“On May 20, 2012, when the Bucknell University seniors are walking across the stage in front of Bertrand Library, only half of you will have a job.” This is the most discouraging piece of news that I have ever heard; to make matters worse, I have heard these exact words on three different occasions now throughout my senior year from three different Career Development Center (CDC) employees.
When I first heard this daunting statistic from the CDC last fall, I was not phased. My plan for years now has been to graduate from Bucknell and immediately attend law school in an east coast city — preferably Boston, New York, Philadelphia or D.C. Unfortunately, as time has passed during my senior year, it has become more and more apparent that my dreams of attending law school and becoming a lawyer may not be the smartest decision due to the United States’ current economic situation and job market (or lack thereof). Jobs in the legal field are just as hard to come by now as jobs in every other field, but matters are made even worse with legal jobs because of the huge amount of financial debt with which law students graduate law school. I can not even imagine how awful it would feel to graduate from law school with thousands and thousands of dollars in debt and potentially not get a job.
While attending law school upon graduation from Bucknell is not completely out of the cards, I have been vigorously pursuing other career options while I wait to hear back form the six law schools who are currently holding my applications. I, like most other Bucknell seniors, am determined to be among the 50% of the graduating class who are employed on May 20. I have been applying to online career sites and corporate websites non-stop since the beginning of winter break. Much more importantly, though, is the networking with past Bucknell alum that I have been taking part in. I am completely aware that when people apply to jobs online, their resumes and applications get lost in a black hole. Therefore, I have been doing my best when I send in an application to a company to find Bucknell alum on Linkedin who work at that company (preferably in a similar function/area to what I applied for) and send them a message about handing in my resume and cover letter to the appropriate recruiter at their company. On almost every occasion, the alum has written back and was more than happy to help. A few different times, the Bucknellian even stated that the way they got the initial interview at that company was through another Bucknell alum, and they would love to pay it foward to me. This has proved to be the most beneficial approach to me personally, and it has even resulted in several phone calls with recruiters at various companies as well as two rounds of interviews in New York City. The network of Bucknell alum is unbelievable. That is why our parents pay the big bucks… I am learning to take advantage of it in any way that I can!
Then there is the job fair approach. I have always been skeptical about job fairs. While I certainly consider myself “well-spoken” and easy to talk to, I am not an in-your-face networker by any means. Additionally, most of the time when Bucknell has job fairs, I am not interested in the companies that show up or the jobs that they are looking to fill. I went to the Bucknell job fair in the fieldhouse merely to avoid the guilt I would have felt for not going; I ended up speaking to one company, and was disappointed with the waste of time that it turned out to be. You can imagine my hesitation, then, when it came time to sign up for the Bucknell Communications and Arts fair in New York City. I felt a little more optimism about this particular fair because the companies present were represented almost entirely by Bucknell alum, and the only students allowed to attend were Bucknellians. However, the bad news about that was that all of the students in attendance would be equally well-qualified, well-spoken, well-dressed…. you get the point. It is hard to stand out in a sea of academically successful and homogenous students who are just as determined to get a job as I am.
Overall, despite my hesitation, the job fair ended up being a success. The CDC filled a bus up with students to attend the fair; we drove there and back in one day, and the whole thing was free. During the fair, there were several tables lined up around the outside of the room with signs on them indicating which company was standing next to their designated table. As a Management major I was more interested in talking to the large companies that were present at the fair to potentially discuss any business or marketing functions that they were looking to fill; many of the companies were too “artsy” or too much about advertising rather than marketing, which is not something that I am personally interested in getting involved in. I was also nervous because all of my internship experience has been in the legal field (I have been working as a legal intern at a large defense litigation law firm in Philadelphia for the past year, and last semester I interned for the Union County District Attorney’s office). However, in the end, I ended up with the contact information of several very important and influential (and some less influential and important, but equally helpful) people in various large companies, including Viacom, CBS Interactive, and Turner Broadcasting Systems (TBS). It is probably true that these people will not remember me personally from our less than five minute conversations. It is also true that most of the companies were not currently hiring, and told all of us to start looking a lot closer to graduation. But after speaking with these Buckell alum, handing them my resume, writing them a thank you letter and receiving a response, they are all willing to put my resume and other information into the right hands if I do end up applying to their companies in the future. This is exactly how jobs are obtained, so I am thrilled about these connections that I have made. It is not uncommon at all for people to reach out to connections that they have made years before. My sister was recently contacted by a man she met on a train about an open position at his company. In addition, it became apparent that my experiences in the legal field are viewed as positive because the skills that one needs as an attorney are entirely applicable to almost any other job function.
As a closing note, after speaking with Jordi about the senior job search, I am becoming more open to the fact that I may not graduate with a job, and this is not that big of a deal. This does not mean that I will stop being obsessed with job searching constantly; that is who I am. However, I am realizing that it is not the end of the world. So what if we have a few months off at home to conduct our job searches? Won’t that just give us even more time and energy to devote to the cause? Although the graduation statistic is undoubtedly daunting, we should instead look at it as an encouraging fact. The senior class is full of bright, talented, determined students… I would like to think that more than 50% of us have these characteristics! We all need to calm down, take a deep breath, and remember that we are young and have our whole lives ahead of us to work from 8-6 every day. What is an extra few months?