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  • Erica Patton

How to Land a Job

By: Erica Patton

It’s that time of the year. Graduation is just around the corner for many Tritons, and students are coming to learn exactly what kind of career they hope to get into. But right now, the job market has been making this process drag on way longer than expected, leaving many students throughout the United States hopeless. In a 2023 survey by Global Insight, 501 respondents admitted to only getting callbacks from four of the 30 jobs they have applied to in the last 12 months.

Photo by iStock

You may be tired of hearing “Have a good resume!” and “Make connections!” which are two simple phrases with little information on how to actually accomplish them. The job hunt is much more than having a resume ready to go and knowing a few people here and there. 

But fear not as two of UMSL’s most reputable faculty members have some tips for those on the brink of giving up.

Associate Teaching Professor Shannon Ahrndt teaches one of the most valuable courses here at UMSL. Professional Communication (COMM 2235) is one of many communication classes that provide valid information for students to succeed in their careers. This course not only teaches students how to accomplish effective communication and self-developmental skills in the workplace but also gives them first-hand experience in creating formally correct resumes, cover letters, reference lists and mock interviews.

Professor Shannon Ahrndt by UMSL

When discussing her upbringing as a professor at UMSL, Ahrndt explains that when she was teaching Communication in the Organization (COMM 2231), she found that the course focused more on theories rather than applied skills. This discovery led her to curate the Professional Communication course here at UMSL. “What I think our students need is something more applied where they are actually working on skills that will help them get a job. Things like interview skills, writing a resume, how to search for a job and cover letters,” said Ahrndt.

After graduate school, Ahrndt moved to South Korea and taught for 10 years at Seoul National University and Kyung Hee University, and also taught in Vietnam for two years. One of the biggest tips that Ahrndt left was how keeping an open mind during the job search will allow students to see what kinds of jobs they like and don’t like.

“I cast a wide net of where I was willing to work because I had been gone from this job market for 12 years… I think what was helpful was when I made a list of criteria for what I wanted in a job. One of the criteria that I considered was location. I was really willing to move anywhere that was a mid-size or bigger city,” she said.

She explains that making a list of places where you’re willing to move can broaden your chances of experiencing different career paths. Even when she saw the job posting for a teaching position at UMSL, she was unsure because she had never been here, and was hoping for a job on the coast. When she saw that this job was what she wanted to do, she went for it. “I have been here for seven years and I am really happy with it.”

One of the issues she sees students face is that students don’t consider their major when applying for jobs and often lack experience during their academic years. “When they come to my class and they start researching the jobs that fit their major and skill set, they are shocked because even entry-level jobs want you to have some experience,” said Ahrndt.

Though education is vital for jump-starting your career, the experience can be often overlooked as an important aspect of landing a job in your designated major. Fortunately, UMSL offers many resources such as help for finding internships that will give you valuable experience as a student.

Layne Paubel, the internship coordinator here at UMSL, has been closely connected to UMSL since almost all of her immediate family came here to pursue a variety of education. From attending UMSL to adjunct teaching to managing internship pathways, Paubel has truly seen it from all ends of the spectrum.

Internship Coordinator Layne Paubel

Concerning internships, one issue Paubel sees students face is students being aware of recruitment cycles for employers. Often, companies are recruiting students for internships very far in advance, which makes internships very limited the closer you get to the estimated time you would like to apply for one. “If you get a little bit behind that recruitment cycle, it’s either more work for you or you might not be able to land an internship by that point,” said Paubel. She advises that it is in students’ best interest to look for internships months in advance. If you want an internship by next summer, start the search in August or September.

“I like to look at a lot of things statistically,” she said. “When you’re on the job search, Indeed normally recommends that if you’re searching for a full-time job you want to be putting in 2-3 applications per day. But, if you’re searching for an internship you’re only submitting 3-5 each week.”

She advises students to optimize their time when looking for internships. She explains that the conversion rate of getting into a company with an internship to working a full-time career is relatively high. While part-time internships can expand your experience as a student, they may be even more beneficial for getting your foot in the door to work full-time for a company that is familiar with your work ethic.

Paubel also addresses the prominent issue of students being able to accumulate soft skills. “At the end of the day if the person isn’t personable, if they’re off-putting at work, not overall professional, sometimes that’s a little bit harder to train students on this, but not impossible. As students move into those early careers that’s the biggest gap that employers notice,” she said.

Photo by LinkedIn

One of the most important aspects of getting a job is creating the best resume possible. According to the Indeed Career Guide, resumes are the first step to getting an interview and help companies make effective hiring decisions. A resume is where you get to show off your best assets in a professional manner, but what makes one resume stand out from the rest?

Ahrndt explains that students should change their resumes depending on what job they are applying for. “For each resume, you’re going to cut and paste the most applicable skills to that job so that it is curated specifically to that job,” she said. A lot of students feel that having just one generic resume that does not need to be updated frequently will do just fine. When employers see very common resumes, they often feel a lack of desire to work for their specific company and may even get the idea that the applicant just needs a job.

When individuals tailor their resumes, companies can have more positive perceptions of applicants that show that they care about the company. “When you're looking at the job posting, you want to make sure that your skills address the skills and requirements they’re looking for specifically,” said Ahrndt.

On the other hand, Paubel lists some specific skills that are important to include on resumes. “A lot of students tend to leave off their communication skills and that’s one of what we would consider soft skills employers are looking for,” she said. Some of these skills she believes students can include are teamwork, collaboration, communication, presenting, etc. These skills are often overlooked but are crucial for working professionally.

A common trend in the job search may also revolve around the significance of “connections.” Ahrndt explains that the myth surrounding meritocracy will get you a job, when unfortunately, having connections is a big aspect of finding the right career for you. “Networking, even with your classmates, is important,” she said.

Networking was found as the underlying factor in what got both Ahrndt and Paubel into careers. “Networking is so beneficial…Leverage your UMSL network, and go to different events on campus to meet those people in person. It is really important because that is how a lot of people get jobs now,” said Paubel.

Photo by FlexJobs

On top of acquiring experience and skills, UMSL offers many great resources for getting a headstart on your career building. Career Services include many different links for helping students find their way through developing themselves during this extensive process.

The UMSL Career Fair on March 15. at the Touhill Performing Arts Center will also be a fantastic way for tritons to start networking with employers and get a feel for what the future holds for them.

If you’re struggling during the job search process, there are many resources for you to learn how to make the most out of your experience as a student at UMSL. With these tips from our insightful faculty members, this lengthy process can be made easier and not feel like a full-time job in itself.


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