This weekend, thousands of newly minted University of Arizona alumni will wake up and face the question before all new college graduates: What's next?

For some, the answer is already known. To date, 26 percent of respondents to UA Career Services' annual "career destinations" survey of graduating seniors say they have already secured full-time, post-graduation employment in their field. Another 17 percent say they have been accepted into graduate school.

For those who still aren't quite sure what the future holds, help is available from their alma mater.

"Graduating students still have access to all the resources Career Services has to offer," said Eileen McGarry, director of UA Career Services. "That includes a rich, very robust Web suite of resources and events."

For just $20 a year, UA grads can continue to access a variety of Career Services resources, including online job postings, career fairs, seminars, one-on-one career counseling, the opportunity to participate in on-campus interviews with select employers and more. For members of the UA Alumni Association, Career Services access is included in membership.

"If students haven't started looking for jobs or haven't had the success they wanted, there still is a lot to tap into," McGarry said. "Our staff offers career counseling by appointment. They also offer walk-in advice to help get that resume sharpened, help you enhance interview skills and learn how to reach market segments."

Career Services begins working with UA students early in their academic careers to connect them with valuable internship, research, leadership and employment opportunities.

In the 2012-13 academic year, the number of student internships posted online on the Career Services' Wildcat Joblink website jumped 90 percent from last year, with 2,100 opportunities targeting UA students. Meanwhile, full-time positions posted for students grew 20 percent to 3,100. In addition, University career fairs brought in 620 companies, while more than 210 employers engaged in active employee recruiting on campus, interviewing more than 3,600 students. 

McGarry notes that although the job market is improving for college graduates, it remains competitive.

Recent surveys by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, or NACE, suggest that employers plan to hire just 2.1 percent more new college grads from the class of 2013 than they hired from the class of 2012, with the top five hiring industries being educational services; professional, scientific and technical services; health care; federal, state and local government; and finance and insurance. The most in-demand graduates, nationally, include those with engineering, computer science, accounting and business degrees.

As students prepare to enter this competitive workforce, there are a few things they should remember in addition to tapping into Career Services resources, McGarry says.

No. 1: Be patient.

"Sometimes, depending on a student's experience, they have to start in a position they might not have envisioned was what they were going to do doing when they graduated, and then they grow from there," McGarry said. "But anytime I've seen graduates move in, they quickly move up because they're valued by employers, and that often propels them into leadership roles quickly."

Employer satisfaction surveys of companies that recruit from the UA show overwhelming satisfaction with UA graduates hired, especially with regard to their teamwork, communication and problem solving skills, McGarry said.

Also important for job seekers is face-to-face networking. McGarry says students should stay in touch with contacts like professors and UA staff as well as seek out new connections through professional networks related to their field or through UA Alumni Association chapters in their part of the country.

In today's digitally connected world, online networking also is essential. McGarry advises job seekers create a LinkedIn profile to highlight their professional accomplishments and connect with others in their field online. They also should be mindful of how they represent themselves on social networking platforms, such as Facebook, considering how information they share publicly might be viewed by a potential employer.

Of course, a good resume remains forever important. McGarry reminds students their resume should not just describe their past experiences, but rather highlight their specific accomplishments and how what they did had a qualitative or quantitative impact.

When it comes to actually interviewing for a job, candidates should be able to reflect in meaningful ways on their prior experiences and come prepared with a solid understanding of the company interviewing them. McGarry also advises following up with potential employers with "gentle persistence."

Finally, for graduates who have already landed a job, it's important to engage fully in the workplace culture while maintaining a long-term view, McGarry advises.

"Really tune into the culture and really listen to those that want to mentor you," she said. "Start with a mindset that you're really going to be committed to the environment and take a lot in. You also want to keep a long-term view, always – looking out further and having a long-term perspective in mind, not just what's happening right now."


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