Class of 2014 Prepared to Evolve with a Focus on Industry, Not Major

Posted: May 13, 2014 at 5:01 am, Last Updated: May 14, 2014 at 6:10 am

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By Sudha Kamath

As one chapter ends and another one begins in the lives of George Mason University seniors, are these soon-to-be-graduates prepared to take on new career challenges in an ever-changing job market?

Interviews are key to job-hunting success. Ann Mills, associate director for career development in University Career Services, helps prepare students for an ever-changing job market. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

Interviews are key to job-hunting success. Ann Mills, associate director for career development in University Career Services, helps prepare students for an ever-changing job market. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

As Christine Cruzvergara, director of University Career Services (UCS) points out, the “hot jobs” of today will be not be the same as jobs several years from now, but George Mason is preparing its students for any possibility. “In fact, many of the jobs we know today will be completely different or nonexistent a decade from now. But Mason students learn to be adaptable and hone their curiosity. They learn how to learn,” advises Cruzvergara. “Those are truly the skills that will serve them well in an ever-evolving economy.”

Cruzvergara says Mason’s Class of 2013′s postgraduation “first destination” data shows:

  • 77 percent of graduate students and 57 percent of undergraduate students last spring already had jobs lined up at the time of graduation.
  • 18 percent of undergraduates had been accepted to graduate school or a further education (i.e., certificate program) at the time of graduation.
  • Members of the Class of 2013 accepted jobs in 36 states and 27 countries.
  • 77 percent of Mason’s graduates were hired in Virginia; 13 percent in Washington, D.C.; and 4 percent in Maryland.
  • 38 percent of those seniors earning degrees last spring, and 69 percent of grad students who went on to jobs, earned at least a $50,000 full-time salary in the first year.

UCS also found the top industries hiring Mason grads last year were education, government, technology, health care and consulting.

“Every time I read an article about how social services careers continue to be one of the fastest-growing careers, I am absolutely inspired,” says Aliese Lash, who graduates this week with a bachelor of social work degree from Mason’s College of Health and Human Services. “This knowledge allows me to feel confident that I will be able to find a suitable job.”

The president of the BSW Social Work Student Association says she received helpful advice from UCS on résumé preparation. But she’s putting career plans on hold for a couple of months to travel to Guatemala this summer. She and husband Nathaneal, a 2013 Mason graduate, plan to complete a Spanish immersion program, and on weekends hope to volunteer at a community organization.

All of her experiences should add up to long-term success in social work for Lash. “I have always enjoyed working with and learning from young people. I am most inspired by organizations that provide alternative programs for at-risk youth such as violence prevention, homework help, environmental education, job readiness and financial education,” she says. “I would love to find a job position where I can learn more about community development and how to most effectively provide youth—the next generation—with supportive opportunities to help them pursue their potential,” she says.

The U.S. Labor Department reports the unemployment rate for 2013 college graduates (defined as 20- to 29-year-olds who earned a four-year or advanced degree) dropped to the lowest rate since 2007. It was down to 10.9 percent in 2013.

And according to a survey of 161 employers conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), companies overall expect to hire 8.6 percent more graduates from the Class of 2014 than they did from the Class of 2013. About 70 percent of employers polled plan to increase or maintain the same number of graduates they hire in 2014, compared to 2013.

In another NACE survey, nearly 97 percent of employers plan to hire interns or co-ops this year. The number of internships in the Northeast is expected to jump 10 percent this year.

NACE reports career fairs and on-campus recruiting comprise more than half of employers’ recruiting budgets for interns and co-op students, with fairs and on-campus recruiting rating highest in terms of effectiveness.

Mason’s UCS hosts some of the largest career fairs in the area. In the 2013‒14 academic year, 4,000 Mason students attended UCS career fairs as the focus turned to industry, not major. “We listened to employer feedback over the years and heard that ‘major’ does not equal ‘career,’ explains Cruzvergara. “Now when we meet with students, we don’t say, ‘What can you do with your major?’ but instead ‘How can you use your knowledge, skills and talents in your industry of choice?’”

And those internships and co-ops often result in staying power. Employers in the NACE survey made full-time job offers to 64.8 percent of their interns. Employees who completed an internship or co-op program with their employer are more likely to be with the company at both the one-year and five-year retention benchmarks.

Write to Sudha Kamath at skamath@gmu.edu

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