Guest post by Kory Riemensperger (’13)
When it comes to senior year, the second semester can be a time of intense pressure. Not only must seniors maintain their grades, ensure they have enough credits to graduate, and handle all the commencement details, but most of them are feeling the pressure, both internal and sometimes parental, to find a next step after an undergraduate degree. Sometimes that means moving on to graduate school, but for many, it means finding a career.
“My last winter break was great for relaxation and reflection,” says Dale Ruffin (’13), “but now that I’m back for my second and final semester as a senior, I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of starting my first real career search.”
While some students may line up potential employment before the end of their final semester, Carolyn Couch, Associate Director of Career Education and Counseling in the Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD) suggests this is simply a result of different career paths.
“Don’t panic,” Couch says. “Many students will come to the OPCD and say that they’re concerned that their roommates already have job offers – but the simple fact is that different industry interests involve different search timelines. Students with accounting majors, for example, are recruited early in the fall; while other industries hire on a just-in time basis.”
The trick is to stay focused and avoid stress. The annual OPCD destination data survey shows that of the 78 percent of Class of 2012 Wake Forest graduates who responded, 95 percent were either employed or in graduate school within six months. Instead of obsessing over the progress of friends, seniors should seek out potential employers and make direct contact– this highlights them as a proactive and interested hire.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 70 percent of jobs across the nation were found through networking. These career opportunities are not advertised, so a great network is key.
“Some students may have a negative reaction to the idea of networking,” says Couch, “They perceive it as exploitative, when in reality it is no worse than the research they do before they apply for a position.”
The social networking website LinkedIn is a powerful tool that Couch and her colleagues in the OPCD recommend to students. Couch and her colleagues offer students tips on how to use it to the best advantage:
- Make sure the information on your resume matches the information on your LinkedIn profile.
- Choose a professional-looking photo for your profile picture.
- Find alumni to network with by conducting an “advanced search” for Wake Forest University,
- Browse Wake Forest related “groups” on the site for those that match your industry or geographic location. The largest – the Wake Forest University Career Connectors group – has over 6,000 members and is growing every day.
“When you find the profile of an alum that catches your interest, reach out to them through the site’s message feature, asking for guidance, tips, and advice. If they’re from the area, invite them to talk over coffee, or ask for an informational interview” says Couch, “Networking should focus on gathering information, so this isn’t the time to ask for a job. Build a relationship instead.”
Practice makes perfect, and students feeling even the slightest bit unsure about future job interviews may want to schedule a mock interview. These meetings reveal strengths and weaknesses before a true job interview, so prospects can be ready to market their skills efficiently. Couch says around 125 students have already requested a mock interview this year, representing a 62 percent increase.
Finding Posted Job Openings
Students can and should seek out advertised job openings as well. There are a considerable amount of job search engines and posting sites online, though the OPCD recommends a few select ones.
DeaconSource is Wake Forest’s private site for undergraduate students. The service lists jobs and internship openings from employers who specifically want Wake Forest applicants. New jobs for diverse career interests are added every day, so it’s vital to stay connected; e-mail alerts can be set up to send the latest job offerings.
With a completed profile in DeaconSource, the OPCD will also send tailored information to students based on their career and geographic interests. It is important that students keep their profiles updated so that they don’t miss out on valuable information regarding events and internship/job opportunities. If a student’s resume or cover letter needs reviewing the OPCD offers regular review sessions throughout the year.
Another recommended site is Indeed.com, which aggregates job listings from thousands of websites, including job boards, newspapers, associations, and company career pages. It is another efficient way for students to specifically search for entry-level jobs by geographic region and industry.
The OPCD also subscribes to sites specific to certain industries and career interests, such as international opportunities, public relations, journalism, conservation, environmental education and advocacy, human rights, public policy, politics, and public affairs. Login information for these websites is available in DeaconSource.
As a student begins the job search, Couch suggests that they schedule a meeting with a career counselor. With their mentor, job seekers establish two important career tools – an action plan and a job search strategy. These documents help prevent any unexpected procrastination and keep students focused on their job search. This relationship is in high demand among students. The number of career counseling appointments has already seen a 28% increase over last year.
“Sometimes it just helps to be accountable,” says Couch, “a plan and a guide to help you follow-through give the best chance for success.”
Kory Riemensperger is a senior English major from Wilmington, N.C.