college class of 2017 is in a better employment position than any
college class in a decade. With the unemployment rate, at 4.4
percent, lower than we’ve seen it since 2007, and with wages
ticking up (although too slowly), today’s college graduates are
far better off than their colleagues who graduated in 2008, when the
Great Recession caused employers to rescind job offers that had
already been made in writing. Now, the human resource management
company Korn, Ferry, Hay, says that the average graduate will earn
$49,785, up three percent from last year. Accounting for inflation,
2017 grads will earn 14 percent more than graduates ten years ago.
biggest winners are those in the STEM areas. Software developers and
engineers, earn more than $63,000 a year, while actuaries, science
researchers, and environmental professionals earn at least $58,000.
In contrast, those who work in call centers as claims examiners, or
customer service reps have earnings at the bottom of the
distribution. In any case, most of those who graduate this month
have jobs already lined up!
a welcoming job market is a foundation for career success, my recent
interview with Julie Silard Kantor, the founder of Twomentor, suggest
that good job market news isn’t enough. Julie’s company
helps corporations develop and foster a mentoring culture so that
experienced employees can help new workers learn the ropes, and learn
the corporate culture. Much of corporate culture is unwritten, but
even new employees are penalized when they don’t appear “in
sync” in prevailing culture. Too often this works against
African American employees when “collegiality” translates
into promotions. Mentors can often smooth the way for those who
aspire to move up in the workplace.
course, African American college graduates will have a more difficult
time than their white counterparts, both because African Americans
experience higher unemployment rates and because African American
students are less likely to concentrate in the STEM areas than their
counterparts. It will be interesting, however, to see how those
African American graduates, especially HBCU graduates, fare in this
labor market. Universities like Morgan State and Howard, and
colleges like Spelman and Hampton, have high concentrations of STEM
graduates, but unfortunately too many companies don’t even
bother to recruit at these colleges. If companies want to do more
than diversity lip services, they need to change their regular
recruiting patters. That’s why the Howard University/Google
partnership is so exciting, and why the partnership between Apple
Computers and the Thurgood Marshall Fund makes so much sense.
our interview, Julie talked about the difference between mentors and
sponsors. Sponsors are the folks who call your name whenever there
is an opportunity, suggesting that you may be just the person for the
special assignment or promotion. Businesswoman Carla Harris talks
about this distinction, too, in her book “Expect to Win”.
Her book, chock full of advice about moving up the workplace ladder,
would make a great graduation gift!
there is good news for new college graduates, the current climate of
virulent racism suggests that there are pitfalls, as well. A recent
study in Fairfax County, Virginia, reported rampant discrimination
against Black teachers. Black applicants were less likely to be
hired than white applicants, even though they had more advanced
degrees and classroom experience. When hired, Black teachers were
more likely to be sent to schools with high levels of poverty and
large populations of minority students. Of course, Fairfax County
Public Schools say this study is based on 2012 data and they have
changed since then. But 2012 wasn’t that long ago, and
institutional change is frequently gradual. Racial bias in the
workplace is alive and well. Sometimes it is subtle, and sometimes
it’s extremely obvious. Bottom line – it affects the
employment and earnings, especially, of African Americans.
is the new graduate to do besides keeping her phone on “record”
and a lawyer on speed-dial? The best thing this Class of 2017 can do
is to be prepared, professional, and productive. She should find a
mentor and a sponsor as soon as she can. And, most importantly, she
should take a little time to bask in her graduation accomplishment.
Congrats, graduates, and good luck!
the way, I’m referencing “she” because two-thirds
of African American college graduates are women. But that’s
the topic for another column.
can hear my conversation with Julie Silard Kantor on my podcast,
“It’s Personal with Dr. J.”