Less Than Half of College Seniors Feel ‘Very Prepared’ For a Career

Posted By Terri Williams on June 22, 2017 at 7:25 am
Less Than Half of College Seniors Feel ‘Very Prepared’ For a Career

For most students, college is the only launchpad for a successful career.  And, while students are taking longer to graduate, when they reach the end of 4 to 6 years of school, some may experience a failure to launch. According to a new McGraw-Hill Education survey, only 44 percent of college seniors feel “very prepared” for their careers.

The doubts run stronger among women. The survey found 33 percent of males vs. 27 percent of women feel “very prepared.” However, this doesn’t mean that these seniors feel totally unprepared. Most of them (83%) feel “moderately prepared.”

Regarding skills, respondents were more likely to feel that their interpersonal abilities played a greater role in feeling very prepared:

More likely to feel prepared because of: Less likely to feel prepared because of:
Communication skills Technical skills
Teamwork skills Presentation skills
Critical thinking skills Networking skills


It’s encouraging that students are paying more attention to interpersonal skills, but what can they do to become more well-rounded graduates and applicants?

Technical skills

In many industries, employers are increasing their technical expectations of new workers. In fact, half of all high-paying jobs require coding skills – even non-IT jobs. Also, LinkedIn recently released a list of the most in-demand job skills among the top 50 companies. Tech skills dominate the list: for example, in the financial services and insurance industry, web programming and Java development are the top skills. In other industries, such as media and entertainment, government/education/non-profit, retail and consumer products, and telecommunications, tech skills are in the top three.

Some college students are pursuing interdisciplinary degree majors to gain the technical skills that employers want. While it’s not necessary to possess an expert level of technical skills, companies want job candidates who can demonstrate proficiency.

Presentation skills

“I am a massive advocate of the elevator pitch: college seniors need to know how to sell themselves, and how to do it in a concise way,” according to Jennifer Magas, vice president of  Magas Media Consultants, and an associate professor of public relations at Pace University.

Warren Buffet believes that public speaking skills can boost an employee’s value by 50 percent.

Magas admits that colleges may provide courses on how to give presentations, but she says students need to learn how to talk about themselves. “Instead of fumbling with basic questions like ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ the elevator pitch is a 30-second overview that presents a strong image of who the student is, what their area of study is, what experience they have, and how they specifically can benefit a future employer.”

Networking skills

Magas advises students against waiting to start networking. “College students should be visiting their career centers, attending alumni events, and contacting professors for recommendations.”  But effective networking involves both in-person and online interactions.  “Students need to clean up their social media, making good use of privacy controls and refocusing their profiles to match the job search,” Magas says.

She recommends LinkedIn as a way to showcase achievements and catch the attention of recruiters. “The Internet should become a land of opportunity with endless information on industries and how to interact with them,” Magas says.

However, students who don’t know how to highlight their accomplishments may not feel very prepared. According to Deb Everhart, vice president of design and innovation at Learning Objects, “Students can feel confined by the traditional one-page resume, which limits how they can showcase their experiences, qualifications, and achievements.”

Everhart says there are other ways for students to attract the attention of recruiters and employers. “By pairing their resume with a strong, digital portfolio that houses all of their projects, presentations, and pitches, as well as credentials earned outside of the traditional classroom setting, students can feel confident that they have set themselves apart from other candidates while showing potential employers their technical savvy and presentation skills.”


Some college students also may not feel very prepared because they don’t have experience.  Roberta Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting and author of The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers and Profits, says, “Many college seniors have never worked a ‘real’ job or any job for that matter, prior to graduating college.”

And when these individuals are suddenly thrust into the real work, she says it can be quite a shock. “Those students who do internships and co-ops throughout college are much more prepared and are much further ahead career wise, than those who don’t.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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