Senior career summit prepares soon-to-be grads

Article By: Derek Anderson

The inaugural Senior Career Summit was held for soon-to-be graduates getting ready to enter the workforce last Friday, arming students with the knowledge needed to get a leg up to obtain jobs, a precious commodity in today’s economy.

Hosted by the Office of Career Services, the career summit provided students with multiple opportunities to sit in on panel conversations and question and answer sessions regarding their futures.

“The inaugural Senior Career Summit is designed to jump start the career search for graduating seniors by capitalizing on the expertise and advice of employers, a marketing communications expert, trade association executives and recent alumni,” said Paul Tanklefsky, Director of Career Services.

The summit was kicked off with a quick 15 minute speech from Tanklefsky, who spoke about breaking out of Monster and Craigslist. He gave advice to attendees to escape the rut, explaining that students needed to stand out.

“Step out of your comfort zone and take risks,” said Tanklefsky. “Introduce yourself to people, ask for help and referrals from people you know, attend trade association meetings [and] contact employers of interest directly.”

Tanklefsky said the main goal of the summit was “for [seniors] to have a sense of not just what they can do but how they can do it.”

After Tanklefsky’s introduction speech, a special panel was presented to attendees regarding the attributes and specifics employers and recruiters look for when applying for a job. Cheryl Barrett, Human Resources Generalist of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Richard Curtis, Manager of University Relations for State Street, and David Hartstein, CEO of Kabloom and Executive-in-Residence of Suffolk Business School composed the the panel. The presentation was a basic sum-up of how to impress an employer and how to go about getting a job in the economy in its present state. The presentation was followed by a Q and A session where the panelists took inquiries from the audience.

“It’s the things your mom and dad taught you when you were younger,” said Curtis when discussing how to stand out for interviews. “Make eye contact, dress the part, breathe.”

A 2009 graduate talkback also took place during the summit, giving outgoing seniors a chance to talk to the recent, successful graduates of Suffolk. Natasha Minichino, a 2009 graduate and advertising major, talked to students and gave advice about how to land a job leaving school. Minichino currently is employed at PJA Advertising and Marketing.

“My big thing was networking. You want to think you can do it on your own, which is possible, but the more people you know, the better chance you have,” said Minichino. “Have a solid resume and have a good story. Differentiate yourself from others.”

Minichino started out as an intern at PJA Advertising and Marketing. She said that she was lined up by an internship and never had the gap between school and a job. Minichino said the internship allowed people to see her work ethic.

“It’s tough out there, but I wouldn’t let it get you down,” said Minichino. “If it’s too hard right now [to get a job] this is now an opportunity to think about grad school.”

Even with all the advice and experience, however, students are still worried about venturing out into the job force with the economy in its suffering condition. Stephanie Tavarez, a senior communications major said she came to the summit to learn how to better her interview skills and what to go about doing to get a good job. “I was interested in how to get a job in this kind of market,” said Tavarez. “It’s really competitive out there, at this point [I’ll take a job] anywhere I can get. Anything that will pay. I would love to get a job at a marketing firm.”

Curtis and Barrett also understand the hard times in the job market, remarking that most individuals aren’t getting jobs until after they graduate. “There are just not enough jobs for everyone,” said Barrett. “I wish I could take everyone I meet, but I just can’t.”

“The economy is going to be worse later than it is now,” said Curtis. “Establish that relationship now. Students used to do it months before. Now you have to do it years before.”

Although the mood seems grim, Tanklefsky was pleased with the results of the summit. “We’re excited to offer a more advanced version next year,” he said.

A good mix of both business students and liberal arts students attended the summit, which was Career Services’ original plan. “It was designed for both business and liberal arts students,” said Tanklefsky. “The information is universal in all fields. It’s all about how you market yourself to employers.”

In a battle with the failing economy, Tanklefsky was an advocate for internships and co-ops before a student graduates. With a current survey from Career Services that polled 2009 graduates, those who returned the survey that were out working in the job force said that more than 75 percent did an internship or co-op during their Suffolk years. “That’s what gives our students a competitive advantage in the job market,” said Tanklefsky.

Tanklefsky also said that seniors tend to underestimate how difficult the job market can be. “Now, whereas before you might get it all, the full time job with benefits, in some fields the opportunities will be an intermediate step. But if it’s in your field of interest, that’s going to build up to something.”

The job market may be tough, but it seems like hopes for the future of Suffolk graduates are high, despite the worry of entering the real world.

“I encourage each and every student I meet with to jump into the arena of interest, whatever that might be,” said Tanklefsky. “Ultimately, my goal for each and every student was for them to walk away being a smarter, savvier job seeker. I think we accomplished that.”