Do you need an individual or group
project for your capstone course, senior thesis, research methods course, or
independent study? Why not explore a subject that is directly applicable to
your future? Whether you plan to enter the workforce upon graduation or attend graduate
school first, sooner or later you will seek employment in an organization (starting
again as a freshman!) that will probably reflect a culture, expectations, and
practices far different from what you currently experience, especially if your
work record is limited.
you feel confident in your ability to succeed in a profit or nonprofit environment,
consider the following remarks contained in the conclusion of Recruiting Trends 2012–2013, published
by the Michigan State University Collegiate Employment Research Institute (www.ceri.msu.edu). Principal investigator
and psychologist Philip Gardner articulates a very disturbing observation about
current college graduates:
|After four years
of rough seas, the college labor market will probably not reach calmer waters
for several years. The most troubling aspect of this year’s report is the
consistent and damning rhetoric from employers that students’ sense of
entitlement, expectations, and level of preparedness is totally out of sync
with the reality of the workplace. These Bachelor’s degree students who
graduate this year entered college at the onset of the recession and have had
plenty of time to be coached about their expectations, encouraged to engage in
professional experiences, and prepared to handle their first job experience.
Yet, students remain as naïve as always about focusing on their future. (Gardner,
2012, p. 41)
In this column, I identify several variables that influence
the quality of your preparedness, variables
that could serve as anchors to a highly informative and rewarding project.
In fact, the field of psychology rests on a relatively unexplored gold mine of
concepts, theories, and research capable of generating a highly practical body
of knowledge, guidelines, and insights for students in transition to the labor
market. In spite of their importance to graduates who face high loan debt in a
tight job market, studies on workplace readiness and transition issues are alarmingly
few; perhaps you can help this literature grow.
transition to work for younger-age students is probably the most significant
change they will have encountered to date, but just one of many to come. Certain
aspects of a transition can be characterized as an emotional wilderness. What
does the literature tell you about the processes involved in a transition? What
obstacles do recent graduates encounter, and how long does a transition last? Does
a transition differ for persons who enter the workforce immediately after
graduation compared to individuals entering graduate or professional school?
What have William Bridges and Nancy Schlossberg contributed to our understanding
Gardner comments on graduates’ "sense of entitlement.” Psychologists are actively
investigating millennial, Generation Y issues, so what do their studies reveal?
How do entitlement attitudes manifest themselves during college and later in
the workplace or graduate school? How can entitlement attitudes be changed? Do
millennials really feel entitled, or are employers just crabby, old people?
also criticize students’ unrealistic expectations of the workplace. What are the specific expectations students
hold about their first job and how do those expectations compare to those of employers?
What can be done to bring the conflicting sets of expectations in sync? To what
extent can internships or prior work experiences generate realistic expectations
about that first post-graduation job?
Lack of Preparedness/Readiness
comments also include complaints about graduates’ lack of preparedness/readiness.
What exactly is workplace preparedness, and how do employers, academics, and
students differ in their definitions? What specific activities can students
pursue during college to improve readiness, and what is the evidence to support
these activities? How does research in vocational psychology and organizational
behavior inform workplace readiness? What offices and departments in your
institution offer opportunities that promote preparedness?
a job interview, employers want to know more about the specific skills you
acquired during college than the content of the courses you completed or the papers
you wrote. What particular skills do employers seek in an applicant? To what
extent are these skills taught in your institution’s general education requirements and in your psychology major? Which skills are
best developed outside the classroom? Does psychology prepare students for work
better than other liberal arts disciplines do? How important are leadership and
interpersonal communication skills to employers and how can these skills be
acquired during college? How helpful are part-time jobs for acquiring and
succeeding in full-time jobs after graduation?
Psychosocial Development After College
is certainly not the end of your psychosocial development. How does current
theory and research inform us about developmental issues encountered after
college? What types of experiences promote or impede developmental progress during
a transition? To what extent does unemployment or a boring job influence
motivation, career planning, and psychosocial development?
play a key role throughout a transition. Friendships are usually more challenging
to establish after than during college. What issues does a new graduate
encounter when forming relationships in the workplace? With a high percentage
of graduates returning home to live, what are the advantages and disadvantages
of this arrangement for graduates and their families? Does living at home cause
a graduate to become more or less active during a job search or too selective
about accepting job offers? How do helicopter parents help or hinder the
process of establishing independence?
problems (e.g., anxiety, relationships, excessive stress, addictive behavior, and
bipolar conditions) that interfere with a student’s daily life can multiply
rapidly when that person becomes an employee trying to master a new job and the
multiple stresses that accompany it. To what extent can college counseling
services prepare students for the stresses of workplace or graduate school? How
are mental health issues dealt with in the workplace?
Job Satisfaction With a Psychology Major
probably chose to major in psychology because it would lead to a satisfying
career either with a baccalaureate or graduate degree. To what extent do
baccalaureate level psychology graduates feel prepared for and satisfied with
their jobs compared to other liberal arts majors? Are psychology graduates with
high GPA’s more successful in their jobs than psychology graduates with lower
GPA’s? What do Borden and Rajecki say about these and related issues regarding
satisfaction with a psychology major?
planning should become an essential component of your educational experience,
especially during your final two years. What particular theories of career planning
help you understand your situation, and to what extent does the research literature
support these theories? Are students who begin career planning before or when they
declare a major better prepared for work compared to those who wait until their
last academic term? Numerous career-related assessment instruments are
available in your institution’s career center. How do these instruments differ
in their objectives, applicability, and in the research that supports them?
other factors may influence success in your first post-college job. To what
extent does your motivation to learn in the classroom transfer to a work
setting? How can theories of workplace motivation be used to explain student
behaviors? What specific components of a job are most important to college
students, and why is it important to know that? Are students who pursue
graduate school really more interested in psychology than those who seek jobs
after graduation in order to use their psychological knowledge?
your coursework, you have encountered several fascinating concepts, theories,
and research studies from diverse areas of psychology and other disciplines. As
your college experience moves to its conclusion, be sure to connect and apply
that body of knowledge to the exciting and challenging journey ahead of you.
Transition happens! Make it happen successfully.
PS: Please tell me how you applied
transition concepts to a project so I can share your experience in a subsequent
column. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gardner, P. (2012-2013). Recruiting Trends 2012-2013. East
Lansing, MI: The Collegiate Employment Research Institute and the MSU Career
Services Network. Retrieved from www.ceri.msu.edu