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New Networking Tool Gives Students "UCAN" Succeed Job Advice

January 18, 1999 -- As University of Virginia students ponder if they'll succeed in the working world, U.Va. officials have a helpful piece of advice: UCAN.

Students can gain tips on job search strategies, career paths or internships through UCAN, the University Career Assistance Network, which lists approximately 15,000 alumni willing to offer their time and advice. The database offers networking possibilities in careers and cities across the country.

"Approximately 75 percent of all jobs are gained through networking," notes Cindy D. Garver, associate director of U.Va.'s Alumni Association. "UCAN is a networking tool that gives students information about industries, companies and careers from people with common experiences and education at U.Va."

From the volunteer career mentors, students can gain advice on more than 55 fields ranging from advertising and public relations to research and development. Launched this fall by U.Va.'s Alumni Association, UCAN has become a popular free service.

"Students are finding it is particularly good to use UCAN prior to a job interview with a corporate recruiter," Garver said. "Through the mentors students can gain knowledge about what's happening in a field or sometimes, a particular company."

Although UCAN is not a job placement or internship service, the mentors sometimes offer to review r*sum*s or provide employment referrals. They enjoy having the opportunity to offer advice and encouragement, Garver said.

"It allows alumni to give something back to the University -- at virtually no cost to them -- and students gain information that is timely and useful -- at no cost to them," Garver said.

Students can search the database in numerous ways, including class year, U.Va. school, employer, industry or occupation. The information, which is stored on a server, is also searchable by states and many cities.

"The database allowed me to search by profession type and in a few minutes, I was presented with a list of about 40 alumni who have agreed to give career support," said Jonathan MORE 2 Muhlendorf, a fourth-year student interested in a financial planning career.

Containing what U.Va. officials say is an unusually large alumni database for a public university, UCAN is also becoming a popular networking tool among graduates. Graduates phone their requests for career contacts to the Alumni Association, which sends them the information at no charge.

To help students and alumni know how to use the information they gain, UCAN users are given tips on the best ways to contact the mentors. Tips include a sample request for scheduling an informational interview.

The tips suggest that UCAN users prepare for the interview by compiling a list of open ended questions that will stimulate discussion. Such questions include: "What degrees or credentials are required for entry into this work?", "What types of prior experiences are essential?", and "Can you suggest specific internships that might offer appropriate experience?"

Students can access the UCAN information in U.Va.'s Office of Career Planning and Placement (OCPP) or at the Alumni Association.

To help students become comfortable with the networking opportunities available through UCAN, the Alumni Association and OCPP are holding sessions where graduates and students meet to talk about a designated career field. OCPP and the Alumni Association are also piloting a program to give students practice in developing their networking skills.

"If students can network appropriately, alumni will feel comfortable giving them professional referrals," Garver said.

Information on the database was collected by sending a survey to alumni in October 1997. The Parents Program, a volunteer organization of parents who raise money to improve the University experience of students, helped underwrite the cost of contacting alumni career volunteers.

Contact: Cindy Garver, (804) 971-9721 or cdg2y@virginia.edu, or Elly Tucker in OCPP at (804) 924-6376 or eyt2r@virginia.edu.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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