Campus to workplace

Students study how to find right job and career path
By Pamela H. Sacks


Earlier this month, Lindsay Shields found herself in a good place. On the cusp of graduation from Worcester State College, she had two job offers and a second interview for a position she was eyeing with enthusiasm.

Ms. Shields, a math major, knew that when she got her degree, she would enter the work force. But as her senior year progressed, she was unsure how to go about finding a job.

“I have a very general major – not a teaching or nursing degree – so I didn’t know what was available to me,” Ms. Shields said. “I had no dream job in mind. I was very concerned.”

She paid a visit to Marcia Eagleson, the director of career services at Worcester State. Ms. Eagleson had Ms. Shields take an online personality test, which determined she would do well in a leadership role in the technical field. Ms. Shields wrote a resume with Ms. Eagleson’s guidance and prepared to attend a job fair sponsored by the Colleges of Worcester Consortium. She looked up the list of companies that would be at the fair and chose a dozen that interested her. She researched each one. At the fair, Ms. Shields, 23, approached the companies with confidence.

“I feel I made an impact on those people, and I heard back from several of them,” she said.

Steven DiRoberto is a finance major at Worcester State. He has sought advice on his resume, attended two job fairs, searched online and networked diligently. Mr. DiRoberto wants to land the right job – one with potential for growth – in some area of financial services. He has had interviews at a half-dozen companies.

“I was nervous the first couple of interviews,” said Mr. DiRoberto, 22. “I’m learning about what I want. I went on an interview for a job I didn’t have any intention of taking – but you make contacts. You listen. I’ve been learning a lot. You talk about your interests and pass your resume along.”

Ms. Shields and Mr. DiRoberto are fast learners. This year, nearly 3 million students will receive college degrees, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Many are unfamiliar with how to seek a job and unrealistic about the positions for which they are suited, career counselors say. They post their resumes online and sift through a couple of Internet job sites. And they leave it at that, despite the fact that the NCES reports that only 17 percent of employers use online sites to recruit students for jobs.

Mr. DiRoberto was surprised he ran into so few people he knew at the job fairs. Ms. Shields has noticed students who seem worried about finding work but unable to take the right steps.

“They don’t understand the bigger picture,” she said. “Jobs are not always advertised. It’s about learning the bigger process of job hunting and looking for the people who will give you guidance about careers.”

A student often will tell Ms. Eagleson that they want a personally fulfilling job. It is not her goal to place a student in a job; rather, she seeks to teach each one how to look for a job and recognize employment trends.

“The global economy is structuring the world of work here,” Ms. Eagleson said. “Young people may have three or more careers.”

The world may be smaller, but the leap from campus to workplace can be big.

Many students don’t know how to dress or talk in a professional way, said Heather N. Maietta, director of career services at Nichols College in Dudley. They have grown up with cell phones and iPods. They don’t even have patience with e-mails anymore, she said.

“They get instant gratification with text messaging,” Ms. Maietta said. “We find that when they do write e-mails, they are writing it like a text message: `hi prof how are u?’ It’s a challenge for them when they graduate and have to communicate with full sentences and good grammar. It’s something we didn’t have to work on a few years ago. Now we do.”

Dave Bedard, owner of Bedard Enterprises of Dudley, a marketing and advertising business, found his way out of public housing in Worcester with a positive attitude and a degree from Worcester State. As a member of the board of the Worcester State Foundation, Mr. Bedard got involved with students and soon realized many lacked confidence and an understanding of their own strengths.

This year, Mr. Bedard published a book, “Graduate & Grow Rich,” to help students make the transition. He urges them to believe in themselves and to set high expectations. The “grow rich” in the book’s title refers to personal enrichment, he said. At the same time, Mr. Bedard warns that a sense of entitlement is inappropriate and self-defeating.

“People don’t land in a dream job right out of school,” Mr. Bedard said. “No matter what you do, give it 100 percent. Have a 10- or 20-year perspective. If you have a can-do attitude, the boss will be more willing to encourage you and open another door.”

The Hanover Insurance Group Inc. has 4,000 employees, half of whom are based in Worcester. The company recruits at colleges in the city as it seeks self-starters who have demonstrated leadership qualities, perhaps through sports and other activities, said Bryan D. Allen, vice president and chief human resources officer. Hanover values curiosity and a desire to learn, he said.

Both Mr. Allen and Darren Wardwell, human resources director at FLEXcon, the Spencer-based manufacturer of pressure-sensitive film and adhesive products, said that a candidate must dress and speak in a professional manner and demonstrate an ability to interact well with others.

To find the best candidates, Hanover participates in job fairs and visits college campuses. Young people are technically savvy and have different career expectations from previous generations, Mr. Allen said.

“Kids today are not as comfortable with a traditional career path,” he said. “It becomes our job together to find a good, appropriate position. We want to provide opportunities for them to continue to develop.”

A serious contender for a job should expect to be thoroughly checked out. About 38 percent of companies review online social network sites, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

“We consider various online social networks, including engines like LexusNexus, as part of our reference and screening background process,” Mr. Allen said.

Both Ms. Shields and Mr. DiRoberto said they were satisfied with the scope of their job hunts, and they’re optimistic that those efforts are about to pay off.

“I expect to be working by June 1,” Mr. DiRoberto said.

Contact  Pamela H.  Sacks by e-mail at

Pay ranges employers are offering recent college graduates

42 percent less than $30,000

32 percent between $30,000 and $40,000

15 percent between $40,000 and $50,000

11 percent more than $50,000