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Jobs are waiting

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — Students getting cap-and-gown measurements this spring have more to smile about come graduation day than those of recent years’ past.

Employer turnout at University of Colorado career fairs spiked as much as 10 percent during the 2003-2004 year from the year before, according to Lisa Severy, director of career services.

Those on-campus recruitment figures get rosier when set against national statistics reflecting U.S. employment up in March at the fastest pace in four years.

But with 1.3 million college seniors graduating this spring, competition remains stiff — especially given today’s 3.2 million jobless 20- to 24-year-olds, 9 million eligible stay-at-home parents and a slew of would-be retirees pushed by either high credit card debt or health insurance concerns to rejoin the workforce, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based global outplacement firm.

To help CU students catch the growing job opportunity wave, CU’s career services staff have recommended getting ready well before the degree is in hand.

“I remember one student who came in wearing his cap and gown with his parents in tow — or the parents had him in tow. Whatever the case, he was like a deer in the headlights,” said Nancy Lloyd, assistant director, career services.

Earlier this week, career services counselor George Hoey discussed options with a young woman set to graduate this May, marry in June and move to St. Louis, in July.

With a blank page for a resume, she found herself cramming both for finals and her life thereafter, he said.

The best results ultimately come from more turtle-paced preparation beginning sophomore year — something David Scully, 19, recognized.

“At the moment, it seems really far off,” he said. “But any direction that I go, it’s going to be two years. So I need to pick that direction and start marching.”

With counselors at the main career services office at Willard Hall booked this time of year, he strolled over to the “first-come, first-served” satellite office at the University Memorial Center, which opened January 2003 with underwriting from CU parents.

“If I had to declare what my major is, it would be ‘The Sampler,’” said Scully, waiting in the lobby to see Hoey.

However common, such indecision too often discourages students from seeking guidance, said Lloyd.

“Students sense that they already need to know what direction they’re going. That’s absolutely not true. But I get apologies. There are a lot of ‘shoulds,’” she said.

Students such as Scully nevertheless overcome insecurities, she continued, to select a major, write a resume, build a network list and land an internship, which very often leads to a job.

“This process helps them hone their strengths and honor their strengths,” Lloyd said.

Free assessment tools, Hoey added, can quickly clarify basic preferences. So, he encouraged Scully to take the 180-question preference inventory to determine if working with ideas, people or things appealed most.

“It helps you sort of back into a major and go from there,” Hoey said.

The two then pulled up a Web site of career/major fast facts regarding internships, working conditions, wages and career possibilities. He recommended rileyguide.com, jobweb.com and CU’s own career services for 24-hour guidance on resume writing and the like.

Hoey also reminded Scully to shadow CU alumni and conduct informational interviews.

“These types of experiences can help solidify your ambition or just totally crush it when you realize that it’s not what you thought it was,” he said.

Scully, who had been up until 3:30 a.m. writing a paper and up again at 7:20 a.m., knows how to cram. And when graduation day comes around for him in 2006, there will still be some of that in the job hunt. But that is exactly when preparation and a good attitude pay off, according to Severy.

“It’s stressful for everybody and more so at the entry-level,” she said. “A lot of this does come down to energy.”

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-776-2244 Ext. 224 or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.