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Employers Expect More from New Hires and Their Schools

January 21, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

A new survey of employers shows that broader may be better when it comes to higher learning. Despite students’ increasing interest in a college education that prepares them for a specific career, employers and the nature of the job market both appear to be demanding students with a wide knowledge base and flexible skills.

The survey, commissioned by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, an organization that advocates liberal arts education, was published yesterday. It focused both on what employers would like to see in new hires and on how well they think colleges are able to prepare students for the workforce.  Only one in four of the 302 employers surveyed felt that two-year and four-year colleges are currently doing a good job of preparing students for the challenges of the global economy. One in five believe that significant changes are needed in how colleges prepare students for the workforce and most wanted to see at least some changes made.

Many employers saw college education as increasingly important for job applicants: 28 percent said they would place more emphasis on hiring people with at least a bachelor’s degree in upcoming candidate searches. Nearly the same proportion, 25 percent, said they would be placing less emphasis on hiring people with no degree. The greatest increase in interest in candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher comes from the largest employers—those with 500 or more employees. They reported 43% more emphasis on hiring candidates with a four-year degree.

Employers reported that degree attainment isn’t the only area in which their expectations for employees have increased. The vast majority of employers agreed with the following four statements about their company:

  • Our company is asking employees to take on more responsibilities and to use a broader set of skills than in the past (91%)
  • Employees are expected to work harder to coordinate with other departments than in the past (90%)
  • The challenges employees face within our company are more complex today than they were in the past (88%)
  • To succeed in our company, employees need higher levels of learning and knowledge today than they did in the past (88%)

To meet these increased expectations, employers overwhelmingly felt it would be helpful for students to pursue opportunities that are becoming common features of a liberal arts education, such as a capstone project that demonstrates their depth of knowledge and analytical skills (84%), an internship or community-based field project (81%), coursework that develops research skills (81%). They also expressed support for more education to build research skills, cultural awareness (both locally and globally), ethical thinking, and understanding of large challenges. An accompanying position paper from the AAC&U expanded on how colleges could foster these kinds of learning and thinking.

However, students do not have to wait for sweeping reforms in college education to take advantage of opportunities that will benefit them in the hiring process. Indeed, they might not have time. Of the employers surveyed, 38% expect to hire more people within the next year, and 54% plan to keep levels of employment steady, a sunnier outlook than was presented in another recent survey of employers. As the country comes out of the recession, recent college grads will be increasingly in demand, but they may also be in greater supply as many schools are currently experiencing record enrollment.

Luckily, at many colleges and universities you can find classes, internships, and other experiences now that will help prepare you for the workplace. If you’re a high school student working on your college search, focus on schools that emphasize research and offer numerous opportunities for internships and senior thesis projects. If you’re currently enrolled, take a variety of courses, especially ones that develop research and analytical skills, and see if your school currently offers internship experiences or opportunities for substantial research projects. By demonstrating through your experience and coursework that you’re both skilled in your subject area and able to learn and adapt, you may have an edge over your competition.

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Labor Department Clarifies Rules of Unpaid Internships

April 23, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Many fields of study require or strongly suggest semesters or summers of unpaid, or “educational,” internships, where students get experience in their intended future careers but not pay, and often not even college credit.

To address concerns that some employers may be taking advantage of the opportunity to have eager college students come work for them at no cost, the U.S. Department of Labor released a set of rules Wednesday that clarify the roles of those employers and the students’ colleges. The rules will fall under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which also establishes the minimum wage, overtime pay, and any youth employment standards.

According to the Labor Department, internships may be unpaid if they meet the following six criteria:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week includes comments from some campus officials who worry that the new rules will scare off employers who want to provide educational (but unpaid) experiences to students. One concern is that meeting a set list of criteria leads to more risk for those employers. Others disagree. Janet Nepkie, a professor of music and music industry at the State University of New York at Oneonta, tells the Chronicle she isn’t worried about complying with the new rules, as she has a good working relationship with each employer who “hires” interns from her school. (Nepkie oversees the internship program in her department.)

The Labor Department rules agree with the notion that internships existing as partnerships between employers and colleges are best, and most likely to comply with the new regulations. According to the Labor Department: “The more an internship program is structured around a classroom or academic experience as opposed to the employer’s actual operations, the more likely the internship will be viewed as an extension of the individual’s educational experience (this often occurs where a college or university exercises oversight over the internship program and provides educational credit).”

We know sometimes students have no choice but to apply for internships led by private companies and organizations, and outside of their colleges’ control. Some of those experiences offer not only stipends or salaries but benefits as well, since the students are considered more than interns but temporary employees. What do you think about unpaid internships? Should there be more oversight, as the Labor Department hopes there will be now?

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eBay Removes Purdue Diploma Listing

June 1, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Internet auction site eBay has removed a recent listing from a Purdue alum, citing a terms of use violation in his attempt to sell his bachelor’s degree in psychology.

Nick Enlow, a 2008 graduate from Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, set the starting bid for his diploma at $36,000, plus $3.50 for shipping. His justification for the listing was that the student loan debt he accrued to complete his bachelor’s wasn’t worth the degree. While he wasn’t confident that he’d get any bids—he thought perhaps a wealthy eccentric might take pity on him and his student loan burden—he was fairly confident that the move would strike up a dialogue on the value of a liberal arts degree. The listing was removed by eBay last week “due to the sensitivity and nature of the item,” according to a recent article in the Journal and Courier.

In that article, Enlow said he felt universities should be held more accountable, as they are “handing out too many degrees that have zero real-world application.” A main complaint was that he felt unprepared to face the $470 monthly payments to his loan provider Sallie Mae; the only job he’s been able to find is one substitute teaching, work that barely allows him to make ends meet. Enlow admits that he was somewhat naïve as a college student at Purdue, assuming that his degree would land him automatic employment in an area he loved. His college’s response has been sympathetic, but realistic. Irwin Weiser, interim dean of Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts said in the Journal and Courier that a liberal arts degree “is not an automatic ticket to a job, but then again, no degree is.”

This isn’t the first time a recent graduate has been unhappy about job prospects post-graduation. Last August, Monroe College graduate Trina Thompson tried suing her alma mater to recoup the $70,000 she spent on a degree that she says left her jobless and with few options for employment. In response to students’ worries that they would complete school only to be met with student loan debts and increased competition in the job market, Lansing Community College introduced a plan earlier this year where students would be guaranteed jobs if they completed training in high-demand fields.

If you find yourself struggling to cover student loan payments as a recent graduate, know your options. If you can’t find a job, you may defer your loans until you’re on better financial footing. And if you’re just starting your undergraduate degree, remember that the fewer student loans you take out, the better. Check out our tips for borrowing responsibly and making the most of your financial aid package.

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Tackle the Interview Process One Stage at a Time

August 27, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Whether you’re a recent graduate or a college student looking for an internship or job while still in school, there are some universal things you should know about to remain competitive while you search, especially when it comes to the moments leading up to, during, and after an interview.

If you’ve landed an interview, we’re assuming you did a good job writing a persuasive cover letter and impressive resume. That first meeting with a potential employer, though, may require some preparation, and don’t think your work is done even after you feel like you nailed the interview. Below, we walk you through the before, during, and after of a typical job interview. Pay attention, and you could be the standout in that employer’s pool of applicants. And believe us, there’s always a pretty big pool competing for one position.

Before

Before you arrive to your interview it’s important to do your research not only about the company or organization you’re interviewing with, but on questions you could ask that would show you’ve done your homework. Don’t plan to ask things that are easily found in a Google search. Put together copies of everything you’ve already sent over to the employer, and bring additional materials that may be relevant to the job. If you haven’t already, Google yourself, and make sure any public profiles on social networking sites don’t include any inappropriate information or photos from the last frat party. Make sure you're using an appropriate email address. Conduct a mock interview or two if you’re able. Thanks to your research, you should have a good idea of the kinds of things the employer will ask and expect of a potential new hire.

During

Arrive on time, obviously, or even a few minutes early. Do not show-up too early, though. Being 15 or 20 minutes early is almost as bad as being more than a couple minutes late. Your interviewer may have a busy schedule and arriving too early might take away from their preparation time, as they are probably going over your resume prior to your arrival. Be professional, and no matter the job and how casual you think the environment will be, dress in business casual at the very least. (The motto “dress for the job you want, not for the job you have” has a point.) Once the interview begins, don’t let nerves get the best of you and badmouth your former boss/job, make inappropriate jokes/comments, or over-share with any irrelevant details about your personal life. Be confident, but don’t be cocky. Make sure to get in those questions you worked so hard to come up with in the days leading up to the interview, and leave the employer with a sense that you really want this position.

After

It doesn’t matter whether you think you aced or bombed the interview. You’ll need to follow-up with an email at the very least. If you haven’t heard from the employer for a while (make sure you ask when you should hear back from them), it is fine to check in. Likewise if you have any lingering questions that came up since the interview. But don’t be a bother. The employer will be in touch with you if you’re the one they want.

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Employers Want the Everyman (or Woman)

State College Graduates More Desirable for Entry-Level Jobs

September 15, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Andy Bernard brags about graduating from Cornell any chance he gets. Granted he is a television character on “The Office” and over the top in every way possible but you will encounter people like the Nard Dog all throughout your life; don't get us wrong, getting into and graduating from a school like Cornell is definitely something to be proud of but if your school of choice lacks the perceived prestige of an Ivy, such comments can be trying to hear. Here's a reason why you could be the one smiling a tad brighter after graduation in spite of that.

In its own study, the Wall Street Journal found that U.S. companies largely favor individuals with bachelor’s from large state universities over Ivy League and other elite liberal-arts schools for entry-level positions. Four hundred seventy-nine of the country’s largest public and private companies, nonprofits and government agencies participated and revealed state school graduates – top picks were those from Penn State, Texas A&M and U of I Urbana-Champaign were best prepared and most able to succeed.

Instead of casting a wide net for candidates, the WSJ discovered big employers are focusing more intently on nearby or strategically located research institutions. This way, they are able to form lasting partnerships with faculty and staff who can point them towards the students who could potentially become valuable employees: Those with the practical skills needed to serve as operations managers, product developers, business analysts and engineers. Ivy League or elite liberal-arts school grads, on the other hand, are top picks from recruiters who prize intellect, cachet among clients, critical thinking and communication.

The Andys of the world may still boast a bit, though: Cornell was the only Ivy League that made the study’s top 25.

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An Important Piece of the Economic Puzzle

Obama Reveals Community Colleges Integral to Recovery

October 6, 2010

An Important Piece of the Economic Puzzle

by Alexis Mattera

Yesterday was a big day for community college students and faculty everywhere and rightly so: Not only did a recent poll reveal four-year colleges may not be the right educational choice for all students but President Obama himself stated that two-year colleges are instrumental to our country’s economic recovery.

Yesterday’s summit was attended by more than 100 community college decision makers and was the first of its kind at the national level, thanks to Second Lady and longtime educator Jill Biden. Two-year colleges were heralded as a bridge to jobs and four-year universities – state and private – alike and a key factor to enrolling more students and boosting completion rates. The summit comes on the heels of Obama’s announcement of the Skills for America’s Future program, which will connect businesses with community colleges to help better match workers with jobs now and into the future. Obama also brought to light a Republican plan proposing to cut education spending by about 20 percent – exactly the opposite of what this country needs if it wants to become the nation with the highest college graduation rate. “We are in a fight for our future,” he added, and community colleges are crucial to boosting degrees and competing with countries that are leading in higher-education attainment.

Community colleges have gotten a bad rap over the years but in truth, they are responsible for a number of outstanding individuals, like this 20-year-old who’s concurrently attending the University of Wisconsin-Barron County and serving as his town’s mayor. Pretty impressive!

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Study Abroad Overhaul

October 18, 2010

Study Abroad Overhaul

by Alexis Mattera

Studying abroad for a semester can be a rewarding experience for college students but do those benefits translate to potential employers? For a long time, they haven't – many have dismissed time overseas as an excuse to backpack and party in multiple countries – but Cheryl Matherly is setting out to change that.

Matherly, the associate dean for global education at the University of Tulsa, is designing a series of workshops and seminars to help students discuss their time studying abroad in a way meaningful to employers. The common perception – that studying abroad is a perk for wealthier students, typically white females in the humanities or social sciences packing their bags for Europe – is exactly what Matherly is attempting to reverse and show to employers that the students who studied abroad may actually be better assets to their companies. "The value isn't that you had the abroad experience itself," she says. "It's what you learned overseas that allows you to work in a cross-cultural environment. Students have to learn how to talk about that experience in terms of transferrable skills, how it relates to what an employer wants."

Much of the blame for this falls on the schools themselves, as the paths of study abroad and career counselors rarely cross, and Martin Tillman, a former associate director of career services at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, stresses the importance of deliberate efforts to build connections. The University of Michigan offers panel discussions each year on what it calls "international career pathways” and the Georgia Institute of Technology touts a Work Abroad Program to place students in international internships and jobs and advises them throughout the process. Some schools are even bringing in third-party providers, like Cultural Experiences Abroad, to help students translate their study-abroad experience into terms employers can understand. CEA has createda semester-long career development course which includes pre-arrival reading assignments, Webinars with career consultants and regular meetings that incorporate experiential exercises and journal writing.

I knew a number of people who studied abroad in college (I didn’t because I couldn't find the right program for my major and regret it to this day) and I’m sure they would have benefited from programs like the ones detailed above. Any graduates in the same boat? And for current college students considering studying in another country, do you think you’d take advantage of these resources if they were readily available to you?

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You’re Hired…Maybe

College Grads Get Good News on Employment

November 18, 2010

You’re Hired…Maybe

by Alexis Mattera

Finding a job has never been easy but over the past few years, that same task has become even more nerve-wracking and downright disheartening. This situation is all too familiar to recent college graduates, who – save for an internship or two – have very little experience outside the classroom but the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University just revealed the hiring of new bachelor's-degree graduates expected to increase by 10 percent this academic year.

Institute director Phil Gardner describes this news as the first step out of a deep hole – this year’s increase is over last year's hiring, which held steady after it tumbled 35 to 40 percent in 2008. The report, "Recruiting Trends 2010-2011," says hiring will not increase across the board but will instead be seen in certain industries, for specific majors and in isolated areas of the country:

  • More recent graduates will be hired by manufacturers, professional-services companies, large commercial banks and the federal government; smaller banks, state governments and colleges and universities project drops.
  • Grads with majors and experience in business, technology, e-commerce, entrepreneurism and public relations will have better luck than those in the fields of health sciences and social services; companies also plan to increase hiring 21 percent among liberal-arts majors.
  • The Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions will see the highest increases in recent graduate hiring, while the Northwest will see a 10-percent decline.

If these findings don’t relate to your situation, there’s still a chance you could snag the job of your dreams: Thirty-six percent of employers say they will consider applicants regardless of major. So, recent and soon-to-be college graduates, breathe those sighs of relief and start updating those resumes!

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Wharton MBA Earns a Whopping $350,000 Starting Salary

January 18, 2011

Wharton MBA Earns a Whopping $350,000 Starting Salary

by Suada Kolovic

You read correctly, a Wharton graduate nabbed the highest annual base salary last year with a private equity firm in New York. The staggering $350,000 starting salary was more than three times the median base salary – $110,000 – of the MBA’s classmates. Yet, these high paying salaries are anything but unique: MBAs from some of the top business schools in the U.S. – Wharton, Stanford, U. Chicago, Columbia and Northwestern – reported that the highest base salary received by a 2010 graduate was $300,000 or more. These figures come from annual summaries of employment of the most recent graduating class. The Wharton MBA career report, which gets its data from student surveys, includes information on compensation, location of employment and the industries in which the graduates now work.

According to management professor Mathew Bidwell, it is both the characteristics of the individual and of the job itself that lead to large starting salaries. “These [private equity] firms tend to have reasonably few people managing very large sums of money,” said Bidwell, whose research focuses on employment. “As you get more senior, each person potentially has quite a substantial impact on the success or the failure of the fund.”

At Wharton, the $350,000 salary earned last year isn’t even a record. In 2009, the top-earning graduate landed a $420,000 base salary…wow. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking where do I sign up, but how important is a high paying salary to you? Are you thinking about changing career paths in order to rake in the dough?

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The Many Meanings of Graduation

May 5, 2011

The Many Meanings of Graduation

by Darci Miller

Graduation.

Depending on where in your academic career you are, the word has varying connotations. To high schoolers, graduation is IT. The ultimate goal. The sum total of four awkward, drama-filled years. The day that begins a new, much more fun and independent chapter in your life.

In college, graduation is a much more complex idea. You might be excited to get out there and start your new job and your new life in a new city or state. On the other hand, what if there’s no job? What if the thought of leaving your beloved alma mater is akin to the thought of a root canal?

After high school, you may be parting ways with your closest friends, but you have the safety net of knowing that almost everyone comes home for the holidays. After college, this isn’t the case. If you attend school in Chicago and have a friend that’s from Texas that’s graduating and going to grad school in Seattle, will you ever see him again? Will he be back to visit?

Of course, this could be me being a little selfish and a lot sad that I’ll be losing so many friends and coworkers to the real world next year. But nonetheless, from graduates and non-graduates alike, the impending ceremony is receiving mixed reactions. Honestly though, I think this is part of the beauty of college. For the first time, you get to choose where you live, learn and make friends. Being sad to leave is a weird sort of pat on the back – “Good job! You made some awesome decisions!”

To all soon-to-be graduates, congratulations! Future college freshmen, you’ve got some great stuff headed your way, so get excited! Future college graduates, I wish you true sadness upon leaving college (hey, I said it was weird!) and all the success in the world in your future endeavors.

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!

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