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Public Affairs

Advice for job-seeking grads

May 21, 2004

Photo of graduating senior Alice Valle who is looking for a computer science jobGraduation is just around the corner -- a time when students close the books and start a new chapter in their lives. Many will continue their educations, seeking specialized credentials or advanced degrees. Others will enter the job market -- a tough, highly competitive arena. Counseling Professor Robert C. Chope and Career Center Director Jack Brewer share advice to help new grads get the most out of a career search.

"We've already started to see an increase in employer outreach this spring compared to last year," reports Brewer, who observes more use of good old low-tech approaches to recruitment.

"We've seen an increase in the number of faxed and printed job postings that our office receives," he notes, reflecting some companies' disenchantment with big-name Internet boards, which are costly and attract overwhelming numbers of applicants.

More positive signs for job-seekers that Brewer has seen: starting salaries are creeping back up (but not to '90s levels), SFSU had good employer participation in its series of spring job fairs, and employers nationwide report they plan to hire 11 percent more college grads this year than last, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Despite the good news, the class of 2004 will enter a highly competitive job market. "They're not only going to be looking for work in a tough environment, they're going to be looking along with more than 2 million people who've been out of work for over 27 months," says counseling Professor Robert Chope.

Chope is a psychologist and career counselor who specializes in the emotional aspects of job hunting and new strategies for discouraged job seekers in the "jobless recovery." He is also founder of the Career and Personal Development Institute in San Francisco and author of the book "Dancing Naked: Breaking Through the Emotional Limits that Keep You from the Job You Want."

"I encourage students to worry less about taking a full-time job and work more toward creating multiple income streams," Chope says. "This is the time of your life to do that. Work 30 hours a week in three different areas with three different companies. It's going to increase the size of your network. It's going to give you three different sets of skills. And, it will give you three different types of training."

Brewer commented that in a strong economy it takes six to nine months to find a job -- and this is still not a good job market.

"Spend that time wisely," he says. "If you graduate in May and haven't begun your job search, get a part-time job with an employer that interests you or volunteer at a not-for-profit agency and improve your job-related skills. Any kind of experience makes you more competitive and helps you develop your transferable skills."

Chope suggests taking a cue from professional actors who develop a portfolio of skills preparing them for a lifetime variety of roles.

Chope also recommends that job-seekers:

  • Maintain contacts, especially with fellow alums and former faculty.
  • Don't do it alone. Host frequent "Tupperware parties" where you meet with other job-seekers and talk over strategies.
  • Ignore titles. "Companies don't exist with linear models anymore--they're less hierarchical and more like a matrix. Don't be insulted to take something that's far below your skill level, because you can maneuver yourself through the organization based on your skills."

Brewer advises students to be open-minded about employers and entry-level positions, flexible, willing to relocate -- and savvy about the ways employers find candidates.

"When NACE asked employers the source they use to find new hires, the top three methods were the company's internship program, co-op program and on-campus interviews," said Brewer. "Internet sites ranked 10th on employers' lists. They asked students what resources they use, and it's almost the opposite -- Internet, career Web sites and career center Web sites were tops, and internships, co-ops and on-campus interviews weren't even in students top ten strategies."

The student who makes employers' strategies a priority while they are in college will have an edge. "When you have an opportunity to talk one-on-one, face-to-face with an employer, go for it," Brewer said.

Learn more about the Career Center.

-- Ellen Griffin
Photo: Public Affairs Student Writer Elizabeth Davis


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Last modified July 27, 2004 by University Communications