The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported that in 2016, 81 percent of bachelor degree graduates were employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation.
Rutgers is no exception to the numbers. The Rutgers University Career Services post-graduate survey reported that, in 2016, the University's overall placement was 86 percent, beating the national average by 5 percent.
Janet Jones, the director of Employer Relations at Career Services, said that it is crucial for students to begin their career search as soon as possible.
“Starting the process earlier is key to their success,” Jones said.
She said that even if employers do not hire students early on, they attend the University's career fairs to find students for internships that could turn into full-time job positions.
“Transforming an intern to a full-time employee is part of their strategy ... It’s more and more important than ever for students to gain relevant experiences in their job search,” Jones said.
The University is hosting a Spring Career and Internship Mega Fair on Jan. 30 and Jan. 31 from 11a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).
The fair typically attracts approximately 2,600 candidates each day and gives students and alumni from all University campuses the opportunity to interact with more than 300 employers from a wide variety of fields, according to the Career Services website.
She said that there is often a misconception that "tech employers" only hire tech majors, when in fact they hire students from a number of different fields, despite what a company might specialize in.
“I think we have a really nice cross section of different types of opportunities from different industries. We strive to create diversity on the floor. You see everything from tech to retail to health,” Jones said.
She said that students should come prepared to the fair instead of wandering aimlessly.
“Students need to be on their game. They need to do their homework, research ... They need to work on their resume, they need to be able to bring that resume to life ... They need to have their introduction and their elevator pitch,” Jones said.
Rick Hearin, executive director of University Career Services, added that students cannot expect to be successful with simply a good resume. There is a personal marketing aspect that needs to be conquered.
“What a lot of people don’t realize though, is it’s not just a matter of being well qualified, it’s also a matter of being able to persuasively present your qualifications to a prospective employer so that a prospective employer understands that they are a good fit, and that’s the stock in trade of University Career Services,” Hearin said.
Career Services offers two sessions of an “Insider’s Guide to the Career Fair,” in which students learn how to present themselves, what they can do to prepare, how to talk to employers, what to emphasize and how to follow up after.
The department also uses a mobile app, “Careers by Symplicity,” that keeps students notified on up-to-date information about the fair, including a list of attending employers, a floor map of all the booths and a feature that sets reminders for follow ups with select employers, according to the Symplicity website.
Jones said that even though it is highly encouraged, most students do not write follow-up emails with the employers they meet. Employers are most impressed with students who take the extra step and research companies before the fair.
“They are most impressed with students who have done their homework, who are aware of the opportunities, who are aware of what the business is, aware of how they might contribute, where they’re seeing a match ... I think those are the students that stand out,” she said.
Hearin said that there is an advantage to working with recruiters while they are still fresh.
“It certainly shows interest ... I agree that a lot of these recruiters see as many as (a) couple hundred students in a space of a few hours for the fair, so yeah, being early is probably advantageous,” he said.
Melissa Blake, associate director of Strategic Communication & Marketing of Career Services, said that if students cannot make the fair, they should not consider it a missed opportunity.
“Just because you couldn’t make it here in person today, doesn’t mean that you can’t pursue an opportunity with an employer in our office anytime, because that’s what we do all year round for students,” she said.
In addition to resume clinics, mock interviews, job postings and advisory boards, Career Services offers students the opportunity to connect directly with alumni who are successful in their field. Through unique programs like “Road to Wall Street” and “Road to Communication & Media,” students match with an alumnus who becomes their mentor and helps them navigate their career path.
According to Hearin, the Career Services department is working to roll out “Road to” programs in each of the seven career clusters that the University sponsors, including a “Road to Education and Public & Human Services” cohort that is already in the works.
Hearin said programs like these will further help Rutgers students understand themselves and their goals in life.
“We realize that the process of self discovery and career exploration can be pretty daunting. So as we work with students, we try to help them make it more manageable,” he said.
Forty-one percent of graduates reported that campus recruiting services, including career fairs and Rutgers’ job posting site, were a contributing factor in their post-graduation activity, Blake said.
Jones said that students should not expect to come to the fair and instantly get a job offer.
“That’s not the point of the fair ... They’re (employers) putting a name and a face to your resume. It’s a valuable opportunity that students should take advantage of,” she said.
Jones added that having the name “Rutgers” on a resume or a diploma has a prodigious impact and holds a heavy weight.
“Often times, when I’m trying to describe Rutgers' brand to employers, besides intelligent and academically focused, they’re leaders, they’ve gained experience through internships ... They’re scrappy, and they’re ready to work ... They’re persistent ... It’s the work ethic. It’s not feeling entitled," she said. "It’s the value of ‘I’m here. I’m ready to do the job. I’m ready to roll my sleeves up.’ It’s grit. It’s leadership. It’s all these things, and I hope Rutgers students realize this."