Archive for ‘jobs after college’

April 2, 2014

Don’t ignore student characteristics when measuring college ROI

by Grace

Most reports that claim to measure the value of a college degree do not control for a vital factor — the student.  They fail to account for what Bryan Caplan calls the “ability bias“.  This bias favors personal traits like intelligence, work ethic, and conformity — traits typically valued by selective schools as well as by employers seeking candidates for high-income jobs.

Psychology professor and author Christopher Chabris explains how the recent PayScale College ROI Report means very little unless ability bias is factored into the equation.

This means that the Return in this “ROI” depends on much more than the Investment. It also depends on who is doing the investing. In fact, it is far from trivial to figure out the true ROI of going to Harvard versus Wayland Baptist versus Nicholls State versus not attending college at all. To figure this out, you would have to control in the analysis for all the characteristics that make students at different colleges different from one another, and different from students who don’t go to college. Factors like cognitive ability, ambition, work habits, parental income and education, where the students went to high school, what grades they got, and many others are likely to be important. In fact, those other factors could be so important that they wind up explaining more of the variation in income between people than is explained by going to college—let alone which particular college people go to.

Even controlling for data we might be able to obtain, like the average SAT score of students who attend each college, or their average parental income, would not completely solve the problem, because there could be factors that we can’t measure that have an important effect. Only by randomly assigning students to different colleges (or to directly entering the workforce after high school) would we get a fair estimate of the true ROI (measured in money—which of course leaves aside all the other benefits one might get from college that don’t show up in your paychecks for the ensuing 20 years).

Look beyond the school name when predicting financial success.

While a degree from Harvard certainly has the signalling capacity and network connections that can boost earnings opportunities for its graduates, the characteristics of the students who enroll there figure prominently in determining future employment success.  Families should keep this in mind when they find their children shut out of admission to elite universities.  It’s not all about the school.

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March 13, 2014

Many young college graduates faced with ‘culture of internships’

by Grace

There was a time not long ago when internships were reserved for college students. But that era is passing, with loosely defined internships — some paying a small stipend, some nothing — replacing traditional entry-level jobs for many fresh out of college.

The moribund economy is, without question, a primary factor behind the shift. Even though the employment picture has brightened since the depths of the Great Recession, few would describe it as sunny. The general unemployment rate inched down to 6.6 percent last month, but the jobless rate for college graduates age 20 to 24 stood at 8 percent in 2013, compared with 5.1 percent in 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Actual measurements are lacking, but with recent college graduates suffering the worst unemployment rates in 50 years I don’t doubt this trend is real.

No one tracks how many college graduates take internships, but employment experts and intern advocates say the number has risen substantially in recent years. “The postgraduate internship has exploded,” said Ross Perlin, author of the book “Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy.” “This was something that became a real mainstream experience after the recession began.”

The new “culture of internships” seems strongest in the media field, although high-tech start-ups also draw in workers willing to work for little or no pay.

While many young college graduates accept the meager opportunities because they are grateful for any chance to work in their chosen field, there is a revolt underway among a small contingent of dissatisfied workers.

Lately, however, long-suffering interns are starting to do more than complain. They point to the Labor Department’s six criteria for legal internships, which stipulate that companies that do not pay interns must provide vocational education and refrain from substituting interns for paid employees, among others. Those rules have been highly open to interpretation and their enforcement is sporadic.

In a much-publicized lawsuit in 2011, two unpaid interns sued the filmmakers of “Black Swan” alleging a violation of federal and New York State minimum wage laws. Last June, a federal judge in New York ruled in favor of the interns. (The case is on appeal.)

But some desperate millenials still prefer internships over less “meaningful” employment.

Last October, Condé Nast announced that it was ending the internship programs within its 25 magazines, which means that 20-something aspiring magazine editors will have one less place to get a toehold for their “meaningful” careers.

“Can you hear it?” one commenter wrote on a WWD article about the ending of internships. “It’s my dream of a Vogue internship going straight out the window.”

Many of these “permaterms have no choice but to continue living at home.

Related:  Unpaid internships – the good, the bad, and the ugly (Cost of College)

March 4, 2014

Fundamental communication skills are more important than ‘new media’ skills for journalists

by Grace

Journalism instructors assign much more value to a degree in the discipline than do practicing journalists, according to a new Poynter study.

20140301.COCJournalismDegreeImportance1

Some 96 percent of journalism educators believe that a journalism degree is very important or extremely important when it comes to understanding the value of journalism. By contrast, 57 percent of media professionals believe that a journalism degree is key to understanding the value of their field.

Perhaps even more significant, more than 80 percent of educators say a journalism degree is extremely important when it comes to learning news gathering skills, compared to 25 percent of media professionals. One in five media professionals finds a degree in the discipline is not at all important or only slightly important in learning news gathering.

Should journalism school place more focus on teaching “new multimedia skills”?

Finberg, who authored the study, attributed the discrepancy in part to a kind of digital divide between journalism school curriculums and what’s expected of journalists in the field. Working journalists feel the demand for new multimedia skills that may or may not be part of traditional journalism coursework, he said, leading them to question the value of degrees in the discipline.

Or should they simply concentrate more on fundamental skills?

But given that modern journalism is a kind of moving target, experts said, programs can’t afford to lose sight of the fundamentals: good storytelling and strong writing and problem-solving skills.

“It is in no way possible for journalism schools to keep up with all the industry changes because journalism itself isn’t keeping with the technological changes,” said Sonny Albarado, president of the Society of Professional Journalists and projects editor at the ArkansasDemocrat-Gazette. “It’s important to be exposed to whatever the dominant or latest technology is, but that varies from place to place.”

Albarado said he prefers to hire reporters with journalism degrees, due to their training, but he wouldn’t exclude applicants with English degrees, for example.

Ultimately, he said, “I just want somebody who can write and think critically – and spell.”

The new media skills are relatively easy to acquire, but fundamental writing skills and critical thinking usually take years to learn.

It seems that a rigorous liberal arts education would be an excellent way to prepare for a journalism career.  Nate Silver thinks economics or math are good majors for journalists to meet the increasing importance of data-driven reporting.

Related: With the rise of robo-reporters, what is the outlook for jobs in journalism? (Cost of College)

March 3, 2014

Advice to college students: Get a job!

by Grace

College graduates’ biggest regret is not getting more work experience.

20140228.COCPewWorkDuringCollege1

… Pew Research survey asked college graduates whether, while still in school, they could have better prepared for the type of job they wanted by gaining more work experience, studying harder or beginning their job search earlier.

About three-quarters of all college graduates say taking at least one of those four steps would have enhanced their chances to land their ideal job. Leading the should-have-done list: getting more work experience while still in school. Half say taking this step would have put them in a better position to get the kind of job they wanted. About four-in-ten (38%) regret not studying harder, while three-in-ten say they should have started looking for a job sooner (30%) or picked a different major (29%).

This is consistent with the advice that focusing exclusively on academics in college is a mistake.

Students become more valuable to employers by spending time in the real world.

But many have never been in an office setting and had the experience of having to work hard for a difficult boss. They may not understand the sense of urgency that permeates the fabric of most work environments, and they may misread the cues and signals of prospective employers and recruiters as they search for a job.

Advice to college students:  Get a job!  (But don’t slack off on studying.)

Related:  Put kids to work to fix the problem of delayed adolescence (Cost of College)

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February 19, 2014

Recent college graduates suffering worst unemployment rates in 50 years

by Grace

Millennials of all education levels are suffering the worst unemployment in 50 years.

20140217.COCMillennialUnemploymentRatesAtlantic


Whatever the claims that millennials are an entitled generation, it’s clear they are facing employment challenges more difficult than their parents did.  They are also facing the twin problems of unprecedented rising debt and falling wages.

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February 12, 2014

Bad advice for college students

by Grace

Take a course called “Politicizing Beyoncé”.

20140209.COCBeyonce1

That’s Walter Russell Mead’s first bit of bad advice for college students.  Here’s more.

… Enroll in a college you can’t afford. Take really easy, fun courses. Don’t worry about marketable skills. Blame society for the consequences (unemployment) of your attitude problem. Then demand the government (or your parents) bail you out. We guarantee you all the misery you could ever want.

Mead wrote his advice after learning that Rutgers Department of Women and Gender Studies is offering the Beyonce course, which “will explore race, gender and sexuality in America via Beyonce’s music”.

College can be a time for fun and exploration, but students who are going into deep debt for their higher education should carefully consider which courses will show up on a transcript.

If you were to ask today’s employers what new college graduates are lacking, the skills to create a “grand narrative” around one’s own life and persona wouldn’t make the list. And a hefty dose of Beyoncé-inspired narcissism won’t exactly help with that pesky “sense of entitlement” problem employers keep complaining about.

I happen to enjoy watching Beyonce perform, but I really don’t want to pay $2,000 for my kid to take a class exploring her music.  On the other hand, I can see the possible value in adding an easy “A” to the credential that will enhance the odds for lucrative employment.

Related:  The growing distinction between ‘meaningful’ and ‘worthless” college degrees (Cost of College)

January 24, 2014

Some career advice is timeless, and some is only recently relevant

by Grace

Successful entrepreneur Jason Nazar has some advice for 20-year-olds.

… Call me a curmudgeon, but at 34, how I came up seems so different from what this millennial generation expects.  I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and I see this generation making their own….

Some of Nazar’s suggestions have been around for many years, while others are new and relevant to the current business environment.  Here are a few from his list of “20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get .

When it comes to communication, young people seem to prefer texting and email over talking.  But sometimes a personal touch makes a difference, and the sound of your voice can be important.

Pick Up the Phone – Stop hiding behind your computer. Business gets done on the phone and in person.  It should be your first instinct, not last, to talk to a real person and source business opportunities.  And when the Internet goes down… stop looking so befuddled and don’t ask to go home.  Don’t be a pansy, pick up the phone.

When you’re new on the job, working hard is a must.  Maybe there will be time later on to coast, or maybe not.

Be the First In & Last to Leave ­– I give this advice to everyone starting a new job or still in the formative stages of their professional career.  You have more ground to make up than everyone else around you, and you do have something to prove.  There’s only one sure-fire way to get ahead, and that’s to work harder than all of your peers.

Nobody wants the challenge of managing an employee who lacks initiative and needs to be told what to do.

Don’t Wait to Be Told What to Do – You can’t have a sense of entitlement without a sense of responsibility.  You’ll never get ahead by waiting for someone to tell you what to do.  Saying “nobody asked me to do this” is a guaranteed recipe for failure.  Err on the side of doing too much, not too little.

This one caught me a little by surprise since I have sometimes found myself buying  into the idea that social media ranks highest in what makes a company successful.

Social Media is Not a Career – These job titles won’t exist in 5 years. Social media is simply a function of marketing; it helps support branding, ROI or both.  Social media is a means to get more awareness, more users or more revenue.  It’s not an end in itself.  I’d strongly caution against pegging your career trajectory solely to a social media job title.

If I thought they would take heed, I would send this list to some young people I know.  It’s mainly good advice.

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January 14, 2014

Best growth outlook is for low-paying jobs

by Grace

The outlook for jobs does not hold up much hope for some college graduates.

Elder care and other low-wage jobs will be among the fastest growing career fields over the next decade. Postal carriers and journalists might have a harder time finding work.

The fastest growing job for the next decade requires no formal education and pays an average annual income of $19,940.

Personal-care aide will be the fastest growing job from 2012 to 2022, among categories with more than 25,000 positions, the Labor Department said in a new report. The field will grow by nearly 50% to 1.8 million jobs.

The gloomy prospect for postal workers and reporters is directly tied to technology advances.  Email has replaced most paper letters, and the rise of robo-reporters has cut into the need for human writers.

Postal and media sectors are likely to shed jobs in the next decade.

Employment among U.S. Postal Service workers is expected to decline 28%.Reporter and correspondent jobs will contract nearly 14%.

Here’s a look at journalism jobs pulled from the Wall Street Journal “sortable table of the career fields that will grow and shrink in the next decade”

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Since my college kid is seeking a job in journalism, I had a brief panicked moment before I realized the job levels are reported in thousands!  Maybe I can find slight comfort in looking at jobs with even fewer projected job openings, such as film editors, high school history teachers, and chemical engineers.  However, in terms of expected percent changes for jobs requiring a college degree, journalists rank right at the bottom of the list.

December 31, 2013

Advances in holographic technology may mean less business travel

by Grace

Holographic telepresence technology may mean a cutback in business travel and easier telecommuting.

Remember when Princess Leia’s hologram delivered a message to General Kenobi?


The future is now.

Beam yourself across the world

The growth in video communication has been exponential. Skype now boasts 300 million users, and a 2012 Ipsos/Reuters poll revealed one in five people worldwide now frequently “telecommuted” to work. But Star Trek fans will be happy to hear that incoming technology will add a further dimension to international conference calls. Known as holographic telepresence, it involves transmitting a three-dimensional moving image of you at each destination – allowing you to converse as if you were in the room. One system from Musion, based in Britain, uses Pepper’s Ghost, an effect popular with illusionists, to beam moving images onto sloped glass. Musion has already digitally resurrected rapper Tupac Shakur at a music festival. But full 3D holographic communication is not far behind – in the shape of the Polish company Leia. Named after the Star Wars princess, its Leia Display XL uses laser projectors to beam images onto a cloud of water vapour. The result is a walk-in holographic room, in which 3D objects can be viewed and manipulated from every angle. An IBM survey of 3,000 researchers recently named holographic video calls as one technology they expected to see in place in the next year or so.

Easier telecommuting

It might also make telecommuting more attractive in some situations.  If this technology had been available years ago, I may have been able to continue telecommuting.  As it was, my boss at the time asked me to go back to showing up at the office five days a week after I had tried working partly from home for about a year.  Since it meant a three-hour daily commute while parenting young children, I resigned that job in favor of a better quality of life.  Future workers may have better choices.

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December 30, 2013

Most college graduates are underemployed

by Grace

Most college graduates are underemployed, as shown by the chart on the left.  The chart on the right shows that the vast majority of college graduates are working in fields unrelated to their undergraduate major.

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This comes from research produced by Jaison Abel and Richard Dietz of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

… We utilize newly available census data that identify both an individual’s level of education and, for college graduates, undergraduate college major. We construct two measures of what we call job matching for those with a bachelor’s degree. Our first measure, which we refer to as college degree matching, determines whether an undergraduate degree holder is working in an occupation that requires at least a bachelor’s degree. Our second measure, which we call college major matching, gauges the quality of a job match by identifying whether a person is working in a job that corresponds to that person’s undergraduate major. For example, consider a college graduate who majored in Communications. If this person worked as a public relations manager, an occupation that both requires a college degree and relates directly to a Communications major, we would classify this person as matching along both measures. By contrast, if this person worked as a retail salesperson, he or she would be classified as not matching along either measure.

Being overqualified is sometimes the only way to secure employment and pave the way for future career growth.

This data does not necessarily support the argument that a college degree is a waste of time and money for most.  In a perverse way, it actually supports the importance of going to college.  In this jobless economic recovery we have too many college graduates chasing too few college-level jobs, so employers can screen out job applicants who lack a college background.  Those retail salespeople, office receptionists, or any number of similar workers with college degrees were probably helped in gaining employment by the fact they had demonstrated the persistence and intelligence needed to complete four years of higher education.  It also helps their chances of future career and income growth.

A law school graduate blogging about “the loss of my last shred of dignity” while working at a store counter selling cologne is featured in a Business Insider story.

The blog’s anonymous author graduated from a law school that was in the top 50 ranked by U.S. News and World Report. He was on law review and even got a summer position at a firm after his second year. He didn’t get a job offer though.

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