In the 1994 GenX hit movie Reality Bites, main character Lelaina Pierce, a new college grad, bemoans her lack of a meaningful career. She was class valedictorian, yet she can’t find work in her chosen field of videography. One of her friends works in retail, but Lelaina defiantly declares: “I’m not going to work at the Gap!”
The movie is more than 20 years old now, but resonates with Millennial graduates today as strongly as it did with pre-recession GenXers. This is in part because unemployment and underemployment rates for young workers (those under 25) are, in good times and bad, nearly twice as high as they are for those over 25. For Millennials, the 2008 crash and subsequent recession have worsened the problem. In the spring of 2015, the unemployment rate for young college graduates was 7.2% and the underemployment rate was 14.9%, compared to 5.5% and 9.6%, respectively, in the spring of 2007 (Economic Policy Institute).
STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) have fared better than their humanities and social science counterparts in terms of unemployment, but even STEM majors have been unlikely to find work in their chosen field in the first years after graduation, according to a July 2014 U.S. Census Bureau report. And that means that the unemployment rate for graduates in fields like architecture, music, history, English, and sociology are even higher than the national averages.
Students and recent grads aren’t the only ones complaining about this either. College career centers frequently get phone calls from anxious parents, some who have dished out tens of thousands of dollars or signed for substantial loans on behalf of their children for a college education. If your child can’t get a job after the investment of all this time and money, what was the point?
Despite this gloomy outlook, the economy is improving, and that will certainly ease some of the unemployment and underemployment figures. But since unemployment and underemployment will always be an issue for recent college grads, it’s important that students take every advantage possible in order to put themselves at the front of the hiring line.
While there are many things students can do to improve their chances at securing post-graduate employment – choosing colleges with good post-grad employment rates, getting good grades, completing internships, etc. – one of the most effective tools in the employment arena is networking and beginning the job search well in advance of graduation day.
If you’re a student or a parent of a high school or college student, contact your college’s career center staff as early as possible to find out what their networking resources are. No time is too early – this would be an excellent step to take before even selecting a college, as you want to attend (or have your student attend) the college or university with the best options for connecting with future employers.
Most schools will offer at least one, and likely all three, of the following:
· A university Linked-In group for undergrads and graduates
· On-campus interviews
· Traditional career fairs
While these are good starting places, they have some serious flaws. A university-based Linked-In group will most likely connect students only with graduates. Human resource directors can’t reach out to every university group on Linked-In. On-campus interviews are often limited to local employers. What about the jobs with great companies in other areas of the country? And studies have shown that Millennials are simply adverse to standard career fairs, which of course still have the problem of only attracting local companies.
If these are the only options your career center offers, it’s simply not enough to give you or your student the advantage they sorely need in this employment market. Online networking / flash-mentoring / interviewing platforms like Revere are the cutting edge of employment-boosting tools every career center should be offering.
So if your career center doesn’t have an online networking / flash-mentoring / interviewing program in place yet, talk to one of their representatives today and ask them to create one…and, shamelessly, I hope it’s on the Revere platform!