The world after graduation can be a scary prospect, especially with only a six-month grace period before student loan payments begin. Because of this it can be very important for graduates to land stable jobs right out of college.
Unfortunately, a recent survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows a significant gap between what skills a graduate thinks they bring to the workforce, and what employers thinks.
“With any study, you have to look at how it was done,” Mark Mastalski, director of the Leadership Center at Fort Lewis College, said “ but that being said, I think that one of the important things that comes out is that we, as humans, often do overestimate our skills.”
Another portion of this problem is that higher education has not always done a good job of taking into account what employers look for in new hires in terms of applicable skills, Mastalski said.
“That goes back to the age old question, what is higher education for?” he said, “is it to educate citizenry for a democracy, or is it career preparation?”
FLC Job Fair
In an attempt to aid students make the leap to the workforce, FLC is holding its annual Job Fair Wednesday, Feb. 4 in the Student Union Ballroom, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Job Fair is a great place for students to get first hand experience in dealing with and speaking to professional employers, Patricia Dommer, Career Services coordinator, said.
This year’s Job Fair is coordinated by Jill Kolodzne, she said.
“We have one-third, or more, new employers that have never been to the Job Fair before which is an exciting change.” Jill Kolodzne, Career Services coordinator, said.
This is the most diverse group of employers that there has ever been, so there are more opportunities for students to get experience with employers, she said.
The Job Fair is free, and all students are welcomed and encouraged to participate, she said
To get the most out of FLC’s Job Fair, students should come prepared, Dommer said.
Students should think about what they will wear, if their resumes are complete, questions to ask recruiters, and how they will follow up with employers, she said.
At the Job Fair, employers provide students with interview experience, Kolodzne said. Employers sit down with students and act as if they are interviewing them as potential employees.
Students can bring their resumes and have them reviewed by potential employers at the event, she said.
Employers that are participating at the event are there to help students as much as possible in the hope of recruiting new employees, Kolodzne said.
One of the benefits of having a Job Fair at FLC is the personal environment, she said. Students are more capable of making one on one connections to potential employers, and are able to kick start their professional network.
The day of the event, students should be ready to engage with employers and treat it like a job interview. Kolodzne said.
FLC Offers Additional Preparation
In addition to the Job Fair FLC faculty and staff are taking more individualised approaches to prepare students for post graduate success.
The Leadership Center provides opportunities, through the Associated Students of Fort Lewis College and Registered Student Organizations, for students to build some of the skills that employers involved in the AACU study found lacking. Such skills include effective communication and personal interaction, especially with people from different backgrounds and demographics, Mastalski said.
The history department offers opportunities in internship placement, and requires all history majors to create an e-portfolio consisting of a resume, list of the classes they have taken, books they have read, and papers they are proud of, John Baranski, chair of the history department and FLC professor, said. Career Services plays an important role in this process.
An additional portion of this e-portfolio are reflection essays completed at the end of sophomore, junior and senior years, in which they communicate not only what they have done at FLC, but what they have learned, Baranski said.
“Students were not crazy about doing this at the time but what they were able to do was learn how to talk about their education, which was valuable for internships, graduate school and employment,” he said.
This ability to effectively communicate what a student has learned while in college, instead of just what they have done, in addition to workforce experience, either through jobs or internships, is crucial for post grad success, Mastalski said.
“We have to go beyond knowing things and believing things to being able to articulate and demonstrate our knowledge in practical and applicable ways,” he said.