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Students preparing to enter the workforce face realities of job search

Posted at 11:20 AM, May 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-30 14:20:58-04

As graduation looms just around the corner for many college students, so does the pressure to find a job.

According to Central Coast employment specialists, although companies are hiring, many college graduates are not interested in what they have to offer.

Unrealistic salary expectations may also play a role. According to a survey by Real Estate Witch, the average college student overestimates their starting salary by about $50,000.

This brings into question: are students prepared for the reality of entering the workforce?

Cal Poly professor Karen Muñoz-Christian covers a variety of jobs and other endeavors students can explore after graduation, but salary expectations often escape this mix.

“We cover everything from the teaching field to translation to working for nonprofits to community-based work to international-work, but the specifics of salary… I can’t say it’s been much of a topic for us,” Muñoz-Christian said.

She said without career support and education, recent graduates can fall into a “stalling” period — not knowing what they want or what to expect.

“That's the danger — if they're suddenly thrown out of Cal Poly on graduation day and have to figure out their life values,” Muñoz-Christian said. “Hopefully those conversations happen beforehand."

Cal Poly student Nico Vinulea said professors don't bring up salaries and instead talk about working in an idealized way.

“Professors talk to me really conceptually about job prospects and job opportunities, but they never go into specifics of like this what you can do, this is the kind of benefits you can get, this is how much you’ll get paid,” Vinulea said.

Vinulea said the ideas his younger self had about graduating were wrong.

“[You think] when you're 20 or 21, graduating college, you’ll be more prepared to enter the workforce, you’ll have connections, you’ll have this and that and if you don’t, you still feel like that 17-year-old and I’m so terrified to enter into the workforce,” he said.

Vinuela prioritizes a living wage, which he sees his peers doing as well. In his experience, this is something some employers aren’t willing to offer, leading him and his peers to turn down offers.

Agencies like the San Luis Coastal Unified School District are noticing this trend, prompting them to provide more incentives.

“Districts started raising their daily pay — that was one where districts had to be competitive in what they were offering or substitute teachers would be choosing a different district,” said San Luis Coastal Unified School District Director of Human Resources Dan Block.

Cal Poly Senior Director of Talent Acquisition and Workforce Planning Samson Blackwell oversees hiring for jobs at Cal Poly. He said students are turning the script on employers.

“People have become more aware of what resources are available and when they are coming in, they're negotiating earlier for their salaries and really making their expectations known,” Blackwell said.

Cal Poly’s Interim Career Services Executive Director Amie Hammond encourages students to think more holistically about job opportunities.

“What are the benefits? What flexibility, what training, advancement opportunities, does the workplace culture match up with their values and their personality?” she said. “There are so many factors besides salary compensation.”