Student in suit smiling

Miller Welcome Reception

1 Start with your own. The college students who grew up in your community or region of the state are the “low-hanging fruit” that you’re trying to gather. They are going to land somewhere. Do they know that you’d like them to come back home and make an impact? We believe you’ll have greater success if you target the students who are from your community or region. Be sure they know there is something for them in your region of the state.   

*This is the second post of a series called Six Things.

I have observed a critical gap in awareness during the decade that I’ve spent working in the space between college students and employers.  

On one side of the gap are college students who are our future leaders and workforce, who all desire fulfilling careers and meaningful lives. On the other side of the gap are communities who desperately need these graduates to fill the jobs and contribute in meaningful ways to society.  

I’ve had thousands of one-on-one conversations with students who are considering their future. A conversation with an underclassman might sound something like this: 

Me: “What type of career are you interested in?” 

Student: “I’m currently taking an introduction to marketing class, and I really like it. I think digital marketing may be what interests me the most.” 

Me: “That’s great, I would recommend that you spend some time with someone in that field so that you can learn more about what it’s like on a day-to-day basis. Do you know anyone in digital marketing?” 

Student: “No, I’m not aware of anyone.” 

Me: “How about you reach out to a few people in your circle and see if they know of anyone. For instance, your family members, a high school teacher, coach, mentor, etc. If they don’t know of anyone, let me know and I can help you connect with one of our alumni.  [note: I encourage them to start with their network first. This is a beneficial skill for them to develop.] 

Many people that I talk to are surprised to learn how this conversation picks up a week later when the student returns.  

Me: “Were you able to identify anyone who works in digital marketing?” 

Student: [looking slightly embarrassed] “My mom is in digital marketing. I had no idea. She works for a major automotive company. I’ve never realized what her actual job is.” 

Here’s my point. When kids are growing up in our communities and working their way through K-12 there is a lot going on. Maybe travel sports, civic theater, or marching band. Kids are busy. Families are busy. We assume our teens are aware of what the adults in their lives are doing when not watching ball games and performances.  

The good news is that if the young adults in your community are at college (or military service, working, etc.) a lot of local people have done their jobs to get them to that place. The community should celebrate this.  

That also means many local people have a chance to ensure young adults know they can have a fulfilling career and meaningful life back in their own community. And, that you will welcome them back home to be the difference makers that lead our state forward. From my observation, this conversation is most productive when it starts during their high school years and continues throughout their young adult life.   


Check out this example of what Muncie Central High School is working on. 

If your community has additional strategies for this challenge, email us and let us know. We’d love to share your story. 

Jeff Eads is the Director for Industry Engagement at Ball State University.