After years of students coming out of college and facing job prospects that were slim to none, the latest graduates tossed their tassels feeling pretty optimistic about their chances.
Many 2014 graduates landed a job. And this year’s batch of spring graduates is expected to do even better.
It’s good news that young people are finally finding jobs. But two recent surveys that compared college students’ job and salary expectations to reality showed that today’s grads are “wildly over optimistic.”
The consulting company Accenture’s surveys for 2014 and 2015 reported that grads for both years finished prepared, pragmatic, hopeful and confident. In 2014, 85 percent were confident they’d find work in their field, but only two-thirds did. Sixty-nine percent expected to find work in less than six months; 42 percent did. About 80 percent expected to make more than $25,000, but only 69 percent did.
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And the reality for 2015 grads, Accenture said, is that “high percentages” of them are underemployed.
“Too many college students don’t have any concept of what the overall labor market is,” said Philip D. Gardner, executive director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. “Everyone comes out thinking they are going to get paid an engineer’s salary.”
The surveys also look at where students get such inflated perceptions of their value in the job market. Gardner thinks it comes mostly from parents and from misinterpretations of job reports.
Yeah, things are a whole lot better than they were from 2008 to 2010, when unemployment numbers ran to 8 or 9 percent or more.
“But some students really believe, ‘I go to college, I get my degree and that’s my ticket for a job.’ That is not the reality at all,” Gardner said.
Susan Wade, who heads career services at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan., thinks many Baker graduates are ready to succeed in the working world. “They are bright, and most of them will do fine,” she said.
But students during the recession were “a lot more cautious” in their expectations, she said.
Among today’s graduates, Wade said, “half are confident and realistic, the other half are really scared. They haven’t looked at what they really need to make it.”
Students need to know, she said, how different the work world is from school, where students are the customer. On the job, “no one is saying, ‘How can I make your life easy?’”
“I just want my students to be cautiously optimistic,” she said.