Job Out Of College: No Guarantee


August 07, 2009|By HANAH CHO

The news this week that a graduate of a New York college is suing her school because she cannot find a job has generated a lot of water-cooler buzz.

Trina Thompson alleges that Monroe College's career center did not help her with job placement. She's seeking $70,000 to compensate for her tuition and $2,000 for stress related to her job-search process. The college says it provides career support for all its students.

But the lawsuit raises larger issues about the difficulty of finding a job during the worst economic times since the Great Depression and the role a college or a career center plays in a student's professional advancement.

Does a college degree guarantee you a job? Is a school's career center a job placement agency?

Many career centers dropped "job placement" from their names and missions years ago. They take a more comprehensive approach that involves career counseling and opportunities for students to connect with prospective employers. These days, university career centers are increasingly helping alumni who have been out of school for many years with employment assistance.

The average student does not expect a job guarantee from the career center, says Mark Presnell, director of the Johns Hopkins University's career office, which serves arts and sciences and engineering students. Part of its mission is to educate students about what the career center does, he says.

"I think our students understand that we're here to guide them through the different kinds of career choices they have," Presnell says. "What we're here to do is educate and empower students to build a foundation for the development of their careers."

Lorie Logan-Bennett, associate director of the University of Maryland Baltimore County's career services center, says her office works with students early on and helps them identify their strengths and careers that are good fits for them, develop skills and prepare them to be marketable when they graduate.

When it comes to the job-search process, Logan-Bennett says UMBC's career center provides multiple ways, such as job fairs and on-campus interviews, to assist students.

"There's no guarantee of employment," she says. "We want to put some responsibilities on the students to make sure they're preparing themselves along the way and doing all they could to prepare for lifetime career management and employment."

Carol Vellucci, interim director of the University of Baltimore's career center, says the notion of job placement is outdated.

Vellucci sees her job as fulfilling two goals: helping students translate their skills, interests and traits to an employer; and creating opportunities for students to connect with employers.

"We don't place anyone," she says. "We help them market themselves to the best of their ability because they're in control of their careers. We believe that people are in control of their own lives and careers, and they need advice and guidance. We can't manage your career by placing you in a job."

Workplace tidbit: If you work in Baltimore, you're in the right place when it comes to a raise.

WorldatWork, a human resources association, announced this week that Baltimore ranks No. 10 on a list of major U.S. metro areas for getting a raise this year.

WorldatWork says Baltimore-area workers will see an average raise of 2.1 percent this year.

Washington topped the list with an increase of 2.3 percent.

The firm looked at the top 10 metro areas for getting a raise based on results of its survey of more than 2,600 respondents.

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