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Career Center helps grads in job hunt

Ann-Marie Woods | Thursday, September 3, 2009

In light of the struggle of many recent graduates to find employment in the weak economy, persistence and networking will prove critical for seniors entering a competitive job market.

At graduation in May, 20 percent of the graduating senior class categorized themselves as “actively looking” for employment,” Associate Director of the Career Center Kevin Monahan said.

The summer months, however, have seen slight yet significant improvements in the job market – all positive signs for young Notre Dame alumni and undergraduates.

“There was a good amount of success when students were able to get back to their hometowns and become a local candidate [for a job],” Monahan said.

Monahan and the Career Center staff have worked with recent graduates from zero to three years out of school, free of charge. The Alumni Association, in conjunction with the Career Center, assist more experienced alumni in networking and job placement.

“No matter how old you are, Notre Dame will always lend a hand,” Monahan said.

With online networking seminars called Webinars, the Career Center can help coach students and alumni through understanding the hiring process, reviewing resumes, teaching networking skills and preparing for interviews.

“It’s hard for them to come to us because of distance, so we come to them,” Monahan said.

The networking technology LinkedIn also has served as a valuable resource for undergraduates and graduates alike, and the Career Center encourages all Notre Dame students to take advantage of the resource.

“11,500 alumni are signed up for LinkedIn, and students and alumni have access to this to help share ideas, expertise and advice,” Monahan said. “This shows the power of the Notre Dame family, that the alumni are there to help others, to pass along a contact and to offer advice for people in the job search.”

Class of 2008 MBA graduate and class of 2007 undergraduate Bridget O’Neill experienced first-hand the difficulties facing young alumni in the current job market, but was able to utilize the Notre Dame network and University resources to augment her job search.

“To get my new job in San Francisco, I used both LinkedIn and Irish Online a lot,” O’Neill said. “I looked online to find job openings, then used LinkedIn and Irish Online to find someone who worked at one of these companies and sent them messages to talk to them about their company.”

Irish Online and Notre Dame alumni clubs throughout the country are valuable resources from which to begin the job search, O’Neill said. He does, however, recommend being persistent and constantly following up on applications and submitted resumes.

“I was really persistent in following up with people and jobs I was interested in,” O’Neill said. “E-mails are so easily lost in one’s inbox so just making sure they know you’re really interested helps a lot.”

Even after exhausting Notre Dame’s job search resources, however, not all recent graduates have experienced the same success in the job market.

ReenAnn Downing, a Class of 2009 economics major, said a dependence on the Notre Dame network is unreliable and insufficient in a time when just about everyone is feeling the effects of the economic recession.

“I’ve been using LinkedIn to get in contact with Notre Dame alums in companies and industries I’m interested in,” Downing said. “Some people don’t reply at all, others reply ‘sorry, no jobs,’ and others are friendly but unable to do more than tell me if there are openings in their area. It’s a struggle to even get another name recommendation sometimes.”

In response to this common complaint by many struggling young graduates, Monahan said the Class of 2010 needs to note the struggles of their friends and realize they need to be more aggressive in their job search.

“Start early by doing your research and getting your resume reviewed,” Monahan said. “This is not a year for seniors to wait until April.”

Delaying the process would be extremely detrimental in an economic year like this, Monahan said, especially given that the biggest struggle facing students is the caution with which companies are hiring.

“Instead of hiring 10 full-time students, they might only hire four,” Monahan said. “They are still coming to campus, they are just being more cautious.”

Monahan additionally urges students to be flexible and always have a backup plan, even when applying to schools and programs like Teach for America. It is going to take more effort and work this year, but it still can be accomplished, Monahan said.

For the Class of 2010, Monahan still has a lot of great hope, with 151 companies attending the upcoming fall career fair, including a few investment banks.

“That is a phenomenal number,” Monahan said. “It is a positive sign that things are beginning to turn around.”

The Fall Career Fair will take place on Wednesday, September 16, from 5-9 p.m. at the Joyce Center Fieldhouse.