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UWRF Career Services aids new alumni

May 8, 2014

New UW-River Falls alumni will be faced with exciting possibilities upon graduation this May, but a number of upcoming graduates will also cope with the challenges of a competitive job market.

While recent graduates are confronted with many changes, finding a job to fit their skills and interests will be of highest concern to several alumni. Bachelor’s degree holders between the ages of 20 and 24 held an unemployment rate of 8.7 percent in January, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Assistant Director of Career Services Mckenna Pfeiffer and junior communicative studies major Stephanie Gabbey conduct a career counseling session.
Assistant Director of Career Services Mckenna Pfeiffer and junior communicative studies major Stephanie Gabbey conduct a career counseling session. In this session Pfeiffer assisted Gabbey in developing her resume. (Desi Danforth/Student Voice)

There are resources on campus, however, to help these recent graduates move out of their parents’ basements. Professionals in Career Services and Alumni Relations are specifically focused on providing support and engagement opportunities for graduates.

“We are very dedicated to working with students after they walk across the stage,” said Melissa Wilson, director of Career Services.

The Career Services office is open year-round and alumni can take advantage of its resources for free, even after graduation. If recent graduates are struggling to find jobs, they are able to get help with job searching, resume and cover letter review and interview preparation, among other services.

Wilson said relevant work experience is becoming increasingly important in the competitive job market. She said many who are unemployed after graduation did not obtain sufficient internship or other work experience while in college.

“A college degree is no longer enough to warrant entry- level jobs,” Wilson said.

Senior Nicholas Peterson will be graduating from UWRF this May with a computer science degree. He said he wished he would have completed more internship experience and gotten more involved prior to graduation. He said that fear of the unknown held him back from gaining more experiences in college.

“The biggest thing I’d like to get across is don’t let fear take control. Take charge,” Peterson said.

While the job market is competitive, recent data suggests that some aspects of the economy are improving.

Data shows that employers expect to hire 8.6 percent more graduates this spring than in the spring of 2013, according to a study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Many college graduates are making the choice to complete an internship after graduation to gain relevant experience. Wilson also said it is important to engage in leadership, volunteer and global experiences while in college to enhance resumes. She also said networking is extremely important for college graduates.

Daniel McGinty, director of Alumni Relations, also said networking can lead to jobs for recent graduates.

“Make sure to use your network to the best of your ability,” McGinty said. “Faculty can serve as a bridge to get your foot in the door.”

McGinty said Career Services is an important resource for graduates, along with networking events hosted by Alumni Relations. There are over 12,000 alumni who have established accounts with Alumni Relations and a number of these individuals attend networking events, McGinty said.

Graduates of UWRF are presented with a unique opportunity, since all graduates automatically become members of Alumni Relations free of charge because Alumni Relations is non-dues based department.

McGinty said that the Alumni Relations office has conducted surveys to measure alumni engagement. Of 40,000 alumni, 8,500 have been engaged with UWRF after they graduate. Alumni are engaged with the University in many ways and through a variety of channels.

All alumni have access to annual newsletters, including Falcon Features, a print publication, and Falcon Online, a web-based publication. Alumni Relations also hosts between 55 and 65 events each year. Members can engage with others through the alumni Facebook page and LinkedIn account. While 21 percent of alumni are engaged with the University through different means, McGinty hopes to expand the network.

“We need to do a better job getting our hands around social media networks,” McGinty said.

The UWRF Foundation, which is a department that partners with Alumni Relations, is also working to raise funds to support many areas at UWRF, including the alumni network. Its Rising to Distinction Campaign, which was launched in 2012, has already gained over $15 million in donations.

He said that the UWRF Foundation and Alumni Relations work together to build an alumni network. If alumni are more engaged with the University, they are more likely to donate funds. In turn, alumni programs are funded through donations.

McGinty hopes that the Alumni Relations office will continue to grow in upcoming years and provide even more resources for graduates. He is currently the only fulltime employee in Alumni Relations, but receives additional assistance from employees who work with special events and data reporting.

He encourages graduates to reach out to Alumni Relations to keep their records updated and their contact information current.

Career Services has also been expanding their efforts on campus, in order to prepare students for the job market before they graduate. There has been an increase in collaboration between academic departments and Career Services staff to prepare students for graduation.

Wilson said that Career Services markets a “don’t cancel class policy” to professors. Instead of canceling classes for various reasons, professors are able to have Career Services professionals give presentations to their students. Professors have also been scheduling more regular classroom visits from Career Services.

“Without classroom visits, these classes would not have the opportunity to hear from Career Services representatives. It’s a great opportunity,” Wilson said.

While there has been an increase in the amount of classroom presentations by Career Services, Wilson said the department is continually looking for areas of expansion and improvement. Each year the office tallies the number of visits to the different colleges at UWRF. If Career Services notices that a particular college is not conducting as many visits, their office reaches out and markets their services.

In addition to providing classroom visits, Career Services professionals also make an effort to reach out to new students and families during New Student Registration and Week of Welcome. They collaborate with New Student and Family Programs to market their services.

“I think we do a good job of getting our word out,” Wilson said.