Jenna Wilgenburg-Staff Writer
It’s 6:45 a.m. and an unwelcome alarm rings Matt Bolt awake. He taps the snooze button, but usually gets out of bed before its second sound. He puts in his contacts, uses the restroom and eats a bowl of cereal with a cup of water. He gets dressed for the day, checks his hair, packs his school bag and takes his Bible to the study room next door. By 8:00 a.m., he is either sitting in Exercise Physiology class or is grading papers as a teacher’s assistant in the psychology department.
Bolt, a senior at Dordt College majoring in psychology and minoring in statistics, thrives on consistency.
But the end of this routine is fast-approaching. Graduation day is near – a day when he will trade in comfortable consistency for a piece of paper and a whole lot of unknown.
Bolt is not alone on this journey. He will join about 275 fellow students from Dordt’s Class of 2017, and approximately 1,882,000 other students expected to graduate with a bachelor’s degree nationwide, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The world is then presented with a whole new crop of job seekers.
Bolt’s first job after graduation will be at Dordt. During the summer months, he will assist students in learning the coding behind a program used for analyzing a mental health data set.
“Working for Dordt is the easiest option because I can push off adulthood for a few months,” he said.
It will give him valuable experience to add to a graduate school application and will provide Bolt with income until he finds a steady, long-term job.
Some other soon-to-be graduates have steady jobs lined up for after graduation, placing them one step ahead of Bolt.
“The perfectionist in me is slightly disappointed in myself, but I definitely have faith that I’ll catch up to that,” he said.
Every couple of weeks, Bolt has a day or two where he “freaks out.”
‘Oh, I should get a job,’ he thinks.
Bolt’s temporary position at Dordt will make use of his statistics minor, but he is not certain the job he finds after that will be related to his psychology major.
Forty-seven percent of workers with a college education said their first job after college was not related to their studied major. This survey, conducted by CareerBuilder in 2013, included 2,134 college-educated workers from various industries in the United States. Job market, location, interests in fields other than their studied major and the need to pay off student loans may all influence this acceptance of jobs unrelated to their degree.
Senior graphic design major Hope Kramer also has a temporary job lined up, a position that will end in August. She took a risk, turning down other job offers to work temporarily with Staples Promotional Products, an advertising agency in Orange City. Kramer sees it as an opportunity to diversify her portfolio. The company will also be an important reference for future résumés.
Kramer’s advice to those still seeking employment is to be open to different opportunities.
“Keep looking. Be persistent. Don’t be afraid to contact places that aren’t currently hiring,” she said.
Amy Westra, Coordinator of the Career Development Center at Dordt, points to two common problems for students when they search for employment after graduation: their anxiety of being able to translate what they learned in the classroom to the field they studied, and a lack of networking with employers. If they have not built relationships with companies or staff, and do not have internship experience, they face an added challenge.
Of Dordt’s May 2016 graduates, 98.9 percent reported being employed or enrolled in continuing education opportunities within six months of graduation. This number includes any type of employment, whether that means a full-time teaching position or working as a bartender. Dordt students exceeded the nationwide rate of 82 percent, according to the most recent report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
A specific major might not translate into a job in that field, but the significance of attaining some sort of college degree is apparent. After the Great Recession, which officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, about 11.6 million jobs were created. Of those jobs, 8.4 million, or more than 70 percent, went to individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree. Another 3.1 million went to those with an associate degree or some college education, according to a study conducted by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.
“A degree, specifically from a Christian college like Dordt, makes you well-rounded,” Westra said. “It gives you a leg up on life.”
Jobs are becoming much more specialized, so careers often require a master’s degree or a technical degree with hands-on training, said Westra. While it might seem that a bachelor’s degree, which stands between the other two, is not appreciated, it is still important for maintaining a competitive edge in the job market. Some jobs are not specific and can be held by individuals from various fields. Regardless, the vast majority of positions call for an employee with some sort of bachelor’s degree.
Bolt will be somewhat limited with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in statistics, but his dream of working in biostatistics might be attainable if he goes on to get his master’s degree.
Someday, Bolt would like to work at a pharmaceutical company or hospital as a biostatistician. Specifically, he would like to sit at a computer, looking at data, programming and running tests, as well as meeting with individuals in the medical field to help with the analysis of information.
On days when anxiety about future employment arises, Bolt responds to the fear by applying for several jobs and emailing companies. He then gets on with college life until another freak-out presents itself.
“I’m not too concerned about getting a job, because in some ways, I’m terrified of settling down at this point,” Bolt said. “The real goal is to go abroad in the next few years – probably temporarily, but potentially indefinitely.”
“I’m probably still a little naive and adventurous. I am, in some ways, fulfilling the new hippy-man-bun-travel stereotype.”