Job Fair Seeks to Ease Employment Angst
For any college senior, worrying about the future and the aftermath of graduation is to be expected. In these trying economic times, however, anxiety over job security and choosing careers is at a fever pitch.
To address the fears of students, Caldwell College held its annual Career and Internship Fair on March 4. College students in the Archdiocese of Newark readily admit their faith is being tested regarding today's job market. It is an uneasy feeling that also exists for many outside the walls of academia, including those attending the Career Resources Ministry at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Ridgewood (see The Catholic Advocate, Nov. 12, 2008).
Along with Pfister, Geri Perret, director of career planning and development at the college, worked with students beforehand with a series of "Prepare for the Fair" seminars. "We had resume workshops, instructed students on how to get internships and had guest speakers. The career fair is a great way for the students to see who is out there and see who is hiring," Perret explained.
Making her office visible and available is a key to aiding students who are looking for a job. She has heard the cautions and complaints of the undergraduates and recommends internships to get their foot in the proverbial door.
"It is important for college students to talk to their career college services," she said. "We are a small college and we get to know the students on a personal level. We offer connections to the jobs out there."
Caldwell College has a Web site (www.collegecentral.com/caldwell) that lists available jobs to students and alumni. Online recruiting, Perret stressed, is only one way of finding employment. Word of mouth and networking are other avenues that are important in finding a position.
Both recent additions to the career planning and development office, Pfister and Perret resolved to create a welcoming, involved environment for all students looking for direction-part of the college's culture of Catholic outreach.
"We reached out to the lower classmen who have not been schooled on things like resume writing and interviewing skills. The juniors and seniors are on the ball. Geri and I felt that (career planning) is too important of an issue not to reach out to all students," Pfister noted.
The assistant director also reminds future graduates to keep options open when searching for a position in today's economy. "It's important to be open and do not close the door on any opportunities. Be interested in everything."
Rebecca Naylor, a senior at the college, is a psychology major with a criminal justice minor. Already taking graduate school psychology courses, she hopes to find a position in counseling at the career fair. A parishioner at Saint Philomena Parish in Livingston, she volunteers at Saint Catherine's Nursing Home across from the Caldwell College campus.
"I'm a little nervous about getting a job," she confessed. "I just have to sell myself as best as possible. I am in a competitive field I know I have to compete with people who may have more experience. I have my resume posted up on different career Web sites," Naylor added.
She has attended other job fairs at Rutgers University and Montclair State University. For her, the career planning and development at her own college have prepared her for the road that lies ahead. "Geri and everyone in the office have been so helpful," she noted. Actively pursing a job while attending school can be a difficult task, but Naylor stressed the importance of tenacity. "You can't just sit back. You have to keep sending out your resume and look for job postings on Web sites."
T'Shea Sherman, originally from the Bahamas, had to adjust her future career goals due to the economic turmoil. A double major in international business and psychology, she planned to have a career in the financial services industry. "The field I was interested in is unstable now and many companies have hiring freezes. I think I will go into foreign currency exchange or currency trading. I would also like to earn a master's degree."
Although she is worried about life after college, Sherman believes the situation is not as bad as it seems. She has attended the career fair in previous years and noted that there is a definite increase in the number of students this year. She followed the advice of the career planning office and has interned at First Caribbean National Bank and Comcast.
The employers at the job fair offered words of encouragement to students. "The career fair is a great way for the students to hopefully gain experience in working for someone," Emerald Enriquez Damian of Primerica Financial Services said. "We are looking for interns and would like to train and develop financial representatives."
The Newark-based Broadway House for Continuing Care was also at the career fair reaching out for interns. It is the state's only special care facility for people living with AIDS. "The position is great experience for psychology majors or anyone going into counseling. Internships are great because after you gain experience, it can become a full-time job. It is important for companies to have a relationship with students," Nestor Beard, assistant director of activities and interns, said.
For students attending the fair looking for a full-time position, laying the groundwork and researching jobs before graduation is essential. Saikat Gomes, a senior computer information system and mathematics major, hopes to work for one year before attending graduate school. Although his career path is stable, he is still nervous about job prospects. "I am looking for a job in finance systems and information technology. There will always be openings in my field, but my friends and I are all nervous about the future. It is a daunting time, but you have to hold your nerve."
Caldwell senior Carole Clark, a financial economics/computer information systems major, said that having a double major enables her to consider an assortment of job prospects and expands her options after graduation. Originally from Jamaica, she describes her background as "humble beginnings" and is the first member of her family to go to college.
Although the job market is sluggish, Clark believes that through the college's resources and her hard work, there is hope after graduation. "It is important to stay positive. There are jobs out there; you just have to be prepared. You have to be diligent."