Is Your Child a Sprinter, a Wanderer, or a Straggler?

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Anne Weeks
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Launching a Career After College

And How Beyond the U Can Help


In a recent New York Times Education Life article, Jeffrey Selingo discusses the current challenge of employment for recent college graduates. The press has hammered home that an undergraduate degree is now valued like a high school degree was in the past. This, with the disappearance of manufacturing jobs and easy access to the middle-class workforce, has created a new era for today’s graduate:

“The huge run-up in the number of undergraduate and graduate students — eight million more than in 1980, according to the National Center for Education Statistics — has led to further delays in passing the milestones of adulthood, forever changing how we view the transition from education to the work force. In the 1980s, college graduates achieved financial independence, defined as reaching the median wage, by the time they turned 26, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. In 2014, they didn’t hit that mark until their 30th birthday.”

Clark University Psychology professor, Dr Arnett, shares further:

“For today’s emerging adults, a college degree may be the biggest determinant of whether they launch into a sustaining career, but it is not the only factor that separates the successful from the drifters. If that were the case, recent graduates wouldn’t be standing in the unemployment line or settling for jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree. How they navigate their college years also matters.”

Today’s college graduates can be divided into three categories:

Sprinters, Wanderers, Stragglers. 

Which defines your child?




Sprinters know what they want. They choose a major right away, stick to it, find internships and work for experience, seek and use mentors, and have a job ready for them when they graduate. Some choose to move through multiple jobs to gain experience and quickly move up the career ladder. These students have managed to have little to no college debt, and therefore, have the flexibility to make choices not driven by debt. Even those who are not “speedy,” are able to deliberately choose their experiences, whether a job or graduate school, all with a specific goal toward which they work.

Sprinters are willing to take risks and avoid any burdens that might limit their mobility. They are unafraid of change or risk. A 2014 study at the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia indicated “increased mobility in one’s 20s leads to higher earnings later in life.”




Wanderers are not sure what they want to do. They may do well in their undergraduate program, but they have not sought internships and work experience to help narrow their interests and to build a resume.They graduate from college, apply for jobs, and hit a wall of unemployment. Some resort to taking jobs for which they are overqualified, and they bide their time while trying to figure out their next step. Unfortunately, the longer a student waits to seek a job, the more students graduate who become competition for those same jobs.

Many Wanderers decide to return to school for a graduate degree. Nearly 30% of graduates are back in school within two years. Why? Graduate school “gives structure and direction.” And, a  graduate degree has “become the new bachelor’s degree.”

According to Richard A. Settersten Jr., director of the Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families at Oregon State University, “most critical for Wanderers is that the bulk of salary increases tend to come in the first decade of employment. Three-quarters of a man’s wage growth happens in the first 10 years.”

The longer a graduate wanders, the harder it will be to catch up.




The expectation to go to college has become a given. Guidance counselors often make the assumption a student will enroll in a post-secondary program, whether it be community college or a four-year college. For Stragglers, this can be tough. Many aren’t interested in further schooling but feel the pressure to conform.

“Many Stragglers struggle to find viable options after high school. They can stay at home and get a job (and not a very good one) or join the military. No wonder more than 95 percent of high-school seniors say they plan to attend college; the year they graduate, government statistics show, about 65 percent of them do.

And if they go to college, most of them struggle to finish, or don’t at all. There are 12.5 million 20-somethings with some college credits and no degree, by far the largest share of the 31 million adults who leave college short of a degree, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. In many ways, these young adults are no better off financially than high-school graduates who never attempted college at all. Employers, after all, don’t advertise they want ‘some college.’ They want a degree.”

Often, a Straggler may have a passion but cannot see a way to make a viable living with that passion. Some Stragglers have the capacity to become entrepreneurs, but without financial backing and guidance in planning and implementing, this can be an overwhelming challenge.


Where’s the Guidance?


Dr. Settersten, of Oregon State University, comments that his undergraduate students don’t seem to know what they should be doing during their college years to effectively position themselves for the job market upon graduation.


“Why hadn’t more of them visited him during office hours, an easy way to build a one-on-one relationship with a professor who teaches hundreds of students a semester?

‘What shocked me is that they say, “No one has told me this before.” They’re seniors and they don’t know how to navigate the institution.’  Fewer than half of college seniors in the annual National Survey of Student Engagement said they talked often with a faculty member about their career plans.

In college, ‘there are things you’re taught and then there are things you learn,’ Dr. Settersten said. ‘A lot of what college comes down to is not what happens in the classroom. It’s about navigating life and building relationships.’”




There may be a Career Office on campus, or if your child is not in college, a local Job Fair, but if your child has no idea how to effectively navigate these options, they can be intimidating, overwhelming, or simply useless. With the pressure to find a job, coupled with the constant media focus on how few jobs are available, it can feel hopeless. Even for the Sprinters, having a coach will help focus a search and will provide networking to position them as a viable candidate.

Whether your child is a Sprinter, a Wanderer, or a Straggler, Beyond the U’s Career Academy will provide the individualized coaching needed to succeed. With a success rate of 75% placement in a meaningful job within 6 months of graduation,  BTU beats the odds of today’s unemployed graduates.

When your child enrolls in the Career Academy, their certified coach will use the The Birkman Method to begin to develop a plan that addresses your child’s needs and behaviors, which will, in turn, assist in identifying the best match for a career. Working closely with your child, their personal coach will guide them through the job application process and help them find a successful placement.


The challenges are real in today’s job market. A small investment in your child’s future can avoid the heartache of a stalled career. Contact Beyond The U today for a free consultation, and begin the journey to success!


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Anne Weeks

Anne Macleod Weeks is a graduate of Lawrence and Villanova Universities. She has been an educational administrator and English teacher for 38 years, specializing in the area of college admission. Ms. Weeks has been a leader in the college admission and Advanced Placement arenas and has published on pertinent educational topics in a variety of national papers and journals. She currently resides in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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