Career Connector

Let’s Make All Majors Employable

In the last couple of years, the price value equation of going to college has been called into question. Blog post after post questions whether a college degree is worth the money—and if that degree is really just for rich people or for those who can qualify for a free ride.

Generally speaking, the argument goes as follows: If you are on a professional track, such as medicine or engineering, the value of college is obvious; you’re on a clear path to a job. If you’re not sure, or if you plan to be an English or Religion major, well then, you’re in trouble. Here’s an example of a blog post written the other day, that was viewed almost 250,000 times!

After three years of college grad unemployment, it seems fair to ask how you justify spending $250,000 on an education that may not qualify you for a job. Sure, college grads earn more money than high school grads do (although it may not be as much of a differential as it was 10 years ago). And yes, it is a basic requirement for virtually every professional position out there. And there are lots of intangible benefits, like the people you meet and that you hopefully learn the skill of critical thought. But if you can’t afford it, should you borrow the money or take another route?

In a world where competition for jobs is incredibly fierce, packaging yourself and your credentials is more important than ever before. But the packaging is nothing without self knowledge and exploration.

How do you convert a degree in religion, English or psychology into a career path? Few students graduate from college certain of what they want to do with their lives, and those who do will require different resources. Instead, for the majority who need help linking their chosen major to a field, there needs to be a roadmap driving them to identify strengths and interests, and find valuable experiences to increase self-awareness and connect school and work in a more structured fashion.  This way, the student can graduate from college armed with a portfolio of skills and experience packaged for immediate uptake by employers because it represents a career path.

This roadmap needs to start freshman year in college if not sooner, and it needs to be a coordinated program addressed with as much rigor and focus as coursework. Someone with a degree in engineering or computer science has the benefit of being pre-packaged by his degree. We need to start leveling the playing field so grads with every kind of major can be work-ready and employable when May comes around.



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2 Responses to Let’s Make All Majors Employable

  1. tatiana says:

    I think that while it’s good to get more high schoolers involved in the college process in terms of what they want out of their education, most people who enter college end up changing their majors several times over the course of their study. Most students pick a major because they really liked a professor or a class and just kept at it. It’s difficult, I think, to know where to start with career planning. At my university for example, freshmen were encouraged to take whatever they wanted without any real goal in mind. I was staunchly against this, and felt that you should take classes that fulfill requirements but are also interesting and have a common theme.

    So I am skeptical in thinking that starting in high school will really curb the problem of college students being unsure of how to use their major after graduation because part of the problem is introspection. And that’s a difficult thing to teach people, particularly those who aren’t interested in it. Instead, I think students should be taught flexibility, and that their career goals will change before, during and after they graduate. I’ve met students who had their plan completely mapped out, and I’m sure most of them aren’t doing anything related to what they thought they would do. I think students should be taught how to find and utilize their personal strengths via their majors (whatever they may be) instead of trying to map out each major in terms of looking for a career. Or getting fixated on a career that their major might be applicable.

  2. Allison says:

    Thank you, Tatiana, for your thoughtful comments. I agree that finding a career is a very inexact science and that it seems early to start thinking about it in high school. But with my own experience with high school junior and seniors, and my interviews with more than 100 Gen Y’s who have launched their careers, early exploration was key. It is never too early to experiment in the real world because school can only offer you so much. What I’m suggesting is not that students shouldn’t take lots of different types of classes but that they should supplement with real life experience as soon as possible. They may change their careers ten times, but at least when they graduate they will have some experience and thinking around what they might want to do that will attract employers. Otherwise, employers will have to do the work of imagining how their school record can translate to a job, and employers are too busy to do that work. It is up to the candidate to package himself and find the right fit–even it’s temporary.

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