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University offers career services, coaching as seniors look for jobs

An open laptop inside of Davis Library displays the homepage of "Handshake", a site for students to discover job opportunities, on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023.

As UNC’s graduating seniors prepare to turn their tassels, they are faced with the looming question: What comes after college?

For some, post-graduation jobs are already secured. For others, they plan to continue to higher education, an internship or a fellowship. And for the rest, their next move is a mystery.

To guide students in this process, University Career Services offers tools like a training system for interview prep, career fairs and one-on-one coaching appointments. Additionally, some of the University’s professional schools have internal career services departments.

Derek Just, alumni and student career services coordinator for the Gillings School of Global Public Health, said as Public Health School undergraduate students finish their four years, about half of them go directly into employment while the other half go on to additional education, training, residency or fellowship opportunities.

Just works with alumni for Gillings School Career Services, a unique opportunity that provides career guidance even after students have graduated.

“I just worked with a doctor who spent 30 years as an OB-GYN and now wants to transition more into program management, and who hadn’t touched his resume in a couple of decades,” Just said.

Just said both graduate and undergraduate alumni of the Public Health School have access to his services indefinitely.

The Hussman School of Journalism and Media also has its own career services department, which annually releases a “First Destinations” report. Of graduates in the class of 2021, 91% were reported as employed and 9% went on to higher education. Besides North Carolina, the report cites New York and New Jersey as the top location for Hussman School graduates.

The Hussman School Alumni Board offers a Mentorship Program, and the School has Career Peers, who are undergraduate students that provide career assistance to other students. The School also offers Career Treks, which allow students to meet with companies and alumni across the country.

Landry Connors, a December 2022 graduate of Hussman, attended the New York City Career Trek.

“I think the best thing about being in the Hussman School is they do offer a lot of opportunities,” Connors said. “So for example, the Career Trek, that was something that I really wanted to do just because even outside of networking with other companies, I got to sort of see New York and if that was something I would enjoy, if that was somewhere I would enjoy living.”

Smaller professional schools, such as the School of Information and Library Science, also offer career guidance. Although Lori Haight, career service director for the School, operates in an office of one, she provides one-on-one meetings to students, organizes alumni and employer events and helps juniors and seniors receive academic credit for internships through a field experience program.

Last year, over 50 SILS students graduated from the undergraduate program, Haight said. She also said that, over the last five years on average, more than 90 percent of these students have a place to go post-grad. Of those, 70 percent go into a work setting and 30 percent go to graduate school.

After she graduates in May, senior Blake Reynolds will continue on to graduate school at a different UNC professional school. In October, she received her acceptance to the UNC Master of Accounting program, located in the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

“It’s definitely been a huge relief for me, because even last semester, early on — like August, September, October — it felt like it was something I was constantly focusing on and dragging me away from trying to really enjoy my senior year,” she said.

For Reynolds, graduate school is a "stepping stone" between undergrad and "the real world." There, she will have access to the MAC program’s Structured Recruiting. This process, organized by MAC Career Services, allows employers to hire MAC students for entry-level positions through recruiting events.

Between traditional job searching and Structured Recruiting, 98% of participants have a job in the first three months after graduation, according to MAC Career Services.

Reynolds will participate in an internship this summer, which she secured without help from any career services departments.

“It's partially on me because I didn't reach out to them, but I also feel like I just didn't really know how to go about reaching out to them,” Reynolds said. “But I think, in grad school, it's much more personalized toward you.”

Research from Michigan State University predicts that overall hiring for graduates with bachelor’s degrees will be up 8.6 percent compared to the 2021-22 academic year. But even with this promising increase, seniors still experience rejection in the job search.

Connors is one graduate still looking for job opportunities. She recently posted on LinkedIn about the frustrations of the job search, where she described the college-to-workforce transition as “one big guessing game.”

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She said it is important to remember that, while UNC is a prestigious institution where students learn a lot, there is no one way to get a job.

“And even though people say, ‘Oh it's all in networking, it's all in a perfect resume,’ those things matter but also, at the end of the day, you could have all those things and also be getting rejected,” Connors said.

“What I would want someone to tell me when I started the job searching journey is to not let it affect my confidence and to not take anything personally,” she said. “Because I know that I'm a qualified candidate for a job, it's just not the right job that I've applied for yet.”

Connor’s LinkedIn post received dozens of positive reactions from peers, to which she directed the message. But the takeaway she left for readers? 

“You’re going to be fine,” Connors wrote.