Professionals share work strategies with students

by Chris Hamilton

Twenty-two percent of all college graduates now going into the work force will be unemployed or working in jobs that do not require a college degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Office for Special Learning Opportunities held its first Career Information Day Wednesday in Coffman Union to help students avoid becoming a part of that statistic.
Representatives from 63 local companies shared information and advice, geared primarily toward College of Liberal Arts students, about entering the work force. “We are basically focusing on education-based, long-term career planning,” said Lisa Murphy, events coordinator for the office. “We’re asking employers to talk about what trends they are seeing in hiring, academic backgrounds and experience students should have and what the employers value.”
The conference-style event featured eight two-hour panels where professionals discussed information about their companies and offered strategies for acquiring jobs.
Sherryl Livingston, principal planner for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, offered strategies for getting a job at her company. “How you would get into our agency is through an internship or as a student worker, like I did. If there is a permanent opening, we look to someone we know,” she said.
The panel sessions, which were packed with about 50 students, were divided into eight different fields, including media and communications, manufacturing and technology, nonprofit and government and retail and hospitality.
Lisa Stotlar, associate director of Career Services, said “It really gives students a chance to exchange information or at least learn about a variety of fields.”
Instead of the traditional format of job fairs — where companies line-up in information booths — this conference’s format was more structured. In the first hour of the sessions, representatives from places such as Norwest Mortgage, Cargill, KTCA-Channel 2 and the Peace Corps talked about their companies. The second hour was devoted to a question-and-answer session and afterward students had an opportunity to network with representatives.
“What I like to see is (that) top executives from local companies care so much to come and lecture and give advice,” said Anne McClintock, a senior sociology student.
Not all of the students were pleased with the nontraditional format of Career Information Day. “It’s a little different than I expected,” said Mitch Hanley, a senior in religious studies. “It’s not an ordinary job fair. The chance to speak with reps is helpful, but, depending on who you talk to, they kind of seem more interested in general panel addresses than personal conversation.”
Company representatives promoted a variety of skills and strategies for potential job hunters.
“Get as much work experience as you can while in school,” said Kirk Friedman, a human resources generalist at The Hartford, an insurance company. “Be proactive in your job search. Do research, talk to alumni currently working in the company you’re looking into, shadow someone and develop your writing and communications skills.”
Meeting with professionals and making contacts was one of the focuses of the day. A goal of the conference was to highlight the function of interacting with professionals. “Networking is critical,” said Carl Brandt, director of the hosting office. “We made it a conference to give employers access to students who are truly sincere and targeted. Networking keeps you current in latest developments, and makes you aware of the hidden job market that is not advertised in the newspapers or job search services.”
The office convened three workshops throughout the day. They were for strategic interviewing, resume writing and business careers for liberal arts majors.
The office also conducted an all-day drop-in resume critique service. Career services counselors from throughout the University volunteered to help with the influx of students. “It was very helpful,” said Amy Olson, a senior. “I’m basically rewriting the entire thing. I’m a PR major and resumes are the tool for promoting yourself.”