Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Hard work, creativity will help graduates tackle job market

There are still jobs available, but finding them takes hard work, creativity, and a little bit of gumption.

Mary Michael Hawkins, director of the University of Denver’s Career Center, says that while 2009 DU grads face a challenging job market, they should not despair.

“People are getting jobs, it’s just taking longer; students are having to work harder, and they are having to be more creative,” she says.

Despite the bleak economic times—the 2009 spring survey by the National Association of College and Employers predicts a 22 percent decrease in the number of new grads hired this year compared to last year—Hawkins says many of the students and alumni she has seen in the Career Center are optimistic about the future.

She says the healthcare (including business support functions), financial planning, insurance, information technology and federal sectors are stable or growing.

Hawkins has also seen an increase in students who are applying to programs like Teach for America and Americorps, or who are looking for jobs teaching English abroad.

“These are good opportunities for students to try out a career field, explore different options, or take a bit of a break before applying to grad school,” she says.

Hawkins says many open positions are never advertised and must be uncovered through personal contacts. She recommends job seekers attend networking events, join professional organizations, and conduct informational interviews.

“Students need to be proactive to tap the hidden job market,” she says. “It’s less about computer time and more about face time,” she says.”

Leah Konrady, a 2008 DU geography grad, is a master of face time. By working her connections and making intermediate steps along the way, she landed a dream job on Capitol Hill.

Konrady began her career search three months prior to graduation with a stop at the Career Center to prepare a resumé, get job search advice and practice interviewing skills. After returning home to Indiana, she was accepted into a fellowship program with the Obama campaign. That experience led her to other opportunities working on political campaigns in Indiana.  She also traveled to Chicago and Washington, D.C., to conduct informational interviews.

During an informational interview with Congressman Peter Visclosky’s (D-Ind.) office, she learned of an internship opportunity. She took the unpaid position, which eventually turned into a paid internship and then a full-time paid position as a legislative correspondent.

“Leah networked like mad,” says Hawkins.  “It hasn’t been handed to her and she’s worked very hard to get this position.”

Konrady credits her ability to network and her openness to any and all opportunities with her success.

“The hardest part about networking is asking people to help me, she says. “But most of the time, people are excited to help.”

Hawkins recommends that graduating job seekers should start the hunt now and plan on spending significant time on the job search process.

“It’s almost like having another class, and you need to be very intentional and schedule the time for it every day,” Hawkins says. “Hang in there, work hard and keep at it—it’s not all doom and gloom.”

There are more online resources for job seekers, including DU’s Optimal Resume site and the Daniels College of Business’ Interview Stream site.

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