My fellow writers and I got together the other day for our monthly meeting. During the course of the conversation, Kevin mentioned he had only a single studio presentation left to complete. As I considered the calendar date, it was clear that another group of students would soon be entering the job market. It’s funny, but once you find yourself outside of academia, milestones like a semester’s end just don’t cross your mind. It’s been four years since I graduated from U of M, and this conversation has me reflecting on what most students go through during their last few semesters of study, trying to land a job.
As with many of the schools we attended, The University of Michigan does many things very well. However, I found one of the services U of M provides for its’ students invaluable. One of its’ greater strengths is what it offers in the way of job placement assistance. My school keeps a close eye on its’ alumni (trust me, they know where I live and they know where I work). With the university’s emphasis and reliance on alumni financial support, their compiled list of alumni and their employment specifics is unparalleled in the higher education arena. With this information, getting your foot in the door for a summer internship or full time employment post graduation is certainly helped by being able to contact someone “on the ground.” In fact, the architecture school has a person on staff whose sole responsibility is to assist students in internship placements and permanent employment. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have had this assistance until I began to understand that most students who graduate are entering the job market without any help at all.
In the four years I have been working, I am afraid that little has changed in the employment arena. While it is becoming more evident that the market continues a very slow turnaround, jobs for recent graduates are still few and far between and those that are available are being pursued by practitioners with vastly more experience. Professionally speaking, I feel we have a responsibility to do what we can to find opportunities for these new graduates. It is important to find a way to keep these individuals involved in the profession; we can’t afford to lose upwards of 5 years worth of fresh talent as these people enter other lines of work out of discouragement.
This problem must be tackled on two fronts. To the students, I cannot stress enough the importance of developing a network. Talk to anyone who will listen and get to know what you can about what firms are currently working on. If you are fortunate enough to land yourself an interview (or even a casual meeting) with a firm and they aren’t looking to hire you today, keep in touch with those people with whom you met and continue to follow up. Most people will appreciate your persistence, and if you can keep your name in their minds, it is likely they will remember you when it is time to hire.
While the students have great responsibility here, those of us that are more or less established in the profession have some work to do as well. Do what you can to get new graduates in front of the decision makers at your respective firms and use your contacts to find other opportunities that students may not be aware of. More than likely, many of these students are relying on our help for placement services. We need do what we can to help them get a toe hold in the profession. If you don’t have a place for an intern in your firm, pick up the phone, send out a Tweet or otherwise act on their behalf. We have a responsibility to make the concerted effort to keep these people in the profession. We need to assist them just long enough for the coming momentum of the market to take them along with it. If we continue to lose these graduates to other professions, there might not be anyone there to give us resume when we need them.