Many are interested in the job prospects for our students as they graduate from Bowdoin this year and enter a very difficult job environment. From our small corner of the world, this year appears to be a bit better than last year.
Every year, just before Commencement, we conduct an exit survey of our graduating seniors and we get an amazing level of response that is well in excess of 90%. This year, two-thirds of the senior class reports a specific post-graduation plan that includes either full-time employment (42%), graduate school (13%), or plans to travel or volunteer (12%). This is six percentage points higher than what was reported at the same time last year by the Class of 2009. Additionally, the percentage of students who have lined up full-time jobs is seven percentage points higher for the Class of 2010 (42%) than for the Class of 2009 (35%). We also saw a 22% increase in the number of organizations coming to campus to meet our students this year.
The percentage of students heading off to graduate school (13%) may seem low, but remember, this is the percentage for folks going to graduate school immediately after Bowdoin. These days, it is quite common for students to take a couple or more years off before going on to professional or graduate school. Historically, 78% of Bowdoin graduates ultimately earn an advanced degree.
As the most recent survey data indicate, about one-third of our recent graduates are “still looking” for jobs. This group likely includes a substantial portion of students who fall into two categories. Some Bowdoin students choose to not think about life after Bowdoin and intentionally don’t do a whole of career exploration until after graduation. And then there are graduates who are actively pursuing work in the arts, media, communications, and the nonprofit world—folks who secure their positions in a very opportunistic manner after graduation, since many of these jobs aren’t available until the students are available to fill them.
One element of a successful job search takes place when our students are only about halfway through their Bowdoin experience. Summer internships after the sophomore and junior years have become very important, and many of our students—especially those interested in finance—find it essential to have some job experience before the senior year in order to land a job. Meanwhile, a number of our graduates are willing to take unpaid internships after Commencement in order to get a foot in the door at desirable employers in an environment when hiring opportunities are more limited. There has been a lot of press about the popularity of internships and our experience at Bowdoin confirms the popularity.
The bottom line is that Bowdoin graduates are doing very well in getting jobs. When I meet our students in the fall at Homecoming—just about four months after graduation—the vast majority are in spots that they find rewarding. One reason for this success is our Career Planning Center, a program that has received a great deal of attention and focus by the College in recent years. Another important reason for this success is the strength of the “Bowdoin Network” and the high level of enthusiasm and assistance provided to our students and graduates by alumni, parents, and friends of the College.
A decade ago, when I worked in New York City, whenever I got a call from a Bowdoin student or someone from my home state of Rhode Island, I made it my business to help the person network. This is something I know others in the Bowdoin community are doing for our students and graduates. The magic of personal relationships and interconnections creates all kinds of opportunity in life for each of us, as long as we reach out to take advantage. Sometimes it takes a little convincing to get students out there to network, but they quickly realize it is the best and more rewarding pathway to a job.
I want to thank everyone in the Bowdoin community who has helped students this year and in the past. Many of our alumni, parents and friends not only work to assist our students find jobs, but these folks also help our students with mock interviews and resume writing, and give general work advice to these eager young people. For those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to assist, I encourage you to respond to our students when they (or we) call on you. It is a great way to give back to Bowdoin. These are enormously talented, good people who can benefit any employer. In lending a hand at the start of their careers, you will be helping them, helping Bowdoin, and gaining a great deal of personal satisfaction along the way.
In the coming weeks, I will continue to offer my thoughts on subjects interesting to me or of importance to the College, but I want to hear your ideas too. If there is a subject you’d like me to address, send me an e-mail at email@example.com
Previous Bowdoin Daily Sun columns by President Barry Mills are available on the Bowdoin Web site.