Networking and strong résumés key for new grads

Career services helps students prepare for post-college life and job searches

By Libby Campbell, Senior Reporter



For the nearly 1.8 million soon-to-be college graduates across the country, springtime can mean one of several things: warmer weather, longer days or full-on panic as they begin to search for jobs relevant to their degree.

To ease that stress, the job-hunting process should ideally start months before commencement, according to Dena Ogden, employer relations manager at Career Services.

This includes finalizing résumés, practicing for interviews, pinpointing prospective employers and asking faculty members for letters of recommendation.

“They can have all of that ready and lined up so when graduation rolls around, they’re not stuck,” she said. “What happens is come June, all of the new graduates in the region, even nationally, are doing the same thing.”

To help prepare them for post-college life, students can take advantage of the many resources on campus, including the Career Services office.

Students can meet with advisers for nearly any aspect of the job-hunting process. Résumé consultation is an area Virgina Hinch, director of Career Services, strongly recommends.

“Résumés are one of those things that students don’t tend to work on until they’re driven by a job, then they’re super crunched time-wise. And I have to say, it shows on the résumé,” Hinch said.

The earlier students schedule appointments with advisers, the better.

“Plan early, because [advisers] will get super jammed up as spring quarter comes and commencement approaches. The sooner they can plan, the better time that would be,” Hinch said.

Career Services advisers also conduct mock interviews specifically tailored to the field students are most interested in pursuing.

A program called Interview Stream is also available to help sharpen interview skills. Students record themselves answering interview questions relevant to their intended job field.

“They can play it back and watch that themselves. It’s awkward and super uncomfortable at first, but the more you practice, the more comfortable you get,” Hinch said.

When it comes time to search for that first post-degree job, students can peruse Eagle AXIS, a free job search tool available to both current students and alumni. All Eastern alumni will have access to their account for life.

The job postings on Eagle AXIS come directly from employers and from Listserv, so they are already filtered for current students and recent graduates.

Hinch and Ogden also recommend browsing and for job postings, as well as going straight to companies of interest to look at their specific job listings.

Going straight to the source can be a good way for students to network with professionals and learn more about the areas that interest them as well.

“What we tell a lot of students is, ‘When you’re in that student mode, people are really forgiving when you want to reach out and ask questions,’” Ogden said. “It’s a great avenue for someone approaching graduation to check in with someone who has an ideal job that they’re looking for to do an informational interview, or even to just look at what their LinkedIn profile looks like and what their path has been.”

In addition to finalizing résumés and practicing interviews, students should also consider examining their online presence.

“They will Google you,” Hinch said. “We hear that from every employer we talk to, that they’re going to Google you. They’re going to check Facebook.”

Social media sites allow users to apply various privacy settings, and students should take advantage of that to help keep their private lives separate from their progressing professional ones.

“If you’re using Facebook and Twitter strictly personally, there’s nothing wrong with making them private. I would say LinkedIn is the one to really identify yourself as a professional, and put care into that one,” Ogden said.

LinkedIn is a free professional social network that allows users to build contacts, upload résumés and connect with other professionals.

“If they’re going to go Google a student and actually see this person has a LinkedIn account and they’re professional, that is a huge plus,” Hinch said.

Faculty play a key role in students’ professional development, and they can be a valuable resource when making the transition from college to the workforce.

“You have this opportunity while you’re in school to have these amazing resources like faculty. While you’re still here, make the absolute most of that,” Hinch said.

Employers often ask for professional letters of recommendation, and Hinch and Ogden urge students to not be shy about asking trusted faculty members to write those letters.

“Think about who has really influenced your career, think about telling them that, and then think about if you have people who you’d like to write letters, [ask them] really early,” Hinch said. “I think often faculty are much more eager to be advocates for students than students realize. They might feel embarrassed to ask, but they shouldn’t because faculty are a great resource.”

Faculty can also help students connect with professionals in their chosen field.

“There are so many faculty on our campus that have fabulous connections to Spokane industry and even outside the area,” Ogden said. “For students who have good relationships with faculty, I would say talk to them about your search and see what suggestions they have or if they know of anyone.”

It is also important to remember that as the temperature creeps up, so does the senioritis that entices students to skip class or spend more time out in the sunshine, often disregarding homework or studying.

“It hits everyone,” Ogden said.

Senioritis can be combated by simply making to-do lists and sticking to them.

“Space out all of the things … leading up until the end of the quarter, and just do a little bit each week. Then [you’re] not procrastinating, but not spending a ton of time every week losing [your] sunshine,” she said.

While wrapping up a college career can seem like a whirlwind time in a student’s life, Hinch said it is crucial to stay involved with volunteering, clubs and professional organizations.

“So many networks happen that way,” she said. “Sometimes I think students think they’re too busy to do that, but those are some of the greatest ways. The biggest challenge is, yes you’re super busy with school, but now you’re taking on this whole new leap, and the more involved you can be, the easier I think that transition becomes.”

EWU’s Career Services office is located in 114 Showalter Hall.