The scene of college recruiting is about to change

By Philip Dearing

Originally published on Medium

The sequence of events each Fall is the same. Hoards of college students put their true passions and interests on hold, buy a suit, and attend info sessions for large corporations. Some dread it, while others relish the competition. No matter how you feel about it, it seems like the only viable option.

Why is this the case? The main driver is that many corporations spend millions of dollars, often as much $50,000 per recruit, to blanket campus with events, webinars, free swag, and alumni outreach. The deluge of resources seeking college talent is like water surging towards a dam — looking for any crack to burst through. Student debt? Make a great salary! Uncertain of your path forward? Come work for us and you can do ANYTHING afterward! Want to be successful? This career promises prestige! Want to make an impact? Our corporation has some social impact opportunities that you might get to work on! All of this money and energy is put towards disguising the true nature of the work — long hours grinding away as a cog in a machine you probably don’t want to be a part of. And all those skills they claim you build? They are certainly real, but the costs are real too — a new level of risk aversion, an overemphasis on the bottom line in decision-making, and decreased resilience in the face of challenges. Traditional corporate jobs have always and will continue to be a viable option; the problem is that this path is the only one that students are exposed to.

This system works well for Universities who can boast about the high-incomes of its graduates and for corporations who run on bright young talent that hasn’t burnt out yet, but it throws the majority of young professionals into a quarter-life crisis. They took the only option that seemed available to them, didn’t really enjoy it, and don’t know where to go from there.

But what if other options were presented to them? History has shown how strongly graduating Seniors gravitate to those possibilities. Teach for America was launched by Wendy Kopp, who had just graduated college herself. She posted about the opportunity to teach at an underserved school for two years and attracted thousands of applicants in the first year. 25 years later, over 50,000 recent college graduates have taught in American schools through TFA. Similarly, programs like Global Health Corps, Princeton in Africa, and Venture for America have all seen explosive growth over the past five years. When programs effectively demonstrate that there is an alternative to the corporate path, students often choose that path.

So where do we stand now? Are we at a turning point? Surveys consistently show that the percentage of graduating seniors for whom a sense of purpose is the deciding factor in their job choice is increasing, now sitting at over 60%. To date, corporations have managed to hold on due to their overwhelming resource advantage, but that is likely to change as alternatives proliferate.

And so it is with all of this in mind that we are tremendously excited to launch the Second Day Impact Fellowship this Fall for students interested in starting a career in social impact. Impact Fellows that are accepted will go through a rigorous curriculum focused on (1) career discernment, (2) skill development, and (3) mentorship over the course of their Senior year. Fellows gain access to Second Day’s internal job portal and job matching supports, with Second Day supporting every Impact Fellow until they land a job with a top nonprofit or social enterprise. Graduating Seniors stepping into the job market for the first time are literally facing a whole new world. Rather than asking them to make career choices based on limited information or peer pressure, what if we gave them the guidance to think through what it is they truly want out of their first job? Instead of a scramble, what if we had them systematically consider their skills, passions, and financial constraints to come to their own decision of what a ‘top job’ looks like?

There will always be reasons to pursue big-name jobs: true passion for the work, a desire to build a specific skill-set, or the need for financial support. But for many students, the deeply human forces driving their decision — fear, indecision, and insecurity — may seem less important as viable alternatives become more prominent. If Seniors had the resources and guidance needed to systematically consider their skills, passions and financial concerns, what might their “dream job” really look like?

Phil Dearing