College Grad Gets Good Grades. Why Can't She Find a Good Job?

JP Michel

How the Education System Falls Short When it Comes to Career Development and the Pioneering Solution we Need. 

Julie’s Story (And Almost Every Other College Grad)   

Julie worked hard in high school. Her parents nourished her self-esteem and pushed her to achieve as much as she could academically.   

She opened her college acceptance letter with family. She posted a video online as she celebrated the symbolic life milestone. It’s supposed to mean she’s on her way to a happy fulfilling life-long career path.

College Success Expected to Open Doors to a High-Wage Career

In college, Julie focused on getting good grades. That’s what everyone said she should do. She didn’t get a part-time job. Didn't even think about the real challenges and opportunities in the world of work. And it didn't even occur to Julie to seek out extra-curricular activities that she might enjoy.

The result: a 3.5 GPA and a Cum Laude on her college diploma. She and her parents anticipated employment doors to open as easily.

Julie followed the educational system’s career path as prescribed and the payoff was supposed to be the start of a fulfilling, well-paid job and the springboard to a successful career. 

Honored Degree Ends in Career Cul-De-Sac

Despite fifteen years of schooling and academic success, Julie wasn't "good job" employable. And to make matters worse, Julie didn't even know what she wanted to do or how to discover a job that she wanted to do.  

Julie applied to almost 100 different jobs. She received one interview. And despite her best efforts, Julie didn’t get it.

Strapped for cash, Julie moved back home and began working part-time at a coffee shop. Her clear path, now muddy, seemed bleak. Julie felt disappointed, stress-out and depressed.

Julie's parents were beside themselves: “All that money for college and the result is a barista! What happened?” Why had Julie been so successful in school and so unsuccessful in the world of work?

The disconnect created family turmoil.

“You need to figure out your life!” Julie’s mom yelled at her before her daughter slammed the door. “I’m trying. I’m trying but I don’t know what to do. I’m lost!”

A Half-Built Bridge Sabotages Potential

Throughout her entire academic career, no one encouraged Julie to look into the world of work. They didn't ask her to discover the challenges and opportunities in the marketplace. They didn't even ask her who she wanted to become.

The only resource for career advice was a high school guidance counselor. The counselor had her take a career test that would prescribe a few job titles based on the result. Her result would be calculated from some of her interests and personality.

Julie’s results: Paralegal and Facilities Manager were her top two career “matches”. Disappointed in the results, Julie left the session aimless.

In college, she decided to major in Political Science. Julie like her PoliSci class because her high school teacher was so entertaining.

The prescriptive nature of college fed her the familiar "follow the directions" path. Julie understood how to fulfill the pre-defined expectations. It was simple. Get an assignment, complete the assignment, move onto another assignment.

The Rules are Different in the World of Work

Looking for a job doesn't have clearly defined steps and expectations. Her job search has many unwritten rules of which she has no clue.

Julie learned how to go to school, even excel at it, but she didn't learn about herself. The system failed to teach Julie skills in self-discovery and awareness. She never thought to take stock of her strengths, values, abilities, and interests. How would she able to communicate who she was to employers if she didn’t have this knowledge herself?

Similarly, she had very little understanding of how work “works”. Her knowledge included only job titles. She had little understanding of the challenges and opportunities in work. And the skills needed to solve challenges and discover new opportunities. Like so many others, Julie focused on job titles with prestige and good salaries.

Most important, she had never learned how to “get a job” or how to craft and execute a job search strategy. Job search strategies receive very little attention in the education system. The common misperception is that students only need these skills once they are no longer in school.

How can Julie contribute to the world of work lacking self-knowledge? How does she choose an education path that leads to her a productive life-long career? How does she learn how to build a job search strategy based on that knowledge?

A New Paradigm: Career Development as the Backbone of Education

Julie’s story has a happy ending. One of her friends shared with Julie that she'd worked with a "career coach" and found a job she loves. Julie jumped at the chance to do something different. She didn't know what it meant but she was willing to give a career coach a try.

What happened next was transformative. Julie went through the process of increasing her self-awareness. She did creative exercises and psychometric assessments. She gathered information about how the world of work “works". She explored specific industries, various types of careers and built a “get-a-job” plan.

Julie’s exercises and assignments required her to dive into the real work world. She discovered who she wanted to become. All this information gave her the strategies and tools for a clear new path.

One month and lots of insightful work later, she landed a job at one of her target companies. Julie, and her mom, began to feel confident.

So, Julie learned more about herself and what she needed to do to be successful in three months than in fifteen years of schooling.

Imagine an Education System that Builds People & Bridges  

What If Julie’s career development process started earlier in her life? What if she had experienced it early on during her college years? In high school? What if someone ask her who she wanted to become? Or what she wanted to discover and the challenges she wanted to solve? What if she crafted her future with self-awareness?

These questions and answers have tremendous implications for Julie and all our kids. The educational system is supposed to be preparing our kids to meet the needs of society. In its current state, it is failing them and our future.

Integrating career development into schools at all levels will create self-driven students. They'll learn where they are uniquely fit and equipped to solve important problems, meet challenges and take advantage of opportunities. And they'll choose an education program and learn the skills they need to address the problems of the future.

They'll discover specific steps and actions they'll need to take to join the workforce. 

Pioneering Tools That Change the Game in Career Development.

SparkPath's Challenge Cards and Career Journals empower educators with tools that work. Career development shifts from testing for job title assignment to building proactive 'Challenge Pros' who understand who they want to become and what they want to work on. 

The Challenge Cards teach young people to increase their awareness of the labour market. The Challenge mindset process asks them who they want to become and directs them to create, discover and chose their path.

The cards present real-world problems, like Redesigning the Health Care System. Students then become pro-active Challenge researchers and problem-solvers who work backwards to 1) find companies working on the challenges they are interested in; 2) people who work at these companies and their career paths and 3) education programs they help them learn what they need to learn to work on those challenges. 

The Challenge Cards present a simple solution yielding unprecedented positive impacts. Integrating challenge-focused career development into the curriculum will produce a new graduating workforce. Imagine a world where we prepare kids who are self-aware and ready to solve problems of the future. Please help us make this a reality. 

To join the movement, get your Challenge Cards today!

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