A Lilly Endowment grant to the Career Center is helping Indiana State graduates — new and not-so-new — become better professionals and navigate sometimes rough employment waters.
As graduates walk across the stage this semester and receive their degree, they will open themselves up to a world of possibilities. A mixture of excitement, nervousness, confidence and maybe a little fear swirl in their heads. For some, graduate school is the next step, while others are headed straight into the workforce.
For each graduate, there is a “checklist” of details and tasks they must consider as they begin their career journey — build a résumé, have a wardrobe of professional attire, clean up their social media presence and prepare for interviews. If they visited the Indiana State University Career Center during their college years, they can be assured they are more prepared than most.
“I definitely utilized the Career Center while I was at ISU,” said spring 2014 graduate Shelby Kitch. “I had professional headshots taken, which I used to help market myself on various online recruiting websites. They also helped me put my résumé together.”
Built on a grant received from the Lilly Endowment, the Career Center has created a professional development program called “Focus Indiana” that not only helps students prepare for their post-graduate careers, but also helps them find internships and job-shadowing opportunities while they are at Indiana State.
“Lilly’s intention is to educate our students to be professionals, to know more about the workplace and be ready for the workplace and to keep them in the state of Indiana,” said Darby Scism, career services executive director for the Career Center. “So we are working to groom not only the student development and the professionalism of the students, but also developing relationships with Indiana employers.”
From fall 2012 to spring 2014, Indiana State graduates have accepted jobs most often in healthcare, education, social service and nonprofit, technology, manufacturing and transportation and logistics. Of those graduates 62 percent received jobs in the state of Indiana and 77 percent of graduates stayed in the Midwest.
“We want employers to think of Indiana State when it’s time to post a position or go to a career fair, or when they want to host students for a field trip,” Scism said. She said she also wants alumni to look to Indiana State for their own business when they are seeking to hire employees.
The Career Center staff also serves as liaisons to different academic departments and organizations on campus. Through the liaisons, professors and organizational advisers can request presentations, workshops and trainings that are specific to their students’ needs. The Career Center services and resources are available free of charge to recent graduates and alumni for as long as they need them.
“We bring everything from career exploration to networking to job searches and résumés and tailoring it to toward different groups,” said Matt Hetzel, career services assistant director and liaison to the Scott College of Business.
So how does one prepare to leave college and enter the workforce? It boils down to a few key elements, and the Career Center is helping students in those areas.
According to Scism, internships, industry-related experiences, major class projects and and leadership roles should be the main focus of any recent college graduate’s résumé.
“We want students to stop just listing everything on their résumé and start explaining how they used their skills in those experiences,” she said.
Another important addition a graduate should add to their résumé is any study abroad experiences.
“Employers like to see cultural competence,” Hetzel said. “Particularly if you’re applying to an employer that has locations all over the world, it’s important to not just know a society’s cultural values but also how they do business.”
The face-to-face interview can no doubt be intimidating, because it is based heavily on first impressions.
“A lot of it starts with your nonverbal communication, so that is most definitely a smile and a firm handshake,” Hetzel said.
Another way to make a good first impression is to dress appropriately and modestly.
“We try to have our students dress a little more conservative for interviews,” Scism said. “We don’t want them dressing too trendy. It doesn’t have to be black, brown or navy blue. It can be fashionable, but there is a difference between fashion and too trendy.”
The Career Center offers free clothing to students in need of interview or work attire.
The Career Center offers networking opportunities through various opportunities and events. However, they encourage students to also extend their networking beyond Indiana State’s campus.
“Do as much networking as you can on campus, but don’t forget family friends and your friends,” Hetzel said. “Leave no stone unturned.”
As for final words of wisdom from a recent college graduate, Kitch, who graduated with a criminology degree and works for the Vigo County Community Corrections, advises students to be open to any and all possibilities.
“Begin looking early on for a job and don’t limit yourself to certain things,” she said.