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Three strategies to link higher education to a career

We invited IB Diploma graduates to reflect on post-IB life and offer perspectives on topics of their choosing. Adrián Alemán is one of this year’s cohort of alumni contributing authors.

By Adrián Alemán

Adrián Alemán completed his IB Diploma at Centro de Enseñanza Media de la Universidad Autónoma

Adrián Alemán completed his IB Diploma at Centro de Enseñanza Media de la Universidad Autónoma.

Choosing an education is hard.  An education defines who you are and who you can aspire to be in the future, as well as where and how you can work to make a living after your studies.  When faced with such a tremendously difficult choice, I believe students likely follow a set of different strategies that will increase their chances of having a successful and enriching career.

In my experience, three strategic archetypes define how students link their studies to their career.  Many of these strategies do not take into account the whole picture of how an education is linked to obtaining a position in the job market. I hope this discussion will help students consider both the advantages and the shortcomings of these archetypes.

  1. Too much focus on university life may lead to overlooking deeper links with industry or potential employers

When searching for a university or other educational institution, academic and campus life is one factor that prospective students often give the most attention.  Daily academic and campus life is critical to success, but the school you choose will also provide you with the skills and professional network that will determine the success of your career.

Prospective students should be careful not to spend too much time inquiring about daily life. While these consideration are definitely important for well-being and comfort while attending a university, inquiring carefully about links between the university and the job market merits equal attention.

Students should consider seeking out graduate profiles described by the university and match these to ideal applicant profiles demanded by job recruiters. This will provide an important insight as to what skills will get you hired at the end of your degree.

  1. Mastering a skill but not knowing where to use it

Some students choose an education based on the skills they have or skills they want to develop. This is a great strategy for students who already know they want to master a skill (or several) that will allow them to build specialized expertise – especially in an area that will help land them a job.

These students should be careful to have a clear idea of where they intend to work or risk reducing their future career possibilities. Students seeking specialized training are trying to increase their chances of standing out from other applicants applying to the same jobs. The best training is for skills that are in high demand for the current job market or a skill that requires such specialized training and expertize that only a few candidates are eligible to fill the position.

Within either scenario, students should enter specialized training with a career path in mind. These students will be motivated because they know their chances of landing their dream job are significantly increased by mastering the desired skill.

  1. Employer in sight, but no clear idea of what it takes to get hired

Some students know where they would like to work and choose an education that will hopefully lead them to that job. They have an academic institution in mind that will bring them closer to fulfilling their career and perhaps financial goals.

The path from education to work can seem very clear to students following this strategy while they are enrolled at a university. However, these same students often overlook intermediary steps found along the road to these careers that reach beyond the institution.  As a result these individuals risk becoming demotivated or frustrated along the way to that “dream job.” They may even end up realizing that dream job is not in their complete interest.

Students should develop a notion of the path that lies in-between their studies and their dream job. This includes an understanding of the skills and tools they will need to develop as they progress. Cooperation between universities and companies is sometimes established through internships, research projects or national agreements. Students should take advantage of these opportunities to help explore the company or career of interest.

Applying these strategies to actual decision making

Students likely pursue a mixture of the strategies mentioned here.  And of course, there are also those with a desire to fulfil individual passions and personal interests that may not want to consider typical job opportunities linked to their educational choices. Choosing an education is also based on the financial opportunities that a candidate may have and this could limit their spectrum of choices.

I hope students consider these strategies to help make higher education choices based on the most complete set of information available to them and avoid possible bias in their decision making. This type of global and objective perspective could give students a clearer picture of what the future may hold for them after finishing their degree.

Alumnus Adrian Aleman is a Mexican student of engineering curious about new ways and ideas of how education can be better planned and enhanced through the use of technology. He aims to continue a scientific career as a bio medical engineering researcher, keeping a creative and international mindset.