Survey Finds College Graduates ‘Academically Prepared, But Not Marketplace Ready’

With more than 12 million Americans remain unemployed, a national survey finds recent college graduates – the one group which stands to potentially best compete in a highly-competitive, tech-savvy job market – are among the least prepared to find work.

Recent college graduates need to acquire job search skills. (Census Bureau photo)

Recent college graduates need to acquire job search skills. (Census Bureau photo)

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conducted the survey for the Career Advisory Board, which was established by DeVry University.

Among its findings, more than half – 56% – of today’s university and college career center directors cite students’ lack of interest in formal career preparation and professional development as barriers to successfully finding a job.

According to the Associated Press, approximately 1.5 million, or 53.6% of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 are jobless or underemployed in the United States.

The NACE/Career Advisory Board survey found the biggest obstacle for students in finding a job after graduation is their unrealistic expectations of the amount of effort and motivation it takes to get a job.

Specifically, students need to be prepared to convey to employers that while they have the academic knowledge and degree. They need to show they have started developing skills in teamwork, time management and communication.

“College and university career centers offer tools and coaching to empower students to succeed in their job search. They are more than just job placement centers,” said Alexandra Levit, business and workplace consultant and Career Advisory Board member.

“In today’s competitive employment landscape, the interview coaching, job search guidance and even simple ‘resume review’ that campus career centers provide can make the difference in getting their first job,” Levit said.

The survey found that students and recent graduates have a poor understanding of how to properly conduct a successful job search. They also lack some of the tools and skills necessary to locate and acquire a job.

These factors contribute to students not utilizing their school’s career center or skipping this resource altogether.

Career center directors can help guide college graduates in going beyond standard searches and online resume submissions to more active job search tactics, such as informational interviews, networking events and resume reviews.

Other key findings include:

More than 47% of career center directors view lack of graduate motivation as a major barrier for recent graduates; with 35% ranking it as number one.

56% of career center directors felt graduates did not have resumes ready to show employers.

Advice for Future Graduates

An overwhelming majority (80%) of the career center directors believe individual student career coaching is the most effective resource available for students. Here are tips that both NACE and the Career Advisory Board recommend college students consider before starting their job search:

Expand your network. Conduct informational interviews with mentors in their mid-twenties who can provide advice on how to most effectively position their background and experience in a specific field.

Customize your resume. Review sample resumes in their desired field and craft them in a way that will interest an employer immediately. Also, customize the resume with keywords from their target position’s job description.

Practice, practice, practice. Rehearse quickly and succinctly communicating results from past jobs or internships, always asking: “why was this organization better off because I worked there?”

Seek guidance. Practice interviewing with a coach or career services professional to learn the appropriate level of formality and insightful feedback on what skills and experience to emphasize as well as do’s and don’ts.

Show enthusiasm. Present themselves as can-do enthusiastic employees who are humble and eager to learn.

Consult resources. Review expert materials on transitioning from college to career including books, articles, DVDs and blogs. Learn how to convey the right first impression, understand expectations, acquire important transferable skills, manage stress and negativity, and add value to organizations.

“The Career Advisory Board research raises the need to get college students motivated to pursue their college career center resources,” said Ed Koc, director of strategic and foundation research, National Association of Colleges and Employers. “In a competitive job market, new graduates must be prepared to present themselves in a way that translates their academic accomplishments and knowledge to the skills and experience employers are seeking.”

To read the full NACE/Career Advisory Board report Effectively Counseling Graduating Students, visit: survey was conducted in summer 2012.

The survey was conducted online to identify issues and potential solutions to the problem of most effectively counseling students to enter the workforce.

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) on behalf of the Career Advisory Board conducted the survey within the United States. The survey took place from June 21 – July 18, 2012. It polled 593 college career center directors across all sectors (two-year private, two-year public, four-year private, four-year public and for-profit institutions) who are members of NACE.

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