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Finals causes extra stress for seniors

May 8, 2008

The end of the semester can mean a lot of work and stress for seniors trying to finish final projects and land a career.

UW-River Falls Counseling and Career Services staff see an increase in senior students March through April every year, Gretchen Link, lead personal counselor at UWRF, said.

Various factors contribute to stress for seniors nearing the transition between school and a career.

“Some people will get to the point of graduation and second-guess their abilities and skills,” Link said. “The other kind of stressor is just the current economy and job market.”

Students see reports of downsizing in their prospective employment sector and worry, “Am I going to be able to find a job?” Link said.

If not dealt with, stress can lead to physical symptoms like nausea, insomnia, migraines or even ulcers and can leave students feeling overwhelmed and indecisive.

“So then they can’t tell where to start to get things done,” Link said.

Link recommends students visit both a personal counselor and someone in Career Services if they feel overwhelmed by balancing school and the job-hunting process.

A personal counselor can help students overcome self-doubt while Career Services helps them develop the skills needed to get hired, Link said.

Staff at Career Services offer students preparing to enter the job market mock interviews and tutorials on filling out a resumé and cover letter.

They also help students develop a strategy for the sometimes difficult process of networking with others in their prospective field of employment.

“You can have all the technical knowledge in the world, but — a lot of it’s about building relationships,” Carmen Croonquist, director of Career Services, said.

Sometimes, the only way to learn about a job is through word of mouth within a given field; knowing someone within that field can keep a student informed of all available job opportunities, Croonquist said.

Megan Rademacher, double-majoring in marketing communications and speech communications, said that her job search is going “awful” because she’s having a hard time forming connections with people already employed in her chosen job field.

“I found that it’s more about who you know than what you know in the business world when you go out there to find a career,” Rademacher said.

“I think also parents add to the stress of what a student is going through,” Career Advisor and Recruitment Coordinator Melissa Wilson said.

Students may dread visits with their families for fear of again being asked “Do you have a job yet?” Wilson said.

The issue of parental pressure arises most commonly among first generation students whose parents don’t understand that, even with a college degree, the job search can be arduous, often lasting six months to a year. This adds a layer of stress for students already struggling to balance final projects with a search for a career, Wilson said.

Hillary Lindbom, a broad area communications major with a management option, said she hasn’t had time to start searching for employment opportunities in her chosen field yet.

“I work fulltime so I’ve just kind of been putting off looking for a job until after graduation,” Lindbom said.

School takes up another share of her time.

“I have two Spanish classes, which is a lot of homework,” Lindbom said.

No matter how busy they are, Wilson recommends seniors set small goals for job-hunting and meet them.

The prime months—October and March—for recruiting employees close to graduating college have already passed.

If students wait any longer to begin applying for jobs, the positions they are seeking may already be filled by their peers, Wilson said.

There are ways students can make the transition between work and school more manageable.

“Focus on the present moment, set goals, take care of yourself … let go of perfection,” Croonquist said. “Perfection is the enemy of progress.”

Not all students struggle in their search for a job.

LeAnne Holden is an office aide for a telecommunications company based in Menomonie, Wis., where she worked through high school and college. She was told she could continue working for the company after graduation if she wanted to, Holden said. Holden will work as directory manager for the company after she graduates.