Preparing College Graduates for Success

It is a perplexing notion, according to a recent Gallup poll, that those with college degrees in this country report to be the least satisfied with their jobs. As a recent graduate of Brown University, I have witnessed this unhappy dynamic affect many of my peers. My story, however, happens to be a little different because of the innovative ways educational organizations are looking to support college students.

Throughout my entire job search process, the best advice I was given was that I must choose the job as much as the job has to choose me. I believe that taking back control of this search process is something that should be encouraged among recent graduates. There is an air of panic amongst my generation that causes my friends to grab whatever job wants to hire them or to run away from the business world to graduate school so that they can forestall facing the harsh realities of the job market for a while longer. I am not arguing against taking a job if there are solid reasons to do so, but to take a job just because it is the first one offered can become a recipe for unhappiness once that work week begins.

Brown taught me to be a critical thinker, to see the world as a place of mystery and excitement. At this point, I am five weeks into my new job, and I look forward to work each morning. I did not have to sacrifice my studies at Brown to major in a subject that would get me a job.

That's because I was able to supplement my liberal arts education with an intensive four-week business school boot-camp. Understandably, college classrooms are about imparting knowledge and critical thinking to students, not teaching us how to do a job. But that may just be part of the lack of job satisfaction among college graduates as revealed by the new Gallup poll. Students can graduate unsure of what kinds of careers or jobs are the best use of their skills and competencies, and end up taking jobs that aren't the best fit.

A handful of programs have recently entered the marketplace--including The Fullbridge Program, which I participated in - that bridge the gap between education and employment, and equip the ambitious undergraduate or recent graduate, regardless of year or major, with the skills and confidence essential to launch a rewarding career in any field of business or entrepreneurial endeavor. Bridging that gap can include developing skills like how to work within a team, how to create reports and give presentations, how to turn a nascent idea into reality--as well as developing traits such as awareness of others, being forward-thinking, and a positive willingness to contribute.

For a liberal arts student like me, the appeal was immediate. Fullbridge deconstructs the standard, two-year MBA curriculum, updates it to 21st century skills and perspectives such as design thinking, and condenses it into a digestible and highly pragmatic format. I gained practical business skills while still pursuing my other academic interests. The coursework featured collaborative group projects, one-on-one coaching from people who are themselves successful and accomplished, and an invigorating pace. While the program introduced me to the nitty-gritty concepts and vocabulary relating to business and finance, what I really took away was the confidence that I could compete in this world I had previously found so scary. I learned that success is a recipe of confidence and hard work. The latter I had gained from my time at Brown, but the confidence to enter the business world with the belief that I had skills that would appeal to an employer, is what I gained from Fullbridge.

The following summer I secured a marketing internship at a fashion, e-commerce start-up in New York City. The day-to-day excitement of this entrepreneurial environment was like no psychology lab I had ever worked in. This internship boosted my resume enough so that I could secure my new job. I am now in the training program to become a buyer for a major fashion retailer. This shift, which has taught me so much about myself and my undiscovered interests, would not have occurred had I not been exposed to the intensive business training I received in my junior year.

Despite the new Gallup findings, college graduates do not have to be unhappy in their jobs. Colleges and innovative organizations are beginning to work together to provide students with the skills and competences that compliment what they're learning in the classroom, and prepare them for the boardroom. As national and state policymakers, higher education leaders, and employers hail the importance of college completion, we should take a closer look at what kinds of partnerships and programs are necessary to make sure that college competition translates into a happy and productive workforce.

I believe every college student would benefit from the experience I did, no matter their major or background. Going forward, leaders should make sure that these kinds of programs are made accessible to all students.