VIDEO: Panel discussion gives students edge in the job market

Getting a job, getting an internship or even getting into graduate school is a challenge that all college students have to face at some point.  

Washburn University’s chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society held a panel discussion on March 7, 2012 titled “Be Active: How to Make Yourself Competitive in a Tight Economy.”  

The panelists were William Beteta, executive director of Heartland Visioning, Brett DeFries, instructor for the English department at Washburn, Jenalea Randall, corporate communications specialist from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Topeka, Marsha Sheahan, vice president of public relations for Topeka Chamber of Commerce, and Jim Zimmerman, vice president and deposit services manager at Capitol Federal.

Each panelist discussed their own personal experiences through college and gave advice to students about what they should be doing now to prepare for graduation.

“Applications are skyrocketing because nobody can find a job,” said DeFries.  “People are desperately trying to get into graduate schools to hold off getting a job and become more prepared which makes a lot of sense, but it can cause an extra strain, financially speaking.”

DeFries said that he would recommend to students who plan on going to graduate school, to take a year off, especially those that are graduating at the age of 22.

“Because I think the field is so competitive, it’s a good idea to take a year to plan your graduate applications because it will take you far longer than you ever guessed to apply to graduate schools,” said DeFries.  “Applying to seven, eight or even 10 schools is not too many, and anything less than that is probably too few.  Applying for graduate programs is expensive, as well, and if a person is applying to eight or 10 schools, it is going to cost about $1,000 in the end.”

Sheahan said that students need to be flexible and willing to try new things when searching for a job.

“You have to be able to be flexible enough to take on what is new, such as technology, and put yourself out there to be able to learn those new things,” said Sheahan.  “Keep yourself open to learning always and ask for those opportunities.”

Randall said that students should consider non-profits as they’re job hunting.

“Most students will probably think ‘no way’ because of student loans to pay off and non-profits are known for low paying,” said Randall.  “I was at the Capper Foundation for five years, did pretty much everything there and it was an amazing training ground and a great experience.”

Randall said that students should develop long term goals for what they want.

“It sometimes doesn’t get stressed enough, but having an idea of where you want to go doesn’t mean that your goals can’t change, but it does give you some purpose for what you want to do for your next step,” said Beteta.

Beteta said that volunteer work on a resume counts just as much as a paid position.

“If you are doing the same work at a volunteer job that you would at a paying job, it’s work experience,” said Beteta.  

Randall said that students should take advantage of being the new kid when they start a job.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions, listen and learn from those who are experienced and have a wealth of knowledge to share,” said Randall.