Why Can't I Get Hired With a College Degree?

When talking with entry-level professionals, they express a bit of dismay at just how difficult it is to get their first post-graduation job in this strong economy. These graduates met society’s expectations of getting a four-year degree, gaining experience through internships or part-time work, maintaining a high GPA, holding leadership roles, and giving back through community service.

So why isn’t corporate America hiring them?

Well, most of them are getting hired, eventually. The unemployment rate for college grads has been around 4-5% post-recession and as of September 2017 was at 4%. That is well below even the 2007 pre-recession rate of 5.6% (statista.com). However, the average time to get a job is around six months (thebalance.com), which is surprising given the hype over the talent shortage.

What is even more startling is the underemployment. A study by Accenture found that 54% of 2017 graduates felt that their skills were not being fully utilized in their current position. Additionally, 49% said their salary or benefits were lower than anticipated, and 44% reported that getting a job was a challenge. Of young college graduates (ages 21 - 24), 9.9% are “idled” meaning they are technically not looking for work or working (nytimes.com).

Some say it’s a skills gap; colleges are not producing graduates equipped to fill the open jobs. That is indeed frustrating to those who have invested 4-6 years and maybe thousands of dollars in debt. They can’t go back and change their major, minor or coursework. But there’s good news! Certifications can be obtained fairly quickly, free courses are available online, most computer skills can be self-taught on various websites, and volunteering is an option. One doesn’t need “permission” to start a career - just go do it!

Write a blog, create a social media community, post a series of articles to show expertise. Program, create aps, games, websites, graphics, logos, etc. to demonstrate skills. There is no doubt a church, nonprofit, small family business, etc. that would be willing to dole out a project. If job postings require a certification, get it, and make it known.

Most companies slashed training budgets during the recession and the people of that mindset, even in larger companies, don’t understand the need to spend money and time on training. My first job out of college was a Benefits Representative on one of the largest outsourcing implementations ever. As this was all groundbreaking, even the systems involved, my HR minor and a Communications major provided a useful foundation. However, I did not know any of the software programs, nor did I have any specific knowledge of employee benefits. The company provided several weeks of training to our team before we went live. Recruiting coursework didn’t even exist, I learned on the job. HR Management did but was changing rapidly from a transactional department to a strategic one. I took several certification courses. Unfortunately, 2018 graduates should not expect this!

We live in a time where the skills we have today will be out of date in three years. The burden - fair or not - is on the candidate to obtain and demonstrate current and competitive skills.

Others contend an awareness gap is to blame, that students cannot match and to sell their skills to employers. Some colleges and universities recognize that looking for a job has changed, and is rapidly evolving. Students do not always take advantage of every opportunity and resource provided by the school. They should! Others followed directions, but the guidance provided is not in touch with the current landscape of looking for a job.

These students not only lack an awareness of how to go about the process but also are disadvantaged by not being able to translate job descriptions. Titles, organizational structure, basic qualifications, job responsibilities differ between companies and industries. University Career Counselors often don’t have the broad corporate experience to help students through the maze.

Once again, the candidates will carry the weight of figuring this out until educational institutions and corporate catch up with the market.

Furthermore, both of these perceived “gaps” provide excuses that allow employers to point the finger elsewhere. Hiring leaders and recruiting departments should be stepping up, building relationships with colleges and universities, having a dialogue about “gaps” and problem-solving. Talent teams should also be educating and influencing management to position the company for success in recruiting entry-level employees.

That is what I call the recruiting gap. It's time to form a bridge so candidates can move from their educational years to a full-time job without falling into the canyon! Let's look at some mistakes companies make:

1.) Relying on job postings to generate candidates instead of virtual career fairs, social media, and other innovative methods to attract talent.

2.) Using hierarchical organizational structures where entry-level job descriptions are written to encompass whatever the more senior employees don’t want to do.

3.) Expecting them to be excited about working on old technology, or even having manual processes.

4.) Lacking a career path and training to progress.

5.) Inability to translate coursework, projects, internships, etc. to relevant and transferable experience.

6.) Requiring specific industry experience, certifications or skills that wouldn’t be attained in college.

7.) Unwilling to pay market rate.

For recent graduates, it’s time you take charge. Companies will be slow to transform, and you need a job! Now that you are aware of the gaps take the initiative to close them….and start your career!

AC Talent Consulting helps accelerate careers of new college grads. We also work with companies to develop university recruiting strategies to accelerate your talent! Reach out to amy.cooney@actalentconsulting.com.

Next up: How to build and leverage a professional network when you are just starting your career.

About the Author

Amy Cooney is a Career Coach, Talent Consultant, and CEO of AC Talent Consulting (https://www.actalentconsulting.com). With over 10 years of recruiting experience, she knows talent. Because Amy believes in people first, she listens to both clients and candidates to become a trusted partner. As a Career Coach, she helps people of all levels accelerate their careers through the Accelerate You! custom 1:1 coaching program, custom sessions, resume writing, and group coaching. Amy also provides consulting and training to corporate talent acquisition departments in the areas of recruitment strategy, process improvement and operations, and employer branding. She is available for public speaking, seminars and facilitating career-related events.

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