Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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Help Kids Exit College Successfully

MOST PARENTS SPEND MORE THAN a year researching, visiting, and interviewing at colleges before helping their children decide what school to attend. But it may be equally important to help them exit college and enter the working world. Most are motivated to do that too, but don't know how.
"Just as with the college entrance process, parents and college students are seeing the need to adopt a more businesslike approach to moving through and out of college," says Jane Horowitz, a principal at More Than A Resume',  who provides personalized coaching to help college graduates launch their professional careers. "There are steps every college student can take during school and afterwards to dramatically improve their chances of finding a professional job suited to their talents, interests and education."

For many, there is no college exit strategy. An exit strategy is not about a college student declaring a major. It's the plan to improve their chances of finding a professional job suited to their education and degree, talents and interests. 

Parents understand looking for a first job is very different today. And they're right. The rules and norms of searching for a job have changed. It's not easy to keep up with all these changes-it moves fast. They also know it takes more than a resume for today's college students to land a first professional job. When it comes to preparing for that first professional job search, parents say the most important things needed to prepare are understanding what employers are looking for; having the right connections; knowing how to communicate professionally and persuasively; focusing on a career area; and creating a job search strategy. Again, they're right: These are the knowledge, tools and behaviors college students need to land their first professional job. 

The development of these knowledge, tools and behaviors occurs over the entire time a student is in college, not simply in the last year. 

Just as with the college admission process, parents and college students are seeing the need to develop an exit strategy to move through and out of college. There are specific steps every college student can take during school and afterwards to dramatically improve their chances of finding a professional job suited to their talents, interests and education. 

Toward that end, Horowitz' company hired Bauman Research & Consulting Research and Consulting in collaboration with Emotional Reason, an insights-to-strategy consultancy, to conduct a national survey on the issue. 

The survey found:

: A full 71% of parents were involved or highly involved in their child's college admission process, with one-third paying for outside resources, including exam prep courses, tutoring, essay coaches and application consultants. In contrast, just 40% of parents are helping their children land that crucial first professional job after graduation and only a tiny 1% pay for expert support, such as resumé preparation or job search coaching. 

Parents are overly optimistic about how fast their children will secure professional employment. Seven out of 10 believe their child will land his or her first professional job with within five months of graduation, while 23% say their child will have a job by graduation. But 40% of parents with recent graduates say it took their child six months or more to find a job, while 22% report it took more than one year. 

Parents freely admit they are in over their heads when it comes to helping their college grads launch their careers. And they are finding job-placement services at colleges woefully inadequate. Parents now realize that a top school education doesn't guarantee a job. In investment language, parents have overlooked the exit strategy.
A vast majority, or 95%, of parents agree that looking for a first job is very different today than when they joined the professional workforce: 
? 73% say they do not have the right knowledge and contacts to help their child 
? 68% percent don't know how to help 
? 58% say they do not have a trusted network for support and help in this process 

College career centers aren't stepping up, either. More than half, or 54%, of parents, somewhat or strongly disagree with the statement: "My child's college has excellent career service resources." At 64%, the disappointment is even higher among parents involved with their child's job search. In fact, parents in interviews related such experiences as: 
? "My kid realized he has to go it alone. They don't know what to do with a history major." 

"The career services center told him (a college senior) it was too early."


What can parents do to help the college grad's exit?

When touring colleges, learn how the school views, funds and staffs its career services center. Ask questions to help you and your child create an exit strategy that will smooth the transition from college to the professional workplace. 

Some questions to consider asking: 

How is the career services center funded? What do they spend per student? Is that an increase or decrease from previous years? Schools have this information. 
What programs do they offer? How will these programs help my child find their first professional job? How do they engage students in the career service center? 
 Who works directly with students? Can I expect a professional or a student peer throughout the process? 
What value does the school place on internships? How do they assist students in finding meaningful internships? 
What is the school's job placement record? Are students graduating with job offers? In which fields and careers? This information is not easily obtained, although it should be. 
What specifically do they offer Liberal Arts and Humanities students, or those students without a well-defined career path? 

Employers are not hiring students. They are hiring new professionals. 
To land a professional job after college, it is not only about a major and a GPA. It's more important for students to demonstrate they have a willingness to learn and that they have developed real-world skills and qualities employers' value. Manage a college career-courses, internships, jobs and activities-and a career to gain the following. 
Ability to communicate persuasively with persons inside and outside the organization in many mediums 
  • Ability to make decisions and solve problems 
  • Ability to obtain and process information 
  • Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work 
  • Ability to analyze quantitative data and turn data into insights 
  • Technical knowledge related to the job 
  • Proficiency with computer software programs 
  • Ability to create and/or edit written reports and other content 
  • Ability to be adaptable and flexible 
  • Ability to communicate using new media 
  • Ability to perform in/with diverse environments and cultures 
  • Ability to determine the deeper meaning and significance of what is being said 
  • Bring a deep understanding in at least on field but have the capacity to converse in the language of a broader range of disciplines 
  • Ability to focus on what is important 

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