This post was written by Victoria Reitano, a 2010 graduate and frequent contributor to UniversityChic.com.
Ten years -- that's quite a long time. Are we, the college graduates of today, any wiser than our counterparts who graduated in 1990, 1991? After talking with friends, professionals and colleagues, I think you can say yes on some points and no on others. Lauren Berger, of InternQueen.com, explained that it's not that college students lack the proper tools, it's more that they don't know what to do with them.
"People always ask students 'What do you want to be when you grow up?,' but the conversation ends there. What's next should be the next part of the conversation. What steps are you going to take to achieve that goal, etc.," Berger said.
Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career holds similar views:
In my experience, students today are more prepared technologically for the workforce (they are very quick to pick up any technical job requirements), but many are lacking in the soft skills required to succeed on the job. For instance, they often aren't as prepared to write in a professional way or to problem-solve independently. Many employers have told me that today's entry-level employees require a lot of training in professionalism, communication and business etiquette.
These two professionals -- who deal with college students and graduates on a daily basis -- both feel that it's not necessarily that colleges aren't preparing students for the tasks associated with their first jobs, but that they aren't preparing them for all the life-skills necessary for "life on the other side."
I agree with these two women and think that if we thought more about internships early on -- Berger recommends thinking about it Freshman year -- we will ultimately be more ready for the etiquette of the professional world, because we'll have actual experiences with it.
My internships in college taught me how to multi-task, how to prioritize and how to work in an office. My classes? Well, they taught me how to do the technical parts of my job (writing a good 'lede,' headline and the like) but they didn't really teach me what exactly to wear to the office, how to relate to your boss (instead of relating to them as an extension of your professor) and how to handle the awkward situations that naturally arise in the work place (when to take lunch, when to leave, etc.).
Some of my friends have jobs relating to their major, some have jobs to pay their bills and others are simply working on the side looking for... something, anything to define them.
Daniel Chizzoniti, a 2010 graduate of Boston University, feels that the problem is more in getting a job than being prepared for it:
No one mentioned finding a job would be this hard. No one told me what I should do to guarantee a job after graduation; I found out all on my own. I am lucky that my plan was strategic. I still do not have a salary, but I am getting there. I know many others who are worse off and have no one helping them.
He thinks instead of already asking younger graduates for donations -- yes we've all already received these e-mails and phone calls... and mailers -- colleges should work on helping graduates find jobs instead of simply throwing them out the door with the last bars of pomp and circumstance.
"Maybe if you helped me obtain a job and I had a source of income, I would be more inclined to donate. Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed every minute of my four years and would only want to repeat it, but give me some help before you send me off into the real world," Chizzoniti said.
Patrick Johnson, a soon-to-be 2011 graduate of University of Southern Florida with hopes of moving to New York City to be a public relations professional, has a similar view to Chizzoniti:
I believe that college students and recent graduates are more prepared for the job market than years before. Call it the advent of social media, the instantaneous effect of current technology of the web or even just the Internet in general. The medium has made it easer for us to prepare ourselves for the current and future job market.
"The resources for information now trump anything that any newspaper, job board or local listings may have offered. Students can search Twitter, reach out on Facebook, crash a job board or just use google and find jobs and information at their fingertips," Johnson said.
Berger agrees with this point and recommends that students engage their "dream" companies on Facebook and Twitter in a professional manner while still giving the companies an idea of the student as a person.
"You can only have a one page resume, but Linked In [and Facebook, and personalized websites] allows you to keep all your information in one place for all to see," Berger said.
Nicole Grossi, a 2010 graduate of Quinnipiac University, is currently interning in Manhattan utilizing her design skills, though she's also responsible for a lot of administrative tasks. She feels that although college prepared graduates for the "specific area of interest," they didn't offer any help finding full-time gigs and that now many students are forced to take internships for little or no pay to stay connected to their field.
Colleges highly suggest and sometimes require that their students become involved in internship opportunities to gain experience. Many students like myself, completed up to four internships or freelance jobs throughout their college career. However, in today's economic world, getting a job in our desired field is very competitive. College didn't tell us that we would still be interns after we were handed our diploma. People often say to college students, 'Wait until you get into the 'real' world!' Having recently been in college, I always thought I was living in the 'real' world, but the truth is that the 'working' world is far, far more difficult stressful than a students college days.
I'm one of the lucky ones -- I am on my second job out of college and living on my own, but I realize that's not always the case. It takes the determination to fight for what you want, the availability of a job in your market and a little networking help from professors or career service centers along the way.
If you're still in college reading this, you're in luck -- connect with professors, ask for recommendations, look for jobs in the career center and beef up your Linked In profile.
If you're out of college - you can STILL do all those things. Call your old professors, e-mail them or better yet? Facebook them! I'm sure they'd be happy to help you.
Good luck, and if you've got a story to share e-mail me, I'd love to hear it.