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Career Expectations after Graduation

Students' Career Expectations

Students’ professional expectations after graduation are diverse because of personal professional goals and educational achievements. Different opinions could be explored to define the gap between educational and professional opportunities of recent graduates. The purpose of the given research is to explore the current chances of students to get prestigious jobs based on his/her academic achievements. The research will rely on theoretical information drawn from the literature review and quantitative information retrieved from the survey, which is composed of nine multiple-choice questions related to the students’ expectations and prospects. The results of the study have proven that students are not satisfied with the knowledge and skills they received during studies because they do not allow them to fulfill their professional goals.

After graduation, students are more confident and straightforward about their professional goals and objectives. However, the aims and motivation could differ among these students in terms of the results of their studies as well as their readiness to enter the job searching process. For instance, some students could conclude that this specific occupation will not allow them to fulfill their potential in professional and personal senses, and therefore many of them will start looking for another university to be enrolled in. The purpose of this study is to explore students’ attitudes and responses to the usefulness of university education, and its contribution to their professional decisions as well as prospects. The study is composed of theoretical and empirical parts, which are later synthesized in order to provide answers to the proposed research question.

Literature Review of Students’ Career Expectations

In the majority of cases, there is a tangible gap between students’ professional expectations and the actual career requirements as well as the nature of work. Students often exaggerate their attitudes and perceptions in terms of salaries and career development as soon as they graduate from the university. There are different reasons for such misbalance, including the lack of received knowledge, professional skills, or a variety of requirements and increased standards of the companies which are seeking experienced specialists. Therefore, recently graduated students should look for temporary employment while looking for a more relevant and prestigious position. The following review of the literature will provide a better outlook on the situation.

In the study by Wan, Wong, and Kong (2014), the emphasis has been placed on the relationship between industry commitment and career prospects in the light of the perceived social status, industry attitude, and salary expectations. A number of important conclusions and findings have been made. First of all, the perceived nature of work is not related to the importance of career prospects. Secondly, the nature of the job plays an important role in the perceived social status of the employee. Furthermore, social status does not have a specific effect on students’ perceptions and career prospects, but the perceived career goals define students’ loyalty and dedication to the industrial process. Finally, moderating outcomes of salary do not have a severe impact on the industry commitment. Therefore, this study has a significant value for understanding the connection between educational knowledge and the professional requirements faced by the graduates.

Radermacher and Walia (2013) have also been concerned with the currently existing gap between career expectations and actual skills and experiences of graduate students. In order to investigate the issue, the researchers have explored the fields of computer science, information technology, and information systems, where graduates often do an excellent job of getting ready for the industrial and professional work. However, there are still many fields that require students to learn specific skills, which have not been studied during the academic process, independently. This gap between abilities and professional expectations can become a serious obstacle for students wishing to succeed in career development and professional accomplishment. The purpose of this particular study was to understand the areas of study which are the least explored and learned by the students and which are problematic in terms of moving up the professional ladder. The results of the theoretical review have shown that recent graduates are indeed lacking certain skills in many areas, such as technical skills, including testing, design, management tools, and personal skills, including teamwork and communication. Therefore, students should raise awareness and become more knowledgeable of the enumerated skills the lack of which does not allow them to grow professionally.

To gain a better understanding of the requirements imposed on the graduating students, Luscombe, Lewis, and Biggs (2013) have explored the problems and challenges which could be encountered by this group of youngsters. The purpose of the study was to explore the experiences of generation Y, which is the largest and the newest generation that entered the employment market. The representatives of this generation have different goals in terms of work-related features which could be recruited and hired by the HR managers. At the moment, restricted theoretically-based research is presented in terms of generation Y’s professional expectations and objectives with regards to students and graduates. The authors sought to address this gap in the research. The study has been carried out on the basis of the expectations of this generation in the light of the framework embracing both goal-setting objectives and expectancy-value. The findings have shown certain support for predictions with separate goals and components which are encountered daily by the generation Y members. However, no potential differences were detected between the two groups participating in expressing their work expectations. The research, therefore, has demonstrated the necessity of adjusting the theoretical framework to further understanding of the motivation affecting the organizations’ ability to retain and recruit graduates (Sojkin, Bartkowiak, & Skuza, 2011). The evaluation of results proves that students will definitely have challenges and problems because of the discrepancies between their educational and professional skills.

With regard to the above-presented studies, it should be stressed that the task of educators all over the world is to prepare students for the emerging challenges and that academic learning and real-life professional engagement are not always perfectly balanced. What is more, Laguador (2013) points out that skills and knowledge are important aspects in every field of career development and work; however, the relevant perception and attitude can boost positive thinking about the achievement of professional growth and personal determination. Specifically, the author argues that “beyond the end result of acquiring those purposes at the end of their college years is the essence of the detailed process on how they obtained proficiency and expertise in certain course or lesson; how they widened their critical and analytical thinking in solving complex mathematical problems” (Languador, 2013, p. 28). Hence, the right attitude towards the experiences and trials of students is the key to successful preparation for professional accomplishments.

Methodology

Research Design

For this particular study, mixed-method research has been chosen. The combination of qualitative, theoretical, and quantitative empirical aspect seems to be the most appropriate option for the given research. Specifically, the framework is composed of the theoretical perspective regarding the gap between educational knowledge and professional requirements. It is explored in light of the students’ personal expectations and preparedness. As soon as the theoretical ground and research questions are presented, the data should be gathered and analyzed with reliance on theoretical and practical relevance. The theoretical issues are revealed through the review of articles exploring related issues, such as graduates’ expectations, working opportunities, and educational as well as professional gaps. These explorations could be combined with the practical part – the results gained from the survey. The analysis of these specific issues could lead to a better understanding of the topic. Additionally, Hesse-Biber (2010) asserts that “practicing reflexivity helps researchers get in touch with their research assumptions by making them more conscious of what values, attitudes, and research concerns they bring to a given research endeavor” (p. 32). Therefore, there should be the right questions that can draw the maximum beneficial information that would contribute to the research process.

Sample Description

The sample is composed of 177 students, 72 females and 105 males, the majority of which (58%) are aged from 18 to 23. The students have participated in the survey composed of multiple-choice questions regarding their current educational status, expectations, prospects for the future, career endeavors, and working opportunities. The students have been chosen from five different colleges – COBA (78%), CFAB (18%), CCIT (19%), CLAW (11%), and CMMC (6%). Half of the students are working part-time, whereas another half is fully dedicated to a learning process. There are different aspects affecting their decisions, including their achievements, dedication to a learning process, and professional motivation. The number of students participating in the research is valid because it covers 5% of the entire population of colleges from which the students have been taken.

Data Collection

The data collection process is composed of an empirical survey. Only the students who agree to participate in the research will be chosen. The theoretical framework introduces different dimensions of studying the question under analysis, whereas the empirical study is aimed at proving or disproving the current investigations in the field. All the surveys will be conducted online or personally. However, the process has to be completed in a specific amount of time for students to express their opinion in the most objective way. There will also be some telephone calls, which will serve as a means of interviewing, in which the students will have to choose the most appropriate answer to the question.

Data Analysis

All the collected answers will be processed and turned into the percentage points to provide the statistics and numerical results, which will further provide general insights and conclusions. The statistics will be gathered on the majority of answers, with the exception of the questions about employment and educational issues, which will be qualitative. The age and gender of students will be treated implicitly. This quantitative information will be presented at the very beginning. Importantly, students will be notified of the anonymity of their answers, which will make them more confident and objective in their answers. Each answer will be analyzed and synthesized by the research to provide the most relevant responses and conclusions. The ethical issues will also be considered during the research. Privacy and confidentiality will be among the top priorities in order to guarantee the validity and reliability of the research. Overall, the researchers will strive to provide a comfortable environment for the participant in order to reach the research objectives and produce some additional scientific value.

Results

The results of the study are somewhat predictable, but some of the answers provide brand new implications for future research. As such, there were nine questions related to the learning process and professional opportunities, which have provided accurate information regarding the graduates’ readiness to follow career endeavors. Since almost half of the students (78 out of 177) are working, they have a better awareness of how they could enhance their professional achievements and succeed in career development. However, 99 students are fully dedicated to the learning process, which could imply that they do not fully realize the hardships they might encounter during future employment. Apparently, this percentage also affects further numerical results regarding the time spent on getting a job after graduation. Hence, almost 30% of the unemployed 99 respondents have asserted that they will have to spend less than a month to find a prestigious work, whereas 62 students are sure that they will have to spend up to three months to become successfully employed. Only a small fraction of the students are less optimistic. Apparently, such results also depend on the professional occupation these students have chosen, which is beyond the scope of this particular research (Minten & Forsyth, 2014). However, the fact that different professions have varying problems and challenges is evident. Regardless of the profession, there is also positive and critical thinking, which plays an important role in the students’ awareness of possible hardships they might surpass on the ways to professional success.

The further assessment of results is associated with the type of degree obtained by the student. There is an assumption that a higher degree provides more chances for getting a prestigious position. Therefore, the majority of respondents believe that it is essential to get a Master’s degree after completing their Bachelor’s degree (almost 70% of the respondents). This response is logical because higher education implies more experience, knowledge, and specialization needed for exploring new professional fields. Furthermore, the majority of respondents (52.6%) also agree that it is logical to enter an unpaid position, or internship, after graduating. This decision will allow them to gain more experience and become aware of how their theoretical knowledge could be helpful for their professional and personal development. Nonetheless, the rest of the participants are doubtful and more concerned about monetary benefits. Such an assumption could be associated with the new era of employment in which candidates often select future careers the reliance on the economic circumstances (David, & Naomi, 2013). Such results could explain why enterprises and companies look for graduates with a narrow-focused profession.

Finally, the results have also presented the channels and sources used by the students for finding a job. The majority of graduates rely on online announcements and recommendations as well as personal search. Some of the students are engaged in family businesses and do not have to spend much time on the job search. Finally, almost 10% of the respondents have stated that they are already working. What is more important, the final questions have revealed the students’ dissatisfaction with the current educational conditions, stating that universities fail to provide students with sufficient knowledge. What is more, during studies they do not develop enough skills for further professional exploration. The results of this study are logical and relevant, but not all respondents have agreed to answer all the proposed questions for personal reasons.

Discussion and Conclusion

With regard to the above-presented findings, several conclusions can be drawn. First of all, not all students participating in the research realize the path they plan to take after graduation. Such misconception is the fault of an educator who has failed to explain that the very path to career development is full of unpredictable challenges that do not always depend on theoretical knowledge and skills. Positive thinking and personal traits of the students are rarely emphasized during their degree pursuit, whereas these characteristics are important in the process of job search. Furthermore, the students’ readiness to adjust to changes, develop flexibility, and work hard are normal requirements for a decent career. Hence, the result of the study shows that not all students are fully satisfied with their education, believing that the university could not provide them with a fuller spectrum of knowledge, skills, and experience. They are partially right in their criticism of modern education because it promotes only basic theories and knowledge, which should be modified and changed for the further adoption in the specific profession. The task of educators is to think deeper and predict the potential professional challenges of the students as well as teach them to deal with these obstacles in order to understand how they can motivate and encourage themselves to choose the right paths. Another problem is that not all students are really definite about their professional choice, and therefore, they are often at a loss when they graduate from a college or university since they do not have any specific career goals.

Regardless of knowledge, some students believe that a prestigious profession is the one with a high salary and a favorable employed environment, having no idea about their personal objectives which could make them more satisfied with the professional choice. The narrow range of interests and experiences does not allow them to be fully engaged in a specific profession. Graduates tend to stay in their family businesses, though their professional competencies are insufficient. The right vocation could be chosen with the help of a decent instructor and a counselor who should be able to notice the potential skills and interests of the student and direct him/her to the right professional path. Some students have problems entering the profession because of their lack of experience. Very few companies are willing to hire inexperienced, though talented, graduates. However, there is still a growing trend concerning professional training programs among companies, where managers are able to cognize the potential of the graduates who can bring in many benefits to their organization or industry. Such programs will definitely help future professionals become less concerned with the lack of experience after graduation.

Finally, there is one more question related to the value of education. There is a gap between education and professional development, and the task of educators is to restructure their academic process in order to prepare students for real-life challenges. There should be more practical assignments and exchange of experiences between students and graduates who are already working in specific fields. All these opportunities should not be taken for granted as they can help fill in the lapses and increase the quality of education. The current work also makes a suggestion for future research, which can explore other dimensions of the question and provide valuable recommendations for the future generation of graduates.