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Class of 2013 Knows Where it is Headed

The St. Norbert College class of 2013 has a good sense of direction. Mandy Nycz (Career Services) says 61 percent know their post-graduate plans and, statistically, the class exceeds the national average for securing jobs prior to graduation. 

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, this year’s national average for graduating seniors gaining employment before receiving their diplomas is 29.3 percent. Of those St. Norbert grads seeking employment, 41 percent had accepted jobs before leaving campus. In 2012, 36 percent of St. Norbert grads had jobs at the time of Commencement.

Nycz says a further 16 percent of the graduating class has been accepted to graduate school, 3 percent to post-graduate service and 1 percent to military service. A connection by the Career Services staff with the seniors contributed to the success.

“We did more outreach to our seniors this year,” says Nycz. “Around spring break we did a specific outreach to all those seniors who hadn’t met with us ever. We reached out to those folks to try to get them in and utilize our services. That definitely helped. We saw an increase in traffic.”

Career Services also introduced walk-in hours over the lunch hour to meet the high demand for service. Students were able to receive immediate answers to their questions rather than having to make an appointment.

Finishing strong
New grad Laura Sommerfeld ’13 is now working at United Health Care and, with her employer’s support, looking into graduate school.  She says it was satisfying to graduate knowing that her job was in order. “As graduation approached, I could focus more on finals and saying good-bye to my friends rather than stressing about applications and interviews,” she says.

“Mandy was able to help me pinpoint my strengths and weaknesses. We talked about possible jobs that would help me practice those strengths that I exhibited. With that, it helped me narrow down my search criteria for my job pursuit.” 

Sommerfield's classmate Yerzhan Nauruzbayev ’13 is working as an analyst at Breakthrough Fuel. Graduating with a job already in hand was a very good feeling, he says, and it definitely took away some of the stress attending the final few weeks of his college career.

Taking a position of flexibility
Nycz also credits the seniors for recognizing the need for flexibility in today’s economy. “It’s all about being open to a different opportunity than maybe what you had initially imagined,” she says. “It’s about looking for opportunities where you are going to continue to grow, continue to gain skills, building experience for what the next step may be.

“We know that people are going to change jobs on average seven to 10 times over the course of a lifetime. While that first job may not be the dream job, you want to make sure you are doing those other things: building skills, gaining experience, building a network of contacts. Hopefully those things will springboard you to the next opportunity.”

Career Services did a check-in survey around the time of graduation with each member of the class of 2013. A six-months-out survey will follow. That questionnaire will seek information about the college and “continue to get that snapshot of what our grads are up to,” says Nycz.

“With both of these surveys, for those folks that are still searching for jobs, it allows us the opportunity to follow up,” she explains. “We can offer additional assistance, make sure we keep them engaged, keep them moving toward whatever that post-grad goal might be. We want to continue to support them in that process.”

The number of alumni seeking services has increased in recent years. Approximately 17 to 18 percent of traffic in the Career Services office involves services to alumni.

“I think it’s big for them knowing they have that support,” Nycz says. “That can be a costly venture on your own, to hire a career counselor.”

If a graduate doesn’t leave with a job in place, Career Services tries to make sure all seniors have a strong résumé, even if they aren’t going to use it immediately.

“It’s a living, breathing document,” Nycz says. “It’s so important with that résumé that you are constantly adding things to it. It’s easier to add things now rather than try to remember that great research project I did two years ago.”

Career Services will be connecting with first-year students when they step on campus in the fall. All incoming students will take part in StrengthsQuest, an assessment to discover their talents in hopes of applying them to achieve academic, career and personal success. Staff will also meet with all undeclared students. St. Norbert College students are required to declare a major by the end of their sophomore year. Introducing students early to the value of internships is another priority, Nycz says.

“The majority of employers start looking for sophomore students for internships,” she says. “If we can ingrain that in a first-year student, it’s so important.”

Looking ahead to next year, what is the goal for the class of 2014?

“Obviously, we would like to be at 100 percent in whatever the post-graduation plan may be,” Nycz says, “but the goal that remains in our office is that all students meet with us before they graduate. It’s important that they know our services.”

June 4, 2013