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Alumni Connections, Reputation Aid UNC Graduates in Job Market

Others say both are important.

But one thing is certain: for UNC-Chapel Hill graduates wondering how their diplomas will help them find jobs, the University's good reputation and extensive alumni network throughout the state can be a blessing, especially in a lagging economy.

"It never hurts to be the top university in the state," said Tim Stiles, an associate director at University Career Services. "We have the brand-name recognition. We have the reputation."

But simply graduating from the state's flagship university isn't enough to secure a job. Networking has become even more important in light of the recent economic downturn.

"A degree from any good university isn't enough to get you a job these days," said Linda Conklin, manager of UNC-CH Alumni Career Services.

About 70 percent of all jobs are "hidden" jobs, or jobs that aren't advertised, Conklin said.

These jobs are found through networking. Employers would rather hire a person recommended by a friend than sift through piles of resumes, she said. "Networking is crucial to tap into that hidden job market."

In times of economic downturn, job-seekers have to "dig a little deeper and work a little harder," she added.

That's where alumni contacts can help. Tapping alumni resources also is a valuable skill, Conklin said. "They are a wealth of knowledge."

UNC-CH alumni often feel a special loyalty to UNC, which doesn't always exist at other universities, Conklin added, and the network of UNC-CH fans isn't limited to North Carolina.

"They're all over the world," she said. "There is a network in place."

Alumni often help with on-campus recruiting, give students advice or do networking sessions, Stiles said. "They want to come back to Chapel Hill themselves."

Carolina alumnus Homer Duncan, now CEO of the Raleigh accounting firm Lynch & Howard, said he considers UNC-CH graduates over graduates of other N.C. universities when hiring.

"We know that the students there are generally very capable people," he said.

Duncan said UNC-CH graduates receive a more well-rounded education than students from other schools -- an essential quality even in the business world.

"How do you deal with a business problem if you don't understand the underlying world?" he said.

Wayne McPeters, a 1998 UNC-CH graduate who works for the (Raleigh) News & Observer as an online sports producer, said the School of Journalism and Mass Communication's good reputation gave him an immediate advantage in the job market.

"Automatically I had an advantage because everyone knew (UNC-CH)," he said. "I thought that gave me credibility."

McPeters said the University's prestige has helped him through the economic downturn. "I've been able to stay in the field without having to compromise what I want to do," he said. "I think a lot of that is because I graduated from (UNC-CH)."

Rajal Patel, a 2001 UNC graduate of the Kenan-Flagler Business School who works for the Bank of America in Charlotte, said the company's close links with the University "definitely" helped him get his job.

"There are a lot of Carolina alums that work here," he said. "There's a good relationship between the University and some of the big companies as far as the business school goes."

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Patel was part of a team sent to recruit UNC-CH students for Bank of America this year. He said his superiors told him to "recruit hard at Carolina."

Brad Dellinger, a 2000 UNC-CH graduate who also works for Bank of America, said UNC-CH graduates are usually given priority in the N.C. business community over alumni of smaller UNC-system schools.

Dellinger said that although the "good old boy" network of UNC-CH fans is out there, it's not as prevalent in urban areas or in large corporations. "In small towns, you definitely see Carolina graduates grouping together more than you would in a big city," he said.

Sara Batten, a 2000 UNC-CH graduate in English and psychology, now works as a production editor at Oxford University Press in Cary.

Although she found that UNC-CH wasn't an especially well-known name when she worked in Boston directly after graduation, the climate is different in North Carolina. "Around here, it's well-known enough it's considered an advantage," she said.

But the University's reputation might not be as important in fields requiring specific skills, such as medicine or computer science.

Heather Graff, a 2001 UNC-CH graduate in computer science who now works for IBM in Raleigh, said her academic performance and internship experience was what was most important. "That's what's going to matter, not so much where you got your degree."

But a UNC-CH degree can't hurt, she added.

Neither can alumni connections. Stiles noted that many alumni feel an affiliation with UNC-CH. He said, "Maybe it's nostalgia."

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