Recommended Reading: There IS Life After College

 

In the turbulent, constantly changing workplace of today, having a background at the No. 1 rated school in the country for innovation (that would be ASU) is definitely a plus. This university does things differently … takes a different approach to crafting degree programs and majors … and offers some unique options (Changemaker Central, entrepreneurial training) for students hoping to demonstrate their value to future employers.

The good news is that Arizona State University is doing a lot of things right to help students launch successfully into careers after graduation, according to Jeffrey Selingo, a special advisor to ASU President Michael M. Crow and author of the recently released “There IS Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow.”

With a meticulous reporting style and strong storytelling skills, Selingo discusses just why the current generation of twentysomethings is struggling, overall, when it comes to finding professional-level employment after college. The success or failure story for each graduate is highly individualized, of course, but there are some clear trends that he illustrates, including:

  1. The reduction of non-college options (such as apprenticeships and specialized training programs) for high school graduates, and a push to emphasize “college for all,” even when it’s not necessarily the best path for a particular young adult.

  2. The history of this current (Millennial) college generation as one of the most tightly scheduled and over-protected generations in history. Students raised in this environment often struggle with how to integrate negative workplace feedback, Selingo notes and how to learn from failures.

  3. The college internship and post-grad recruitment cycle has changed substantially in the past 20 years, he says. Fortune 500 companies and many others expect interns to show initiative, be ready to solve real-world problems, and show their supervisors they’re worth hiring as full-timers down the road. As a result, those who aren’t prepared to plan ahead and apply some “grit” to getting the experiences they want that will help them clarify career aims and make solid future networking connections may find themselves out of luck.

  4. The ongoing treadmill from high school to college to the world of work often disadvantages young adults who may have questions about what they want to study before starting college, or who aren’t quite ready for a full-time job commitment after they finish. Selingo devotes an entire chapter to discussing the relevance of a “gap year” between high school and college (and reports on what options are available to U.S. students) and discusses the rise of post-college “launch programs” (both formal and self-created) that can help new alums sharpen needed hard or soft skills, find ongoing mentorships, and build up their confidence.

 

Author Jeffrey Selingo.

Selingo really excels at backing up his assertions about what college students can expect from the workplace with studies, his own survey data, and anecdotes that amplify what he says. I especially liked the way that Selingo ended the book - with a chapter on “Telling Your Story.” After overseeing a career blog at ASU for 9 years, I have to say this seems to be one of the perennial hot topics and the one area in which very few of us get enough training or practice. He concludes, “The challenge to young adults today is to stand out in this competitive economy with a career story that resonates with employers. To succeed you will have to learn to manage the many pathways available to find the right kinds of educational opportunities, at the right time, to achieve the life you desire.”

“There IS Life After College” is a great book for anyone trying to puzzle out the relationship between education and workplace success. Whether you’re a current student, the parent of a current student, or a recent alum trying to figure out how to boost your existing level of achievement, this book can help you diagnose any deficiencies (or identify some previously undervalued assets) and experiment with new options for adapting to where the economy is headed and what employers are looking for.

~ Liz Massey, Managing Editor, ASU Alumni Association.