Are university graduates overly optimistic about their career options? Yes. Apparently, they have mistaken perceptions. Worse, a major consulting firm is seemingly contributing to the problem.

Increasingly, new college graduates are bewildered why they’re under-employed, according to research by Accenture in 2014. Forty-six percent — an increase from 41 percent in 2012 — were forced to begin work in jobs that didn’t require a higher education.

Eighty percent of 2014 college graduates expected to their first employers to give them a formal training program. But 52 percent of them in 2012 and 2013 didn’t get the training.

“We are seeing universities helping students to think more clearly about making career decisions earlier in their education, and that is a positive for both grads and their employers,” said Katherine Lavelle, managing director, Accenture Talent & Organization, Accenture Strategy.

Sixty-six percent of college grads in 2012 and 2013 felt their education was sufficient to launch their careers.

Fifty-one percent indicated their colleges were valuable in helping them land jobs.

“But, although recent college graduates may feel ready to work, they may not be prepared for the precise roles being offered,” said Ms. Lavelle.

Misguided Accenture recommendations

Agreed, good employers help employees but there are caveats (more on that later).

Ms. Lavelle passes the graduates’ personal responsibility onto employers:

“That is where employers should assume responsibility for further talent development,” she asserted. “This generation of graduates expects people to pay attention to them and give them the skills they need. The top students will look for talent development programs and see it as a differentiator.”

“But, although recent college graduates may feel ready to work, they may not be prepared for the precise roles being offered.”

Accenture’s specific advice for employers:

Hire based on potential, not just immediate qualifications. HR filters can screen out great candidates because their resumes do not have the required keywords. Recent graduates will not have every skill you are looking for, so consider candidates that show a desire for continuous learning, transferable skills and problem-solving capabilities. If the role does not require a distinctive educational background, avoid hiring overly qualified applicants who may not stay long.

Use talent development as a hiring differentiator. The ability to offer training and career advancement can be a differentiator when attracting and retaining top talent. If your training is distinctive, emphasize that in your recruiting strategy, social media presence and discussions with candidates.

Consider alternative talent pools. Be creative when it comes to sourcing new employees, and use tools to search online communities for young people with strong digital brands that demonstrate the skills you’re looking for. Consider non-local graduates, as the survey found many new grads are willing to relocate to launch their career.

“Graduates are leaving college expecting to receive corporate training, but despite the skills shortage, there is still no material movement by organizations to help close the gap,” said David Smith, global managing director, Accenture Talent & Organization, Accenture Strategy.

“The building of a strong and sustainable talent supply chain is dependent on better preparing and developing our entry-level employees and, without greater investment in talent development, companies will continue to find themselves with a workforce lacking in the right skills, he added.”

For good reason, Accenture holds a minority opinion.

Disagreement with study’s recommendations

Accenture is a venerable multinational management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing company — and is accurate in its assessment about the graduates’ expectations. The firm is to be congratulated for its practice of hiring college graduates.

However, I fundamentally disagree with the firm’s recommendations.

Why? Not every company has the budget and resources for training college graduates. Plus, there’s an increasing sense of entitlement in America, which is harmful for the U.S. and its workers.

During the dot-com bust and recession, I was invited to speak to a group of university seniors on how to land a good job. There were several young women sitting bored in the back row who obviously weren’t paying attention to my lecture.

Their arrogance was a disappointment because I knew the realities of the tepid economy. The rest of the students were attentive and taking notes.

Afterward, I asked the professor about the students’ behavior in the back row. He said they already been offered jobs paying $50,000/year at Accenture. I was aghast — how could that be?

Three months later, I asked the professor how the Accenture employees were faring.

“Accenture rescinded the job offers,” he replied.

He knew I was a business-performance consultant and news-media business columnist, so he made a request: To prevent embarrassment to the university for not being unsuccessful in securing employment for the students, he asked me not to reveal what happened. I honored his request.

Obviously, even Accenture had to bow to the realities of the economy.

For generations, savvy grads have known they had to plan ahead or earn their stripes and pay their dues. They either did their due diligence and sought internships at their desired employers while they were in school, or they settled for lower-paying jobs and worked their way up.

They also had flexible attitudes later in their careers. Countless people have learned the importance of keeping an open mind because they were forced re-engineer their careers multiple times.

The Moral: Grads who are more industrious and have entrepreneurial mindsets are more likely to succeed.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more articles with specific career tips:

Job Hunting? Tips to Land Your Dream Job with Style, Substance — Yes, the competition for jobs is ferocious. Here are proven tips to be hired for your dream job.

Discouraged in Job Hunting? Powerful Tips for the Best Job — Whether unemployed or under-employed, a person needs two things: A sense of hope and the right tools to negotiate a job. Here are both.

5 Tips to Shine in Your Online Job Application — To sail through the human resources filtering system, here are five online-application tips: 1. Put social media to work for you. Make certain your social media – Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter – are current, professional and show maturity. Be careful what you publish – always keep in mind your career goals.

Career Advice — An Alternative to Applying for Jobs Online — As a job-hunter you know that a significant number of companies, nonprofits and public-sector agencies use an online tracking system to accept applications and screen out applicants. It cuts down on their paper work and saves them time.

Increase Your Job Chances if You Have to Interview on the Phone — Face time, of course, is best if you’re interviewing for a job. However, headhunters and many companies schedule introductory telephone interviews. Pat yourself on the back. Even if it’s not an in-person meeting, a telephone interview is a good omen. The employer already thinks enough of you to schedule a discussion.

“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.”

-Winston Churchill


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.