Not Your Mama's Job Search

In this volatile economy and slippery job market, landing the job you want takes a little more effort than sifting through the classifieds with a Sharpie. Folks who have been gainfully employed for years are standing in unemployment lines, and students fresh out of school are facing the toughest job market since the Great Depression. We asked Pamela Allen, director of Career Services, to offer readers some advice on landing the perfect job–whether you’re out of the gate for the first time or thinking of changing direction mid-career.

Know Thyself

If you have not completed a career assessment since your first year of college, you should. Your interests, values, talents, personality, and leisure activities have no doubt changed, and you may find that you’re better suited to be a conservation planner now, rather than the independent filmmaker you’ve been for five years. Or you may find you’re in just the right spot.

Stay Focused

Identify one or two career fields that match your talents and interests. Saying “I’ll do anything” really isn’t true for most of us. If you’re interested in environmental issues and green technology, it’s likely you won’t be happy drilling for oil in Alaska. Instead of compromising, apply directly to organizational Web sites and sign up for e-mail alerts telling you when a new position related to your interests has been posted. If you currently work for an organization that has a department you’d like to check out, volunteer to “intern,” job shadow, exchange hours–whatever it takes to gain experience.

Network (Yes, You Have To Talk to People)

Conduct informational interviews with people in careers you admire. Want to get into advertising? Find the American Advertising Federation group in your city, attend a meeting, and start making friends. Contact professional interest groups through the Chamber of Commerce. Join LinkedIn and add yourself to different interest groups. Attend a local career fair. And don’t forget to tap into the network of people you already know–family, friends, neighbors, your physician, your dentist, your mechanic. Sometimes you’re just a few folks away from someone who’s in your field of interest.


Turn your volunteer work or leisure interests into a full-time career. Enjoy coaching sports, teaching, the arts, music, entrepreneurship, hiking, adventure travel? Now may be the right time for you to expand your knowledge and take coursework at a local university to obtain additional licensures or certifications. Take a “volunteer vacation” from an organization that will train you during a structured adventure–test out these areas of interest to see if you would enjoy it full time. It may cost a little money up-front, but it will be worth it to pursue your “dream” career.


Distributing 100 résumés on may feel like you “accomplished something” but there’s a lot more to be done. Write or e-mail a thank you note to everyone with whom you’ve spoken, and ask if you can keep them informed of your job search and progress. Most people will say “yes.” If you receive an e-mail or phone call from a potential employer, contact them as soon as possible. They are busy individuals and gauge your interest by seeing how quickly you reply. Be polite and persistent, but most importantly, don’t give up.

To take advantage of the knowledge Allen and her Career Services staff have to share–no matter your class year–visit


Commencement By the Numbers

Advance preparation–12 weeks

Building the Commencement stage–40 hours

Setting the stage–10 hours

Number of chairs–5,200 on the Fine Arts lawn–2,000 in the Mitchell Center in case of rain

Number of attendees–More than 5,000

Guest transportation–6 buses–6 vans–11 golf carts

Parent housing–Hotel Shorney 29 rooms

Number of graduates–502

Published August 2009