February 12, 2009

C.U. Helps Students, Alumni in Job Hunt

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Whether seeking a job as a second semester senior, or looking for a mid-career job change, the job search is never easy, especially in today’s historically bad economy. Cornell Career Services and the Office of Alumni Affairs are at work helping current Cornell students and University alumni in finding employment.
Though not a placement agency, the Career Services office edits resumes, conducts mock interviews and organizes career fairs.
“We hope we play a very important role in preparing students to get jobs on their own,” Rebecca Sparrow, director of Cornell Career Services, explained.
Their office aims to teach students how to approach the jon search. The skills that you highlight for one job may not apply to another.
“Anybody can find a first job … the key is having the right skills to find the second one or the third one,” said Christa Downey, assistant dean and director of Career Services for the College of Arts and Science.
Career Services serves out-of-work Cornell alumni as well. Up to five years after graduation, alumni have the option of using Cornell CareerNet, a service enabling employers to post their company’s most recent job openings. To date, over 34,159 profiles have been created on the site, including 6,045 that have been activated since January. Alumni that have graduated more than five years ago can sign up for Experience, which lists openings that require more prior work experience.
With over 80 percent of job applicants finding work through word of mouth, the Office of Alumni Affairs believes that the ability to find a job hinges on social networking. To this end, they have sponsored the Cornell Entrepreneur Network, which organizes events in New York City, Boston and San Francisco. These events have attracted over 4,000 alumni per year.
“Our role is to introduce alumni to each other so they can benefit from the extended network of 210,000 living alumni,” said Shannon Murray, senior director of Cornell business communities at the Office of Alumni Affairs.
In 2009, the alumni affairs office plans to launch Cornell Connect. The application will feature a directory, job postings and messaging capabilities. Cornell Connect will hope to follow the success of the the Cornell linked-in group, which almost 11,000 alumni have already joined.
Karin Ash, director of the career management center at the Johnson Graduate School of Management, also focuses on social networking as a means to search for work.
“So much of what happens in the MBA world is through internship recruiting … meaning that you are much more likely to get hired from a job where you previously interned,” Ash said.
The business school anticipates the economic downturn’s effect on jobs and is beginning making preparations last June to introduce new programs for students. This fall, they matched 220 alumni with individual students to offer them advice for their career pursuit.
Yet there are still questions about the effectiveness of the Career Services and Alumni Affairs offices in their ability to actually obtain jobs for students and alumni. Though the Career Services office does provide counseling, it focuses more on current students and recent graduates and lacks the resources necessary to accommodate all alumni. Many alumni do not even think to reach out to Cornell if they are in need of work.
“We don’t have a career services agency for [the needs of] all alumni out there, aside from helping them think about what their strategy should be,” Sparrow said. “It would require us to look very closely at bringing in people with different types of expertise, such as mid-life career counselors.”
Another possibility is to follow the lead of other universities around the country and create a director of alumni and career services. A single director could centralize career advising, so that Cornell students and graduates would know exactly where they need to turn to in order to find work.
“Many schools have a director of alumni career services whose responsibilities include counseling, webinars and regional career networking events,” Murray said. “We’re looking at what other schools provide right now to think about what services are needed by Cornell’s alumni.”
The job search, however, may be toughest on Cornell international graduates who must secure a visa before they can legally be employed. Though international students can obtain a practical training extension that allows them to work in the U.S. for up to a year after graduation, they must be sponsored by their employer to obtain a work visa — only 65,000 of which are handed out each year by the government.
“International students don’t have as much flexibility as U.S. students because their visas are contingent on employment,” Brendan O’Brien, director of the International Students and Scholars Office, explained. “If they are fired, their visas expire.”
International students often must return home or to school if they are laid-off.