Five Pieces of Career Advice Parents Can Share with Their College Students and Upcoming Graduates

The following are five practical pieces of advice you can share with your student regardless of their college, their GPA or their particular major/minor.    

  1. The unemployment rate for those Americans with a college education is historically half that of the national unemployment rate published by our Bureau of Labor Statistics.  
  2. There is a silver lining to a weaker economy for undergraduates seeking internships.   
  3. Greater Omaha still has a very healthy economy.   
  4. Choosing graduate school because of a weaker economy is not always a very good choice.  
  5. Seeking employment on the strength of a particular major is a completely different job search than that of a student seeking a position on the strength of their overall college education.  

#1: Understanding Unemployment
Students in colleges and universities are very fortunate.   They can expect significantly higher income, an easier path to promotions and most importantly, very few times in their upcoming work history with long-term unemployment.   In fact, there has never been a period of time in our country’s history where the difference between earning potential between college graduates and those without a college education has been greater – and, that isn’t likely to change.   

#2: Internships in a Weaker Economy
While it seems somewhat counter-intuitive, internships for college students are still alive and well in this economy.     A strategy used by many employers goes something like this: “If we can’t hire as many full-time, entry-level graduates, keeping the internship program in place allows us to keep a solid contact with students from our favorite colleges and universities.   And, when the economy rebounds, we’ll still have a pipeline to collegiate talent via our top performing interns.”  Further, college interns are now being charged with doing many tasks usually reserved for the full-time, entry-level candidate.  So, not only are the number of internships available through the career center still healthy, but the experience gained through internships is VERY substantive.   

#3: Omaha Employers Are Still Hiring
While you may have heard this, it’s true – the economy and hiring activity in the Greater Omaha area and in the Heartland in general is better than most of the rest of the country.   Nebraska and Omaha has a current unemployment rate of somewhere between 5% and 6%.   And this is the overall unemployment rate – (see #1 above.)   So, your upcoming graduate or undergraduate student looking for internships don’t have to look very far from where they’re going to school to explore good opportunities.    So, if you aren’t from Omaha and your student is talking about staying in Omaha next summer “because they’re paying (or you’re paying) for a 12 month lease anyway,” listen to them.   The summer job and intern market for college students could be significantly better than their home towns.   

#4:  Staying in School Because of a Weaker Economy
Getting a master’s degree in any field is ALWAYS positive; I wouldn’t work in higher education if I didn’t think that was the case.   But, WHEN someone should pursue advanced study is the issue.   If your student has a career goal which absolutely REQUIRES an advanced degree, then the sooner they get that degree, the better.   Examples include Law, Medicine, Dentistry, OT, PT, Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine, Optometry, Physician Assistant, Clinical Psychology, PhD programs in any academic discipline to pursue faculty positions, etc., etc.   However, staying in school because of a perceived “weakness in the job market” or “in order to keep health benefits” or “because I don’t know what else to do” usually are not good reasons for graduate school.   When a student goes immediately into a graduate degree and then starts approaching employers on the strength of both degrees, the first and most immediate reaction employers have goes something like this: “This candidate has two degrees and no significant experience instead of one degree and no significant experience.”   There is also a perception that someone with two degrees will expect a higher salary – that is NOT a positive in this economy.  

So, most of the time, the staff of the Creighton Career Center suggests at least 1-3 years of work experience before pursuing another advanced degree.    The exception to this is when recent graduates get positions with employers that have tuition reimbursement plans.   Going to school part-time for an advanced degree is ALWAYS positive.   It shows ambition; it shows discipline and it’s free or significantly subsidized.  (By the way, a Creighton MBA can now be finished in two years EVEN when working full-time.)  See the following links for information about Creighton’s graduate school programs outside of the professional schools:

http://www.creighton.edu/gradschool/
http://www.creighton.edu/business/graduate/programs/index.php

#5: Job Search Decisions
One of the most common questions asked on college campuses these days is:
“What am I going to do with a major in_______________________?” 
While at first glance this seems like a reasonable thing to ask, it can be very limiting.   While certainly every major has a “direct” connection to the working world, most college students and graduates obtain internships and full-time job offers based on the fact that they were successful college students in general.     So, a better question to ask goes something like this: “Now that I have an excellent college degree from Creighton University, how do I want to apply this degree in the world of work?”  This question is much more comprehensive and frankly much more realistic with regard to how the work world treats college graduates.  Being hired because of a particular major is much less common than being hired because of a well-rounded college education.   Evidence of this can be seen in the job and internship listings at the Creighton Career Center.   Outside of Nursing, Accounting and some Finance positions, most openings are available to multiple majors and minors and often positions don’t require any particular major.   This is even more the case with internships.   The most common major required by employers of Creighton grads is “Any Major.”    

If you have any comments or questions about this article, please contact Jim Bretl at 402-280-3060 or via e-mail at jbretl@creighton.edu

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