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Notre Dame community offers career advice

Sara Felsenstein | Monday, February 1, 2010

As the spring semester rolls into its second month, students are intensifying their search for summer internships and full time jobs.

Kevin Monahan, associate director of the Notre Dame Career Center, said if students looking for summer internships have not begun the application process, they should do so immediately. He said landing a job or internship in today’s economy takes more effort than simply filling out applications.

“Students should be identifying potential employers, they should be applying for those opportunities, they should be reaching out and networking for additional opportunities with smaller companies,” Monahan said.

Monahan said one of the most helpful things students going through the application process can do is reach out to young alumni who are working in the same company or field. These alumni, Monahan said, are almost always willing to give students specific tips about the company’s hiring process.

Monahan said career fairs like Wednesday’s Career and Internship Fair are great opportunities for younger students to identify what characteristics employers look for in their applicants. He said before this year’s fair, students should make sure that their résumés, cover letters and any other necessary documents are finalized and presentable.

“Go in with a game plan, don’t set high expectations and make a good impression on the employers,” he said. 

Career fairs never translate directly into a job or internship offer, Monahan said, but they do allow students to make connections with employers.

“I’ve never met a student who walked out of a career fair with a job or internship in hand,” Monahan said. “There’s always a face-to-face part of hiring process … what you can accomplish is gathering information and you can also make a good impression with an employer. That personal interaction does count quite a bit.”

Senior Lindsay Ruhling, who signed with Deloitte earlier this year, encourages students to familiarize themselves with the Go IRISH page on the Career Center’s Web site before attending the fair.

“The Go IRISH site was a great tool for me to see what companies would be at the fair so I could research them beforehand and get an idea of which jobs I was really interested in before talking to their recruiters and applying for positions,” Ruhling said.

Sophomores and juniors often fear that with fewer jobs open for seniors and recent graduates, internships once offered to younger college students will no longer be available.

Monahan said decreased internship opportunities are not usually a result of older students filling the positions.

“The number of internship positions is down a little bit,” Monahan said. “A company that would normally take one hundred [interns] is now maybe taking 80. Let’s say with advertising, they will look at a recent graduate for an internship, but other industries won’t. It’s not tougher because of [seniors and graduated students], it’s tougher because there are fewer positions,” he said.

Some companies, Monahan said, have traditionally offered only unpaid internships. Others under financial pressure have been turning paid internships into unpaid internships. Many students are not limiting themselves this year by applying only to paid internships.

“I feel that with the current job market it’s necessary to be flexible and apply to both paid and unpaid internships,” sophomore Molly Hunter said. “Even if an internship is unpaid, it will still be a valuable opportunity. I’m also considering other options, such as summer study abroad programs.”

Monahan encourages students to narrow down their internship choices and not to apply to certain positions simply because they feel they should.

“Start at the beginning and identify what are your interests and where are your strengths,” Monahan said. “I’ve seen students who just applied and applied and experience quite a bit of frustration … when they get into the interview process. When they do apply for opportunities [in which they are interested], they can speak with passion about why they want a certain field or sector.”

While some seniors have had jobs lined up for months, others are still waiting to hear back, depending on the company’s hiring process.

“People are still looking for jobs because, for example, advertising recruits in the fall, but journalism recruits in the spring,” Monahan said. “Anything communications-oriented … [is] much more of a second semester recruiting process. There are different recruiting schedules.”

Ruhling said accounting firms usually hire early in the fall, but other companies, especially consulting firms, do their hiring much later in the year.

“The company I ended up signing with, Deloitte, did things differently [than most other companies],” Ruhling said. “At the end of September I had my first round interview at the Inn at Saint Mary’s one day, a second round interview the following day and knew by that evening that I was receiving a job offer.” Ruhling said.

A fast hiring process, Ruhling said, offers many advantages.

“I wish more companies were able to conduct their hiring process like that because it eliminated a lot of the worry and nervousness that came with waiting to hear back from companies,” she said.

Monahan said although this year’s job market looks significantly more promising than last year’s, it still has not rebounded from where it was two years ago.

“Last year the three industries that really got crunched were investment banking, consulting, and architecture,” Monahan said. “That was tough. This year, everything seems to be coming back. 2009-10 is better is than 2008-09, but still not good as 2007-08.”

Wednesday’s Career and Internship Fair will take place at the Joyce Center from 4 to 8 p.m.