Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Whether you're a soon-to-be college grad, a worker bee contemplating a career change, or the recent casualty of a layoff, Madison-area college career advisors dispense advice for anyone looking to get (or get back) into the nine-to-five

Mar 20, 2009

These days, living cautiously is visible: Families choosing grocery-store frozen egg rolls rather than dining at P.F. Chang’s; commuters dragging dusty bikes out of the attic instead of driving cars to work; once-eager college graduates glumly unloading the truck at the parent’s house after receiving no job offers. College grads searching a month before slipping on that robe and tassel will definitely not increase their chances of securing an internship or job upon graduation. Madison area college advisors encourage college grads and those looking to re-join the work world after a layoff to get involved—now.

Job U.

“Involvement is key,” says UW–Madison Business Career Center director Steve Shroeder. “Sustaining at least one internship before graduation is almost essential to determine if that is the right career path for the student, but also for the company to see if they’re interested in offering the student a full-time position post graduation.”

Greg Iaccarino, UW Letters and Science career and internship advisor, also encourages involvement before commencement ceremonies draw near. “Any kind of practical experience whether it be an internship, volunteer experience, involvement in a student organization or studying abroad makes a student well-rounded and more marketable,” says Iaccarino.

The Business Career Center assists in all aspects of the job preparation process, including tips on resume and cover letter preparation, appropriate dress for interviews and the workplace, hosting an etiquette dinner and holding their annual career fair at the Kohl Center.

“There are two sides to career services,” says Shroeder, “preparing students to meet with employers, and bringing in employers who are interested in our students. Our doors are open to any employer in the Madison area or beyond.”

Although this year’s career fair turnout has dwindled from 170 to 115 companies since last year, 115 companies is still an encouraging number.

“Good employer attendance has enabled students to network with a variety of employers and stay on the employer’s radar screens,” says Iaccarino. Day in the Field is a free program hosted by UW’s Letters and Science office that gives students the opportunity to visit an area employer.

“Students attend panel presentations of various professionals and tour the employer’s work space,” says Iaccarino. Students learn about what qualifications are needed to get hired at that company and what a typical workday is like. M&I Bank, YMCA of Dane County, University Research Park and Lands’ End are among some of the organizations that participate.

School Days

Edgewood University executive director of career services Marylin Albert says Edgewood’s career advising services are even accessible to alumni and parents.

“We offer services to student’s parents who have lost their jobs and are interested in having our career service department review their resume, or help them decide whether to seek other employment or return to school,” says Albert. “We also have a program called RAAD (Returning Adult Accelerated Degree) which helps employers finish their degree on weeknights or weekends, when they’re not working.”

Madison Area Technical College has long since advocated for community involvement, according to academic and career advisor April McHugh.

“From recent high school graduates to retirees wanting to return to the workforce, our focus is on training and educating these individuals in shorter periods of time (certificates and two-year associate degrees) to become gainfully employed,” says McHugh. “Our advising and career resources office serves three main functions—career planning and development, academic advising for our transfer students (transferring out to four year institutions) and employment services.”

Despite current conditions, job struggles are not just limited to today’s economy. Schroeder, Iaccarino and McHugh both bounced around before settling into their careers.

Shroeder admits, “After I graduated with a history and political science degree, I sent out thirty-five resumes and got one interview—which happened to be a UW campus job unrelated to my degree. So I sympathize with students to find jobs and those who don’t know what they want to do with their majors.” Iaccarino, who decided late in his college career that he wanted to work with college students, went on to graduate school where he received a master’s degree in counseling and higher education administration.

“During my graduate program, I had an internship and job every semester in a variety of student service offices. This greatly enhanced my marketability upon graduation, which helped result in the successful start of my career,” says Iaccarino. McHugh admits that she did not utilize her university’s career services and lived with her parents before returning to graduate school. While in graduate school, she began job hunting a full year before graduation to improve her chances of receiving employment.

“I sent out a couple hundred resumes nationwide and eventually landed my dream job in Montana,” says McHugh. Although Shroeder, Iaccarino and McHugh had to jump through hoops to get to where they are today, all find interacting with their students and the community rewarding. Albert agrees saying, “Building long term relationships with our students is extremely important. We encourage alumni and adults to come back and use our career services when needed. We also encourage alumni to speak at career fairs to inspire fellow students.” Patience is a virtue when it comes to job searching.

McHugh offers insight during these times: “Know what you want, what you need to do, and how to get it. If you let life happen to you, it will. If you are intentional in your pursuits and stay the course, you will get the most out of your life instead,” says McHugh.

Sounds like a fortune cookie from P.F. Chang’s.

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