Career development and why it's as important as your degree

By Kevin O'Connor
Posted July 8, 2016

Career development and why it's as important as your degree

On top of student loan repayment, one of the biggest causes of anxiety for college graduates is uncertainty of employment. Will the job market favor those with a degree in molecular biology or professional communication? How can a student know that the path they choose will be to their benefit or anguish? As with many things, there is no sure answer.

Many college graduates have a difficult time finding employment after tossing the cap in the air. According to Bill Baldus, Career Center director at Metropolitan State University, it’s not entirely because there jobs are lacking, but moreso that graduates lack preparation. He explains:

People are not putting a lot of thought into how they are going to go about the nuts and bolts of this transition [college to workforce]. What are the steps they need to take? I think people are so busy getting their degrees that they’re not really doing anything in career development. They get the degree and then they think, “Now I’ve got time to pursue this other stuff.” They might not know what the other stuff is and then once they get out on their own it makes it much more difficult to do it on their own. It’s some difficult work and to do it on your own, without support, without guidance, is really tough.

Graduates and job seekers think that because technology has changed much of the way the world does business, that it also works that way for finding employment. Baldus clarifies:

“Since most people aren’t really sure what to do, they rely on the Internet. So, most of the graduates who I see have this sense that there’s something more out there, something better. They’ve got potential to do something in a higher level but they’re not really sure what that is or how to get there. I would say 90-some percent sit down online, sending out applications, looking for postings and hope to find something that fits and sending out applications one after the other. I’m calling it the “Amazon approach” to looking for work, almost like ordering a book. It’s probably the least productive way to find a good job. That’s not just Metro State grads. I think, generally, job seekers think, this is the 21st century; this is how we do it. They see the ads during the Super Bowl for Monster and Indeed and SimplyHired and so on and it looks like that’s where all the action is. Not the case.”

Baldus goes on to say that the amount of available jobs resembles an iceberg.

“Looking online, you’re seeing about 20 percent of available jobs, tip of the iceberg. So, one in five, that’s a problem. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of people looking at these same jobs, also applying. Everyone thinks their application should be one of the top five to get a phone call. So, it’s a bit like gambling. I think it’s what people do when they don’t know what else to do. It’s also the easiest to do. It doesn’t take any scary interactions with people or putting yourself out there. It’s all electronic, it feels productive, it feels like that’s how it’s done, but this is the least productive way to look for work. And I think the gambling metaphor is apt in that there’s this tendency to click one more time. Hopefully then you’ll find that job that’s a really good fit. It’s like playing the slot machines. Keep clicking and people will sit there for hours, sometimes days. I’ve had alumni come in after doing this for months and often, unfortunately, for years.”

Though it seems like quite a peak to climb, it isn’t impossible.

“One of my missions is to encourage people to go after the 80 percent in the hidden job market. This is often a surprise to people, that most jobs never get advertised. But they’re out there and they’re filled by word of mouth, which is another way of saying networking or connecting with people. This is what we really have to get students to think about and focus on right away when they get here because this all takes time.”

After the interview, Baldus wanted share a link to an article by past president and founder of Prototype Career Service, Amy Lindgren, that would give students more information on the subject and hopefully help them become more interested in doing more research themselves so that they may begin to take steps on the path of career development.

Look for our future podcast and video series featuring Baldus discussing career development.