Many of my mentees and followers have asked: “Dr. Romey, I have all this education with all these degrees, why am I not landing jobs as fast as I would like to?” This is a question that I know is in the minds of many young graduates or others desirous of landing their first jobs upon graduation.

In my response, I always use the above tag line. And I believe every letter in that statement. This tag line succinctly summarizes what school (call it college or university and the attendant degrees) does and what it does not. Understanding what school does and does not do is the foundation for saving yourself the melancholy of school-bashing and unrealistic expectations.

The reason why people graduate from school and do not land a job immediately can be attributed to school versus employment (SvE) gap. This refers to the gap between one’s academic qualifications and competencies / skills for entry-level job readiness. SvE gap is the secret sauce between what an individual gets from attending school and what they need to actually be successful in employment.

In a fiercely competitive labor market, it is because of this that folks make such misguided statements like: “education is overestimated, universities are scam, or education is fraud.” Don’t believe them. Rather than go derogatory about school or college, step back and ask yourself, what does school give me and how am I using what school gave me to land me a job? Where is my SvE gap and how can I fill it?

Managers, supervisors, and employers of labor will tell you about SvE gap. Schools generally arm you with the foundation to ingest skills—this includes the foundation to learn new skills fast, the foundation for broader mindset to work in a team, the preparedness to go the extra mile to fill a gap in your knowledge without prompting, etc. However, employers are looking for skills to be applied in a job position, right now. This inherent gap must be filled in order for the new graduate to land their first job and rise from there.  It is the difference between attitude and altitude.

Every potential college graduate needs to fill their SvE gap while they are in school or work hard immediately upon graduation to fill them in roles for which employment expectations are not raised. These may include internships, practicums, volunteer-experiences, paid or unpaid fellowship.

It is OK if those are free, for example through volunteer opportunities. It is also OK if those are paid short-term programs where for the tuition you get an intensive hands-on competency that will propel you to the next job by filling the gap between school and employment. Fortunately, many remote platforms make it easy for graduates to gain meaningful experiences covering their SvE gap and get them better ready to land their first roles in public health or other fields.