What are students preparing for – jobs or careers?

6 years ago by in 2011, Uncategorized Tagged: , , , , , ,
Students express their apprehension about landing a job in their chosen career field.

With unemployment rates steadily rising, jobs are on the minds of many Americans and especially of college seniors.The current economic climate is making students appreciate the need for higher education. Howard University seniors Emmanuel Anderson, Cecily Fitts-Jackson and Tristen Neal all have apprehensions about life after graduation.  They believe that their undergraduate studies have prepared them for a job, but their apprehension is visible when the conversation turns to landing a job in their chosen career field.

In President Obama’s January 2010 State of the Union address he said, “In this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job.” Since 2010, the economy has continued to unravel, and Anderson, Fitts-Jackson and Neal all agree that holding a bachelor’s degree will make them more competitive job hunters.

Emmanuel Anderson prepares to take on another productive day at school. / Photo: Brittney Hood

‘Can I Get a Good Job?’

Emmanuel Anderson, a psychology major, takes the recession seriously because his future is being affected.

“Yes, I think I can get a job,” Anderson said, “but can I get a good job?  That would be the question.”

Anderson equates a ‘good job’ with being financially stable in order to avoid living paycheck to paycheck.

As a full-time student, Anderson works less than 30 hours a week, which is considered a part-time position, at a Walgreens Pharmacy in Northwest D.C. Because of his part-time status, Anderson is ineligible for health benefits and sick days. He said, financially, he cannot afford to get sick because it would cause major cutbacks in his lifestyle.

“You need higher education to get a good job in D.C. If you don’t have your master’s it [will] be harder to make it,” Anderson said.

The U.S. Census Bureau consistently has ranked Washington D.C. as one of the top 10 most educated cities in the country, which makes a university degree even more important in order to compete for area jobs.

Anderson sees the need for higher education to be successful and plans to get his master’s degree. He believes that there are jobs that were once in high demand such as teaching.  With sudden budget cuts, though, many Americans have been laid-off.  Anderson feels no job is safe except construction workers, college professors and jobs in the health care industry.

‘I’m a go-getter!’

If Anderson’s theory is correct, Cecily Fitts-Jackson, a biology major, may have a better chance of getting a job than most college graduates. She is studying for the MCAT, the medical entrance exam, to fulfill her lifelong career dream of being an obstetrician-gynecologist.

Is there anything students can do?

While the economic downturn has made job-seeking more challenging for young graduates, Karen McNeal, a veteran human resources professional, says that there are three things that students can do while still in school to make their job search more successful:

1. Get at least one internship under your belt.
“The young adults who come through my doors who have had an internship, tend to be looked upon more favorably than then ones who haven’t had any work experience,” McNeal said.

McNeal says that having an internship provides familiarity with a professional environment, something that is “seriously lacking” from the college classroom.

2. Keep your resume in tip-top condition.
“You wouldn’t believe the amount of careless mistakes I see in resumes everyday. If you can’t proofread your resume and make it look nice when you have all day to work on it, it makes me think about the kind of work that you will bring to our company,” McNeal said.

While she acknowledges this is harsh criticism, she says she looks “favorably” upon the resumes that are well edited.

3. Dress like you have the job, but don’t assume that you do.
“If you go in for an interview for an office position in blue jeans, no one is going to take you seriously. What would you wear if you were going to meet the president at a business meeting? Wear that to an interview. No one ever got turned away from a job for being too fancy, McNeal said”

“I have always wanted to be a doctor since seventh grade. I want to be able to say that I brought life into this world,” Jackson said.

Bill Driscoll, a district president at staffing firm Robert Half International, said health care positions such as medical file clerks, patient admission clerks and credentialing specialists will always be in demand.

Fitts-Jackson feels that Howard has prepared her for not only the world of medicine, but also the business world.  The school has sent her to different medical conferences and training programs.

In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics determined the average rate of unemployment for the District was 9.9 percent.  By August 2011, it had increased to 11.1 percent.  With an increasing unemployment rate in mind, Jackson is weighing the outcomes of going to medical school versus going straight to work after graduation.

“If I don’t get into medical school that wouldn’t stop me,” Jackson said. “My determination makes me competitive. I’m a go-getter!”

‘A job is temporary. A career is for a lifetime.’

Tristen Neal is another example of the hard working  ‘go-getter’ type. He is working two jobs, while finishing his senior year at Howard University, where he studies film production. He feels that his charisma, coupled with screenwriting and film editing skills, will help him be successful after graduation.

Neal says there are major differences between a job and a career. He considers what he is doing now, working at Walgreens and P.F. Chang’s restaurant, to be jobs.

“A job is temporary, a career is for a lifetime,” Neal said. “A job is something you look back on and say ‘yeah, I used to do that.’ A career is something you tell a story about to your grandchildren later.”

After graduation Neal said he hopes to find a job in the film industry, rubbing elbows with industry greats and pioneers that came before him.


The American University School of Communication Graduate Program in Journalism works to prepare students for the realities of today's news and information space and the challenges of tomorrow. Find out more by visiting us online at soc.american.edu

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