Tips for the Chips
Graduating can be scary, but some recent alumni found immediate success in their fields using CMU resources
Self-assertiveness and flexibility are two important attributes that alumni say employers look for in job applicants.
More than 3,100 Central Michigan University students will become alumni this week and will enter the workforce to start their careers.
You can get help at Career Services
Careers Services is located at Ronan Hall Room 240. The center is designed to prepare students for careers and offer opportunities to network with professionals. Some of the services they offer are:
- Career Fairs – Connected and build relationships with employers
- Reach Advising – Walk-in advising features help with resumes, cover letters and more
- Career Guide – Offers information about programs, career tips and advice
- Mock Interview – Practice communicating experiences, skills and goals to trained students
- Career Coaching – Meet one-on-one with a career coach to discuss future
- Capital City Internship Program – Free transportation to and from Lansing
- Handshake Career Management System – Access to jobs, internships and events at cmich.joinhandshake.com
For more information, call 989-774-3068 or visit careers.cmich.edu. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Julia Sherlock, director of Career Services, said CMU stands alone as a pipeline for students to achieve success in career fields, with Mount Pleasant being a close to large markets such as Detroit.
“CMU does a good job of anticipating market needs with programs that prepare students,” Sherlock said. “The bottom line is the employer is looking for the whole package.”
Some recent CMU graduates offered advice on how to navigate the world after graduation and how to find employment.
Sarah Case graduated in May 2013 after majoring in Spanish and English, and English as a Second Language.
Case did not land a job immediately after graduation and called summer 2013 one of the most stressful times of her life. She continuously filled out application and kept getting rejected. Case said a lot of application systems are automated and there is a lack of human contact.
“It’s really stressful knowing you’re throwing your application into the abyss and you never know what’s going to come out,” she said.
In 2013, during Labor Day weekend, Case received a call from Mount Pleasant Public Schools. She was eventually offered a part-time position in its ESL program, which was new at the time.
“It was exciting,” Case said. “It was nerve-wracking. It validated that I spent all this money, time and energy on this.”
Her part-time position in September 2013 transitioned into a full-time job the following month. She helps teach English as a second language to international students in the district, most of whom are family members of CMU students. She is now a Master’s student in addition to her working with international students, which has grown from 50 in year one to 100, and now 75.
During her time at CMU, Case said was a Resident Assistant in Thorpe Hall. This required her to build relationships with her residents to help them explore groups and activities on activities.
“(Being an RA) was really great in terms of professionalism,” Case said. “I needed some of what I learned in my time as an RA for my current job.”
Case shared five tips for graduates gearing up to explore the real world: start early, come prepared to interviews with questions, find something to keep yourself busy and relax you, bring personalized cover letters and resumes and have relevant items on your resume.
Flexibility is an important quality to adopt, Case said.
“Being able to roll with the punches and make the best of the situation that you find for yourself is important in your first job,” she said.
Expanding your skills
When Ashlea Phenicie started at CMU, she wanted to be a journalist. However, she picked up a variety of skills while pursuing her education, including graphic design, marketing and public relations.
Phenicie majored in integrative public relations with an interest in political public relations. After graduating in 2015, the first-generation college student interviewed at PR firms in Washington D.C.
However, Phenicie decided to remain close to home. She commuted an hour-and-a-half every day from Adrian to Lansing to work as senior digital media manager at Vanguard Public Affairs. She deals directly with digital components of work such as graphic design, web design and social media campaigns for clients.
Now, Phenicie is living in Lansing and is ready to move into her first house.
Phenicie did not utilize many of the student success resources on CMU’s campus; she networked in other ways. Her friend in her Delta Phi Epsilon sorority knew her current boss. When she applied for jobs, she put her resume on Instagram.
“It’s important to let your network know when you’re looking for a job because people want to help you,” Phenicie said.
Grades and grade point averages don’t matter, but Phenicie said portfolios do. She said to get experience, complete an internship, stay in touch with those involved in your field and don’t give up if you receive job rejections.
“Not every place is going to be the right fit. You’re looking for where you’re supposed to be,” she said.
Phenicie has sat in on interviews for Vanguard. She said some people summarize their resume, but it’s also helpful to have stories to share. It’s also important to walk into the interview with confidence.
CMU has great culture for getting students involved outside of the classroom, Phenicie said.
“Those experiences really made me a better candidate and helped me to finally land a job,” she said.
The No. 1 tip employers are looking for, based on Phenicie’s sit-ins at Vanguard interviews, is to be self-assuredness.
“If you want someone to believe you can do the job then you have to believe you can do the job,” she said.
Managing your career
Sherlock said students can get career-ready by volunteering and getting internships in addition to academic work are prone to success. Students should encompass a variety of skills and be a "package deal," she said.
Career Services conducts a First-Destination survey six months after graduation, Sherlock said. According to the most recent 2015-16 report by the Office of Institutional Research, 496 of the 812 participants were employed full-time, while 96 had part-time work.
Sherlock said students should engage in the job search by junior and senior year, either through career fairs or by networking with employers. She added it is important to take initiative during the transition from the college life to the professional world.
Employers contact Career Services every day, Sherlock said. Using Handshake, CMU's client-relationship management tool, there are more than 4,000 jobs posted specifically for CMU students.
Sherlock said employment-seeking is 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year.
For underclassmen, Sherlock said the key is to achieve post-graduation success is to get involved. She said the one thing employers do not value is when students do nothing except attend classes. College is about self-discovery, and Sherlock said students of that caliber are "caught behind the eight-ball."
About 60 percent of the student body utilizes Career Services, which offers ways on how to get started in your career and mock interviews with trained students.
For advice, Sherlock said to be a continuous learner and to utilize resources to find success after switching the tassel.
“There’s no excuse not checking us out," she said. "We’re here for students to help with student success. There’s no secret formula.”