The workforce can seem daunting to anyone, but it can be downright immobilizing to a recent graduate staring up at the mountainous task of finding their first job. Adding to this fear is the slew of recent articles whose data purports to portray a largely underemployed and unsatisfied worker pool of recently matriculated college grads. While we may be seeing trends of unsatisfied workers, this is not the entire story. The real truth about this data is this: no one finds a great job and gets hired without a strategy and experience-based skills. Although these articles do a great job of harping on scary results, they fail to contextualize the true cause of underemployment and/or job dissatisfaction.

A recently published article in The Washington Post entitled, “The College Majors Most and Least Likely to Lead to Underemployment” pits the employment struggles felt by graduates holding degrees traditionally deemed as “professional degrees” in fields such as: criminal justice, healthcare administration, and graphic design against employees whom the article claims are more happily employed after majoring in fields such as engineering, law, and physics. Using data provided by PayScale, the article hints that the bottom has fallen out of the former category of degrees, which were once felt to be among the safest bets for post-graduation employment.  While it may be true that college grads in these fields are having difficulty finding sustainable work, this article and others like it fail to factor in crucial information on the critical role that the combination of experiential learning and career development opportunities play towards benefitting recently graduated job-seekers. The facts state that graduates finding the most employment success and contentment across the board are those who took full advantage of all that their degree program had to offer; i.e. career centers, study abroad programs, and extracurricular pursuits. This is why Loyola University New Orleans is among leading colleges and universities nationwide who are taking aggressive and proactive steps to infuse experiential learning opportunities and career development strategies into each degree program.

The proof is in the pudding. Last year, Loyola offered over 1000 internship opportunities to students, and saw 71% of Loyola graduates finding employment within their career field or attending graduate or professional school within six months of graduation. A large amount of this success is due to Loyola’s belief that hitting students early and consistently with career information is the primary key to student success. Beginning with the first moments of contact with prospective students and parents, Loyola’s admissions representatives, career development staff, and faculty provide an endless stream of career path discovery opportunities, the latest industry information, and most importantly, ways for students to put their interests into practice through involvement in real world experiences within their industry. As an example, a student pursuing a bachelor of science degree within the music industry studies program at Loyola University is required to graduate with at least one internship experience, and as such, they will meet with industry-trained staff and faculty starting within the first weeks of their program to develop their soft skills, increase their industry knowledge, and provide experientially-based opportunities such as job shadows, professional networking opportunities and most especially: targeted internships in which they practice and hone their craft within the industry. In turn, Loyola’sCareerDevelopmentCenteris dedicated to following a student from their first step onto campus all the way past the graduation stage and into the workforce. In addition to classroom information and individual coaching sessions to build student’s professional skill set, most recently, the Center launched its inaugural “Part-Time Job & Internship Fair,” providing nearly 500 Loyola students with the opportunity to meet with over 60 employers from around the New Orleans metro area. Loyola will also join other institutions across the city in the bi-annual Career Expo this coming October.

Loyola University New Orleans takes the mission of marrying the values of a liberal arts education and transformative career services seriously by way of inventive career programming, classroom presentations, and individual meetings. Students on Loyola’s campus consistently hear the mantra of becoming a “walking business,” regardless of their degree path; meaning that no matter if they find themselves in a corporate setting, artistic path, or a truly entrepreneurial venture, students are easily able to transfer and utilize their skill sets gained in the classroom to their professional pursuits. Due to the close mentorship of Career Development staff and university faculty, Loyola students represent themselves as unique, skill-laden professionals who will succeed in finding happiness in the job world after Loyola, as they think for themselves and innovate above the rest.

Hiring managers in the job market have moved beyond the blind assumption that a student has learned the skills necessary to succeed in their industry simply by earning a bachelor’s degree and are now looking for results-based proof that a student has already, and will continue to thrive in their profession. The task of thorough job preparation is now in the hands of innovative intuitions, like Loyola, who aim to infuse experiential learning and job preparedness into every inch of a student’s education, regardless of degree or career path.

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