March 1-7, 2002
Back Issues
Budget: Where U.Va. stands
Budget Q&A -- First in a series
Disaster drill prepares local personnel for real emergencies
A message from Tony Motto, Energy Program manager

U.Va. planning future of Morven Farm, seeks guidance from community

Dave Matthews buys five Kluge farms
Monticello’s visitors boost local economy, study finds
Career Services builds new bridges to jobs for students
Students seek alternative job choices in tough times
A return to the nest? Parents getting involved in job searches
Basic research, collegiality on laureate’s agenda
In Memoriam
Hot Links -- Health System Web site
African clothing, past and present
Planning your retirement income
Career Services builds new bridges to jobs for students
Flock to Career Week
Photo by Jenny Gerow
Beta Bridge on Rugby Road not only serves pedestrian and vehicular traffic, it also doubles as U.Va.’s biggest message board. Here, it’s advertising Career Week 2002, which took place Feb. 4-8. University Career Services has also planned a number of other job-related events for students this semester. For details:

By Mary Beth Knight

Before the University Career Services Office held one of its regular career fairs recently, the staff decided to try another way of reaching students beyond the usual promotional ads in the Cavalier Daily: they went to the biggest message board at U.Va. and emblazoned the fair’s schedule in blue and orange paint on Beta Bridge.

sLast fall there was a 40 percent increase over fall 2000 in student appointments at Career Services, as well as in job workshop attendance.

These are signs of the economic times. The days of employers dangling bonus incentives before eager undergraduates have been ousted by a narrowing marketplace that requires outside-the-box job-search services and strategies.

James McBride, director of University Career Services since 1998, worked through recessions in the early ’80s and early ’90s in similar posts at other schools. The current downturn, however, poses extra challenges because it hit hard within 12 months, he said, instead of following the usual pattern of a slower-paced, three- or four-year decline. On Grounds interviews scheduled with potential employers last fall dropped 20 percent — a discouraging percentage, but consistent with what other colleges and universities are experiencing in the grips of a fast-acting national recession. By launching creative initiatives to reach new recruiters, as well as leveraging its existing panoply of student and employer services, UCS is helping to soften the recession’s blow and forge other bridges to jobs and careers.

The University recently participated for the first time in the Government and Non-Profit Career Expo in Washington along with Georgetown and Duke universities and the University of Richmond. Students learned about full-time job opportunities and internships available at a variety of agencies and organizations, from the CIA to National Geographic Society.

“These are the kinds of collaborations that really make sense,” McBride said. “If you’re a non-profit agency in Washington and you see Georgetown is having a non-profit career fair, that’s one thing. But if you see you’re going to be able to shop the cream of the crop from Virginia, Duke and Richmond, too, that’s a return on an investment.”

Career Fair
Photo by Matt Kelly
UCS held an Arts & Sciences job fair and “Internship Career Days” Feb. 4-6 in Newcomb Hall Ballroom that gave U.Va. students an opportunity to meet with potential employers.

It also makes sense to match the large number of U.Va. graduates hoping to move to the D.C. area each year with government agencies that have begun to court young job-seekers more aggressively.

Federal statistics show that 53 percent of the workforce in government agencies will become eligible for retirement in the next five years. Leslie Williams, associate director of Employer Services at UCS, attended the National Career Services Conference last fall, where she heard the pitch firsthand from some of these agencies.

“They’re going head to head and competing with the private sector,” she said. “The Internal Revenue Service is marketing itself like a top accounting firm.”

Agencies are adjusting their recruiting strategies to attract employees who don’t plan to work at the same place for an entire career by highlighting opportunities for continuing education and the development of transferable skills. They’ve also simplified the notoriously lengthy government application process.

A little farther north, in Philadelphia, the 54th annual conference of the Society for Human Resource Management will convene in late June. University Career Services will attend the event as a vendor, marketing U.Va. students and UCS services one-on-one to attendees from more than 1,000 leading companies. It’s a unique approach that UCS hopes will encourage employers to begin a relationship with the University — by sending listings of their job vacancies, attending one of the University’s six career fairs held each year or participating in the on-Grounds interviewing program.

Career Services is also developing other strategies for adding new players to the employer mix. For example, UCS Recruitment Manager Jennifer Hoffman, who came on board in July, recently traveled to the metropolitan New York area where she forged some promising employer relationships. The next step will be for UCS to tailor a recruitment plan to fit these companies’ needs. Hoffman met with representatives from Federated Department Stores Inc. (which operates the Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s chains), Christie’s International auction house and fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, as well as other companies offering positions that Arts & Sciences students might be interested in, but lack access to via on-Grounds interviews.

“These organizations don’t need to recruit at U.Va., since New York is so dense with potential talent,” she said. That doesn’t mean that students can’t go to them, however. Christie’s and several other companies UCS recently targeted have committed to participate in Career Services’ 25-year-old externship program, a effort that gives 700 to 1,000 U.Va. students a one-week job-shadowing experience each year.

University Career Services is equally committed to nurturing long-standing relationships with employers who have been recruiting at U.Va. for years, even ones that have been forced, at least temporarily, to halt recruiting.
“Our strategy is to be the last school they leave and when things improve, the first school they return to,” McBride said. “We absolutely understand it’s just business and we’ll welcome them back.”

The University Career Assistance Network, an alumni organization, is another well-established and increasingly valuable tool for job seekers. Approximately 25,000 alumni are signed up as volunteers, willing to provide career advice and share their experience with students and recent graduates.

“Most schools will tell you if they have a network of 2,000, they’re lucky,” McBride said. In addition, the UCS library offers students an extensive selection of print and electronic resources. Students seem more savvy about job-hunting than they were 10 years ago, thanks in large part to online information; they’re coming to UCS focused on specific goals, McBride said. The University Career Services staff appears equally savvy in building creative and effective bridges to expand students’ career options — during these difficult times and for years to come.


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