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Career challenges for recent college grads.

Knowing that the decisions you make now will impact your life for many years to come, your first job search out of college can be an agonizing experience. Finding a job is a job in itself; savvy graduates will prepare themselves by looking at many options and being creative with their choices.

Choosing a field to enter is the important first step toward getting that first job. "I've known that I wanted to be an educational administrator since my sophomore year," says Jean Luma, a graduating senior at the State University of New York at Albany. "Even though I'm majoring in sociology and African studies with a minor in education, I've also sought related jobs and internships that will build skills in other areas. " Luma has worked at a day care center, in hotel management and at the Hershey Company, all experiences he says will help him open his own school one day.

Applicants with strong technical backgrounds will be better equipped for the job market than those with liberal arts degrees, according to a recent survey by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. Nevertheless, it pays to be imaginative when considering your options, and to have some job experience.

Previous experience is key for a career as a special agent for the FBI, according to Henry (Hank) W. Glaspie III, special agent recruiter in Detroit. "Our most recent recruitment efforts toward special agents are targeted for a median age of 28-29, and we're generally seeking college graduates with a minimum of three years of work experience," says Glaspie. "There are also opportunities for individuals with masters and law degrees." Special agent Jerica Robinson points out that in addition to special agent slots, the FBI also hires computer/MIS and business/financial professionals. "You can fulfill the previous work experience' requirement within the agency, in preparation for applying for a special agent position," Robinson explains.

Because of the nature of the FBI's business, she stresses that the agency needs all kinds of people: "We look for motivated self-starters who are committed to the betterment of the community. They need to be physically fit and be able to travel."

Glaspie adds, "The FBI'S goal is to make its ranks, both special agent and support staff ranks, reflect the nation's workforce. The FBI needs to be culturally diverse to remain the world's premier law-enforcement agency."

For graduates interested in seeing the world, gaining international experience, learning other languages and cultures, and promoting peace, the Peace Corps has entry-level opportunities for volunteers. According to Dr. Ray Gonzales, national director of minority recruitment for the Washington-based organization, a good percentage (13%) of Peace Corps volunteers are minorities, reflecting the diversity of the country. "The Peace Corps is the number-two employer on college campuses today, surpassing such organizations as IBM, AT&T, the Ford Motor Company and the Marine Corps," Gonzales says. Peace Corps volunteers do work in five major areas: education, environment, health, economic/business development, and agriculture. "The goal of the Peace Corps is to help the people of interested countries meet their needs for trained men and women so that they can become self-sufficient," Gonzales says.

The Peace Corps needs volunteers with broad skills. Business majors and experienced professionals are a premium. There are currently 800 volunteers in the Peace Corps small-business program; about half work with small merchants and local government agencies, and the rest are assigned to larger organizations in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.

Various domestic agencies, such as the Board of Cooperational Educational Services (BOCES) Southern Westchester, can also be helpful in identifying career opportunities. "The public education system has a growing demand for professionals in a variety of specialized areas," says Claudia D'Amico, personnel assistant, BOCES Southern Westchester. The agency seeks qualified applicants for certified special education teachers, school psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, and teacher's assistants/aides.

Southern Westchester BOCES's services and programs include occupational education, special education, instructional services, a regional information center, and interscholastic athletics, transportation and assessment/intervention.

The retail industry may offer more opportunities than meets the eye, according to Ray Campbell III, personnel/human resources manager of Nordstrom which is based in Seattle. In the company's sales support areas, Campbell points out entry-level opportunities in data processing, finance, human resources, sales promotion, merchandising, operations, store planning, restaurants and credit/customer service. "Nordstrom looks for individuals who possess the desire and ability to attain high standards of performance," says Campbell. "We are interested in nice, friendly people dedicated to customer service-individuals who are accountable for their actions and use good judgment. We also seek team players who are always willing to go that extra mile."

The Southland Corp. in Dallas, parent company of 7-Eleven convenience food stores, seeks individuals who thrive on new challenges and enjoy working in a fast-paced environment. "We are a dynamic, customer-focused retailer operating more than 5,600 stores across the United States," says Fran Eichorst, corporate personnel manager, Southland Corp. "Candidates who are able to manage people, time and resources will stand out," she says. "They should be assertive and customer-oriented individuals who can identify priorities, set goals, analyze information and generate solutions to maximize sales and profits."

Problem-solving abilities and other hands-on career skills that recruiters seek may be best developed through previous work experience. Victor Freeman, Jr., another graduating senior at SUNY Albany, confirms that a diversity of skills help make him a more attractive job applicant. "I'm a psychology major, but I have business experience in management and accounting, which are skills that will help me anywhere I go," says Freeman.

"I can't stress to students enough the importance of work experience during school," says Dave Mercer, director of minority development at Brinker International, a leading Dallas-based multi-concept, casual-dining management firm (Chili's Grill & Bar, Grady's American Grill, Romano's Macaroni Grill, On The Border, Spageddie's). "Ninety percent of Brinker's entry-level positions are in operations, for assistant restaurant managers," says Mercer. "The kind of maturity that comes from being out in the working world is invaluable in the hospitality industry," he says.

Responsibility and leadership are qualities the Army ROTC seeks among its ranks as well. Taking a decidedly modern focus on preparing leaders for the 21st Century, the Army ROTC provides leaders for the nation in many areas, not exclusively in the ranks of the army. "About fifty percent of all ROTC-trained cadets make the army their careers," says Major General James M. Lyle, who commands the national Army ROTC program. "However, everyone who takes ROTC gains leadership, management and team-building skills, which will last a lifetime, regardless of occupation," he says.

"Many corporate leaders got their start in Army ROTC-men like Earl Graves, publisher of Black Enterprise, and Frank Wells, former president of Walt Disney," says Major Robert E. Shepherd, Cadet Command's public affairs officer. "We have also produced a Nobel Peace Prize winner, an Olympic gold medalist, Hall of Famers and a shuttle astronaut," he adds.

Lt. Col. L. Kendal Smith, who oversees the marketing efforts for the program, agrees. "The program has produced military leaders ... but we also take pride in the achievements of those graduates who have chosen to serve in other ways."

Key to finding a job is being where the jobs are. Many companies participate regularly in recruitment activities, both on-and off -campus. "Citibank actively recruits at historically black colleges and universities, women's colleges and other major colleges and universities around the world," says Hoyle Jones, vice president, campus recruitment, Citibank in New York City. "We have a strong history of attracting and retaining minority and female graduates in all of our major businesses, with representative role models throughout the organization," says Jones.

Citibank offers entry-level opportunities for holders of bachelors as well as graduate degrees, in areas ranging from consumer banking to capital markets, in businesses such as sales and trading, real estate activities, corporate staff and finance, and private banking, as well as product groups like global transaction services that deal principally with banks and financial-services companies.

Carletta Railey-Worthy, human resources consultant at Mead Data Central headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, visits campus three times a year during peak graduation times--December, May and the end of summer. Mead is one of the country's leading computerized legal accounting and news research services, and the company that produces Lexus/Nexus, an electronic news retrieval service. Mead seeks graduates with computer and MIS backgrounds, as well as those with finance, economics and accounting expertise. "Beyond the degrees and courses, candidates should also be able to project a positive attitude and embrace principles of good customer service--it's critical to our business," says Railey-Worthy. She also attends job fairs hosted by such organizations as the NAACP and the National Career Center.

CMP Publications in Long Island, N.Y. is the nation's second-largest high-tech publishing company, producing such periodicals as Windows Magazine, Information Week and Electronic Buyers News. CMP uses a number of strategies to attract diverse candidates: targeted advertising campaigns, college recruitment and job fair participation, scholarship awards, and alliances with professional and community organizations. The most prevalent entry-level opportunities at CMP include: assistants and associates in accounting and circulation, customer service rep, reader service coordinator, help desk support analyst, applications programmer, QC analyst and ad prep coordinator.

Once you've done your research toward your job search, you need to consider your presentation. According to human resource professionals at the Matsushita Electric Corporation of America based in Secaucus, N.J., a professional demeanor and appearance are positive traits that display enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. Neatness in attire and grooming are unspoken qualities a recruiter or interviewer will notice. Also, it pays for recent college graduates to do their homework and research their prospective employer--it shows that the candidates are serious about their job search.

Learn to plan your time. Until now, you have been functioning in a structured environment with a pre-determined, daily schedule. Now, the success of your job search will be directly related to how you set your own priorities.

Be prepared to put in a full day "pounding the pavement"--doing research, scheduling interviews and networking. It's also important to keep a positive attitude, because you're bound to face some rejection. But keep in mind that the experience is a learning process that will make you a stronger competitor for future career and business opportunities.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:1995 Career Guide; Special Advertising Section
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Feb 1, 1995
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