TUN sits down with Lynn Hansen, the executive director of career services at the University of Central Florida, to discuss how students can find a job.
TUN: Lynn, thanks so much for joining us.
HANSEN: You’re more than welcome. Thank you for having me.
So, let’s start on campus. What on-campus resources can students use to help them find jobs?
Well, there are a lot of resources. I won’t be able to touch on all of them, but a good starting place is with their career centers. All major universities and colleges have a career services office of some sort. It might have a different title, but there are career people on campus to help.
Through departments like mine, we’ve got a whole host of services and programs that help students figure out the right path to be on, decide what major to be in, understand what they can do with a particular degree and know what it takes to pursue a particular industry or job that they might be interested in.
We’ve got services that help with all those things. Along the way, students pick up skills on building resumes, how to effectively interview and the importance of networking. They go through internships and other important experiences. And finally, towards the end of their degree, we will help students connect with employers or whatever their next step might be. For some people, that’s graduate school.
Resources come in many shapes and colors. There are student organizations. There are clubs. There are faculty groups and faculty members you can get involved with. There are academic advisers. There are lots of people on campus who are here specifically to help students succeed. So, make sure you seek out those resources.
Great. So, do you have any tips on how students can make the most out of in-person and online career fairs?
Absolutely. The key to being most successful at a career fair is doing some leg work in advance. Career fairs will always promote and identify which companies or organizations are going to be at the career fair.
It really serves a student well to make sure they’ve done some research. They should identify the organizations that they’re most interested in and make sure they know what each company is all about.
We hear from employers all the time that they talk to students and when it becomes clear that the student has absolutely no idea what that organization does, the recruiter loses a little interest. So, it really does serve a person well to be prepared. Be ready and take it seriously. That will help you put your best foot forward.
Also, whether it’s in person or virtual, you need to dress the part and behave the way a professional person would behave. You have to let that recruiter or that hiring manager know that you’re serious about this. Even in some industries where the typical work day would be a much more casual environment, you don’t want to look like you just came out of the gym or off the basketball court to talk to a potential employer.
Great. So, where else can students turn for help finding jobs? Are there any resources, perhaps online, that students could use?
Absolutely. Most college students should be aware of a number of different online resources that are available to them.
LinkedIn is a great resource. Once again, at your career center or through other programs at your school, they will have sessions on how to maximize the use of LinkedIn to enhance a professional network and get the word out that you are a smart, talented person who is looking for a position in this particular area.
But, online is not the only avenue that people should be thinking about. If you are actively looking for a position, you don’t want to keep that a secret. Your parents need to know that. Your friends need to know that. The pastor at your church needs to know it. Everybody needs to know that you are actively looking for a position and that you’re very excited about it. And, it would help if they knew what kind of field you were in or what kind of position you wanted.
We sometimes refer to that as the “hidden job market,” because sometimes positions don’t even make their way to a job board or to LinkedIn. Sometimes it will be the neighbor saying, “Hey, I work for a company that’s looking for an XYZ.” Connections can be made through that kind of avenue, so don’t keep it a secret. If you are looking for a position, you want to be very persistent and you want to make sure that everybody that you know can help you find and secure the best position possible.
That is a perfect segue into the next question that I have for you about networking. Networking is huge. Who should students be reaching out to and where can they find these people?
Okay, that’s a great question. Students, again, should be talking to everyone.
Networking is truly a mutual relationship. Sometimes, students make the mistake of thinking that if they can identify the president of some organization and reach out to that person, that’s networking. Well, that’s making an introduction.
Networking is when people get together, collaborate, work with one another and have something mutual to achieve. It benefits both parties to establish that strong network.
Start networking with your professors, with your classmates and with alumni from the university. Work with an alumni office or through a career center.
LinkedIn is a great resource to try and find alumni from your institution. Reach out to them and do an informational interview. That’s when you ask them, “How did you get to where you are? What path did you take? How can I take steps to reach the achievements that you’ve had?”
There are many ways to do that, but it’s not just walking up and saying, “Hello, my name is blank. Do you have anything for me?” It’s about solving a problem for another, and they can solve a problem for you.
Great. So, at what point should college students start the job search process?
Freshman year — the job search process is not a switch that you flip when you are X number of weeks away from graduation. The entire college experience is building a skill set and filling out the pieces of a resume. So, you truly need to begin thinking about the end goal as you’re coming into the university.
I understand that freshmen are not always thinking about years down the line. But, as a student goes through school, they can choose to engage with things that really will help them later on. They can be fun things. They can be clubs, doing things with others and enjoying your time as a student in college. But, you can make choices to achieve everything.
You can join a club as a freshman. As a sophomore, maybe you’re on one of the committees. Later on, you take a leadership role.
Well, that path will give you communication skills, teamwork skills, leadership skills and perhaps time management and financial management skills. You can pick up these very sought-after qualities all along the way.
As a student early in your academic career, start to get those experiences. As you become a junior or a senior, look for an internship or do volunteer work. There are many other kinds of experiences.
At UCF, we have a long-standing partnership with Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin has a few facilities here in the Orlando area, and we’ve got a work experience program with them. Every year, hundreds of students get work experience at Lockheed Martin.
So, at your school, look for various special programs that you might want to get involved with, too.
Great. So, how many jobs should students be applying for?
That’s not a number I can really define. So, I won’t even think about it as a number. It’s more important to be persistent than to think that there is a quota for the number of jobs that you should be applying for.
I’m not trying to sugarcoat that it is very difficult in some sectors right now. Other sectors are actually booming, but there are certain areas that are not. For instance, here in Orlando, our hospitality industry has been hit hard.
But, let’s not think about a number of positions that I need to apply for. Let’s think of a different strategy.
Number one, you have to make it your job to look for a job. It’s not just, once in a while, I’ll go online, look for something and make an application. No. You stick with it. You’re persistent. You identify things that you might be interested in.
You might need to pivot right now. If there’s one thing that college students and high school students, right now, are learning to do, it’s pivot.
For years you may have been thinking you’re going to go one direction, and right now is not really the time you can do that. So, think about other ways that you can use the skills that you’ve developed in school.
I would encourage students to use all the resources at hand. Their campuses will have a system for students to seek jobs. At UCF, we use a product called Handshake. Students can go into Handshake and identify employers that are specifically looking for UCF students. They may be looking at other schools too, but we know they’re looking for our students because they have actively chosen to post positions with us.
Use that resource, but there are many, many others, too. You’re not going to make an application for a job and then wait to see what happens with that before you apply for job B. You’re going to have a bunch of irons in the fire and see what can come of it.
I know that students can get discouraged. If you’re not getting immediate results, be patient. It’s unlikely that you will get immediate results. But, as the weeks go by and you continue to look for positions, just be persistent and continue to look in every place possible. And, be prepared to be flexible and pivot.
Great. Thanks, Lynn, for joining us today.
Oh, thank you. I appreciate it.
This interview has been edited for clarity. Watch the full video here.