The End of another year

It's been an event-filled week. 

Yesterday was Susquehanna's graduation.  Despite being on sabbatical, I chose to attend.  I may be a bit odd, but after over 20 years I still enjoy graduations.  Not the predictable speeches and the long sit, but the sense of accomplishment and the chance to spend a brief moment one-on-one  with students I've taught or advised over the past four years.  Even the chance to meet a few parents during a time of celebration.  

As has been the case for the last few recessions, jobs are hard to find even though the recovery appears to be making good headway.  Businesses, understandably, are reluctant to hire until things are more certain. 

This means that the business grads at my liberal arts school are in a different place.  We represent between 25% and 30% of the student population in any given year.  Studens in the other schools typically are heading off to graduate programs, since the need for graduate study is assumed.  Business students are more likely to get their first "real" job.  We encourage them to get experience before returning to grad school because the better schools require it.

A few years ago we instituted a placement board for spring semester.  It's a nice balance because in the fall we use that same board  for a picture of each freshman and their planned major.  Sort of an input/output report. 

So, in the spring, as you get a job or choose a graduate program, you give us a picture and information about your plans.  Most years the board is pretty full by spring break, and we have to really squeeze to fit everyone in by graduation.  This year, there are fewer placements by graduation than previously existed by spring break. 

The final date for accepting offers for graduate programs is generally May 1.  And so the business school students have gone from being more likely to know their fall plans than their peers, to less likely.  They are very uncomfortable with that change!

It's a real teaching moment, one of few times I'm happy to have graduated--twice--during a recession.  That's because I'm honestly able to tell and demonstrate that not having a job at graduation is not a tragedy, nor does it mean that your long-term prospects are poor.  (This experience is also useful as I counsel and comfort my daughter Amie--a Georgia Tech graduate with six years excellent experience and performance evaluations--who has now been laid off for over six months.)  My advice is to keep a positive attitude, newwork in some way every day, and use the time off to become a better person because a better person is ultimately a more valuable employee. 

Here's an example.  My daughter is--you guessed it--an engineer.   Like most engineers, she is an introvert.   Our family collects jokes about our professions.  Here's our current favorite engineer joke.  How do you tell an extroverted engineer?  Answer:  She's the one who's looking at the other guy's shoes.  So Amie is using this time to learn public speaking through Toastmasters and take a course in advanced computer design.

Congratulations to all the graduates.  And to the employers, think about giving some of these fine people a start on their future.

See you soon.



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Barbara McElroy is Associate Professor of Accounting and Head of the Department of Accounting and Information Systems at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA.  Before beginning a career in academe, Barbara worked in both public and private accounting settings, and owned several businesses.  She is particularly interested in the interaction of accounting and public policy.  Barbara will discuss current events with the interest of students, faculty, and practicing professionals in mind.

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