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Networking, internships, resumes help students land jobs after graduation

02/18/2014
Kayle Scott
Staff Writer

Internships.

Networking skills.

A strong resume.

These are just some pieces in the job-search puzzle that can help any graduating student enter the career field of his/ her choice.

Asson Desrosiers, Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate with a dual degree in psychology and business management, had these elements and more by the time he received his diploma in December 2013.

“I started working a month after graduation,” Desrosiers said in a phone interview. “I’m a marketing and sales associate for Arctic Blast Covers.”

As a small, up-and-coming business, Arctic Blast Covers needs employees that are hardworking, enthusiastic and have strong developmental-relations skills. Desrosiers never applied for a position with the company, so how did he land the job?

“I worked with them during my internship,” Desrosiers said. “They saw how serious I was, and they saw my work ethic.”

Desrosiers did a six-credit internship with IUP’s Small Business Development Center, located in Room 108 in Eberly College of Business. The SBDC’s interns work with clients like Arctic Blast Covers to help them develop various aspects of their business model.

“I had been applying for another internship in Rhode Island when I heard about the SBDC,” Desrosiers said. “My adviser told me I should check it out, and I’m glad I did.”

The Rhode Island internship would have consisted of going door-to-door, he said. He would have been a “glorified salesman.” But with the SBDC, Desrosiers said he had the opportunity to gain experience in financial analysis, marketing and branding.

Some departments, like the communications media department and the health and physical education department, require their students to do internships before graduating. However, professors from departments that do not have mandatory internships still advise their students to take advantage of the opportunity.

“Internships are extremely valuable ways to acquire work experience, create social and professional networks, and construct a personal professional vision,” Dr. Mike Sell of the English department said in an email survey. “They’re also excellent ways to identify the many skills [students] have acquired in the major.”

Desrosiers said his internship helped him to better understand the skills he learned in his classes and apply them to real situations.

“Application is key,” Desrosiers said. “You go to class, and you just hear your professor speak, but you don’t see how what you’re learning is applied. When you actually understand how what you’re doing is applied, that’s when you get some really good, interesting experience.”

Sometimes, one internship might not be enough.

Exercise science professor Dr. Robert Alman said in an email survey that students should gain all the experience they can.

“This means volunteer in a variety of [career] settings both during school and in the summer months,” Alman said. “One of the biggest problems I see is that when students go to graduate, and I review their resume, they have absolutely little or no experience related to [their] field.”

Even if students don’t need to volunteer to gain extra experience in their field, having volunteer work on a resume makes students more marketable to employers.

“[Employers] look for people who have done specifically volunteer work,” said Dr. Tammy Manko, of the Career Development Center, “some companies in particular because they still have their employees doing volunteer work today.”

According to the 2011-12 annual post-graduation-status survey conducted by the Career Development Center, 66 percent of the IUP graduates from August 2011 to May 2012 were employed full time. This is just 8 percent less than the October 2011 national survey conducted by the Current Population Survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In addition to post-graduation statistics, the Career Development Center, located in Suite 302 Pratt Hall, provides many resources for students, from networking events to resume review sessions. Both networking and resumes are important parts of the job search.

“Take every opportunity to network,” Manko said. “One of the ways that I would recommend [students] do that is not only through attending network events but using LinkedIn and leveraging that social media tool as much as they possibly can.”

LinkedIn is still the No. 1 social platform being used by recruiters and employers, Manko said. Students close to graduating should keep an eye on their profile views and take advantage of LinkedIn’s available features to stay connected with contacts and up-to-date on possible job openings.

“Build your network,” said fashion merchandising professor Dr. Jin Su in an email survey, echoing Manko. “Sometimes, a friend or alumni will provide you with helpful job information.”

Su also gave practical resume advice in her email response.

“Prepare your resume and cover letter carefully,” Su said. “Remember to write emails/letters professionally.”

Because resumes are essentially the first impression employers have of students, they and all written material should be triple-checked for grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors.

Students should also remember to send a thank-you letter after an interview has been conducted, Su said. That small courtesy can leave a positive impression and ultimately grow a student’s professional network.

Desrosiers’ network started growing in May 2013, when he began his internship as a senior. However, juniors, sophomores and even freshmen can start looking into internships, volunteer work and/or actual jobs, as it is never too early to start putting together resumes and portfolios.

Josh Dwyer (senior, accounting) interned with Desrosiers in the fall and continues to work at the SBDC this semester.

“I wish I would have started earlier,” Dwyer said of his internship. “The big thing is just being able to do real-life situations for a long period of time. I mean, I’m confident with myself now, but if I had done this for two years instead of one, I would be like, ‘Wow, I really got what I paid for.’”

“The job-seeker needs to start doing the work they want to do,” Sell said. “If you’re a person seeking work as a professional writer, then start doing professional writing on your own.”

Whenever the inevitable first job offer does come, be it a month after graduation like Desrosiers or a few months later, students should be mindful of the offer’s potential.

“Your dream job is not likely to be there right out of college,” said communications media professor Dr. B. Gail Wilson in an email survey, “but your first job is not your last job … . Take an entry-level job where you can learn new skills and use those skills as a stepping stone to find a better job.”

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