Senior survey shows plans for graduating students

By Meghan O'Kelly

As the commencement countdown narrows to four weeks for graduating seniors, many are still ironing out their post-college plans, while others acquired full-time work months ago.

The 2007 Chancellor’s Senior Survey was administered in March of last year to the 4,961 seniors on the May 2007 graduation list. Approximately 55 percent responded with the incentive of winning two airline tickets valued at $500 each. The Colleges of Business and Engineering claimed the highest frequency of students who had already acquired full-time work, while the Colleges of LAS and AHS had the highest percentage of students who had already been accepted to graduate school.

Kathi Ritten, academic adviser for speech and hearing science, said the majority of students in the major attend graduate school after obtaining their undergraduate degree. She said students are exposed to the application process upon entering their area of study through an orientation class specific to each major in AHS.

“It’s all about connecting students to research and support, educating them about opportunities in their fields,” Ritten said.

Lois Meerdink, assistant dean of business career services, said the College of Business offers assistance including Symplicity, an online resource where employers post jobs and students can post their resumes. The college also invites students to talk to advisers, participate in mock interviews and resume reviews and reflect upon previous interviews to determine where they might have gone wrong. Students in the College of Business are assessed a supplemental charge on their tuition for these services.

“We are very, very interested in knowing what their status is,” she said. “If they are still in the job market, we want to know so we can offer assistance to them.”

Mike Kirchner, senior in Business, has acquired a full-time position with the firm where he worked as an intern last summer. He credits the Business Career Services and the college’s strong reputation for its high job placement percentage.

“They have made the process something you do as a freshman, so by the time you’re a junior and a senior, most students have pretty strong resumes and internships,” Kirchner said. “Business students are pretty exceptional students.”

Meerdink said that internships have steadily become a more important part of the employment process. She explained that companies benefit while students have the opportunity to evaluate a company’s culture, training and projects.

“Companies want to identify students who would be good prospects for full-time offers,” Meerdink said. “It’s really a win-win situation, but that means students need to get their act together earlier.”

Meerdink said that students who do not have access to the College of Business’ career services still have many opportunities at their fingertips. She suggested the Career Center, the Alumni Association online directory and Always Illinois as resources for students on the job hunt.

“Alums are excited about what they are doing and are more than willing to share with fellow Illini,” she said. “Companies are looking for bright minds, goal-setters and students that show initiative, and these students come from many fields.”

Ashley Scott, senior in LAS, started on the road to a permanent position at the Business Career Fairs the last two semesters. She recently accepted a full-time offer at a staffing firm in Chicago.

“I think in any career path, skills are more important than what major your diploma reads,” she said, explaining that it is important for students to express confidence and communicate their strengths to a potential employer. “I think the business world today is looking for individuals who have great communication skills and the ability to think outside the box.”

Sarah Zehr, assistant dean and director of Engineering Career Services, explained that an increasing number of employers are hiring engineers, including financial services and consulting companies, because of engineers’ analytical skills and other skills they acquire in the college.

“We provide the resources they need to find a job,” she said. “We encourage students to come in as early as they can.”

Zehr said that other aspects of Engineering Career Services include access to Symplicity and other services for a $40 one-time fee and visits to Engineering 100 classes.

Jessie Laing, senior in Media, is looking for a job in advertising or marketing. She said she has e-mailed about 15 companies and only heard back from three or four. Her next step is to apply at lesser-known agencies where the applicant pool is smaller.

“In a lot of colleges, the recruiters come to you, and basically, you research them and go to a career fair, talk to them, and then they seek you,” Laing said, explaining that many of her professors blame the recession for some students’ troubles. “We have to seek the employer, and you spend so much time researching, and a lot of times you don’t get any response.”