by Arnold James and Sandi Ohman
As college graduates complete their final courses and approach the finish line of receiving their hard-earned diplomas, another reality quickly comes into focus. How do they translate their stellar academic accomplishments into employment or their career dream job?
Career Services offices at many universities often lament the fact that although located prominently on campus with marketing signage and events to engage with students, more than 75% of recent graduates share that they did not utilize Career Services resources while enrolled. This startling data indicates that an overwhelming number of college graduates rely on a short-term or perhaps no strategy to land employment, rather than connect with a Career Services representative to establish a long-term strategy. Subsequently, Career Services professionals are also prepared to assist those students preparing to graduate in “crisis mode.”
While all university campuses are different, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach Career Services finds that around 67.5% of graduates will indicate that they have used Career Services at least once while enrolled as a student. That said, it is the 32.5% who do not use our services that we want to help the most.
Length of a Job Search
On Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach’s graduation day, Career Services teams from both the Daytona Beach and Worldwide campuses attend the graduation line-up. Students are asked to complete the First Destination Survey, which includes questions about their employment status. Survey information shows that over the past three years, approximately 55-59% of graduates are employed within the first six months of graduation. Of graduates who are employed, 85% of them had an offer in hand at the time of graduation.
Over the years we have found that students who do not have jobs at the time of graduation will typically find their first career position within one to three months in an average economy. For graduates or upcoming graduates who have not secured that first career position at graduation, don’t be alarmed. This is when having a strategy and a plan for the career search is extremely important.
Long- and Short-term Strategy
Students are encouraged to make an appointment to visit or connect with their Career Services Program Manager (career advisor) immediately upon enrollment, whether as a true freshmen or a college transfer. This early interaction allows the student and the career advisor to talk about your career goals and establish a long-term strategy. Did you know that students may be able to gain real world industry experience through co-op/internships as soon as their sophomore year? Establishing a long-term career strategy assists students in maximizing their academic potential and making critical decisions regarding their career path, including minimizing or eliminating academic and financial challenges. By strategizing with his Career Services Program Manager, undergraduate student Greg was able to complete three co-op/internships with two companies, resulting in reduced tuition costs, supplemental income, and a full-time position upon graduation.
In contrast, a short-term strategy may result in increased pressure to select from less available career choices. Graduates are often better prepared and more satisfied with career choices when they take advantage of opportunities to research and engage in their industries with various employers. However, a good, short strategy may be very rewarding for recent college graduates if able to showcase and articulate both academic achievements and career-ready “soft skills.” Extensive preparation and diligence is essential in attracting employers using an effective, well-written resume as well as demonstrating mastery of career competencies or skills including critical thinking and problem solving skills, oral/written communication, digital technology, and professionalism.
Plan of Action
In the search for a career position, a long-term strategy is important to know where you want to go, and the short-term strategy should have quicker results and should be a step in the long-term strategy.
Having a strategy is a good idea, but there should also be a plan of action to implement the strategy.
For a career search, a plan of action can include the following:
- Career Position Search – The search for full-time jobs in the career field, geographic location, or with a specific company
- Post Graduate Internships – Some companies offer internships to current students, but also to post-graduates. A post-graduate internship offers experience and skill building, networking within a specific career field, and provides time for career searching.
- Informational Interviewing – Part of a career search could include conducting Information Interviews. Interviewing someone in a desired career field is an excellent way to find out about a specific career, or industry. While interviewing the career professional, conversations can occur regarding the interviewers’ interest and qualifications, and could lead to further opportunities.
- Preparation – All the above work should include the basic steps of career searching – a professional resume; being ready for an interview at any time once the career search has started; professional clothing for an interview, or two
- Tracking System – There should be a system to keep track of positions applied to, job descriptions, and follow up tracking, if possible. Check out the Job Search Tool Kit, on the Career Services website, for ideas of how to start a tracking system.
Review the strategy and plan of action, make revisions as needed, and start, or continue, the career search. These steps include asking for help to make sure the strategy and plan of action is aligned with the goals. The more people that know about specific career goals, the more people are able to help with attaining these goals.
Asking for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance when navigating your job search! As an ERAU alumnus, you have lifetime access to career resources. Contact your respective ERAU Career Services Office as well as the ERAU Office of Alumni Engagement to connect with career services reps and alumni in industry. One of the university’s most valuable resources is its network of over 100,000 ERAU alumni who are “Forever an Eagle” and willing to assist and mentor recent graduates and students.
ERAU faculty members provide an additional source of networking and knowledge to leverage within various industries. Ensure to establish and update your LinkedIn profile as well as consider joining a professional association within your preferred industry to expand your network. Since you’ve completed your academic degree, you probably have already established friendships and colleagues during team projects, university events, competitions, and industry conferences. Take the initiative to engage with their networks of family, friends and professional colleagues to expand your own!
Resources that are helpful in a career search include:
- Career Services website – This resource has extensive information to help with preparing for a successful career search
- Handshake – This career management system is available to ERAU students, graduates, and alumni. Employers post jobs and internships in this system for student and alumni.
- Professional Network – This can be with ERAU alumni, non-ERAU connections, previous employers, by using social media such as LinkedIn, attending professional conferences and making connections, and career fairs for opportunities and connections
- Going Places blog – Alumni and students contribute to the blog that the Career Services Office produces. The blog posts include a great deal of information shared by alumni about companies, and their industries, career tips and advice, and to see that their career paths may, or may not, have differed, but still turn out successfully.
- Going Places Podcast – This podcast is new to Career Services, but has some excellent information that could be utilized in a career search process.
- Career Expos/Fairs – All three ERAU Career Services Offices’ offer numerous career expos throughout a year for students and alumni to attend. In addition, there are public universities in many areas that will offer career events. Call that university for permission to attend. Attending an event at another university is a great way to stand out!
- Conferences – Professional and industry-related conferences are great ways to connect with companies and people in specific areas. They can help with staying up-to-date on industry trends, emerging technology and skills needed, and provide networking opportunities.
Arnold James is Director of Career Services for the Worldwide Campus and joined Embry-Riddle in 2013. His experience as a 20-yr. military veteran fuels his passion to advocate for and connect non-traditional students with industry-leading employers through Worldwide Career Services. Arnold completed and earned his B.S. Business Management and M.S. Management/Human Resources with Francis Marion University and University of Phoenix.
Sandi Ohman is an Assistant Director in the Career Services Office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in Daytona Beach, FL. She has been with the University and in Career Services for 15 years, has advised students in many degree areas, taught UNIV 101 classes to incoming students, and enjoys maintaining the many alumni relationships she has cultivated through the years. Sandi brings additional experience and perspective from her previous career in the finance industry. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida, and her Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Central Florida.