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by Agnes Jasinski

Courses and programming in leadership and leadership studies are the latest trend on college campuses looking to boost students’ resumes in a tough economy and competitive job market, and students at many of the schools have been signing up in droves.

A recent article in Inside Higher Ed described coursework at a number of colleges that focuses on both theories of leadership taught in the classroom, and practical experiences through internships and off-campus opportunities. While you can’t yet major in leadership, many schools are offering certificate programs in the field as a way for students to boast that specialized skill on their resumes and transcripts.

At the University of Iowa, students this fall will be able to enroll in a seven-course, 21-credit certificate in leadership studies, according to the article, that will supplement courses already offered by the school’s College of Business. According to administrators there, it was the students who wanted more than the college was already offering in terms of teaching them how to be leaders in not only business settings, but in all fields of study. Students who complete three classes in the sequence are then urged to take three credits in an internship setting, on-campus leadership position, or service-learning course. According to the article, administrators hope the work students have done up to that point learning the theories of leadership will translate to these experiences outside of the classroom.

What do you think? Should colleges be offering certificate programs in leadership, or instilling the values of leadership instead in existing coursework and internship opportunities? There is some criticism of the trend in Inside Higher Ed. Ed Koc, director of strategic and foundation research at the National Association of Colleges and Employers, says leadership isn’t the main thing employers look for when determining whether to hire a recent graduate. A student’s experiences rather than a certificate mentioned at the bottom of a resume may be more telling of leadership skills anyway, he said.

So how do you boost your leadership potential? Get involved in volunteer activities, or ask for more responsibility at your part-time job. Consider joining a club or campus group that could give you some experience organizing projects and working as part of a unit. While leadership is a good trait to have, so is the ability to work in a team and meet expectations. Expose yourself to a number of different experiences both on and off-campus to make yourself the best candidate for a job after college.


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by Agnes Jasinski

Whether you’re a recent graduate or a college student looking for an internship or job while still in school, there are some universal things you should know about to remain competitive while you search, especially when it comes to the moments leading up to, during, and after an interview.

If you’ve landed an interview, we’re assuming you did a good job writing a persuasive cover letter and impressive resume. That first meeting with a potential employer, though, may require some preparation, and don’t think your work is done even after you feel like you nailed the interview. Below, we walk you through the before, during, and after of a typical job interview. Pay attention, and you could be the standout in that employer’s pool of applicants. And believe us, there’s always a pretty big pool competing for one position.

Before

Before you arrive to your interview it’s important to do your research not only about the company or organization you’re interviewing with, but on questions you could ask that would show you’ve done your homework. Don’t plan to ask things that are easily found in a Google search. Put together copies of everything you’ve already sent over to the employer, and bring additional materials that may be relevant to the job. If you haven’t already, Google yourself, and make sure any public profiles on social networking sites don’t include any inappropriate information or photos from the last frat party. Make sure you're using an appropriate email address. Conduct a mock interview or two if you’re able. Thanks to your research, you should have a good idea of the kinds of things the employer will ask and expect of a potential new hire.

During

Arrive on time, obviously, or even a few minutes early. Do not show-up too early, though. Being 15 or 20 minutes early is almost as bad as being more than a couple minutes late. Your interviewer may have a busy schedule and arriving too early might take away from their preparation time, as they are probably going over your resume prior to your arrival. Be professional, and no matter the job and how casual you think the environment will be, dress in business casual at the very least. (The motto “dress for the job you want, not for the job you have” has a point.) Once the interview begins, don’t let nerves get the best of you and badmouth your former boss/job, make inappropriate jokes/comments, or over-share with any irrelevant details about your personal life. Be confident, but don’t be cocky. Make sure to get in those questions you worked so hard to come up with in the days leading up to the interview, and leave the employer with a sense that you really want this position.

After

It doesn’t matter whether you think you aced or bombed the interview. You’ll need to follow-up with an email at the very least. If you haven’t heard from the employer for a while (make sure you ask when you should hear back from them), it is fine to check in. Likewise if you have any lingering questions that came up since the interview. But don’t be a bother. The employer will be in touch with you if you’re the one they want.


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Employers Want the Everyman (or Woman)

State College Graduates More Desirable for Entry-Level Jobs

September 15, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Andy Bernard brags about graduating from Cornell any chance he gets. Granted he is a television character on “The Office” and over the top in every way possible but you will encounter people like the Nard Dog all throughout your life; don't get us wrong, getting into and graduating from a school like Cornell is definitely something to be proud of but if your school of choice lacks the perceived prestige of an Ivy, such comments can be trying to hear. Here's a reason why you could be the one smiling a tad brighter after graduation in spite of that.

In its own study, the Wall Street Journal found that U.S. companies largely favor individuals with bachelor’s from large state universities over Ivy League and other elite liberal-arts schools for entry-level positions. Four hundred seventy-nine of the country’s largest public and private companies, nonprofits and government agencies participated and revealed state school graduates – top picks were those from Penn State, Texas A&M and U of I Urbana-Champaign were best prepared and most able to succeed.

Instead of casting a wide net for candidates, the WSJ discovered big employers are focusing more intently on nearby or strategically located research institutions. This way, they are able to form lasting partnerships with faculty and staff who can point them towards the students who could potentially become valuable employees: Those with the practical skills needed to serve as operations managers, product developers, business analysts and engineers. Ivy League or elite liberal-arts school grads, on the other hand, are top picks from recruiters who prize intellect, cachet among clients, critical thinking and communication.

The Andys of the world may still boast a bit, though: Cornell was the only Ivy League that made the study’s top 25.


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You Majored in…What?

What Your College Degree Really Means to Employers

September 21, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Two students from two schools majored in the same subject and obtained degrees in the same field. They took equivalent classes, received identical grades, won similar scholarships and are now both being considered for the same job. Who is the better candidate? Put it this way: You don’t want to be the hiring manager.

In fields like nursing and accounting, there are licensure examinations in place to determine which graduates studied smart and have the greatest understanding of the material they have learned in school. The results are cut, dry and conclusive here but for those organizations hiring graduates from fields without these tests, finding the perfect candidate isn’t easy. In his recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, Forrest Hinton states that the disparity in grades and academic standards is so significant between institutions, departments and instructors that comparing applicants’ transcripts is often just as useless as offering someone a job because of their connections, alma mater or the hiring manager’s gut instinct. Hinton argues that the only way to mend this ailing hiring system is for academia and industry to work together to conclude which skills and knowledge students need to master most. Just because a candidate went to a less-selective college doesn’t necessarily mean they are any less qualified than a graduate of a more competitive institution and the same goes for students who are first-generation, low-income or minorities. Hinton suggests common and field-based assessments should be implemented to separate the candidates who thrive from the ones who will do just enough but, unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in…yet.

Though assessments across a wider variety of fields may be difficult to implement, I think they would make a huge difference in the quality of candidates employers hire and, in turn, the quality of work they produce. What about you, readers? Should someone get the job based simply on where they graduated from or their fluency in the field they seek to work in? What DOES a degree really mean these days and, more importantly, what SHOULD it mean?


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Study Abroad Overhaul

October 18, 2010

Study Abroad Overhaul

by Alexis Mattera

Studying abroad for a semester can be a rewarding experience for college students but do those benefits translate to potential employers? For a long time, they haven't – many have dismissed time overseas as an excuse to backpack and party in multiple countries – but Cheryl Matherly is setting out to change that.

Matherly, the associate dean for global education at the University of Tulsa, is designing a series of workshops and seminars to help students discuss their time studying abroad in a way meaningful to employers. The common perception – that studying abroad is a perk for wealthier students, typically white females in the humanities or social sciences packing their bags for Europe – is exactly what Matherly is attempting to reverse and show to employers that the students who studied abroad may actually be better assets to their companies. "The value isn't that you had the abroad experience itself," she says. "It's what you learned overseas that allows you to work in a cross-cultural environment. Students have to learn how to talk about that experience in terms of transferrable skills, how it relates to what an employer wants."

Much of the blame for this falls on the schools themselves, as the paths of study abroad and career counselors rarely cross, and Martin Tillman, a former associate director of career services at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, stresses the importance of deliberate efforts to build connections. The University of Michigan offers panel discussions each year on what it calls "international career pathways” and the Georgia Institute of Technology touts a Work Abroad Program to place students in international internships and jobs and advises them throughout the process. Some schools are even bringing in third-party providers, like Cultural Experiences Abroad, to help students translate their study-abroad experience into terms employers can understand. CEA has createda semester-long career development course which includes pre-arrival reading assignments, Webinars with career consultants and regular meetings that incorporate experiential exercises and journal writing.

I knew a number of people who studied abroad in college (I didn’t because I couldn't find the right program for my major and regret it to this day) and I’m sure they would have benefited from programs like the ones detailed above. Any graduates in the same boat? And for current college students considering studying in another country, do you think you’d take advantage of these resources if they were readily available to you?


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You’re Hired…Maybe

College Grads Get Good News on Employment

November 18, 2010

You’re Hired…Maybe

by Alexis Mattera

Finding a job has never been easy but over the past few years, that same task has become even more nerve-wracking and downright disheartening. This situation is all too familiar to recent college graduates, who – save for an internship or two – have very little experience outside the classroom but the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University just revealed the hiring of new bachelor's-degree graduates expected to increase by 10 percent this academic year.

Institute director Phil Gardner describes this news as the first step out of a deep hole – this year’s increase is over last year's hiring, which held steady after it tumbled 35 to 40 percent in 2008. The report, "Recruiting Trends 2010-2011," says hiring will not increase across the board but will instead be seen in certain industries, for specific majors and in isolated areas of the country:

  • More recent graduates will be hired by manufacturers, professional-services companies, large commercial banks and the federal government; smaller banks, state governments and colleges and universities project drops.
  • Grads with majors and experience in business, technology, e-commerce, entrepreneurism and public relations will have better luck than those in the fields of health sciences and social services; companies also plan to increase hiring 21 percent among liberal-arts majors.
  • The Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions will see the highest increases in recent graduate hiring, while the Northwest will see a 10-percent decline.

If these findings don’t relate to your situation, there’s still a chance you could snag the job of your dreams: Thirty-six percent of employers say they will consider applicants regardless of major. So, recent and soon-to-be college graduates, breathe those sighs of relief and start updating those resumes!


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Top Majors for College Class of 2011 Announced

by Suada Kolovic

Unfortunately, only two winners walked away with the $355 Mega Millions jackpot and if you weren’t one of them, instant fame and fortune may not be in the cards for you, but a lucrative career that is in high demand could be four short years away. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas for possible majors and post-collegiate careers, looking at majors that are sought after may not be a bad place to start.

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), organizations are most interested in hiring new college graduates with bachelor’s degrees in the business, engineering and computer science fields. Nearly 62 percent of the organizations participating in NACE’s Job Outlook 2011 survey said they plan to hire accounting graduates, followed by finance (57 percent) and electrical engineering (53.5 percent). Here are the top six degrees according to NACE’s findings:

  1. Accounting
  2. Finance
  3. Electrical Engineering
  4. Mechanical Engineering
  5. Computer Science
  6. Business Administration/Management

Each year, through the Job Outlook survey, NACE surveys its employer members about their hiring plans in order to project the job market for new college graduates. Do you agree with this list? Let us know what you think.


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The Great Homework Debate

Cornell Could Ban Surprise Assignments to Improve Mental Health

March 4, 2011

The Great Homework Debate

by Alexis Mattera

You have just one class left until a full week off from textbooks, Scantron sheets and yawn-loathing instructors. Then, it happens: Your professor goes off the syllabus and announces a new project – a lengthy research paper, to be precise – to be handed in during the first class after break. That thought bubble above your head filled with notions of sleeping until noon and emptying your DVR goes kerplewy and your waning stress level takes a leap into finals week territory. Ouch...but that scenario may no longer occur at Cornell because of a call for change from the faculty. Is it the right choice?

Cornell’s Faculty Senate is expected to vote this month on a resolution that would "strongly discourage" surprise assignments to improve the mental health of students. The resolution, said theatre professor and chair of the Faculty Senate's education-policies committee Bruce A. Levitt, would encourage faculty members to stick to their syllabi so students can better pace themselves. "The idea was not to forbid homework over break, but to make academic work over break the choice of the student," Levitt explained.

If my school had implemented this kind of resolution when I was an undergrad, I probably would have rejoiced but having been a member of a deadline-driven profession for almost six years now, it would have been a detriment. With the advent of cell phones and on-the-go e-mail access, many bosses expect their employees to remain in constant contact even when they are off the clock – something students may not realize until they begin their first job out of college. I’m not saying students shouldn’t be able to enjoy their nights, weekends and breaks but they should be aware that after college, the work needs to get done regardless of the hour.


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Oregon’s Diploma Debacle

Additional Steps Could Be Required to Obtain Certificate

April 27, 2011

Oregon’s Diploma Debacle

by Alexis Mattera

What does it take to earn a high school diploma? At most schools, going to class and earning passing grades for four years is enough but in Oregon, students may have to do a little more legwork to have that valuable piece of paper in their possession.

The Oregon House of Representatives approved a bill that would require high school students to complete one of three additional steps before they can turn their tassels from right to left. Though its main focus is to increase college applications and enrollment rates, the bill – sponsored by Rep. Tobias Read – says students can fulfill the requirements by submitting an enlistment application to the military or attending an orientation session for an apprenticeship or training program as well as applying to a postsecondary institution. “This bill does not intend to tell anyone what choice is right for them,” Read told The Oregonian. “It merely aims to prompt the consideration of those options and encourage students to think about what’s important to them.”

Read does have supporters – after all, the bill passed 33 to 26 and has moved on to the Oregon State Senate – but also numerous detractors, like Rep. Mike Schaufler. "This is not about education," Schaufler said. "It's just one more piece of paper. It's one more hoop we're making people jump through to get the diploma they have already earned."

Whose corner are you in – Read’s or Schaufler’s?


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Social Media and the Job Market

Online Identity Matters to Potential Employers

May 9, 2011

Social Media and the Job Market

by Alexis Mattera

It’s that time of year again when the inboxes of hiring managers are overflowing with applications from recent college graduates looking to score that coveted first job. But today, in addition to reviewing resumes, cover letters and references, employers are taking candidates’ online identities into account when deciding who will receive an offer letter.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ most recent report on job studies, of the 46 percent of companies surveyed by CareerBuilder that are looking to hire recently graduated workers, 16 percent of them are seeking candidates who are adept at using social media. But there's a catch: While a candidate that's active on Facebook and Twitter is good, the one with proficiency in Google Analytics and knowledge about new industry developments is more likely to get an interview.

To make the best virtual impression, less is more says Steve Schwartz, executive vice president of consumer services at risk management company Intersections – not only will untagging unsavory photos and eliminating excessive personal information help boost your online image but it could also prevent identity theft – and Monica Wilson, acting co-director of career services at Dartmouth College suggests being more cognizant of what you post and when you post it. (This advice also translates to students applying to college.)

Recent or soon-to-be college grads, does your online presence require a little spring cleaning before you enter the job market?


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