As the semester moves closer to winter break, Shippensburg University seniors are faced with a panic different from that of finals.
Where will I live next year? Where will I work? What do I need to do to make myself stand out to employers?
By May, many graduating students have the answer to at least one of those questions. For some, this is due, in part, to the services offered at SU’s Career, Mentoring and Professional Development Center (CMPDC).
One such service was the Oct. 4 fall career fair. In the minutes leading up to 1 p.m. — the fair’s start time — students congregated in the ShipRec’s lobby before heading into the gymnasium.
Once inside, they were handed blank name tags and told to leave their bags at the door. Then, some appearing nervous and others self-assured, the students joined the cluster of employers in the middle of the gymnasium.
Heather Weber, a recruiting specialist from Retail Business Services, said her company regularly attends SU career fairs because of the university’s reputation.
“It’s a strong school to pull intelligent students,” she said, adding that her SU alumni friends were also a motivation.
An important factor for employers was the SU connection — many companies already had SU alumni as employees, and wanted more.
“Shippensburg has excellent students who are very prepared to enter the career field,” said Brad Varner, a human resources analyst at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
Varner said the board was looking for students at the fair qualified for administrative, finance, logistics and supply chain management positions. Although these positions are very experience- and business-oriented, Varner insisted that skills known as “soft” are just as important.
“We are looking for someone who is enthusiastic and likes to work with the public,” he said.
Lorie Davis, CMPDC director of mentoring and employer relations, said this fall’s fair offered a “bigger array” of employers in order to attract students of various majors.
Many of the employers sought to fill business-related openings, but numerous human services jobs were also available.
Davis said two of the biggest mistakes students can make when starting out in the career field is dressing unprofessionally and having their phone out too often.
She emphasized the importance of networking, which is one of the main objectives of events like career fairs. Davis claimed that many SU alumni will make applicants from SU a priority during the hiring process.
“Your resume gets put to the top of the pile when networking,” she said.
While not every student may get a job right after graduation, the unemployment rate of college graduates is actually quite low.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last year that only about 2.5 percent — or 1 in 40 college students — were unemployed.
When a large number of students talk to the same employers, however, it can become difficult to stand out.
Some fields, like communication/journalism, are experience instead of academic-based. Experience-based jobs make it easier for students to stand apart from one another, while others — including business jobs — are more difficult to find the best candidates in a sea of talented applicants.
SU master of business administration (MBA) recruitment Director Alix Rouby prepares approximately 350 students a year to deal with that dilemma.
One way to do so is by emphasizing student involvement during one’s collegiate career, according to Rouby.
“That is what’s really going to set you apart from other students,” she said.
A large part of Rouby’s time is also spent editing students’ resumes.
“Everything you do in your day-to-day experience is going to help build your resume,” Rouby said. “It’s important to build a strong resume while you’re here.”
Most importantly, however, is how students present themselves to future employers, Rouby said. SU’s College of Business prepares students for this through etiquette dinners and the Innovation Hour Mixer, hosted by the Charles H. Diller Jr. Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and Innovation.
Davis and Rouby mentioned a variety of other on-campus opportunities for students who are uncertain of how to prepare for the job market.
“Clothes the Deal” provides free, professional clothing to students who cannot afford to buy them for interviews. The service is open to students on Tuesdays from 4-6 p.m. and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Students who would like resume, cover letter or interview advice can visit the CMPDC each week day from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.