For seniors graduating in less than a month, the job hunt can be particularly stressful. Assistant Director of Vanderbilt’s Center for Student Professional Development Dorrie Presson offers tips for seniors who are still searching for work after graduation.
In the last week of classes, seniors still searching for jobs may be experiencing a heightened state of panic as they prepare to leave Vanderbilt without concrete plans in place. But Dorrie Presson, assistant director of Vanderbilt’s Center for Student Professional Development, has one thing to say: It’s not too late.
Presson notes that with an influx of seniors seeking the center’s services after spring break, the second half of second semester can be a particularly stressful time for students aiming to enter the work force but have not yet accepted job offers.
“Sometimes they stress about the stress, and sometimes the stress leads you to not take any action, and that leads to more stress,” Presson said. “Any time you’re in this mode of high stress, high pressure, just doing something, taking action, moving forward is a good remedy.”
Presson offers tips on what action to take if you’re still on the job hunt rather than allowing the stress to envelop you:
1. Know how to tell your story
The Center for Student Professional Development often coaches students about communicating their experiences and relating them to the jobs they seek.
“What you’re trying to do as you’re searching for your internships or jobs is to connect the dots from your experiences outside the classroom — in service organization in volunteerism in student organizations — to the position,” Presson said.
According to Presson, even if a student has yet to have an internship or work experience, on-campus involvement or work in the community can demonstrate one’s abilities and potential for the position. Knowing how to communicate the challenges and successes of any role can improve the quality of an application. The Center for Student Professional Development offers an array of services, such as mock interviews, to coach students on how to communicate their story better.
2. Be self-aware
Not only must students understand how their story relates to their employer, but they must also be able to identify their strengths in that story. Presson tends to ask students, “Do they know what their strengths are? Do they know their interests and values — their transferable skills? Can they articulate those?”
But understanding your strengths is only the first step. Knowing where you want to use those strengths can be more difficult.
“If you don’t know what you’re looking for, that’s a real challenge in the job search,” Presson said.
3. Leverage your network
Presson notes that students often rely too heavily on online postings, sending off their resumes without giving much thought to where these end up.
“People hire people, so it’s important that we help students realize the value of connecting with individuals in those companies they’re pursuing,” Presson said. “If you just apply online, you are one of many hundreds or more of these applications coming in, so we really help students understand their own personal network and how to leverage the Vanderbilt alumni network, because that’s critical.”
In order to better leverage the Vanderbilt network, students can access DoreWays, which lists job postings specific to Vanderbilt students, and VUConnect, which connects students to alumni working with desired companies. Even if there are no job postings for a certain company, Presson encourages students to reach out to an alumnus at that company, as making these connections can often help students find opportunities in the field.
4. Remember the center's resources even after you graduate
Though you may no longer be within a 15-minute walk from the Center for Student Professional Development, almost the entire range of its services are available to students up to two years after they graduate. Many recent alumni still use Skype for coaching sessions or even attend company information sessions and workshops.
“We want students to continue to engage with us if they’re still searching or maybe they take a job and it wasn’t a good fit for them,” Presson said.
The Center for Student Professional Development is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the center and available resources after graduation, visit http://vanderbilt.edu/career.