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A Compass for a Lost Job Market
RADFORD -- Start early, be flexible and be persistent. Three key pieces of advice offered from Radford University’s Career Services to graduates as they anxiously take a deep breath and prepare to take their first post-collegiate plunge into the job market.
Since coming to Radford in 1999, Dr. Kathy Jordan, executive director of Radford University’s Career Services, has had a front row seat for the nation’s economic roller coaster.
“There are really no hard and fast rules in an economy as volatile as this one,” said Jordan, pointing to her extensive 20 years of experience as a professional counselor in both the corporate and academic arenas.
Citing a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, Jordan believes employment for new college graduates, which has been stagnant for several years, is finally headed for a gradual upswing. Although seeing a 20 percent drop-off in employer recruiting last year, the outlook for 2010 graduates is up by 5.3 percent.
“Just like we’ve been able to see on the news, slowly the economy is coming back,” said Jordan. “That presents a brighter picture for us too.”
The Radford Career Service Center’s mission is to provide students and alumni with guidance, opportunities, and support to help foster a solid strategic foundation for finding employment through dozens of interactive services, some of which include assessment evaluations, resume assistance, interviewing techniques, and connecting employers and alumni with students.
Based on results from this year’s senior exit interviews, Radford’s graduates are cautiously optimistic about their potential job prospects.
“What I found is 70 percent of our students are saying they’re confident about finding employment, but 60 percent of them are saying, ‘I still need help,’” said Jordan. “I think what the senior interviews have shown me is I’m going to be really busy this summer.”
Talking to her career center colleagues in the private sector, Jordan was pleased to learn Radford’s May 2009 graduates exceeded employment and graduate school admission numbers when compared to many of the larger, high profile universities.
“Eighty-seven percent of our students had found employment, or graduate school admission by November,” she said proudly. “That’s a really high number.”
Having to be somewhat of “futurist,” Jordan says there’s been a significant decline in American mass manufacturing, such as the automotive industry. However, responding to the aging population, fields currently showing the highest employment opportunity growth include nursing, healthcare, teaching, and government.
“Flexibility and patience is really the mantra in this market,” Jordan said, citing the center’s “How To Achieve Success In A Recessionary Market” guidelines.
“If I tell a student in good times that it’s going to take three months [to find a job], then times like now, I’ll tell them to double that,” she said. “Plan to think that it’s going to take six months to possibly find a job. You can’t afford to have six months of idleness.”
Meeting annually with the Employer Advisory Board, Jordan said the two biggest flaws most common to recent graduates are inflexibility and unrealistic starting salary expectations.
“You can’t be inflexible when there’s too much competition for so few jobs,” she said.
Diversification is key. Graduates must think outside the box in terms of finding creative ways to work in their field, even if their first job is used to leverage greater rewards for their second job. In addition taking a class to brush up on skills could show employers you know how to make the most efficient use of your time.
Job seekers need to be conscientious of their credit-rating, Jordan added, and be cognizant of the potential impact caused by what you postor someone else posts about youon social networking websites, such as Facebook.
“Social media is how employers are screening out applicants,” Jordan warns.
Even the best advice, however, won’t do much good unless graduates look within themselves and fully comprehend and appreciate what they’re truly leaving Radford with.
“If you attend Radford, you know you’re going to leave here with certain skills,” said Jordan. “If you can reflect on that before you leave, then when you get to the job interview and they say, ‘Well, why should I hire you?’ you can say, ‘I’ve developed excellent information technology literacyone of our core curriculumand I’ve developed strong oral and written communication skills.’”
Radford alumni know the caliber of graduates they’re getting from their alma mater.
“You’d be surprised how many alumni will post in our online job databaseHire a Highlander,” said Jordan. “They’ll post because they graduated from Radford and know how tough it was for them, and they want to help another Radford student.”
Like a “pay it forward” initiative, for every student and graduate who successfully lands a job or internship through the alumni network, Jordan asks they return the favor down the line to the next generation of Radford graduates.
“The students respond to that,” she said. “The alumni are really stepping up to the plate.”
And the Career Center steps up to the plate for alumni, who can still access their center’s services via their traditional RU email and password.
“For six months after you graduate, this office is going to extend the same level of service that we did when you were a student here,” Jordan explained. Following that initial six months, graduates then move on to alumni status, with the center providing software and Internet support to aid in their job search, and provide practical tips for resumes and interviewing.
Graduates need to keep an open mind about their career prospects and maintain a positive attitude. View your chosen major, resume and expectations as an ever-evolving organism.
“The answer to what you’re going to find passion and life’s satisfaction in is really within you,” said Jordan. “Life is a process, and your career is a process. Your personal life and career march down this path together.”
May 13, 2010