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Archive for March, 2006

How you live after graduation will depend on your occupation and how much money you make – no surprise there.  I’ve got friends all across the spectrum, from the Americorps volunteers barely squeaking by on their stipends to the investment bankers who make loads of money, but also don’t have time to spend it.

Y2M, a marketing services company focusing on the college market, released its annual College Graduate Survey, which gives some insight on things the typical college student does after graduation:

  • Buys a car – More than 33 percent
  • Gets a new credit card with more perks – 30 percent.
  • Shops online – 80 percent
  • Manages a checking account online – 71 percent
  • Has multiple e-mail addresses – 68 percent
  • Posts a resume online – 70 percent
  • Gets their news from the Web – 78 percent

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So… after 16 years of school you think you’re smart enough for the workplace?  (After all, you can discuss the subtleties of Impressionist art and analyze Faulkner with the best of them.)  But a new survey from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) might change your mind.

Nearly 20 percent of U.S.college graduates don’t have the quantitative skills to complete simple tasks like totaling up a catalogue order for office supplies, the survey found.

AIR estimates that 30 percent of students at two-year colleges and nearly 20 percent of students at four-year institutions have basic or below quantitative literacy – meaning they struggle with tasks like comparing ticket prices and adding up the cost of a sandwich and a drink from a menu.

What does this mean for you?  If you’re just not good with math, you may want to consider enrolling in a math or economics class.  If it’s too late for that, practice your math skills by foregoing the calculator and adding up your grocery or shopping bill in your head.

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What makes a job prestigious? Is it fame? A six-figure salary? Power? 

According to the most recent Harris Poll, Americans don’t necessarily equate prestige with wealth.  In terms of perceived prestige, important but lower-paying jobs like teachers ($43,000 median salary per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and police officers ($45,000) solidly trumped business executives ($140,000), lawyers ($95,000) and stockbrokers ($69,000) – jobs typically associated with high pay. 

Best-regarded occupations:

Worst-regarded occupations:

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If you think graduation will mark the end of your Monday and Thursday bar nights, CareerBuilder.com’s latest survey has some interesting findings. Twenty-two percent of workers say they’ve gone out for an alcoholic drink during the workday at least once during their careers.  Ten percent say they do it at least once a week.

Some other interesting office drinking statistics:

  • 30 percent of men admit to going out for a drink during a regular workday, compared to 19 percent of women.
  • Fourteen percent of men say they have an alcoholic drink with lunch at least once a week, compared to 8 percent of women.
  • Accounting/finance led in the category of workers who admit to drinking on company time during a regular workday at 29 percent, followed by 28 percent of IT workers and 24 percent of manufacturing workers.
  • Sales and hospitality tied for having the highest number of workers who admit to drinking during lunch at least once a week at 14 percent
  • Healthcare and retail workers ranked lowest in all measurements.

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If this week’s salary entry had you seething with jealousy over your science-based classmates’ paychecks, here’s an article that might help cheer you up:

Why Employers Like Liberal Arts Grads

By Laura Morsch, CareerBuilder.com

Some college students simply prefer studying Monet over math and Freudian theory over physics. For them, it makes sense to major in a liberal arts discipline like history or philosophy.

But liberal arts majors get more out of college than an interesting transcript and the answers to Final Jeopardy; they also master the writing and communication skills experts say are crucial to success in almost any career.

Why it pays to write well
The benefits of a liberal arts major start early: A degree in liberal arts rarely restricts a student to just one career path. Whereas some majors – engineering or computer science, for example – provide specialized training in a specific field, liberal arts degrees tend to provide a much broader educational background and skills applicable to almost any job.

In addition, good writing skills shine through on résumés and cover letters.

David Teten, CEO of New York-based independent research firm Nitron Advisers, says he has seen communications from some job seekers that were incoherent, ungrammatical and rude.

"One out of five people who apply to jobs with my company get rejected because their writing skills are so bad," he says. Score one for liberal arts majors.

The same communication skills employers look for during the job search are valued even more highly on the job – in part because they can save the company money.

One-third of employees at blue-chip companies can’t write well, and businesses spend up to $3.1 billion annually on remedial training to improve their workers’ writing skills, according to a report by the National Commission on Writing.

And writing skills are only getting more valuable. "As companies get bigger and less and less cohesive … the written word becomes even more important," says Lisa Earle McLeod, columnist and author of Forget Perfect (Penguin/Putnam). "You don’t have people in one place working together anymore, so being able to write concisely and directively for people will become a more valued skill."

Thus, some liberal arts majors find their superior communication skills eventually catapulting them to top management positions – and top income brackets.

"The jobs that really, really pay the best involve getting large bodies of people to do what you want them to do," McLeod says, pointing to TV producers and CEOs as examples. "And that’s all communicating."

Starting Small
With all of the benefits of a liberal arts major, there’s little wonder why these degrees are so popular. Students earning associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts disciplines far outnumber students studying in mathematic or scientific fields, according to data from the U.S. Center for Education Statistics.

And this large supply often means entry-level salaries for liberal arts majors plummet far below those offered to their quantitatively-focused classmates.

Starting salaries for this year’s liberal arts graduates average around $30,300 – well below the $52,000 offered to electrical engineering grads and the $43,800 for accounting majors, according to a spring 2005 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

McLeod says the nature of liberal arts majors’ skills also prevent them from earning immediate career success. "Everybody can read and write, and everybody can talk," she says. "That’s why it takes so long for the people who do that to differentiate themselves."

‘Adding’ new skills
According to Teten, one way for good communicators to enter the fast track is to learn to use numbers. "You don’t need higher math for the vast majority of jobs in this country," he says, "but everyone needs to understand what numbers mean."

Teten says people can improve their basic quantitative skills by calculating day-to-day math mentally. "If you make a point of calculating the tip yourself instead of relying on the calculator, you’ll build the skill of simple mental mathematics," he says.

 

Copyright 2005 CareerBuilder.com. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.

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The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently released its top 10 list of the highest-paying majors and their average starting salaries.  If you’re curious, read on – but be warned:  If you’re majoring in liberal arts, this list will only depress you.

  1. Chemical engineering ($55,900)
  2. Computer engineering ($54,877)
  3. Electrical/electronics and communications engineering ($52,899)
  4. Mechanical engineering ($50,672)
  5. Computer science ($50,046)
  6. Accounting ($45,723)
  7. Economics/finance, including banking ($45,191)
  8. Civil engineering ($44,999)
  9. Business administration/management ($39,850)
  10. Marketing/marketing management, including marketing research ($36,260)

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We’ve all had some days we’d rather not be scheduled to work in the morning – the day after your best friend’s 21st birthday, for example.  On mornings like these, you have three options:  A) take it easy on the Jager bombs or double-fist waters, b) chase your Excedrin with Pepto in the morning and drag yourself to work, or c) call in sick.

CareerBuilder.com’s annual office absenteeism survey found that 43 percent of workers said they have called in sick when they weren’t at least once in the last year.  And while calling in sick is common, employers are catching on:  23 percent said they have fired an employee for missing work without a legitimate reason.

If you still feel like risking it and need a little inspiration, the following are actual examples of excuses real-life workers gave for missing work:

  • "I’m too drunk to drive to work."
  • "I accidentally flushed my keys down the toilet."
  • "I had to help deliver a baby on my way to work." (Employee was not in the medical profession.)
  • "I accidentally drove through the automatic garage door before it opened."
  • "My boyfriend’s snake got loose and I’m afraid to leave the bedroom until he gets home."
  • "I’m too fat to get into my work pants."
  • "God didn’t wake me." (Employee didn’t believe in alarm clocks and thought a higher power would wake her when she was ready.)
  • "I cut my fingernails too short, they’re bleeding and I have to go to the doctor."
  • "The ghosts in my house kept me up all night."
  • "I forgot I was getting married today."
  • "My cow bit me."
  • "My son accidentally fell asleep next to wet cement in our backyard. His foot fell in and we can’t get it out."
  • "I was watching a guy fixing a septic pump, fell in the hole and hurt myself."
  • "I was walking my dog and slipped on a toad in my driveway and hurt my back."
  • "My house lock jammed and I’m locked in."

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