Hispanic (& Non-Traditional) College Grads: Some Thoughts

My job search as a graduating college student was a guidebook on how not to find the right career. Although I did have two job offers upon graduation, the one I accepted was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Looking back now, I realize that one of the many challenges I faced was my “non-traditional” background as a student. Unlike many of my peers in college, I was much older (27 when I graduated), had several years of work experience, and already had management experience in my young career. Rather than using previous experiences and background to my advantage, I tried going the “traditional” route of finding a job. Although my skills were appreciated, once in the organization, I was adrift in a corporate management program with little motivation or direction. It was a disaster. Today, non-traditional is a term that still describes Hispanic college students. While non-traditional students differ in many respects, one area of significant difference is the job choices they make.  From a Hispanic perspective, non-traditional students are more likely to be employed part or full-time while attending college and are more likely to accept an offer of continued employment from their college employer after graduation. Why? Stability of continued employment and potential of much faster advancement opportunities.  

Many Hispanic college students are non-traditional in that they have family or other commitments. This factor makes them less able to take the time to search for a new job when they finish their degree and more anxious to accept a job offer once they receive one. However, these factors also demonstrate that Hispanic college graduates make exceptional employees (i.e., previous work experience). Although I made full use of my college career center, non-traditional students are less likely to use any university resources in their job hunt. This primarily because career centers have inconvenient hours for non-traditional students or that the services provided are not appropriate for or marketed to non-traditional students.

There is a continuing need to understand the views held by non-traditional college students. During my experiences on the corporate and university side of college recruitment, there seemed to be a hesitation toward hiring non-traditional students and certainly little willingness to seek out those with non-traditional backgrounds. Data from the U.S. Department of Education indicates that non-traditional education is on the rise. With so many people pursuing their education non-traditionally, employers need to create more effective use of the full spectrum of workers that are available to them. Given a large number of Hispanics are considered non-traditional students, employers need to ensure that non-traditionally educated students have access to the full spectrum of career opportunities. If not, it will compound the lack of diversity in leadership and management positions that are already too often present in the workforce.