University of Denver students focus on networking to gain employment

Graduating seniors can come to the University of Denver’s Career Center for career counseling, assistance with résumé building and interviewing practice.

When it comes to entering the job market after graduation, University of Denver (DU) students have a leg up on the competition. Graduating seniors at DU understand the importance of networking and internships to assist them with finding a job post-graduation.

A recent cap-and-gown survey, which is conducted by DU’s Career Center annually each spring, revealed that 82 percent of graduating seniors who sought out employment had a job within six months of graduating.

According to an article in the Huffington Post, half of college graduates nationally are unemployed or underemployed.

“Students who start early on through internships, career fairs and volunteer work build connections so that when they’re positioned to graduate, they’ve already made good connections,” said Patricia O’Keefe, Career Center Assistant Director.

Preparation is key
According to O’Keefe, the Career Center encourages graduating seniors to be proactive through networking and cold-calling potential employers well before graduating.

“One person connects you to another good person and that person connects you to another and that helps you,” said O’Keefe.

Senior Cory Lamz agrees. Lamz, who will graduate at the end of fall quarter 2012, said he constantly networks to meet new people. Lamz also said he searched for jobs through postings on websites like and through word-of-mouth or inner-organization postings.

“In this day and age, you have to search everywhere for jobs,” said Lamz.

Lamz said he recently interviewed with the Office of Legislative Legal Services, which works with the Colorado General Assembly at the state capitol on bills, legislations and other memoranda, for an editor position.

“I prepared for that interview by doing research on the office and what they do, as well as their mission statement,” said Lamz. “I tried to think about how I could best fit in with their team and benefit it.”

Lamz said he hopes his preparation will get him hired as soon as he finishes classes at the end of the quarter. He said the Colorado General Assembly will let him know if he obtained the job by the end of this week.

O’Keefe also said preparing for interviews by personally researching the company and practicing is the key to success. She said the Career Center offers counseling sessions to students where they can practice interviewing and get assistance with writing a résumé and cover letter that caters to individual positions that are available.

Career assessments may help uncertain seniors

A Career Center counselor works on the website where DU students can search through employment databases, schedule counseling sessions and browse through available career assessments.

The Career Center also offers basic career counseling to assist students who know what degree they are going to obtain, but are unsure how to utilize it.

“We question and brainstorm to see if a student has indecision on where to go,” said O’Keefe. “They may say, ‘gee, I have this major and I don’t know what to do with it,’ or are trying to figure out how interests and previous experiences fit in.”

She said the counselors throw out ideas and conduct career assessments to help students explore what fits with their personalities, interests and strengths.

These assessments, called VIPS, are broken down into four parts to help students examine their employment goals. VIPS uses worksheets and surveys to analyze how students’ values, interests, personality and skills fit into finding a job that is right for them.

For example, the personality part of VIPS uses the Myer’s Brigg personality type indicator assessment to explore students’ inner psychological preferences based on their personality traits and characteristics. The Career Center charges $25 to conduct this test.

“It gives you a profile to assess where you personally want to be,” said O’Keefe.

Students may have to accept underemployment
However, even students who understand their career goals, network and prepare may have to accept positions that are not what they originally preferred. According the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey and the U.S. Department of Labor, half of the 1.5 million graduates who entered the job market in 2012 were underemployed.

“Try and be flexible and open-minded about that first job,” said O’Keefe. “It may not be the ideal job, but those first jobs can be critical first steps.”

O’Keefe said its important for students to understand that they may have to work part-time in their field and work another job part-time to pay the bills.

“That first entry-level job might be at a company that you didn’t expect, but it might position you to getting where you need to be,” she said. “You can get training from an entry-level position and then use that for the next step.”

Grad school might offer better opportunities
Graduate student Laurel Mazur said that is exactly why she chose to attend grad school right after she obtained her bachelor’s degree in international economics. Mazur is now working to obtain a dual masters’ degrees in economics and the global finance trade and economic integration at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

“For me, I didn’t feel like I had enough experience to get the job I liked,” she said, adding that all the jobs she was interested in had grad school requirements.

Mazur said she looked at the Career Center’s employment databases to find a job as an economic analysis at consulting firms, but discovered that they required either a masters or bachelor’s degree with five or more years experience working in the field.

“If I could get a job within my field without the master’s, I would totally do it, but it’s really hard without it,” said Mazur.

Lamz also said he is pursuing a post-graduate education and is hoping to attend the Duke University School of Law in August 2013, almost a year after he graduates.

“Attending a post-graduate program is important because no longer are bachelor’s degrees enough to be a successful part of the workforce,” said Lamz. “You can only stand out now by having even more experience and even more education.”



One Response to University of Denver students focus on networking to gain employment

  • Jill Ranco says:

    Great article… and it totally addresses a reality that many students face. I would look into how the career office addresses students who are entering college and researching types of internships that can dive into right after their first year of college, as I’m sure multiple internships and experience throughout college can greatly contribute to getting a job right out of school.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when the career office is encouraging people to network on their own, which is a great suggestion for extroverted students and those in the communication/marketing world, etc… but what I struggle with is what to do with the students (I’m thinking Chem, Bio, maybe some English, etc…) these are students who don’t generally pursue careers in those fields, what are some of the strategies to put those students in the working world.

    I really liked your addition to the graduate school element, which is also important to note. I think graduate school makes or break the job search, and adds credibility to one’s resume. However my major and personal position is that without work experience students cannot fully benefit from what a graduate degree can offer. I know personally that having had four years in the field has changed the way that I treat and receive information from professors.

    It’s a catch-22. I think the ultimate solution is a combination of students creating jobs inside of a given company, and trying to contribute to the community in other ways… a great way to get a foot in the door is meeting people through volunteer groups and joining committees – – – and meeting older people in given industries. Again, these are all strategies for outgoing people who are skilled with communication.

    You bring up an important topic, not only for seniors… but for everyone in college and kids entering college. I think having a STRONG career center with dependable statistics will be the key in being recognized as a desirable university… No longer is it about the programs inside the school, it’s about where the school can get you after you get out.

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