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January 19, 1996 - Image 3

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-01-19

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 19, 1996 - 3

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Experiences outside
classroom turn
diploma into script for
successful career

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HE JOKES seem to be fairly constant for people
majoring in English, political science or history.
An undergraduate studying philosophy or the
classics is nearly guaranteed to hear them.
"What are you going to do with that?" asks
the joker, usually a friend in the Engineering or
Business School. "Manage a.7-11?"
But the joke may be on the jokesters. Corporate recruiters and
University job placement officials say there are a wealth of opportu-
nities for liberal arts students who take a few common-sense steps
to prepare for the "real world."
A broad education can be very appealing.to many employers.
The flipside of that coin is a warning: An academic degree alone
often will not do. Personnel departments look more for character-
istics than credentials, and candidates must prove through their
interview and resume that they are equipped for life outside
Undergraduates in this situation often consider graduate
school, both to become more employable and to delay
entrance into the job hunt.
"I don't know what I can do without going to grad
school," said LSA sophomore James Elworth. He is studying
Greek and Latin and has not decided what career he wants, but
he added, "I don't lose any sleep at night over it."
Other students have decided on graduate school long before
completing an undergraduate degree.
Jeanette Weisman, an LSA sophomore studying anthropology
and zoology, said she will probably need a graduate degree to get
the job she wants: field research.
"People always say, What exactly are you going to do with
that?' Everything's still open," Weisman said.
Weisman said she chose her major based on the classes and
teachers she liked best. Whether or not she remains in academia,
counselors and recruiters say she is choosing her classes for the
right reason.
But Weisman is not locked into attending a graduate school.
"It can be more of a challenge coming out of LSA and
finding a job," admitted LSA academic counselor Charles
Judge." It's often more direct or easy" for people coming out
of an engineering or business school, he added.
But Judge said a liberal arts degree teaches different kinds of
skills - like critical thinking, writing and analysis - skills that
can be used throughout a career.
"(These are) intellectual qualities that are going to be useful no
matter what you do," he said.
The career track
ANA Acock, a recruiter for Abercrombie & Fitch was
on campus Wednesday looking for prospects. The
growing retail firm recently opened a store in Ann
Arbor's Briarwood Mall. Acock said her company hires
people of almost any major for professional positions - like
merchandisers, who decide what products the company will carry.
"Employers are looking for people who are bright with a liberal
arts background, and will bring them in and teach them what is
unique to their business," Acock said. "It's easy to get caught up in
the married-to-your-major mentality. I think that's maybe selling
yourself a bit short."
Charles Carey, Abercrombie & Fitch's director of staffing, added
that when interviewing, he is looking for interpersonal and
analytical skills as well as a self-motivated personality. Problem-
solving is also a key trait.
Abercrombie & Fitch is not alone. Jennifer Niggemeier, the
assistant director for recruitment systems in the University's Career
Planning and Placement Office, estimates that about 80 percent of
the companies recruiting at the University advertise for students in
all concentrations.
Niggemeier said many liberal arts students can matriculate from
academia to a career-track job. "You can end up on Wall Street
going through a business school, and you can just as easily end up
on Wall Street through a liberal arts school," she said
Contrary to popular opinion, Niggemeier stressed, many
organizations (including consulting firms and investment banks)
that recruit at the University are seeking people with liberal arts
degrees. "They're looking for a broader background," she said.
Her advice - based on experience with the people deciding who
gets hired and who gets passed over - is to be active in student

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Be a better product
Corporate recruiters and University job placement professionals
say students with a liberal arts background can successfully
take their bachelor's degree into the "real world." However, the
diploma alone will not guarantee a job. Some tips from the pros
on how to turn a backpack into a briefcase:
e Be proactive in seeking out interesting experiences. This
includes activei involvement in campus organizations;
+ Understand your goals and your skills, and learn to
communicate this to employers;
e Get a taste of the work world during the summer. Internships
or employment through temp agencies teach professionalism
and an understanding of a work environment;
e Learn about jobs you may be interested in. Talk to people
working in fields that interest you;
* Use the Internet for job searches. Students can get access
to services such as Forum and JobTrak through Career
Planning and Placement in the Student Activities Building;
4 During an interview, speak clearly and show the employer
initiative, an ability to learn new skills and an ability to make

organizations to demonstrate initiative and leadership to employers.
Real-world experience, in the form of summer internships or work
with temporary agencies, is also critical in terms of building skills
employers find attractive, Niggemeier said.
News Director Helen Pasakarnis, at WKBD-TV (Channel 50 in
Detroit), told The Michigan Daily earlier this week that she places
the greatest emphasis on internships. "When I am looking at hiring
someone, I am looking at their experience - if that person had
some practical experience with internships," she said.'We will
look at those people before others."
Carey noted that any internship should be instructive for
students. "An internship that doesn't go well can teach you as
much as one that does,"'he said.
Niggemeier said students should pursue experiences in college
that develop skills over so-called "resume-builders." To that end,
students should actively participate in groups involved in issues
they find important. Employers aren't impressed when they see a
group membership, but no commitment.
"Employers can see right through that," Niggemeier said.
Undergraduates at the University can also call on the school's
reputation in the work world.
Michelle Rowley, an assistant vice president and administrator of
college relations for Michigan National Bank, said she finds
graduates of the University well-prepared, with a good sense of
career direction.
Rowley makes separate trips to recruit at the School of Business
Administration and the College of Literature, Science and the Arts,
but she fills the same jobs with candidates from both schools.
"We like to see students that have demonstrated a leadership
background," Rowley said. For liberal arts students, she added, "it
would be an advantage if they have had a couple of accounting
classes or finance classes."
Niggemeier pointed out that hundreds of employers visit the
Universtiy each year seeking well-rounded, bright employees.
Fields of study and grade point averages, for the most part, are not
a deciding factor. It is the students themselves who get hired, not
the diploma.

There is reason for optimism for liberalarts graduates who do not
get a further degree. Still, many liberal arts students worry about
the future, and academia is very attractive.
Staying in school
L SA sophomores Wendy Lenderman and Andrea Dejong
were in the Michigan Union last night discussing their
future careers. among other concerns.
Lenderman has almost decided on studying psychology.
Dejong is concentrating in English and political science. Both
voiced worry about finding a good job after graduation.
"I think about spending more time in school so you don't have
to get a job," Dejong joked.
"I am worried that as a psych major, I'm not going to wind up
getting a job, because ten thousand other people are psych majors.
too," Lenderman added.
Lenderman says she gets conflicting advice. "Everyone keeps
telling me to go into what you like. My mom tells me to go for the
She said her decision will probably not be based on money. "I
like listening to people's problems, and the classes (in psychology)
interest me. I just think that's what I'd be good at."
Both women said they were considering graduate school.
Dejong is interested in a law career.
They seem to fit the profile of LSA students given by University
President James J. Duderstadt.
"The job of a liberal arts education is to prepare one for life,"
Duderstadt said in an interview with the Daily on Tuesday.
"Most Michigan students have talents that will require education
beyond a baccalaureate degree." he said. "About a thousand LSA
graduates go on to law school, as horrifying as it may seem.
Duderstad noted the University has more graduates going into
law than any other school in the country.
Niggemeier acknowledged the allure of a graduate degree.
"Certainly. I have heard that the bachelor's of the past is the
master's of today," she said. "But that's not to say a bachelor's
won't get you a job." Many employers are more than willing to
hire people with four-year degrees and reimburse their tuition
toward a master's degree, she said.
And for liberal arts students who do not choose graduate school,
there is another attractive option in the academic world: teaching
elementary or secondary school.
Judge said he does not see any trend toward more teaching
certificates as a "safety valve" career.
Just as some people take accounting or computer classes, some
opt for a teaching certificate to open up other options, Judge said.
The Bottom Line
HE iC ONSE Nsts is that students should find their interests
and pursue them.
As for a career?
"To be honest with myself and with other people, I
don't have a clue," Elworth said. "I get a lot of flak, especially as a
classics major."
For the time, he is taking classes in the subjects that interest him.
"It's one of the nicer things about a liberal arts concentration,"
Elworth said with a smile.
He has two roomates - one in Engineering, the other pre-med.
"The engineer and I talk a lot about (careers)," Elworth said. "It's
kind of a running joke between us that he probably has a job when
he gets out."
But Elworth, like other students at the University in the liberal
arts, has many choices before him. He must consider what really
interests him, what skills he wants to learn and what he dislikes.
He has decisions to make as well: how to spend his summers,
which organizations to get involved in and how many years he
wants to spend in school.
The key for students, Niggemeier said, is to explore careers well
before graduation and demonstrate an ability to succeed.
Abercrombie & Fitch's Charles Carey said students must
develop realistic expectations for their post~icademic lives. "Talk
to neonle who do the iob you're interested in," he said.


You need professional help.. .
The Career Planning and Placement center is offering several upcoming events of
interest to liberal arts students:

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