A s you sit in that lecture hall exhausted at 8 a.m., an inevitable question burns in the back of your mind: How will I use this information to get a job post-graduation?
When faced with the pressure of finding the right job, competing with endless other qualified graduates and paying off student loans, students might start to dread the job search come graduation. Looking for jobs can be a daunting process.
Land the Dream Job
Some are lucky enough to go into the exact career they hoped for right after graduation. Sheren Khalil always knew she wanted to cover conflicts in the Middle East. After Khalil graduated from Webster with a bachelor’s in global journalism in December 2013, she booked a one-way ticket to the Middle East and has only come back to the U.S. to visit family once.
Khalil has now ridden with Peshmerga soldiers in Kurdistan-Iraq, spoken with ISIS smugglers in Turkey and covered riots in Palestine. She is a freelance journalist in the Middle East, as well as a general editor for the English desk at Ma’an Agency, where she interned her senior year. As a freelancer, she’s had her work published in Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy Magazine, VICE News and on the front page of USA Today several times.
Khalil decided to start off her career as a freelancer because of the variety of stories she could cover. Freelancing, which is working independently and selling your work to a company, is a way to get a foot in the industry without committing to a long-term employer. Khalil considers networking to be the most important aspect of freelance work.
“It’s really about who you know and the relationships that you make,” she says. “Do your best to keep a good reputation within the [journalism] community because your colleagues now might be your editors tomorrow.”
She recommends reaching out to people working in your ideal field while still in university to get an accurate perspective on how the field works.
“I don’t think any industry is the way you imagined it in your head, and you’ll never learn exactly how it’s like when you read a book,” Khalil says. “But when you talk to people working in the field right now and they give you honest answers, you’ll get a much better view of what it actually means to be doing whatever it is you’re trying to do.”
One way to connect with experts in your prospective profession is by following them on social media to see the work they produce. After you’ve introduced yourself to a potential employer, Khalil recommends following up and keeping them up-to-date with where you are in your career.
Explore Options Outside Your Major
Getting a bachelor’s in a specific field does not limit job opportunities to that major.
Though Daniel Goines graduated from Webster in 2008 with a bachelor’s in speech communications, he went on to pursue a master’s degree in higher education administration from St. Louis University (SLU). Goines decided to pursue a career in residential life because of the influence Webster faculty had on him. He is currently resident director and student life coordinator at Santa Clara University.
“What pulls me in is the personal connections I get to make with residents,” Goines said. “It was people like [Associate Vice President and Dean of Students] Ted Hoef and [Director of First Year Experience Program] Sarah Tetley that made me feel good when I was a student. I want to give that off to other students.”
While in California for his job at Santa Clara University, Goines had the chance to pick up a second job outside his major — one he hadn’t considered before the opportunity arose.
When Goines discovered that the new San Francisco 49ers stadium was going to host Wrestlemania, he started to research ways he could meet his favorite wrestler, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Goines interviewed for a security guard position at the 49ers’ stadium and was hired the same day. Goines met The Rock at a Wrestlemania event on March 29th, 2015.
“Mission accomplished,” Goines says. “Now I still get to enjoy the games on the sideline every Sunday.”
Often, the most important connections a student makes are with professors. Former Webster student and now full-time assistant English professor Murray Farish graduated in 1997. He’s had a total of 63 paying jobs but didn’t consider becoming a professor until studying at Webster.
Farish kept in regular contact with Director of Creative Writing David Clewell, his professor, after graduating. Clewell and Farish became friends, which led to Clewell inviting him to become an adjunct professor in the fall of 2003. As time went by, Farish picked up more classes to teach. He is now a full-time assistant English professor.
“[Clewell] not only showed me a lot of wonderful things to read, but showed me just a glimpse of a life that looked like something I might really like to have,” Farish says. “To come to work every day and talk to people about books and writing? Not bad.”
A college degree used to be a person’s one way ticket to landing a satisfactory job. But times have changed, and a college degree cannot guarantee a job anymore. Farish still thinks the degree is an imperfect indication of how a person can demonstrate commitment, creativity and attention.
“It says that you know how big a world is out there, and how humble you need to remain in the face of all there is still to learn. The good job and the happy life is largely up to you, but college can help you become the person who gets it,” Farish says.
Networking in STL
Students can get their foot in the door by taking advantage of networking organizations available locally. These STL organizations can help students get advice from professionals in different positions of their careers. Attend these events, which are occasionally free, to see what opportunities await.
For the innovative and entrepreneurial-minded, Venture Café St. Louis hosts an event where people can connect, brainstorm and create new ideas. Members of STL’s startup community that meet through Venture Café range from scientists to designers. The St. Louis Venture Café Gathering is held every Thursday from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the @4240 building in the Central West End.
Business Women Connecting
Business Women Connecting is geared towards connecting women business owners of any age in STL.There are two monthly membership options, which cost $30 or $50, and include access to various groups and platforms, monthly meetings and connections with consults.
Self-Employed St. Louis (SESTL)
SESTL is an organization geared to the creative freelancers, self-employed or small business owners. SESTL has monthly meetings where people can learn different strategies on how to organize their business. You can RSVP for $20 on their website.
St. Louis Networking Geniuses
St. Louis Networking Geniuses allows people to connect and have fun doing it. Networking Geniuses hosts monthly meetings at Duffy’s Bar and Restaurant, where members focus on online marketing, business referrals and business marketing strategies.
Story by Lara Hamdan
Photos by Jeannie Liautaud