People are always sending me ideas or dropping news items on my desk when it comes to this column. I got one just recently that caught my eye about a young woman named Trina Thompson. Ms. Thompson is a 27-year-old 2009 graduate of Monroe College in the Bronx where she received a degree with studies in the field of Information Technology. It seems this young woman is taking a very different approach to her employment situation, or rather lack of employment.
Ms. Thompson is suing Monroe College because she alleges that her alma mater did not live up to its agreement to help her find a job upon graduation. Her suit, which was filed in July, is in the amount of the $70,000 she spent on tuition with an additional $2,000 for the stress she is undergoing from her own job search. In an article that ran in the New York Post on Aug. 2, Ms. Thompson says that Monroe’s Office of Career Advancement did not try hard enough to provide her with the employment leads she was promised. Monroe’s response is that the lawsuit is without merit and that it does, in fact, provide ongoing career development support to its student body.
Whether you weigh in on Thompson’s side or Monroe’s, the question is basically this: Who is accountable for career success? Is it a college’s obligation to ensure students graduate into employment, or is it the student’s responsibility to make his or her education fit into the world of work? I’m fairly certain that few if any schools, no matter how prestigious or reputable, ever guarantee a job in any economy; just a degree, and then it’s up to you. However, I do think that beyond the core studies of a degree, students must also learn how to brand themselves, market themselves to employers and incorporate a set of job-search techniques into their personal skills inventory not just as new graduates, but at all stages of their careers.
Depending on how the court decides, Ms. Thompson’s case could change how U.S. post-secondary institutions present themselves to potential students. In 2003, students at Rycotewood College in Oxfordshire, England were awarded 14,000 pounds (roughly $23,000) each when they said the college failed to provide them with adequate skills to equip them for professional careers. According to newspaper reports, the judge based his decision on the fact that the school did not meet the expectation raised by promises made in its brochures.
Discussing Ms. Thompson’s situation seems to prompt a great deal of debate. Some see her as naive with a false sense of entitlement, others think she is a pioneer taking on the system, making institutions work as hard at getting jobs for graduates as they do in getting students to enroll in the first place. All the news-making has not gone unnoticed. In fact, The Ski Channel’s founder, Steve Bellamy, offered Ms. Thompson an entry-level job on their website (www.theskichannel.com); however, I spoke to Mr. Bellamy on Friday, Aug. 14 and they had not yet heard from her.
Brian Krueger, author of College Grad Job Hunter, the best-selling book for entry-level college grads seeking their first job, sent me this statement when I asked his opinion of Ms. Thompson’s situation. “I strongly disagree that going to colleges gives you any guarantee of getting a job. Going to college guarantees you an education. The college can then assist you in getting a job. But it is your job to find the job—that takes additional work above and beyond what any college will provide (or guarantee). While many students may get assistance from their college with their job search, most students will need to make the employer connections on their own. Finding a job is often a full-time job on its own. Use the resources and assistance that are available to you, but don’t count on anyone else to get the job for you. The diploma is not delivered with a matching job offer letter.”
Nancy Schuman is a vice president at Lloyd Staffing, headquartered in Melville, and is the author of seven how-to books on career guidance and job-search techniques. Lloyd Staffing offers temporary, contract and full-time employment services on a regional and national basis. Send your career-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.