As students head to college this fall, the world of work might seem a distant prospect, yet for the most recent graduating class, getting a job has been their summer’s task. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the size of this year’s college graduating class could be as high as 20.8 million new job seekers, many of whom have spent their summer looking for a foothold into the job market.
For many of these newly minted graduates, there may be a happy surprise in store: According to a new survey from CareerBuilder, 67 percent of employers said they planned to hire recent college graduates this year, growth that represents a spectacular 65 percent increase over last year, and the highest outlook since the recession in 2007. But does this optimistic job market mean a closing of the much debated skills gap—and do these figures suggest a more equitable connection between employers and those seeking to be hired?
What might potentially represent the best job market in years might not translate to this year’s graduates finding the positions they want. Career success has been a big area of focus for Barnes & Noble College, who commissioned The Millennial Mindset: How Colleges Can Accelerate the Career Prep Process, research that uncovered new insights and strategies to best support student success, with particular focus on job expectations and preparedness. “Student recruitment and retention are the biggest areas of concern for our campus partners today,” explains Erin Lenihan, Consumer Marketing Project Manager for Barnes & Noble College, “and career placement rates have a direct impact on both of those areas,” she says.
Prompted by the research’s findings that 65 percent of college juniors and seniors were not using the kinds of on-campus resources available to them, such as their career services center or faculty, Barnes & Noble College re-engaged their Career Now program to bring together students and career services through a variety of outreach initiatives from the bookstore.
Recognizing the impact of social media as a big influencer for student behavior, the Career Now program is being promoted via Barnes & Noble College’s social media platforms, including the popular student blog, The College Juice. A quick poll on the kinds of content students most value at year’s end revealed a preference for more information on career, summer jobs and internships, and Barnes & Noble College Social Media Specialist, Sandra Webb, is enhancing the career information content on The College Juice for this Fall’s program. “We’re also trying to build more content from our colleges’ career services centers,” says Webb. “They’re on campus, already working with students, and we’d like to leverage their experience along with those already in the workforce to share with students,” she adds.
Imparting that kind of advice and experience was also the goal of this year’s Sweets & Snacks Expo, a forum hosted by The Confectionary Foundation’s Mentor Program. Designed as a program to educate and encourage young talent to enter the industry, the Mentor Program hosted a panel of industry professionals, including Barnes & Noble College’s Director of Café & Convenience, Lisa Shapiro, to answer questions about their own college-to-career experiences. Sharing candid views on everything from resume creation and networking to the most appropriate ways to use social media for their own personal brand, Shapiro described the event as “the kind of information students really need to hear now to help develop the best approaches for their own career path in the future.”
The value of having a career plan in place early was emphasized by Mentor Program attendee, Tom Scott. A graduate of Indiana University, now working in the packaging industry for Catty Corporation, Scott spoke about the importance of developing a professional structure to an employee’s personal brand. “College life can be sheltering,” he says. “You don’t have that in your professional life, so make sure you develop everything from letters of recommendation from professionals to a great social media strategy for platforms such as LinkedIn—as these are things that speak to your credibility and will help in your career.”
As students begin the next chapter of their lives on college campuses across the country, it will be more and more important for schools to help prepare them for their future careers—beginning in their freshmen year. Creating partnerships and programs that provide students with resources and experiences to help them succeed in a competitive job market will not only help students become more successful, it will also help a school’s reputation and, in turn, their recruitment and retention.