At the end of every semester at The University of Tennessee, thousands of students graduate and move on to the “real world.” A collective sigh of relief is released as graduates no longer need to worry about going to class, taking exams and dealing with the stresses of college. But as many graduates can attest, the real challenge starts after graduation in trying to get a job.
“As graduation day gets closer and closer, you kind of get anxious,” David Ramey, a senior in public administration who is graduating this December said. He began his job search last May and said he is looking for a job working in a government office. For Ramey, the hardest part of his job search process has been maintaining persistence. “It’s real easy to get discouraged when you don’t get callbacks,” he said. But he remains optimistic about finding the type of job he wants.
Director of UT Career Services Russ Coughenour said students should start the job search process as early as possible. “The process should begin with Career Services the very beginning of a student’s senior year,” he said. “(And) I really believe that career readiness begins your freshman year.”
Jessica Adams, a UT alum who graduated in Spring 2006 with a degree in biology, began her job search last August after moving to Madison, Wis. She was looking for a job as a lab technician and was recently hired to an associate research specialist position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s vet school. She started her new job Tuesday. Adams said the hardest part of her job search was “not getting discouraged” when she didn’t get callbacks from employers.
Coughenour advised two things students should do in college before they begin their job search process: get major-related work experience through an internship or part-time job and take on a leadership position in an on-campus organization.
Adams’ college experience prepared her sufficiently for entering the job market. “I feel like my classes prepared me well, but I also had a couple of jobs outside of school working in laboratories,” she said.
Ramey said it’s important for upcoming graduates to first get a good resume built, and second put their resume and themselves out there. Ramey said his most valuable career-related experience during college was a congressional internship he had with Sen. Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) two years ago. And through networking, he has been able to get many contacts in the public administration field, which he said will be helpful in getting him a job. However, Ramey recognizes that government jobs may be more competitive than jobs in the private sector because hiring in the public sector is set by the government’s budget.
“There is some correlation between their (students’) anxiety (in finding a job) and their major,” Coughenour said. It is easier to find a job in a field where the demand is high and the supply of qualified college graduates is moderate. For example, engineering and business majors are typically more confident in knowing they will find a suitable position, he said. But the climate of the current job market for college graduates is very good. “The job market is as good at the entry level as I’ve seen it since before 9/11,” Coughenour said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “2004-14 Job Outlook for College Graduates,” the top five occupations that employ mostly college students with the most projected job openings through 2014 are postsecondary teacher, elementary school teacher, accountant, secondary school teacher and computer software engineer. The highest paying occupation for college graduates is physician or surgeon with an average annual earning of $145,600 in 2004.
Coughenour said when employers want to hire college graduates, they look for someone who “is good interpersonally, seems to have a great attitude, is enthusiastic and knows they are still in learning mode.” Employers also look for a combination of academic achievement and involvement outside of the classroom.
“I think the most important thing is how you come off to people when you talk to them,” Adams said. Out of six interviews she had with employers, four didn’t call back. Adams thought, “I just didn’t have the skills they were looking for, or I didn’t interview very well.”
Coughenour encourages students to look at opportunities beyond the East Tennessee region because “recruiters recognize when students are willing to go where the opportunities are.” Although Ramey said he would rather stay around the Knoxville region, he is for the most part indifferent to relocating to another part of the country for a job.
To make the job search process a little easier, Career Services is available to help students find the right position. Some resources they provide include on-campus recruiting programs, resume-writing sessions, mock interviews and individual career coaching. Coughenour said their most impressive resource is the new Simplicity software system, which is accessible through the Career Services Web site. The system works as a virtual Career Services office where students can post their resume and apply for jobs. Employers can then log on and see which students have applied for a position and can request an interview with a student, which can lead to full-time job employment, Coughenour said.
Adams advised that future graduates should “apply to a lot of different places” and attend workshops for building resumes and interviewing skills.
Career Services hosts on-campus recruiting which happens in the Fall and Spring semesters. Two major job fairs are also coming up: the Summer Job and Internship Fair on Feb. 7 and the Career Expo on Feb. 28. The Simplicity system can be accessed at