April 13, 2011
Five Tips to Help Your Student Land a Job
VALDOSTA -- The depressed economy has not made it any easier for
college graduates to secure that first job on their quest to build
a fulfilling career. According to the National Association of
Colleges and Employers, fewer than one out of every five college
seniors has a position lined up by graduation. Dr. Chere Peguesse,
director of the VSU Student Success Center, and Career Counselor
Crystal Goode, of Career Services, offer a few tips to parents
eager to help their students prepare for the challenging job
market. With thoughtful preparation and a solid action plan,
students can successfully align themselves for employment after
Actionable Goals: “A life without a strategy is a tragedy”
Encourage your student to outline both short- and long-term goals with clear action steps assigned to each goal. Collegeparentcentral.org suggests that parents ask their students the “W questions” to get them thinking about their life plan. For example, what do you want to do? What is your timetable for achieving these goals? Where do you see yourself living and working? Why do you want to go into that field? These questions often lead to an action plan of how your student will achieve their goals. Too often, we do not map out our goals or establish a concrete plan about how to get there. Remember, if you don't design your own life plan, chances are you will fall into someone else's.
Peguesse said effective time management strategies and action plans leads to goal achievement; however, students struggle with these preparation steps the most. At VSU, 40 percent of students on HOPE will lose the scholarship during their first year because they can't seem to balance their time, she said. Making to-do lists, filling out a calendar with all due dates, and scheduling time to study can significantly decrease students' stress levels. Managing time, Peguesse said, well also allows students to clearly identify their "free" time, which enables them to enjoy it more. Throughout each semester, the Student Success Center provides workshops and one-on-one sessions about time management.
The Office of Career Services, located on the second floor of Powell Hall West, offers students a variety of resources, which include vocation assessments as well as print/online tools that detail job outlook, earning potential, and required training for hundreds of careers in a range of industries.
"Students seeking help with identifying career goals, choosing a major or learning more about a specific career or industry are encouraged to visit the Office of Career Services," Goode said. "Professional staff are available to assist students in learning more about individual careers as they relate to a student’s interests, abilities, and work values."
College is not the time to take easy courses and ride out the four years with Cliff Notes and being the dead weight of group projects. Encourage your child to enroll in challenging courses, accept leadership roles in campus organizations, and volunteer for additional internships or other learning opportunities. Help students identify their strengths and weaknesses, and then challenge them to address those weaker areas, according to Collegeparentcentral.com.
“For me, ‘challenge’ means making mistakes and struggling to learn, which are necessary for the learning process,” Peguesse said. “College can challenge students in lots of ways; the trick is to get out of the way of the learning -- mistakes, failures, and all. ‘Getting out of the way’ is the challenge for parents because they don’t want to see their children ‘fail;’ but overcoming a challenge on one's own creates confidence, and that confidence attracts employers.”
Perhaps more important than all other factors in achieving success is the need for persistence, according to Collegeparentcentral.com. Your student will need to stay focused on long-term goals and his/her action plan to achieve those dreams. Persistence, Peguesse said, is closely linked to challenge because it also demands resiliency as students gain confidence and experience through the ups and downs of college.
“Persistence takes some courage,” she said. “For example, if a student gets a lower-than-expected grade on an essay, visiting his/her professor persistently can help because getting to know a teacher decreases the intimidation factor, helps clarify expectations, and creates a positive working relationship that may result in letters of recommendation.”
Potential employers can sense when people love what they do and want to make an impact on the industry. Students will set themselves apart if they truly throw themselves into their chosen profession and seek additional instruction outside the classroom. Encourage students to read the latest industry magazines, join professional and related campus organizations, and seek out related internship opportunities. Prior to their senior year, students should review job postings to identify the traits and experience companies require. This exercise will provide students with concrete examples of the types of experiences they will need before they apply for a desired job. Taking steps to network and expand their knowledge base will demonstrate students’ knowledge and passion to potential employers.
Goode said that above all else, students pursue a field that they love, rather than following a path for prestige or money. She also reiterates the flexibility of most majors. "There are multiple avenues to any one career," Goode said. Students should build upon their interests, strengths and weaknesses in a field that excites and fulfills them.
Internships and Networking
Internships are becoming increasingly important and expected. Whether the job is paid or unpaid, an internship enables students to learn about the field and establish opportunities for networking and mentoring. Also, many employers look to former interns when trying to fill a job opening. Students might want to consider an internship as a first job experience if they have not engaged in one prior to graduation.
Upwards of 80 percent of employees say that networking helped them land their current position, according to Collegeparentcentral.com. Human Resource departments often receive hundreds of resumes for each opening. Familiar names often stick out and provide applicants with an edge. Although networking may not lead directly to a job, it may help your student learn more about the field, hear about an opening, and possibly receive a recommendation. Encourage your student to take every opportunity to meet with others and talk with passion and knowledge about his career and field of interest. He will need to keep track of his contacts, be sure to write thank you notes, follow up on conversations, do his homework and maintain personal contacts.
Building a fulfilling and successful career is a difficult one with a minefield of obstacles. Preparation, hard work and passion are key to increasing students' chances of gaining employment in their chosen field.
Career Services advises students to begin the job search process as they begin their final two semesters of school, Goode said. This time should be utilized creating resumes and related employment correspondence, identifying and developing contacts, polishing their interview skills, and meeting with potential employers. Career counselors offer a variety of seminars and individual assistance with resume critiques, mock interviews and successful job search strategies. The office also maintains a listing of professional, full-time opportunities and sponsors multiple recruiting events from government and healthcare entities to private/public corporations and non-profit organizations.
For more resources about keys to student success, go to the VSU Student Success Center website, www.valdosta.edu/ssc/, or call the office at 229-333-7570. Career Services offers resources online at www.valdosta.edu/career/ or call 229-333-5942 for more information.