Editor’s Note: Do you have a question about distance learning or coping with school in these challenging times? Each week Kelly Browning, an early childhood education/special education major and student ambassador at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.
I am about to start my senior year at Mercer and am worried about the current job market and whether I will find employment after graduation. Does Mercer offer any guidance or assistance to students to help them find careers after graduation?
The answer to this question is unequivocally, “Yes!” The Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) provides career guidance to all Mercer students.
It also provides Mercer alumni with lifetime access to the CCPD. Its mission, as stated on the CCPD website, is to “prepare students and alumni to succeed in work and life by providing customized, innovative and comprehensive career resources.”
Just some of the services the CCPD provides are:
- Career planning and decision making
- Resume or curriculum vitae (CV) guidance
- Cover letter guidance
- Interview preparation
- Career assessment
- Professional dress guidelines
- Dining and business etiquette
- Salary expectations and negotiations
- Job search strategies
- Networking guidance and information
I contacted Kim Meredith, assistant director for the CCPD and a certified career counselor based at the Henry County Regional Academic Center. I shared your question with her and asked: “In addition to this reader’s question, what advice or information do you feel is vital for students and alumni to know in the wake of our country’s current challenges?”
She gave spectacular advice for all Mercerians to know about the current job market and things they can do now to prepare.
“Jobs are still available,” Meredith said. “While some industries were heavily affected, other sectors were not. I want your readers to look at career.mercer.edu/job-search. I would like them to pay particular attention to the “list of credible job search resources,” which is a curated list of up-to-date articles, employer interviews and lists of employers who are hiring. Then, follow the steps listed under ‘Steps to Implementing a Successful Job Search.'”
In addition, she said the CCPD offers a five-week “Job Search Bootcamp Series,” a mostly self-directed job search instruction workshop that integrates weekly live Zoom sessions. Mercer students and alumni can sign up for the series through 5 p.m. May 27. There is no cost to participate.
Meredith said that “at this point, job seekers must be digitally savvy, especially in this COVID-19 job market.”
Mercer offers students free access to Handshake, an online, one-stop career development platform that connects students and alumni with employers and to the CCPD. You can build a profile and make yourself visible to employers. There are 500 companies hiring students on Handshake right now.
In addition to Handshake, LinkedIn is a vitally important tool to have when looking for employment.
“You must connect with other people,” Meredith said. “There’s more to getting a job than just sending in resumes. LinkedIn reveals networks that would otherwise be hidden, and it helps people connect and build relationships.”
Building those connections will not only help you build an informational database about different careers but will help get you, and what you have to offer, seen. Meredith invited all 2020 graduates to join the Official Mercer University Alumni Network group on LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, search “Mercer University Alumni” and ask to join.
Mercer students have access to online meeting platforms, like Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
“All Mercer students have the ability to host meetings through these platforms. They can access them through the Mercer IT site. Zoom is a great place to have a virtual ‘coffee chat.’ Rather than meeting at Starbucks, you can meet each other from the comfort of your home,” Meredith said. “Don’t be afraid to host a virtual meeting, but remember to be professional, dress professionally, make notes beforehand that will help guide your conversation and turn on your webcam. You can ask your guests to share information about their career, professional affiliations, current challenges, and possibly inquire about volunteer, job-shadowing or internship opportunities.
“The goal isn’t to approach these networking meetings with your hand out but rather a sense of connecting, learning and relationship building. The courage it takes to initiate these type of connection meetings will serve job seekers very well.”
Although students are encouraged to connect with the CCPD during their freshman year, there is no time frame for them to be eligible for services. Connecting with a CCPD career consultant early will enable him or her to work with you throughout your time at Mercer, building and adding to your resume and online profiles as you develop and strengthen professional skills throughout each semester. As a senior, this connection with the CCPD is especially important, so you can build your career plan, enhance your resume and prepare to enter the job market.
“No matter your age, your major, your degree level or your stage of career, the necessary steps to a successful job search are essentially the same,” Meredith said. “Pay close attention to who is hiring, study your target job descriptions, customize marketing documents, and stay focused and persistent.
“Job searching requires a great deal of courage, persistence and self-driven work. Stay the course!”
The CCPD’s vision statement is: “We aspire to equip and empower all Mercerians to thrive in the lifelong process of career and professional development.” You can make an appointment with the Mercer CCPD career consultants once you log in to Handshake.
Good luck to you! As always, I wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journey!