for your feedback. I am hopeful some college students will stumble upon this post and read it AND the comments. You all have shared some great points that I think students will find relevant and motivating.

  • Elisa Yip

    Love your post! While I’m not in the marketing industry, I believe your advice applies to other professional fields too.

  • thesocialobsrvr

    Why thank you Elisa! We are an interesting “breed”. 🙂 @drjrogers

  • Enjoyed this article. I work in Human Resources and can attest that LinkedIn is a first-stop for many employers right now. It can be the rock star of Social Media when looking for a job. It’s important to keep the profile up-to-date so employer’s see current information as well as connect with every relevant person you know. Fellow student, professor, co-worker (past and present). A great tip is to Endorse people and send them a message and simply ask them to Endorse you. The more the better – it shows you have depth and people have faith in you. Make sure you return the favor though!

    I am working on a plan of action on how to brand myself. I’m deciding if creating a blog and writing about employee benefits, wellness, health care reform would be worthwhile. I created a Twitter account yesterday and am researching how to effectively use it to add value and not look haphazard? My intent – show I have depth.

    And for those of you who are reading and are young and in college for the first time – I’d like to 100% concur with what Dr. JR said here. Don’t take for granted that your degree is going to land you a job. Start now putting yourself out there and network, network, network. And never ever be afraid to ask for the job. Last, GET YOUR DEGREE. Companies we do in fact look at the resumes first with degrees.

  • drjrogers

    Thank you Joanne! It has been a PLEASURE having you in class this term! @drjrogers

  • Melody Winters

    I really enjoyed this article Dr. J! I already have a LinkedIn profile but after reading your article I really need to “beef it up.” Recently I put together a portfolio of my accomplishments and recognition awards in a small power point file to send along with a thank you email to managers I interview with the hope that I can set myself apart from the competition when they are interviewing multiple candidates. I plan to add these to my LinkedIn account as well. I’ve never set up a twitter account or blogged really so if you could give me some suggestions on how to get started I will definitely do so! I know how to setup the twitter account, it’s more along the lines of what do I blog about? Being a Lead Trainer for ADP do I just share new things I’ve learned in business? Just really unsure of what to blog about that will be well received and show my value to the world? Any help will be greatly appreciated!! Really enjoying your class too! Thanks again!
    Melody Winters

  • drjrogers

    Melody follow this blog and my personal blog http://drjrogers.wordpress.com/ as well for some great tips. As far as blogging, think about your target audience.. what do they WANT and NEED to read about?! You can create original content (not all about you and or your product but about various related topics that are timely and relevant to the audience) or curate content and share via Twitter… Also consider “The Tao of Twitter” by THE Mark Schaefer http://www.thetaooftwitter.com/

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