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Campuses pull out all the stops to help graduates find jobs

Mississippi’s colleges and universities use a variety of ways to help graduates find jobs. Although the economy may be slipping in some parts of the country, state schools say this year’s graduates are not encountering employment problems.

Several things are going on to help 2008 graduates at Millsaps College where there is no traditional career fair. Instead, the Jackson liberal arts school works with students in small groups.

“We do networking with different majors. It’s called career scene investigation on campus,” said Tonya Craft, director of the career center. “In November, we had Mocktails — no alcohol — that targets athletes with companies such as Viking Range and Enterprise Rental Cars coming in.”

There will be an event on campus next month that targets public service and a traditional business networking event in April. Large organizations, such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield, come to the campus to recruit students. Craft says Millsaps’ accounting and computer science majors are in demand.

“We also work with alumni in cities all over the country. It’s very personal. They meet with seniors at local restaurants to help them find employment in their cities,” she added.

Craft has a positive job outlook for this year’s graduates from the 1,100-student private college. “Our students will have opportunities for employment,” she said. “Fifty percent of our graduates go on to graduate school, and all of them get something they enjoy.”

Brian Butler, a spokesman for Belhaven College in Jackson, says an online job board is available to students and alumni on a 24-hour-a-day basis.

“Additionally, there are general opportunities such as internships delivered through our faculty, who are experts in their fields, and networking through our alumni,” he said. “We reach out to our students very effectively through these efforts.”

A number of tools are available to Mississippi College (MC) students in their job search, according to Karen Lindsay-Lloyd, director of career services. “Mock interviewing, one on one, is one of the best things we do,” she said. “We even ask them the scary interview questions like ‘tell me about yourself.’ Then we give students feedback in writing and ask them to come back for follow up.”

She brought the mock interviews to MC when she came on board 10 months ago. She especially encourages students not to wait until their junior and senior years, but to start looking earlier for meaningful part-time work and internships. MC’s Career Center also sponsors a 24-hour-a-day online job board where employers post available positions.

“We offer interview coaching and resume review, telling students about the latest trends and how to use active words on their resumes,” Lindsay-Lloyd said.

MC’s career day is happening this week on the Clinton campus where more than 75 employers from a wide variety of fields will recruit students. A special new feature this year is a fashion show by student models that will present appropriate interview apparel.

“There’s a good outlook for the market,” Lindsay-Lloyd said. “Employers said they planned to hire 16% more new employees in 2007-08 because of retiring Baby Boomers and workers who are not staying at jobs long. Those are two of the factors.”

However, she notes that according to the National Association for College Employment, employment is more competitive and employers are more selective.

“Graduates looking for employment must be more savvy,” she said. “That’s why they need to take advantage of all the assistance offered at their schools.”

For the past three years, Mark McCloud has coordinated the career fair at the University of Mississippi.

“We get good comments from students and from companies who participate,” he said. “The traditional companies and new industries moving to the South want our students. They like the quality of our students, saying they find them articulate, well dressed and well prepared.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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