April 15, 2010

Pam Keiser, director of Bucknell's Career Development Center.

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LEWISBURG, Pa. — Welcome again to "Ask the Experts," a regular web feature that highlights the expertise of various Bucknellians in a range of topics related to current news events and other timely subjects. || Ask the Experts archive

This week, we asked Pam Keiser, associate executive director of alumni relations and career services and director of the Career Development Center, about the Post Graduate Report for the Class of '09, job prospects for the soon-to-be graduated Class of '10 and what undergraduates can do to prepare themselves for the job market.

Q: Let's start with the just released Post Graduate Report for the Class of '09. Despite a start-and-stutter economy, the results are pretty solid. Can you give us a few of the highlights and what that says about a Bucknell education? 

A: We have a very good idea where our graduates are going. We're quite fortunate to have a 98 percent survey response rate, which is terrific. It allows us to know we have very credible and reliable information on a Bucknell education for the Class of 2009.

Some highlights: 59 percent of the class is employed their first step out of Bucknell and 23 percent are pursuing graduate or professional school study. We had a small percentage that opted to travel or volunteer or do a combination of both.

The piece that is striking is that 5 percent were still seeking. The reason that is striking is that compared to the Class of 2008 the number was actually lower. And that's a great story to tell for Bucknell because, while the Class of 2008 had their own challenges with the marketplace, you would have anticipated that number being higher for 2009 due to the economy. It's actually 2 percentage points lower — 7 percent (for 2008) compared to 5 percent (for 2009).

What that tells us is that employers and graduate schools alike highly value a Bucknell education - even in times of economic challenge and economic downturn. That's a really good indication of the value of a Bucknell education and the reputation that the University has in the marketplace.

Q: For the Class of '10 graduates, what job prospecting advice do you have?

A:  I would tell them to be persistent. I would tell them to not give up and to put hard work and effort toward their search. If they've been searching or if they haven't started an active search yet, the good news is that there does seem to be some positive momentum in the marketplace. We've been seeing it and experiencing it the last two to three months on a daily basis with leads and opportunities coming in — some of which we're cultivating through the internship challenge and through our on-campus recruiting outreach that we do with employers. But employers are also proactively reaching out to us to offer opportunities to Bucknellians — in a way we haven't seen such energy and enthusiasm for during last fall.

Throughout this academic year, we've seen employers being more cautious and more conservative in their hiring decisions. We're now seeing that changing. We're actually seeing opportunities come through at a later point in time in the spring semester than what you typically might see when the economy is really strong. Some of the leads are from industries who usually have wrapped up recruiting activity at this point in the academic year. Granted, it's at a moderate pace, but it's positive momentum.

Q: What does the picture look like for summer internships?

A: I was just working with a group of first-year students and they posed the question, "Is it too late for a summer job or internship?" I shared with them that I would normally say we're getting towards the end of the season. But this year, because it's such a wild and different year and the economy had such an impact on the employers and the cautiousness that they'd been proceeding with, that there are still plenty of good opportunities out there. Some people may be just making those decisions now. You should still be seeking. It's not too late. But you need to show initiative and interest on your part.

I also told them to consider unpaid internships. That can be challenging, especially if you need to earn money to come back to school. But what we tell students is ask employers if they'd be willing to be flexible with the number of hours you may be able to dedicate. Why shouldn't a student say to an employer, "I want to take this opportunity. It is unpaid, but would you be willing work with me so that I might be able to work with you one, two or three days a week rather than five days a week? That way I can pick up a second position that might be in retail or in hospitality where I might be able to have the flexibility to work nights or weekends and still earn a good wage to save money to come back to school but also take advantage of your experience, which gives me some practical experience in the career path I'm considering." That approach allows everyone to win.

Q: What are some of the things that the Bucknell Career Development Center can help with?

A: We can help with creating an action plan and basic job search strategies. We offer counseling and advising appointments and can coach students on how to have effective one-on-one conversations with alumni and students to talk about their unique interests and plans and where they're at with their search. Alumni and parents have valuable tips, suggestions and sometimes even leads to offer to students and alumni who are seeking employment. We like to call it sharing "pearls of wisdom."

We can help with writing a resume, understanding how to write a resume and putting that important document together. We can work on understanding how to write an effective cover letter and the benefits of networking, what networking actually is and how you do it effectively.

When it comes to networking, it's important for students and alumni alike to know about the hidden job market. Some 70 to 80 percent of jobs that are available never actually make it to the advertising stage. Word of mouth strategies or campaigns that might be conducted internally inside an organization or leads posted on a social networking site or a job board of some sort — those sorts of insider-type tips that an organization has an opening or may be hiring is how most jobs are filled.

Just 20 to 30 percent of jobs are actually pushed through to the point of print advertising, online advertising or, perhaps, put up on an organization's website. So, it's key that you just don't focus all of your efforts on looking at job postings, job listings or classifieds in the newspaper, but that you also reach out to people and ask, "Is your organization hiring?" Introduce yourself and ask, "What advice and recommendations would you have for me? How does your hiring process work? Who might be a good point of contact for me to reach out to? Who might I send a resume to? What timelines are you working with?" That can all be gained by conversations with people who work inside the organizations that you are very much are interested in pursuing for employment opportunities. That takes a little more effort and work than looking at online job listings and browsing the classifieds every weekend, but it can pay off in leaps and bounds.

The other beauty of that is that if the individual you've reached out to isn't hiring, they may know of a colleague in another organization who is and they may share that with you. It's that six degrees of separation story — so and so knows so and so knows so and so and, hey, they're hiring.

For the Class of 2009, 8 percent indicated they secured employment through contact with Bucknell alumni or faculty. That's a benefit of Bucknell. It is a community that is based on relationships. Alums and parents and friends of the University are interested in what our current Bucknell students and our alumni population are doing. They understand and they recognize the value of a Bucknell education and the type of work ethic and experience that a Bucknellian brings to the table. If you can engage in that community, it enhances the chances that you'll develop this networking community for yourself that will not only pay off in the short term but also pay off in many ways long term throughout your career.

New editions of "Ask the Experts" will appear on the Bucknell website on most Thursdays during the fall and spring semesters and on occasion throughout the summer. If you have ideas for future questions or are a faculty or staff member who would like to participate, please contact Sam Alcorn.

To learn more about faculty and staff experts who can speak on a variety of news topics, visit Bucknell's searchable Experts Guide.

Contact: Division of Communications


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