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Career Center helps Arts & Letters majors find jobs

Nicole Toczauer | Thursday, September 8, 2011

As summer ends and the semester sets in, students will enter the race for next year’s internships and jobs.

With business students prepping their suits and science majors compiling research experience, how do students in the College of Arts & Letters fair in the competition?

Lee Svete, director of the Notre Dame Career Center, said while statistics do ebb and flow with the economy, they remain mostly constant for Arts & Letters majors.

“I think what gives me hope is when you come to a great school like this, you can take advantage of the resources,” Svete said. “You realize it’s hard work, but it’s not impossible.”

For Arts & Letters seniors who graduated last May, 38 percent accepted job offers, 35 percent entered graduate school and 21 percent, the highest of any college, entered non-profit service positions. Three percent joined the military, two percent pursued other plans and three percent continued to seek employment. Last summer, 508 Arts & Letters undergraduates of approximately 3,500 had an internship.

Svete said Arts & Letters students must take extra steps before embarking on job-hunts.

“Arts & Letters students need to research employers to an even greater extent to see what opportunities are available,” he said. “Because they haven’t taken business classes, they need to learn that on their own.”

Students applying for internships and job positions should understand the organization’s products and services, he said. With this insight they can tailor their resume to reflect skills related to the company.

Conducting extra research on companies is especially important for Arts & Letters students, he said.

“If you don’t dig into it, you won’t know they want majors of all kinds. For example, students often think Heron Consulting is just financial services,” Svete said. “If you look at their website, you see they do healthcare consulting, education consulting and legal consulting.”

Depending on what services interest a student, he or she might even create different resumes, Svete said. If one company is a consulting firm and another emphasizes advertising, students might have two resumes with different career objectives in each. This approach is useful to Arts & Letters students who have a variety of skills, he said.

Students can even apply their skills to jobs outside of their major, Svete said. However, students interested in doing so must learn more about the subject on their own.

“If you want to do banking but you’re not in accounting, you have to know the markets. You won’t get investment theory as an anthropology major,” he said. “You have to have an opinion and know what the market is.”

Svete said students who succeeded in this endeavor in the past have read about companies and the market, attended workshops and prepared at the Career Center.

Joy Feeney, class of 2010, was one student who successfully prepared for her career in banking as a liberal arts major. Feeney, who now works for Goldman Sachs, was an economics major without finance studies.

“She’s a great example of what liberal arts students have to do differently,” Svete said. “So don’t get discouraged when companies say they’re looking for business majors. There are many opportunities.”

The opening of a seemingly business-oriented job market to Arts & Letters students impacted Notre Dame as well, he said. Initiative on the part of students, paired with demand from companies, transformed the Career Expo five years ago.

“The Fall Expo used to be just a business fair, but by popular demand of companies and students it opened up to all majors,” he said. “After this, it increased from about 70 companies to 150 and added non-profits like the Peace Corps.”

Of the 1800 to 2000 undergraduates who attend the Fall Career Expo, approximately 500 represent the College of Arts & Letters.

The Career Center also supports Arts and Letters students through a special “What’s Next?” Week, held September 26-29. The week will highlight undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate funding, as well as networking opportunities, Svete said.

The most important thing for students searching for internships or jobs is to start early, he said. After beginning, they can network through LinkedIn, find alumni with myNotreDame and apply for funding.

“We gave away $120,000 last year for 53 liberal arts majors, though we should get more applicants for the fellowships — the Fulbright program and the Rhodes Scholars,” Svete said. “You want to start early for those.”

Svete said that while the market is still difficult to enter, Notre Dame gives students the tools to gain internships and jobs after graduation.