When California State University, Stanislaus student Jessica Dickman was asked about her expectations for her future upon graduating from the university this spring, she responded with a question: “What expectations?”
Dickman is a 30- year-old student who returned to school after losing her job as an executive assistant at a collection agency in the aftermath of the 2008 economic recession. With her graduation date rapidly approaching, Dickman will soon be reentering the workforce but with a degree in hand this time. While this used to be a factor that set employees apart from one another, Dickman is now joining the ranks of thousands of other college graduates across the country that are facing the same dilemma of obtaining a job in an economically unstable market.
“My expectations aren’t very high,” said Dickman, who hopes to use her degree in English to enter the technical writing field in the Bay Area. “I’d like to be able to work full time and make about $25,000 to $30,000.”
Some students are preparing for the looming unknown by networking at career fairs such as the CSU Stanislaus Career Fair held Wednesday. Many of the agencies present at such career fairs employ recent graduates such as New York Life Insurance Company, which typically employs 50 percent recent graduates and 50 percent career changers. According to partner L. Eric Peters, expectations play a big role in a student’s post-college success.
“I think students’ expectations are a little unrealistic upon graduation and they end up taking what they can get,” said Peters.
While it is easy to track the number of students leaving the university with a degree in hand, measuring their success, or finding out which students obtain jobs, after graduation proves more difficult and often requires surveying alumni. However, most recent data as of 2009 indicates that 83 percent of CSU Stanislaus alumni were employed within one year of graduation according to an alumni survey. Events such as the annual CSU Stanislaus Career Fair help to not only connect students with potential employers but to familiarize them with professional options.
Several options for career paths can involve a less direct approach to professional development such as entering the Peace Corps, obtaining positions within the armed services that require a bachelor’s degree or even teaching English abroad as these programs provide continued structure and reliable pay. Tomara Hall, a graduating senior in the Economics Department and Vice President of the Economic Student Association, is moving to San Jose upon graduation to take part in Teach for America, a nonprofit that places college graduates in under-resourced areas in the hopes of facilitating student improvement.
“I’m graduating in May but I’m trying to figure out not just the next year but the next five to 10 years after that,” said Hall. “After Teach for America I plan to attend law school so I can practice civil rights in the Central Valley. That’s one way I plan to set myself apart.”