Scoring a job after graduation is nearly every student's goal. After pouring so much time, energy and money into pursuing a degree, the thought of being unemployed frightens even the most confident students. Does this fear stem from a lack of preparation or from the pressures of the world outside of LSU?
While the economy and size of the labor force can certainly be a factor in securing a job, success in the job search is often related to the amount of planning and effort a student puts into the process, according to Olinde Career Center Associate Director Joan Gallagher.
“We know that successful students are those who begin building a bridge from college to a career as early as their freshman year,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher warned that students who wait to consider their future careers until they are about to graduate can find the job search very difficult. With little time left, these students often struggle to write a competitive resume, know where they want to go and find a way to get a foot in the door.
Economics graduate Nana Prempeh currently works for IBM, a software company in Baton Rouge. She felt overwhelmed by the job search, especially in her senior year at the University.
“The first problem I ran into was that I didn’t know where to start looking. Like do I look online? Do I go to job fairs?," Prempeh said. "I especially felt anxious that last year of college because I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do yet. At that point, you are expected to have it all figured out. My major was economics, and it was so broad. Narrowing down my options was one of the hardest parts.”
Many students who begin considering their career development feel pressured to concentrate their studies around one major. Many students feel they must commit to one major, and narrow their focus even further by adding concentrations and minors. However, these students don’t realize that employers are more focused on their skills than their specific major or minor, according to Gallagher.
“At the Fall Career Expo, just a few weeks ago, 91 of the 279 employers who attended stated that they were open to hiring students from any major," Gallagher said. "Instead of narrowing down applicants by major alone, many employers report that they are looking for specific skills and potential."
Gallagher said students can develop more competitive job applications and resumes by honing in on the eight skills employers typically value most: critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration and teamwork, understanding of digital technology, leadership, work ethic, career management and global and intercultural fluency.
Mass communication graduate Beth Carter emphasized the importance of having a network of support during the job search. She said family, friends and professors can become valuable connections and help navigate the process.
“Like most college seniors, I was worried about finding a job, but I found out that I had so many people supporting me and helping me make connections, and that made the process a lot easier," Carter said. "I was a mass communication major, and my professors were always there to give me advice and help point me in the right direction."
Carter also said students shouldn't feel pressured to master specific skills immediately upon landing a job.
“Once you get a job, realize that no one expects you to be perfect right off the bat, and your coworkers are there to answer your questions and help you succeed,” Carter said.
The Olinde Career Center offers many tools for students panicking over job searching and hoping to start their career development process ahead of time. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the center's online resources, including free and low-cost career assessments that can help match students to careers based on their skills and interests.
Students can also explore potential careers based on their major through watching the “What Can I Do with A Major in…” career videos from Candid Careers, and browsing occupational directories, including the ONET and Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Students who are approaching their graduation date can use the many job search tools within the Handshake system to learn about upcoming employer networking events, browse job and internship postings and upload their resumes for consideration by employers conducting on-campus interviews.
The Olinde Career Center also offers individual appointments for all things career-related, from help with finding the right major to resume reviews and mock interviews. Students should schedule these appointments through Handshake.
Mass communication sophomore Melissa Kim takes full advantage of several tools provided at the Olinde Career Center.
"I’ve been on the brink of tears too many times over my future and career, each time being consoled by the professional staff at the OCC," Kim said. "My friends and I love their services, namely their help with resumes and cover letters, mock interviews and even financial literacy. Before their help, my future was one big question mark. Now, I have strong interview and application skills to be a marketable person to employers."
Gallagher encourages all students, no matter their year or major, to take advantage of the Olinde Career Center's resources and begin their career development process now.
“No matter what year a student is in, now is the best time to start making use of career tools, setting goals, and creating a timeline for success,” Gallagher said. “A successful job search is not a sprint; prepare early, research and network, and with focused effort, you will achieve success.”