In April, colleges are preparing students for finals, graduation, and enrollment for the summer and fall semesters. It’s an annual rite of spring that we shift into a higher gear and we build to the crescendo that is May.
As we turn our sights to graduation and spring, the UC typically hosts a career and job fair with PCDA. Over the past three years, this event has grown with the number of jobs and businesses present and the number of students and community members who attend. We are aiming to conduct this annual job and career fair for individuals searching for local gainful employment.
One of the biggest challenges here at the UC is creating pathways from degrees to employment for our students. We want our students to find success and a great career fit upon graduating. However, there have been times we witness students experience difficulty in launching their career after graduation. This is a difficult situation our former students find themselves in, and one that I myself had to overcome as I had a “failure to launch,” upon graduation.
What I like to remind these students is that in those trying times it’s not the “degree,” that solely defines your college education. It’s the skills, lessons, and achievements you acquired during the pursuit. Perhaps your degree is in a field that is in a current shortage of opportunities, but what’s not in shortage is the skills acquired such as research, collaborating with others, and seeing projects through to completion.
When I first graduated I felt I had a solid plan in place for the future. I felt I was prepared and had a great opportunity lined up for myself. But as you can suspect, it was quickly apparent I was not in the place that I felt I was going to thrive. I was back to the drawing board, but I was not alone, I carried with me a work ethic, responsibility, and an attitude of becoming a self-starter and creating a new opportunity. I drew on experiences that shaped me through college and I turned my attention to reflecting on potential opportunities and where I felt I could grow and bring benefit to an organization.
Each of these skills were manifested and shaped throughout my college experience at NOC and NWOSU. It wasn’t long before I found my fit and I started with the Ponca City Public schools as a substitute teacher. From there as I began my career, I returned back to school to create more opportunity. I enrolled at the University Center at Ponca City and after a few more years of school had developed more knowledge, passion, and skills to utilize for the future.
Today, I remind our students that they may not find their dream job right out of college. But what they will find is a sense of achievement and a plethora of additional skills and life lessons that are not listed on their diploma. Sometimes it’s these skills, attitudes, and abilities that employers find the most benefit from bringing to their organization. I encourage them to take a step back and recognize that while current economic realities may be one way, they’re shaped and equipped to find success in the future.
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Adam Leaming is the third CEO of the University Center at Ponca City.