College Grad’s Great Expectations

College students are ill-prepared to connect with an employer and secure a job in today’s marketplace. With little or no career development, self-assessment, or an understanding of vocational calling, they believe that the degree alone will be the proverbial "ticket" to secure employment. Oh, how mistaken they are! Incorrect job expectations will derail their job aspirations. A Talent Marks survey found that 95 percent of college grads do not have a clear understanding of their employment expectations or how to get a job.

This reality was candidly revealed by a new study titled, "Work Expectations of Job Seekers," conducted by the Center of Behavioral Decision Research at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. This study makes it apparent that students are unaware of the impact of their transferable skills and personal vocational calling on their job expectations.

Students who attended a regional job fair were asked to select beliefs/expectations that were most important to them as they pursued employment. Students (median age of 22) were given 13 Beliefs/Expectations to determine what they "strongly believed in and whether those beliefs were important enough to induce a negative attitude towards their work" if those things were not present. In other words, what these hopefully soon-to-be-employed college students most prized about an employment opportunity. The top five are listed as follows, in order of importance for these job-seekers:

1) Career Growth Opportunities
2) Safe Work Environment
3 & 4) Fair Compensation & Legal and Ethical Work (tie)
5) Friendly Work Environment

These selections, as the study concluded, were "contractual" in nature. Notice how shallow, how non-introspective and superficial these workplace expectations are in relation to self-knowledge and calling. These perfunctory selections will not provide job satisfaction.

Don’t get me wrong, these beliefs and expectations do have their place in evaluating a job. Today, many people "just want a job." What is so essential, however, is that knowing and affirming your design will not only get you the job, but also it will get you the "right" job. By "right," I mean a job which aligns with the very lifeblood of who you are and places you in an environment where you will flourish.

The most important selections of the 13 beliefs and expectations, in my opinion, are among the ones that did not make the top five. When it comes to vocational calling and job "fit," my career services experience (20+ years of prodding college students to pursue their vocational calling) points toward a different set of top five out of the 13 possibilities:

1) Energizing and Motivating Work
2) Work they are Passionate About
3) Meaningful Work
4) Work That Matches Skills
5) Work That Has Impact

These five capture the essence of desirable and gratifying work!
Ironically, the sub-title of this research study is: Work Expectations of Job Seekers: Work Passion Expectations (bold mine). The study results confirm, I believe, the lack of any reasonable comprehension by college students of the fundamentally important role of "work passion," which is birthed by vocational calling.

Vocational calling relates to a person’s unique design, interests, abilities, passions, and transferable skills, which then line up with certain jobs/careers. The formal and deliberate engagement of the career development and self-assessment processes will enable the job seeker, in an informed manner, to prioritize work expectations and beliefs based on who they are, not on contractual employment legalities. These profound elements provide a framework or roadmap to discerningly assess career paths that will be a natural "fit" and that will bring meaning, satisfaction, and fulfillment. If this journey is not undertaken, we have what this study vividly displays: Unprepared and misguided students, who potentially turn into perpetually unemployed grads.

College students who underestimate or dismiss the truly essential job expectations will come up empty in the job search. Failure very likely awaits them. I propose that it is the intention of the One who made us to have young men and women passionately excel by pursuing their calling through a job. This will be accomplished by utilizing the best they uniquely have to offer through their design, passions, and transferable skills. When grads are energized, motivated, and passionate about a job which employs their skill set, and which impacts the world, they will unearth a meaningful employment opportunity. These are the true and great expectations that will lead not just to a job, but to a fulfilling career.

—Dr. Jim Thrasher is the Senior Fellow of Grove City College’s career services office and the coordinator of the Center for Vision & Values working group on calling.