Career coaching may boost grads chances of landing a job

Do you have a recent college graduate living in your basement? Is your child getting close to graduating from college with few or no job prospects on the horizon? Has your son or daughter boomeranged back to you after some time living on his or her own?

If so, you are not alone.

Here are some sobering statistics:

• Only 27 percent of college graduates have a job waiting for them when they graduate.

• More than 40 percent of college graduates take positions out of school that don’t require a degree.

• It takes the average college student 7.4 months to find a job if he or she doesn’t have one lined up upon graduation.

• Another 16 percent will take a year or more after graduation to find one.

• More than one-third of recent college graduates who took a year or more to find work after graduation make less than $24,000 a year (pretax).

Student debt is at an all-time high of $1.5 trillion. For college grads, it’s a scary world out there. Making it worse is that career service specialists on most college campuses are overwhelmed, with 1,765 students for every one career placement advisor in American colleges and universities.

Cue the “Den Mothers,” Randye Spina and Frances Trelease, founders of the Millennial Den online career coaching service.

Millennial Den offers a range of online programs and one-on-one consulting designed to help new and recent college graduates brand themselves for success in the job marketplace, based on the founders’ 38 years combined experience as adjunct professors, marketing experts and (in Trelease’s case) mother of two college students.

“For me the wake-up moment was when I ran a professional development workshop last year at a local university,” says Spina. “Most of those in attendance had no idea that recruiters existed, or that you could proactively write a letter to a company and enclose your resume. They all felt that they could just go online and land a $100,000 job without any effort. We were shocked by that.”

“They also were uninformed about the salaries different jobs pay,” adds Trelease. “They weren’t aware you can go on websites like salary.com and do research on what the typical salary ranges are for various entry-level positions.”

Further research and experience with students on several campuses in the Northeast convinced the pair that just teaching basic job-search skills, or offering help with resumes and cover letters, wouldn’t be enough. Instead, the Den Mothers developed a comprehensive personal marketing strategy for college grads using the traditional five P’s of marketing — product, promotion, packaging, place and price.

Part of the problem — and this hasn’t changed in decades — is that college students are so focused on getting their degree that they don’t take the time necessary to focus on career planning until it’s too late. “Some don’t even know the career services office exists until they are halfway through their senior year. And, our research shows that just 40 percent of college students make use of those services,” comments Spina.

But a growing part of the problem has to do with the way students have grown accustomed to interacting with one another.

“Today’s millennials spend virtually all of their time online, and don’t know how to ‘brand’ or package themselves for in-person job interviews,” says Trelease. “Believe it or not, the typical recent college graduate has no idea how to properly shake someone’s hand, or how important it is to look someone in the eye when speaking to them.”

The prevalence of social media can also create problems for potential job hunters. The Den Mothers have published a free e-book (available on their website) on ways students and graduates can clean up their social media profiles before they look for jobs. “Any pictures or videos of you drinking, or otherwise just acting like a silly teenager need to be scrubbed completely from your social media,” says Spina. “You have to look like a professional, one that belongs in a certain environment and fits the employer’s corporate culture.”

For example, students looking for engineering jobs may have to present themselves somewhat differently than students looking for marketing jobs, and law students may have to brand themselves differently than students looking for tech jobs in Silicon Valley. Being fashion-forward is great if you are looking for an internship on Madison Avenue but won’t help you score points if you’re looking for a laboratory job.

The Den Mothers stress that they are personal career coaches, not recruiters, and do not get involved directly in the job-hunting process (by recommending specific employers, for example), although they will help students avoid wasting valuable time looking for jobs that don’t fit their academic background or credentials.

So, time for the big question: Is it possible for a humanities major with no background in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to get a job in today’s world?

“There are myriad careers available to humanities graduates, including marketing, advertising, business, public relations — the list goes on,” says Trelease. “With the right professional packaging, non-STEM graduates can have that same high rate of success.”

For example, those like yours truly, who majored in history and philosophy (with a minor in religion), might someday become a world-famous small business columnist.•

Cliff Ennico (crennico@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist, author, and former host of the PBS television series “Money Hunt.” The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

© 2019 Clifford R. Ennico

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