N + T = ES. That’s the formula Career Services uses to explain that networking plus timing equals employment success.
For graduates, however, the path to getting a job is more complicated than this simple formula suggests. There’s applying for graduation, counting hours, calculating GPA, constructing a resume, picking up regalia and several other activities necessary before beginning that first day at work.
Graduation Coordinator Lillie Lowery knows the ins and outs of the process and tells students it is ultimately up to them to be prepared for the end of college.
“They have all this criteria they have to meet. It’s more than just filling in the blanks on their degree plan. You have to have a certain amount of hours and upper level criteria,” she said.
This isn’t where the process starts, though. The initial and most crucial step is for seniors to check and make sure the registrar has the correct date for their graduation. If the graduation date is wrong, the whole procedure is delayed. Degree audits are performed each semester for students graduating the next semester.
“We do the degree audits the semester before they graduate. I may never see the student, but I pull their degree audits and look at it and make sure they are in everything they need, and if they’re not, then I contact the student,” Lowery said. “The main thing I go over is the upper level hours, the overall hours, how many chapel credits they have, and I also go over the basic things.”
Unfortunately for some students, they anticipate a certain graduation date but for a variety of possible reasons, they aren’t allowed to walk across the stage.
Lowery said, “Meeting all those extra points is very important. We graduate anywhere from 200 to 300 a semester, and we will maybe lose anywhere from seven to 10.”
The last semester of college is a marathon for students. After they ensure all their academic requirements are met, they begin the tedious process of applying for jobs.
Director of Career Services Don Owens believes that students are qualified to get the jobs they want, but the problem is often that they don’t know how to market themselves well.
“I find that students either don’t give themselves enough credit, or they don’t know how,” Owens said. “It’s important for graduates to prepare their documents the best they can be. They need to be precise and concise to be somewhat of a snapshot of their credentials and what they offer to the prospective employer.”
Even after preparing documents that highlight students’ skills and accomplishments, it’s important for seniors to develop a network base that will offer them job opportunities.
Owens said, “The way the job market has been these last couple of years, there are a lot of jobs you’ll never see advertised. Statistics have proven that 47 percent of successful job searches have come from someone telling somebody about the position. Only 7 percent have been the success of job board listings.”
With statistics like that, Owens believes it’s not only about having the degree but also about looking for jobs in places that might not be expected.
“Even though you’re not healthcare, come to the nursing fair. Even though you’re not business, come to the business fair. Go to anything because you learn from everything you do,” he said.
He also knows that in today’s competitive market, having only a general resume isn’t adequate.
“One resume won’t work for every job opportunity. Customize your resume to pick out things that relate to the job description that you did as you volunteered or did on campus life,” Owens said.
The process of job searching can be overwhelming, but thinking through interests and skills can help seniors focus on areas they are actually interested in. Owens believes this is the best way for seniors to begin hunting for that dream job.
He said, “As early as possible seniors need to sit back and evaluate — ‘What is that job that drove me to earn this degree?’ And then ‘What skills do I have?’ and ‘This is the job I want to have. What skills do they possibly need to have to get that job?’ Then evaluate ‘Do I have these skills?’ and if you don’t have them, find a way to pick them up.”
Senior nursing major Dana Durham understands the stress the last semester of college can bring. She plans to graduate in May and is occupied with classes, verifying information with the registrar and trying to find a job.
“I have money and stuff due for graduation, so I guess I’m just waiting for the deadline. I haven’t done everything. I’m kind of waiting until the last minute because I’m so busy,” she said.
Though Durham has not completed all of the requirements for graduation, she is confident that she will walk the stage because of the help she has received.
She said, “Use the registrar ladies because they are wonderful, and they know exactly what you need to do in order to graduate. Don’t wait until the last minute because if you are missing something, it’s not their fault.”