Are College Graduates Unprepared For the Job Marketplace? Interview with Alexandra Levit

Many studies will say college graduates are not ready for today’s job environment. The lack preparedness for the high expectations of the workplace. The latest study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) on the behalf of the Career Advisory Board which is established by DeVry University recently reported 1.5 million of college graduates under 25 are jobless or under-employed.

Alexandra Levit (@alevit), a member of the Career Advisory Board, agreed to speak to me about the study. Levit is a renowned business and workplace expert, and an author of several books.

Mark: The press release states that, “Among its findings, more than half (56 percent) of today’s university and college career center directors cite students’ lack of interest in formal career preparation and professional development as barriers to successfully finding a job.” Are there clues as to where this apathy comes from? Does this describe a typical millennial generation’s attitude?

Alexandra Levit: On the whole, Millennials are confident and entitled, and have the mentality that a college degree equals an instant job.  They believe they are better than the competition, and that Mom and Dad will help them out while they get their bearings. They just aren’t worried about their job search until the very end of their college tenure, and therefore are apathetic.

Mark: It also states that, “..they also have started developing skills in teamwork, time management and communication.” Everyone says that he or she is a “team player,” what makes their brand unique. What makes them stand out upon graduation?

AL: What makes them stand out is not only being able to communicate vaguely that you’re a team player, but being able to communicate SPECIFICALLY how you will add value to the organization when you come on board.  This means doing your homework and knowing what’s important to the company and its bottom line and being able to give the impression that you can hit the ground running.

Mark: Are college career centers failing to brand themselves as the main resource to prepare college students?

AL: Yes, they are.  The research clearly demonstrated that career centers perceive themselves as being far more important to students’ success than the students themselves perceive them.  Frequently, students aren’t even acquainted with the career center until senior year – and sometimes there’s never a proper introduction, Even when students do know about the career center, they are usually not aware of the breadth and depth of helpful services offered.

Mark: There are critics of college career centers that say that the counseling received from them is outdated. Is there some truth to that in your opinion?

AL: This entirely depends on the university and the individual.  Is it sometimes true?  Yes.  But there is bad career advice everywhere.  Students should validate what they hear from a college career counselor by reading current career blogs/publications and speaking with mentors in their fields.

Mark: The survey stated that, “The survey found that students have a poor understanding of how to properly conduct a successful job search and also lack some of the tools and skills necessary to locate and acquire a job.” I find this startling being that a job search these days require tech knowledge that college students possess. Where do you think the disconnect takes place?

AL: Tech knowledge is one thing, and most of them do indeed have it, but a successful job search today requires a ton of productivity and hustling.  It is simply not enough to put your resume on a few job boards and wait to get a call.  That call isn’t coming.  You have to be out there, branding yourself online and offline, meeting people in your field who are in a position to help get you work, and clearly showcasing what you have to offer each and every organization with which you interface.

Mark: With the lack of interest from students in general, are college career centers suffering or experiencing a feeling of un-usefulness?

AL: Yes, and I think they are rightfully frustrated.  Their success depends on student success, and it’s tough when you are trying to do your job well but feel that students aren’t living up to their part of the bargain.  However, it does seem that career counselors get a lot of fulfillment from working with students who do use their services effectively, even if this isn’t the majority.

Mark: I find it interesting that in this day and age international college graduates stand out as being difficult to counsel. Are there ways to you think to increase engagement of foreign students?

AL: One idea for directors to facilitate the advising and hiring of international students is to form programs that pair current students with similar alumni who are currently employed. Such mentorships would provide insights that are unique and expressly relevant to a particular student group.

Mark: Are there groups such as, first generation students, college graduates, minority groups, older students, military that might be considered more self-sufficient than the other when it comes to networking, using career center resources, or any other tool?

AL: Not that I am aware of.  Being self-sufficient/self-driven is an individual trait, and I think that you see it (and don’t see it) in all groups.  I want to say that first generation students are on the whole more resourceful than other groups because given their background this would make sense, but I haven’t seen it personally.

What do you think of a few of the recommendations from the Career Advisory Board for graduates to get started on his or her career search?

Expand network. Conduct informational interviews with mentors in their mid-twenties who can provide advice on how to most effectively position their background and experience in a specific field.

Customize resume. Review sample resume in the desired field and craft theirs in a way that will interest an employer immediately. Also it’s important to customize their resume with keywords from their target position’s job description.

Show enthusiasm. Present themselves as can-do enthusiastic employees who are humble and eager to learn.

Do you have additional suggestions? Please comment below.


Mark: If I am reading this correctly, career centers are not receiving zealous involvement from the administration. Is there one common denominator that stands out as to why that is?

AL: Overall, college career centers have a perception problem. Many administrations view them purely as immediate “placement centers” and marginalize their role in shaping America’s future talent pool. Unfortunately, this attitude negatively impacts student perception, and they may not use the career center as expeditiously as a result.

To obtain a copy of the report and additional research, go to the Career Advisory Board website and look for the “Effectively Counseling Graduating Students” information.


About Mark Anthony Dyson

I am the "The Voice of Job Seekers," career consultant, job seeker advocate, career writer, and founder of this award-winning blog. I help the employed, unemployed, underemployed, and under-appreciated find jobs using job search strategies to navigate the new job market. I aim to give a safe place online to those with different needs, cultures, and ethnicities to find their voice in the job market. Thousands have read my career advice throughout the web as I write about everything from job search strategies to the mobile job search. I have published more than 400 articles on this blog and some of the largest career sites such as, YouTern, and Come Recommended. I've been quoted in major publications such as on Monster, AOL Jobs, Fortune, Business Insider and Levo League. Both FlexJobs and JobMonkey listed my podcast as one of the top eight podcasts to help your job search. Love for you to sign up for the weekly newsletter. I share the latest articles I've written, new podcast episodes, and answer any questions you may have. The new job search is scary and if you need help, I am here for it!

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