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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Advisers: Job choice not a matter of major

Landing that first job after college might not be as daunting of a challenge as many graduates from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences think.

Nearly 200 of 316 students in the college surveyed by UA Career Services in May, August and December reported that they were still looking for employment after graduation. However, John McNeill, a senior academic adviser for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, said the biggest misconception most graduating seniors have is that their job options are tied to their majors.

“A lot of times students about to graduate will come in and ask me, ‘Where will my major take me?’” he said. “The answer is, ‘Where do you want to go?’”

McNeill said learning how to collect, organize and communicate vast amounts of data effectively are marketable skills for government positions, nonprofit organizations and the private sector. He said most students in the college struggle with finding employers that are hiring and learning how to communicate their skills effectively.

The FBI, CIA, National Security Agency and other federal agencies have a long tradition of employing history, social anthropology and other majors from the college, McNeill said, to analyze the customs and traditions of foreign countries where they operate.

“Students often have this perception that the only jobs at places like the FBI are field agent and they won’t even look,” he said. “That’s not the case. The FBI has all kinds of jobs, a lot of which are perfect for SBS graduates. A lot of times finding a position requires one to break through the perceived notions of what certain agencies and businesses do.”

UA President Eugene Sander said students with several internships and a lot of firsthand interview experience put themselves ahead of their peers.

“We talk in higher education about the value of a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “However, what we need to remember is that while a degree has great value to a student, they still need the training and job coaching to put that degree to work.”

Sander said the UA administration is ramping up its focus on career training and preparation for students during college, especially for those in the social sciences.

“I’ve always seen the rub to be for the students in social sciences,” he said. “We are really concerning ourselves about changing that.”

He said the schools and departments that are most successful in placing graduates in the workforce require job coaching and interview training for students, like the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences.

“About 90 percent of the students in that program take some form of job coaching and pursue an internship with a store like Macy’s, Walmart or (JC) Penney’s,” he said. “Seventy percent of those students were given an opportunity for a first job with that company.”

Renee Schafer Horton, academic adviser for UA School of Journalism, said she agrees with McNeill’s approach of encouraging students to branch out while job hunting. Of the roughly 65 graduating journalism seniors, just over half have reported to Horton that they have found employment. About a quarter of the journalism students graduating in May have found employment in a field outside of print or broadcast reporting, Horton said.

“People are freaking out because they think their degree is tied to their job,” she said. “That’s just not true. Every business has a media relations department. You have to recognize that as a good writer, you can take a product as simple as a widget and sell it. A lot of people can’t even describe what a widget is.”

Horton said the first thing she tells job-hunters to do is to check out the employment listings, interview training opportunities and resume building workshops offered at Career Services.

“I don’t believe students at the UA take adequate advantage of the career services available to them,” she said. “I would estimate about 3 percent of my students have used these services.”

Courtney Groves, a finance senior, will start work this May as a consultant for San Francisco-based Factset Research Systems Inc., a finance performance company that works with investment banks and wealth management firms. She said while it is not required for Eller students to use the school’s job coaching services to land internships and jobs, almost everyone does.

“From the point where you apply to get in to Eller to your first job, there is an emphasis on training students to have the right experience, resume and interview skills to get where they want to go,” she said. “It’s a practical approach and one of the reasons why I think Eller graduates are traditionally successful.”

Horton said many schools and departments in Social and Behavioral Sciences are starting to adopt this approach. The School of Journalism is instituting mandatory career planning to help new students figure out what they want to do post-graduation to keep them on track.

Horton said students will soon be required to meet with the school’s internship coordinator periodically throughout their collegiate career and take job coaching seminars from Career Services.

“Whether you are pre-med, a business major or in journalism,” she said, “You don’t get what you pay for from college, you get what you work for.”

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