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Mind the (skills) gap

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A regular topic of discussion that comes up amongst career coaches and career service professionals is whether employers of recent college graduates more favorably value hard skills (such as subject area and technical expertise) or soft skills (such as critical thinking, communication, and generalized problem solving).  The answer, according to a recent article in Forbes, is often that both types of skills are needed to succeed in the job market, and a gap has emerged between the skills employers expect to see in new employees in entry-level positions and the skills that candidates present on their resumes and in interviews. This connects the post-recession employment crisis to what appears to be a skills crisis in college graduates.

So, how does one acquire the needed skills to succeed on the job market?  Hard skills can be developed in college through experiential learning, most notably in internships and other employer-based experiences in your field.  You can search CareerLink for internship opportunities that have been posted specifically for Simmons students. 

In terms of soft skills, a liberal arts education has likely provided you with much of the knowledge and abilities you will need, but often students and recent graduates can have trouble translating classroom learning and experiences into examples of proficieny in job-applicable skills.  For help making this leap, please contact our office to set up a meeting with one of our career coaches.  They will be happy to review your academic experiences with you and guide you towards seeing how those experiences reflect job-ready soft skills that you already have.

By using the resources available at the Career Education Center, Simmons College students can be sure to make the jump over the skills gap.

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Author: WillMcC

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We're in the heart of career fair season here on the Simmons campus, and the next big event is coming up on Wednesday, March 26: the annual Spring Career & Internship Fair.

This year over 40 employers have registered to attend, representing a range of industries that align with Simmons' academic programs and student interests. A sampling of exhibitors includes:

  • Accufile
  • Autism Bridges
  • Boston Neighborhood Network TV
  • The Bridge of Central Massachusetts
  • Bright Horizons
  • Federal Reserve Bank of Boston  
  • Forbes House Museum
  • Gateways Community Services
  • Horizons for Homeless Children
  • Liberty Mutual
  • Mullen
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • Peace Corps
  • Pearson Education
  • Prudential Financial
  • Radio Disney
  • South Bay Mental Health Center
  • State Street Corporation
  • WGBH

. . .and many more!

Come meet dozens of leading employers and discuss with them your interest in an internship or full-time job. On your to-do list:   

Check out the Spring Career & Internship Fair page to learn more about each of the attending employers and watch a couple of short videos to get you prepped for the event.

You'll also want to check out the other upcoming CEC events for seniors (Mock Inteviews and Lunch and Learn) and all students (Your Personal Brand presentation) on the CEC events page.     

Questions? Let us know. And see you there!

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I attended a fall Career Symposium at Babson College on "What Employers Want From College Graduates" and want to share what I learned and highlight some key points.

The first speaker, Abigail Davenport, VP of Hart Research spoke of a survey her organization had conducted with 318 executives at private sector and non-profit organizations. Following were the key findings:

  • Innovation is a priority. Critical thinking, and a broad skill set are viewed as key for meeting the complex challenges of the workplace
  • Employers recognize the importance of a liberal arts education.  More than half agree that long-term career success requires BOTH specific knowledge AND a broad range of skills (aka, "academics plus")
  • Employers endorse education practices that involve students in the application of knowledge and skills to real-world settings such as internships and field placement

The second speaker, Debra Humphreys, VP of Policy and Public Engagement at the Association of American Colleges and Universities spoke on the topic of "Preparing Liberally Educated Professionals for Success in the Global Economy."  She asked critical questions on the topic of professional success and how students define post-graduate success.

The reasons that students give for pursuing a college degree:

  1. Get a better job
  2. Learn more about things of interest
  3. Train for a specific career
  4. Gain a general education and appreciation of ideas

Debra also addressed the topic of seeking long-term success and sited the Gallup Organization's research on well-being.  Over the past fifty years, Gallup has conducted research where they have uncovered five common elements of well-being that go beyond country and culture that include career, social, financial, physical, and community well-being.  They found that career well-being is the most important predictor of overall well-being.  Their research raises questions of how to measure longer term outcomes that go beyond salary as the measure of "success' to the value of helping students explore and discover what they like and do best, and of course, find a good job.  Career well-being is already central to our work in the CEC as our 5 Step Career Development Plan is a start in providing students with the knowledge, skills and resources to discover what they like and do best in order to make informed, effective decisions for lifelong career management.

Other key points that struck me:

"The premium of lifelong learning just keeps going up...the world is changing even faster.  Learning how to love learning is becoming more important - and the importance of static knowledge is going down... Students have to have knowledge and how to use it- know AND do. All learning should revolve around projects."   -- David Rattray, Sr. Director, Education and Workforce Development, LA Chamber of Commerce

Employers place more weight on experience, particularly internships and employment during school vs. academic credential and college major when evaluating candidates.   -- The Role of Higher Education in Career Development: Employer Perceptions (Marketplace and Chronicle of Higher Education, December, 2012)

Employers endorse the following high-impact educational practices with potential to help graduates succeed:

  • Research and evidence-based analysis
  • Senior projects
  • Internships and community-based work
  • Collaborative research

The good news is that Simmons has much of what employers want with a need to connect current best practices and build new ones as our differentiator in higher education.  We know that the value of a liberal arts education includes the skills employers seek today and also the skills for success in life.  We know that we have strong departmentally based experiential learning opportunities built into the Independent Learning requirement with internships, field experience and practice-based research and through Service Learning and Study Abroad.  We know that we are a student-centered professional learning community that reaches students early through the First-Year Experience and through integration of career preparation within departments and offices and through alumni mentoring programs.  We also know that professional preparation is an integral part of our liberal arts education and is central to the Simmons history, mission and strategy.

What students face today is to become career-ready in a rapidly changing work world.  This means that they need to be more actively engaged in their career development from day one.  Ultimately, they need to learn how to translate the meaning of their education.  This includes articulating the skills and value they can bring to an employer as they begin their career, and later as they manage and advance their career over the course of a lifetime.

Andrea Wolf is Director of the Simmons Career Education Center.

 

Simmons Grad in Workplace- Jacqueline Doherty '11.JPGGood news for Simmons grads on the job front: things are looking up!

For the first time since 2008, new Simmons bachelor's graduates are faring better in the employment market than the class before them.   

Key results

The results for the Class of 2012 Employment Survey, released by the CEC in September, show that 86% of new grads were employed full-time or in graduate school full-time (or both) within one year of graduation, a dramatic increase from last year's 79% full-time rate.   

And there is more good news from this year's report. A solid 90% of those graduates employed full-time are in a field related or somewhat related to their major. Also encouraging is that the average reported salary is $45,800, well up from last year's $41,530 and exceeding the national average for all 2012 graduates of $44,259 as reported by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.            

Where do they work?

With Nursing and Biology the top two undergraduate majors, it comes as no surprise that the largest field of employment for new Simmons graduates is health care, attracting 47% of the class. Another 8% went into Business & Finance as well as into Education, 7% into Government, 6% into Communications, and 4% each into Human & Social Services, Sciences, and Technology.   

Top employers, defined as those employing more than one Simmons graduate full-time from the class, include Brigham & Women's Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, among others. Other employers include Digitas, EMC, Forrester Research, Google, Horizons for Homeless Children, MIT, Travelers Insurance, WGBH, and many more, clear evidence that Simmons grads can go in any direction with their newly minted degrees.

Networking remained the most effective method for new graduates to find a job, with 40% landing their first position in this fashion. While Internet job sites helped 27% get their first jobs, this year 20% of new grads reported obtaining their first position via an internship or clinical placement, up significantly from previous years.      

Like those before them, these new Simmons grads like to stick close to their alma mater. Eighty-three percent of those working full-time are employed in New England, with over two-thirds (70%) remaining in Massachusetts.

Further education

As for those enrolling directly in graduate programs -- 22% of the class  -- top school choices were Simmons, Bentley, and BU, with Brandeis, Columbia, Cornell (veterinary medicine), Emerson, Morehouse (medicine), New England School of Law, NYU, Suffolk (law), Tufts (dental) and many others also represented. 

The survey, conducted annually by the CEC with the May cohort of BA/BS graduates, garnered a 63 percent response rate this past spring. A copy of the Summary Results along with those from previous years is posted on the CEC website.

The take-away

So what does all this mean for current Simmons students? It means that as a Simmons grad you can pretty much do anything and go anywhere! But the key to success is to use your time at Simmons wisely to prepare yourself for the transition from college to career. You want to have a clear picture of your skills, your abilities, and your interests and be able to professionally present them to employers. You also want to explore the options available to you in the workplace and, through research and internships and other experiences, do your best to define where you might best fit. Our four-year STEPS plan can help guide you along this path.

Remember, along with your faculty advisor and others at Simmons, the CEC is here to help - that's what we do! To learn more about what we have to offer, spend a little time here on the CEC website. If you want to take it a step further, you can always set up a time to meet with a career coach.

Then, one day soon, you and your classmates will be joining the proud Simmons graduates who have gone before you and reporting your own success in the workplace! 

 

Photo: Simmons alum Jacqueline Doherty '11  at Hill Holliday

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Our colleagues in the Beatley Library have been hard at work this summer developing new career resources for Simmons students and alums. Among these new resources, just launched, is the new Career Guide entitled Career Resources for Diverse Populations.

Pulled together in one guide are separate sub-guides with career resources for the following populations at Simmons:

You probably know that you can set up to meet with a career coach here in the CEC, but did you know you can meet with a librarian specfically on career matters of interest to you? Conact Career Librarian Jennifer Ferguson at 617-521-2777, or jennifer.ferguson@simmons.edu. Her office is in Beatley Library at LIB115. 

Photo: Courtesy Blue Cross Blue Shield RI

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With the job market gradually improving but still very tight, "any port in a storm" can seem like a useful motto for job seekers.  However, with most full-time jobs taking up half or more of your waking hours each week, that "just-for-now" job can quickly turn into a "will it ever end" nightmare.  

Boston.com recently posted a photo essay listing the "worst" companies to work for, according to research done by the business news website 24/7 Wall St using the employer-review website Glassdoor.  Frequently cited in this article are companies that have lousy supervisors, no respect for work-life balance, and senior management that just doesn't get it.  At one of these companies, and others too, there may be a soul-sucking, head-on-a-desk-pounding job waiting for you!

But avoiding a terrible job and finding one that is a great fit, at a company that wants you there and that you want to be at, is as easy as doing a little research. This research is the essence of the 2nd step in the Career Education Center's career development plan: Exploration.

The tools you can to use to sidestep a career morass include:

  • Internet Research (the Beatley Library Online Career Guides are an excellent source of information)
  • Networking & Informational Interviewing (including interviewing alumnae/i of Simmons and professionals working at companies you are interested in)
  • Internships
  • Volunteering
  • Attending Career Fairs and Employer Events
  • Job Shadowing
  • Joining a Professional Association

To find out more about these tools to find a job you love (and not one you loathe), check out our webpage on exploring majors and careers, and to determine how to use them in a way that works for you, set up an appointment to meet with one of our career coaches.  We want to work with you to not just find a job, but the job and career path that's right for you!

Photo Source: Business Chicks

Interns and internships seem to be everywhere these days.

Summer Interns-Group Photo.jpgAbout this time every summer I start to see a number of new faces on my daily commute into Boston on the train. The change is welcome - the faces are young and eager, and I know why they are here: they are part of the annual influx of summer interns, many of them back home from college and adding to the region's workforce for the next several weeks.      

Meanwhile the funny guy duo of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson is back on the big screen for their take on the topic in "The Internship" in which they try out their talents at Google. Haven't seen it yet but a major studio release about internships means the topic is definitely making it into the national zeitgeist.  

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But the internship news of most interest to those of us in college career offices is the recent court decision concerning compensation for interns. As the article "Court ruling stirs debate over intern pay" from last week's Boston Globe notes, the New York State case which found against Fox Searchlight Pictures for not paying its interns may have "no legal jurisdiction in Massachusetts. It did, however, spark a new -- and some say long overdue -- debate over an old employment practice that straddles the line of educational work experience and indentured servitude."

Much ink and many pixels have been spilled about this since the ruling came out in the last two weeks. On the one hand, not paying student interns for their work contribution can be an unfair labor practice and one which employers can benefit mightily from, if abused. It can be seen as exploitive and in the best interests of the organization, not the student, for whom it is intended to be an educational experience. Unpaid internships can also self-select those who can afford to put in the hours without compensation, making it discriminatory against those of lesser means who need the income.

On the other hand, many students who have undertaken unapid internships will cite the value of the experience gained which might not otherwise have been available to them. The experience can then be added to the student's resume (and possibly portfolio) and therefore can be a big career boost. A recent NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) study found that nearly half of all college interns work unpaid, so they clearly see value in these opportunities.

Many of the key points and relevant citations on both sides of the debate can be found in the summary article "Are unpaid internships worth it?" from the website Opportunity Nation.

Of course if an employer pays an intern he or she will be far more pleased. It makes them feel respected and valued and part of the organization. Here at Simmons, where internships are a big part of the curriculum and over 80% of students fulfill their Independent Learning Requirement by undertaking one or more workplace-based educational experiences, we do not turn away unpaid internships from our listings or counsel students against taking an unpaid position. However, we strongly encourage our employer partners to provide compensation to interns, whenever possible. Both parties benefit from the arrangement for the reasons cited above, both for the short- and longer-term (ie, for potential intern-to-full-time-hire conversions).     

Stay tuned for newly published internship guidelines for employers, forthcoming on the CEC website. In the interim, go see Vince and Owen at the movies and let us know in the "Comments" section below your thoughts on this summer's hot employment topic.

 

Photos: Courtesy Mississippi State Personnel Board, Yahoo.com

 

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Things are looking better than ever for the Class of 2013.  Unemployment in the general population is down below 8% for the first time in years, and the unemployment rate remains even lower for college graduates.  Even better, the National Association of Colleges and Employer (NACE) reports that, based on their recent survey of employers, employers expect to hire 13 percent more college graduates from the Class of 2013 than they did from last year's class.

Even so, it remains a difficult job market, and the best thing Simmons women graduating in the coming year can do is to sharpen and highlight the skills and qualities that employers are looking for in new college graduates. 

The top five abilities employers are looking for in college graduates, according to NACE's survey, are:

  1. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization
  2. Ability to work in a team structure
  3. Ability to make decisions and solve problems
  4. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work
  5. Ability to obtain and process information

Make sure to think about the classes, extracurriculars, volunteering, and internships you have participated in during your time at Simmons, and what you have done in those activities that demonstrate the skills and qualities above.  Highlighting these in your resumes, cover letters, and interviews can be the key to landing that first post-college job.

For a full list of the skills and qualities that employers are looking for in the Class of 2013, please visit the NACE website.

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 2013 Job Outlook Survey

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Student Blogger: Jenny, Class of 2013, Double major - Marketing & Studio Art

Hi everyone! Today I am guest blogging for the Career Education Center (aka, CEC) about my new internship this fall.  I am also an Office Assistant here at the CEC and I am taking this time to tell you how I found and landed my Retail Internship at Emporio Armani through CareerLink. I am not saying this because I work at the CEC but because I truly believe that CareerLink is such a wonderful resource for internship and job postings.

Logging into CareerLink, I went to the jobs database and filtered the search with Retail, Retail & Sales, and Sales & Marketing under "Employer Category" and Internship under "Job Category." This produced a list of live internship posts, which is where I came across the Armani internship. I then contacted the employer directly as stated in the application instructions.
 
Before I applied, I made sure my resume and cover letter were at their best. I used the Career Toolkit and talked to the career coaches to get feedback and also did a practice interview. Writing and editing both resume and cover letter took time but it was worth it in the end. It was during my interview that the Armani manager told me he was very impressed with my cover letter!
 
The CEC resources have definitely been a major help during this time. If you are in the process of looking for new opportunities, I highly recommend checking CareerLink, where dozens of new postings are added each week, then meeting with one of the career coaches to get feedback!

Thanks for reading and good luck!



Photo: Courtesy of Giorgio Armani
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Hey, students - Are you still in the market for a fall semester internship? Well, don't panic. This could be just your ticket.

A new online resource called Intern Connect was recently launched by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce (GBCC). The GBCC's more than 1,500 member businesses include some of the biggest and most prominent companies in the area, and Intern Connect offers access to the high-value, experience-building internship opportunities these firms offer.

The opportunities found on Intern Connect are designed to allow students to engage with the region's business community and develop valuable career skills. As everyone knows, it's a tight job market out there right now, and Intern Connect can provide you with a competitive edge and a way in to some of these local organizations, including the Boston Red Sox Foundation, Cradles to Crayons, Mullen, Northwestern Mutual, Project Bread, and many more.

To get started, just go to the GBCC Intern Connect website and set up your free account. You can also access Intern Connect through the Beatley Library's Internships Career Guide which also houses dozens of other internship sites and resources, including Simmons' own online job board, CareerLink.

So what are you waiting for? You'll be back in the classroom before you know it, so click here now to get going. And good luck!


Photo: Courtesy of Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce