How Do Our Graduates Prepare for Success in Business and at Work?

At dinner recently with a group of parents who collectively have sons ranging from middle-school-age to college-graduate-age, one set of parents proudly reported that their son had just been hired by a leading-edge, globally renowned technology company, and had just started work after a grueling week-long interview process.  During this interview week, the Proud Parents suggested to their son, who had just received a few significant awards upon graduating from college several weeks before, that he should mention receiving those awards to the hiring authority, since they did not appear on his résumé.  The Graduate Son hesitated, not wanting to brag.  His parents coached him that it was not bragging.  He subsequently shared the information with his potential employer. Now, we don’t know if that information sealed the job offer or not, but I would wager, as a hiring authority myself, that the information certainly did not hurt his standing as a candidate.   Our son, Noah, listened to the conversation with great interest.  I’m glad that Noah at the age of 12 is exposed to this valuable information now, rather than as a college graduate, when it’s late in the game to start learning how to compete in the world of work and business.

This conversation reminded me of an email message I received from another recent college graduate earlier this year, asking for an hour of my time to get some advice on what type of jobs they should pursue.  I replied immediately, asking for them to:

  • Send me their résumé;
  • Beef up their Linked profile and connect to me on LinkedIn;
  • Read a few of the career-related posts on my blog;
  • And then reach out to me again to set up a time to chat.

I never heard from them.

Years ago, as an English major with a Women’s Studies minor about to graduate into a recessionary economy with a New York State Assembly Internship (and thousands of dollars of privately-held student loans to repay) under my belt and my work experience as a Nurse’s Aide at a local nursing home supporting myself through college (a vestige of my adventures as a Pre-Med major), only Business majors at my school were invited to attend campus career fairs.   The sponsoring companies at campus career fairs held at our college senior year were not interested in speaking to any other majors, we were told at the time.  I wanted to write for a living and stay in the Albany, New York area.  My father, a career salesman, thought I was crazy.  “Look for sales jobs in New York City, you have the sales gift, like me,” Dad advised.  It wasn’t my cup of tea at the time.  Despite the fact that I did not want to follow in his footsteps, Dad gave me the gift of his job-hunting advice – let’s face it, a good salesman is good at selling himself to get jobs, and Dad, who will be 78 in December, continues to work full-time in sales making great money.  So Dad’s advice, coupled with my well-worn copy of What Color is Your Parachute and my native sales skills applied to my job search, eventually landed me a job via my network as a Researcher / Writer / Editor, launching my career.  P.S.:  Dad refused to help me financially after college, and I no longer had a bedroom at my parents’ respective homes.  It was the best graduation present ever, as it motivated me to make my own way and my own money, a gift that endures to this day.

But for those graduates who do not have parents coaching / noodging them through the job-hunting process, what has prepared them for the world of work?  How can we formalize this parental coaching / noodging into an effective college-level curriculum that prepares our graduates realistically to succeed in the world of work and business?

Are there universities and colleges who have embedded for-credit career preparation courses as core requirements for graduation?  Taught by hiring authorities and related subject-matter experts who have actually and successfully executed the job / career search process from both sides of the interview table in all sectors, private, public and academic?   Because in my experience as a hiring authority interviewing recent college graduates:  when career preparation education is optional during college, it doesn’t happen until after graduation.

And to restate the obvious:  internship and co-op experiences should be mandatory from sophomore year on.  Hiring authorities want their college graduate hires house-broken (or, more specifically, office-broken), e.g. understanding how to successfully work within the career boundaries of attendance, dress code and other workplace policies / culture.

A few of my recent college graduate friends have attended Babson College, the first university to offer a major in Entrepreneurship.  As preparation for career and business success post-graduation, this is certainly a step in the right direction.

How about “Career Success” for-credit courses not only as core requirements, but offered academically as a minor?  At all colleges and universities?

A Career Success core curriculum would certainly help the ROI business case for the cost of a college education, in business and at work.


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