This is a guest post by Michelle Bata.
To attract college graduates, you have to understand them.
Today’s college graduates have many of options – including the option to opt out of traditional employment. Therefore, constructing job postings and work environments that appeal to their sense of flexibility, growth, and ability to learn will go a long way in recruiting and retaining college graduate talent.
Specifically, employers should:
- Give recently graduated new hires opportunities to contribute and let know their opinion is valued
- Create opportunities for further training, education, or professional development
- Construct a flexible work environment that enables collaboration yet fosters individual focus
Look beyond the traditional résumé.
Some of the most innovative work is happening through the curriculum – projects, problems, competitions, etc. Keep in mind that traditional résumés often don’t have the space to reflect or capture those activities.
Employers looking to recruit top talent should consider using similarly innovative ways to get at the capacities such as problem-solving ability, creativity, and the ability to collaborate. Request that students submit evidence of their work either through a deliverable or portfolio. Or, ask students to give examples in their cover letters.
Obstacles facing graduates as they enter the workforce.
Show, don’t tell.
One of the biggest obstacles that graduates face is demonstrating ability. The easiest way to gauge demonstrated ability is through previous employment — something which most college graduates lack. The onus thus rests on graduates to translate their experience including internships, part-time employment, etc. , in such a way that it is recognized.
Separate the experience from the academics so that the experience stands on its own.
Make the implicit, explicit.
Recent graduates often assume that the benefits associated with their degrees are implicit. Graduates should be explicit in articulating the skills and capacities they developed through the experiences they had while completing their degrees.
Lead with skills and capacities, and follow up with the experience as evidence.
Understanding that it’s not about you, it’s about them.
When applying to positions, students have to be able to make the case as to how they’ll contribute to the business, or how their skills match the position. And, often, college graduates are ill-prepared to articulate that.
Respond directly to requirements listed in the job posting, connecting your experience with expected responsibilities. Reframing your materials to focus on the job, rather than you, will signal to the hiring manager that you know what is expected as an employee.
Challenges exist once college graduates land a job.
One of the biggest challenges recent graduates face is recognizing that they’re no longer in a learning environment. In college, students receive feedback and suggestions for improvement after they’ve completed an assignment. However, this do-first, ask-questions-later mentality often doesn’t match up with the sink-or-swim reality of the real-world, where employees have to execute the task correctly the first time.
Graduates who are new employees should remember to ask for help, clarification, feedback before the task or project is completed.
Michelle Bata is Associate Dean and Director of Clark University’s LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) Center, Worcester, MA.