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  May 14, 2001

Internet Indispensible to Students
Searching for Jobs

Cyberspace has put a new face on job hunting for both UConn graduates and the companies searching for the right candidates.

The Internet has become their common denominator, providing fast and efficient job searches and fast and efficient resume screenings.

Less stress, too, for the students.

"In a sense, it's the same old game, but the Internet has become crucial and has put a new face on the way graduates are seeking jobs," says Cynthia Jones, director of the University's Department of Career Services.

But students still need to be sharp, assertive and competitive in landing that all-important first job, she says.

"With the economy having been so good, our biggest challenge right now is that some students have become a little too comfortable," says Jones. "They are not always aware that there's sharp competition for jobs."

Although there's some national fear that the resilient job engine may be about to blow a gasket, UConn's May graduates appear to be doing well so far in landing jobs.

"Right now, computer-related jobs, engineering and business positions are the hot-ticket items," says Jones.

Within the airy temporary offices of Career Services, located adjacent to the new Chemistry Building on the Storrs campus, banks of computers and a staff of professionals and peer career advisors have been assisting students in their job-market search.

"It's panic time for some graduates," says Jennifer Wilder, a career resource assistant and University junior. "After spring break, everything moves very fast.

"One of my responsibilities is to make sure that a student has a well organized resume," she says.

Once that resume is in good shape, students can register on a Career Services website and click to send the resume off to potential employers. They can later check back on the website to see how many companies have actually taken a close look at their resume. All the information is password-protected.

The Career Services website offers access to information about dozens of potential jobs with companies and organizations, including non-profits, throughout the United States, with a concentration of positions in the Northeast.

Interested in working as a special agent in Boston for the Internal Revenue Service? Click on job number 1701 and learn that the salary range is $36,438 to $46,251 and that a GPA of 3.0 or higher will place an applicant at a superior entry level. There's still time to apply. The application deadline is June 15.

Click down on the screen and learn that Westinghouse Electric Co. is seeking associate engineers in Windsor, Conn., and in Pittsburgh, Pa. The salary is competitive, but a graduate will have to move fast on these positions. The starting date is June 1.

Anthropology major Michelle Kuzma says that while job searches on the Internet are impersonal, they do help to narrow down the field and minimize the stress.

"You don't have to be formal right away with a potential employer," says Kuzma. She should know. She works as a Career Services assistant.

Jim Foley, manager of university recruiting shared services at Hartford-based United Technologies, says "Internet-based methods are a must" for graduates seeking a job.

He says the traditional college recruitment model that companies relied on in the past - where recruiters spend several days grounded on campuses interviewing students - has changed dramatically.

"At UTC, we use a combination of on-campus events, such as job fairs, interviews, presentations, and networking," Foley says. "We also rely on Internet-based sourcing."

Some 20 UConn graduates have been hired by UTC's various businesses for entry-level technical and financial leadership programs.

At Travelers Insurance, college recruiters are turning to websites such as Monster.com and jobdirect.com, and have established their own e-mail address for students: college@Travelers.com.

"We've seen an increase in resumes coming to us through the Internet," says Allison Keeton, director of college relations at Travelers Insurance.

Keeton, a member of UConn's 25-member Career Services Employer/ Faculty Advisory Board, says the company continues to look for strong grades - preferably a GPA of 3.2 or higher - along with a well-rounded background and good computer skills, regardless of the position.

She says Travelers is hiring the same number of college students this year as last, including more than a dozen UConn graduates. Most will land in the company's leadership development programs.

Keeton says news in The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg's News Service that some companies are rescinding job offers to college students seems to be more of a West Coast phenomenon. In Connecticut, the unemployment rate remains low, at 2.6 percent, and that can be good news for graduates.

At Career Services, Jones and her staff have combined state-of-the-art computer-based programs with more traditional job search strategies.

For example, to kick off the 2000-2001 academic year, Career Services hosted the traditional, one-day job fair at Gampel Pavilion. The event attracted 150 companies, 300 company representative s, and some 2,000 students.

But something new has been added to the job fair concept. It's known as the virtual job fair, and it takes place in an interactive Internet setting between employers and students.

"All kinds of helpful elements are built into the virtual fair," says Jones. "Students create an account, electronically submit their resume to employers, and then check their mailbox to see who's interested in them. Communication is done quickly by e-mail."

During the academic year, Career Services hosted seven, week-long virtual job fairs, in advertising and marketing, education, engineering, financial services, diversity, high-tech, and the information age.

Another newly available web-based research tool is CareerSearch, a database of more than 800,000 potential employers throughout the United States that is geared to universities.

"It's an incredibly powerful and dynamic resource for students and helps them to tailor their job search," says Jones. "It's also allowed us to do away with 50 percent of related paper in our library."

Through CareerSearch, a student interested in working in the publishing field, say, in Atlanta, could access a folder that lists all publishing companies in that area, along with the number of employees, benefits, and other pertinent company information.

But with all the new job searching tools available to them, students still need to take the lead in pursuing their goals. "Our role is to assist the students with their career development process, says Jones. "We teach them how to fish, rather than giving them the fish."

It appears that more and more University students are learning how to fish for their jobs. A recent survey by the University's Office of Institutional Research showed that 41 percent of seniors had some contact with Career Services.

Claudia G. Chamberlain

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