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From “what are you going to do when you grow up” to “what are you going to do after graduation” to even “what’s next for you,” life seems to be one never ending string of career questions. These questions assume that one is continually equipping one’s self with the tools needed to proceed onto the next career milestone. Up until my graduation from college in May 2011, I thought I was ready to take on “the real world” – to do whatever I was going to do when I grew up. However, like many of my generation, I faced a reality that I was not expecting: the student employment gap.

Mind The Gap

A labor shortage is a stark realization as the Baby Boomer workforce retires, heating up the competition for emerging talent. However, a striking contrast exists bewteen what employers require and what college students bring to the table. As reported by The Associate Press (2012), half of all recent graduates are jobless or underemployed because of this employment gap. At the core of the communication disconnect between employers and college students, soft skills are demanded by the former, while the latter has no way of knowing the coursework relevant to their career paths.

Millennials

A new study (2012) by Millenial Branding of 225 employers reveals the student employment gap, sources of hire, and the skill requirements for the class of 2012:

  • 91% of employers think that students should have between one and two internships before they graduate
    • only 50% have hired any interns in the past six month
  • 79% of employers have hired 30% or fewer interns into full-time position
  • 87% of companies think that internships should last at least 3 months for students to gain enough experience
    • Most internships last around 2 months

“Of all the things employers look for when hiring entry-level talent,” said Jennifer Floren, Founder and CEO, Experience, Inc., “it’s the so-called ‘soft skills’ that are valued most: communication, teamwork, flexibility and positive attitude are by far the most sought-after skills.” Hence, students need to find ways in the classroom and internships to hone these interpersonal skills. Not only should students go beyond a single employer for a job offer, but also have as many internships as possible before graduation. At the same time, employers need to realize that they save recruiting and training costs by hiring their interns into full-time positions.

After months of trying to find a job in the marketing world, I was starting to doubt my qualifications for any job. I decided to take a look on the Indiana INTERNnet website for internships. I had not looked on the site for over 2 years and was not sure I would find any opportunities on there. To my pleasant surprise, not only did I apply for a few, but also got hired by Indiana INTERNnet. A month into my Marketing and Communications internship, I have already seen the translation of what I learned in my marketing classes into beneficial data for decision making for my organization. This internship experience is giving me more than just skills in social media management and market research to equip me to face the employment gap, but also a sense of confidence and belonging in a professional field.

Beyond my personal benefit, I have seen firsthand how the Commission for Higher Education is working to close in on the employment gap. With the Employment Aid Readiness Network (EARN) Indiana launching in summer 2013, students with financial need will have access to resume-building, experiential, paid internships, while eligible employers receive state matching funds in exchange for hiring students. EARN Indiana is partnering with Indiana INTERNnet to better match students and employers.

For college seniors and first-time couch guardians, internships are yours for the taking – and the best way to breach the skills and employment gap. If I could start my job search over, I would have searched on the IndianaINTERNnet sooner. Your dreams await. Don’t let the employment gap stand in your way. Apply for an internship today at indianaintern.net, and follow @IndianaINTERN on Twitter and FB for the most updated information on internships. If you are an employer in Indiana, take advantage of the fact that there are more students actively registered on the site (12,962) than there are internships (1,306), and set up a free profile to post your available positions today.

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About Nour

Nour Sadek is the Marketing and Communications Intern for Indiana INTERNnet for the summer and fall of 2013. After completing her MBA through Anderson University's residential program in 2012, Nour is applying her business knowledge while expanding her marketing skills. Follow her on Twitter (@ns_sadek).
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