What Now? Next Steps for your Graduate's Job Search
By Jennifer Spencer
As students graduate from Fordham University, there's one question on their minds and the minds of everyone around them: What now?
It's a question that can be both exhilarating and anxiety-provoking as a student moves into the next phase of his or her life. But Bernie Stratford, Fordham's director of experiential education, says even for those who have not yet secured a job, there's no need to worry.
Stratford said a Fordham education prepares students to land a job even in a challenging market.
"Amidst all the uncertainty and ambiguity pulsating throughout the world of work, one thing you can be sure of is that your children will think for a living," he said.
"And fortunately, thinkers, specifically, liberal arts thinkers are exactly what employers are looking for in a knowledge economy."
As students continue their job search post-graduation, Stratford said one of the biggest mindset shifts they must make is learning how to describe their performance and experience rather than simply perform.
Students spend their college careers "performing," Stratford said—receiving an assignment, completing the assignment, and receiving feedback from a professor on the quality of their performance. In an interview, we are only given the opportunity to talk about our performance. Stratford said that is a major shift for most students to make.
"We would all much rather perform than describe our performance," he said.
Stratford said he and the Career Services team serve as "translators" to help students parlay their experiences at Fordham into substantial interview answers. While most interview questions center around "why" questions, Stratford said students should prepare answers that give them an opportunity to talk about the "how, where, when, and with whom" of their experience.
"It does not matter what questions they ask you in an interview. It's your responsibility to make your presentation," he said.
Elisa DiMauro, FCRH '12, said good interviewing skills were one of the factors that led to her landing a job with Teach for America.
While she knew that Teach for America was her top choice for a job, she continued to interview for other positions, both to see what was out there and to hone her interview skills.
DiMauro said that thanks to her interview preparation through Fordham's Career Services office she was able to avoid many of the pitfalls that she saw other candidates make in a group interview, such as bringing in food and criticizing Teach for America's parent organization.
"There are a lot of little things you need to watch out for during the application process," she said.
Strong interviewing skills are key to landing that first job, but networking opens the doors to landing the interview, Stratford said. He said students should speak with friends and family members, professional connections, and members of the Fordham community.
"The work that people are doing in a knowledge economy is more compatible with their personal lives than ever before," he said.
Interacting with Fordham alumni through the Career Services alumni database was key to helping Elisa DiMauro find a job.
"Every single one gave me a business card, said they'd look over my resume, and said that if a job opened up, they would put in my resume and help me," she said.
"It's great to know that there are Fordham alumni who are willing to help you."
For students who are still seeking full-time employment, post-graduate internships can be a great way to expand one's professional network and gain work experience.
"As an undergrad, internships are a great curiosity exercise. Now, as a post-grad, the mindset has to be this is about me growing in this career, and maybe even with this organization," Stratford said.
For Grace Loughney, FCRH '12, an internship at Time Warner led to the full-time publicist job she will start this month. Loughney said she is excited to keep the Fordham tradition of networking alive.
"I'm super excited because I'm in charge of the intern program in my department," Loughney said. "I've already told Career Services if they have any communications majors who want to work in PR, send them my way."
Recent graduates are invited to contact the Career Services office to learn more about resources offered to alumni. For details, visit the Career Services website.