Kind words aren’t helping our transition

“We’ve all been there. Don’t worry, you’ll find your way.”

These are just words. They offer no motivation, no help and barely nay support at all. Everyone knows that most of the world’s population has “been there.” Starting out is no easy task, especially factoring in that the average public university graduates 89 percent of their students within six years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Let’s think about that number: 89 percent of students. I attend Western Michigan University, which currently has a student population of 23,914. That means I am competing with roughly 24 students for job opportunities. But when I graduate, a good deal will graduate with me. Going off the 89 percent average, about 21,283 students will be leaving the university with a degree during the same year I do.

I am studying journalism. Roll your eyes all you want, the news will never die. In fact, the media is in a stage of evolution. This means there are less jobs than ever, but more positions being opened. Michael Mandel, used a relatively broad definition of journalists and found the profession currently employs over 90,000 persons in the United States. Below is an excerpt from his blog, which can be found by clicking on the previous sentence.


But let’s narrow that down even further. Within my area of study, WMU’s College of Arts and Sciences website shows that it:

  • “Employs more than 330 full-time faculty members.
  • Enroll more than 5,000 majors and more than 1,000 graduate students.”

And WMU claims a journalism can do all of the following:

“Recent WMU graduates with degrees in journalism are working as:

  • Publication editors
  • Newspaper publishers or reporters
  • Lobbyists
  • Webmasters
  • Sports announcers
  • Television producers
  • Copywriters
  • Information officers
  • New anchors
  • Proofreaders
  • Technical writers

Among the organizations they work for are:

  • Media agencies
  • Schools
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Government agencies”

Now answer this for me: how can a university that employs 330 staff to coordinate 5,000 undergrad majors be enough to prepare students to enter a field in which there are only only 90,000 jobs, half of the listed jobs either don’t exist on their own anymore, or require 5+ years of experience?

Chances are, students who graduate in six years don’t start their sophomore year with a job in their desired field. In fact, the Times Free Press reported (from a CareerBuilder study) that 47 percent of recent college grads don’t even/can’t even find work in their desired field.

Something needs to change. If the job field is evolving, the educational institutions need to work to evolve with it. Within my time at WMU, I was required to take ONE photography class. This class was a nightmare for me and most of my classmates, as my professor seemed to grade based on if he liked the student, not if the photograph was good work. He would put examples of “good” student photography on the whiteboard, only to put the same photo on the exam and expect us to say why it was “bad” photography.

My major never required me to take a video class or a graphics class. Thankfully, I thought ahead and took a video editing class and learned Photoshop, but many of my peers did not and are struggling while filling out job applications because they don’t have video experience. After all, we were taught to special in one area, not to know everything about the field.

We were never taught HOW to find a job. HOW to get hired. HOW to sell ourselves. HOW to sell our work as freelancers. HOW to question what was thrown our way and not just to accept things as they were.

Being cynical, that last bit was easy for me, but I’ve watched countless others soak in lectures without questioning if they will need this information or if the Midterm Exam is indeed happening over Spring Break. But it must be so — the almighty syllabus told us so! Yeah right.

Students need to learn to evolve if we’re going to have any chance out there in the real world. If we want to be a journalist, then teach us how to be one in THIS DAY and THIS AGE. Teach us how to stand out among our peers, not to blend in. Teach us how to do more than one thing and REQUIRE IT, instead of letting a student decide if taking a class about watching movies is more important than taking one about filming and editing them.

After all, if you’ve truly “been there” and if you “found your way,” then please help us find our own.


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