Graduation brings mixed emotions to students searching for jobs

President Gary Ransdell stands in his graduation robes at the colonnades on Thursday. Ransdell will preside over the graduate ceremony on Friday, May 11, and three undergraduate ceremonies on Saturday, May 12.

On May 11 and 12, WKU senior graduate and undergraduate students will say “goodbye” to the Hill and “hello” to the real world.

Nearly 1,600 students will graduate from the WKU campus, with an additional 500 graduating from WKU’s regional campuses, Registrar Freida Eggleton said. She also said this year’s graduation numbers are “comparable” to last May’s rate.

This year’s graduating class faces a seemingly dismal job market. As of March 2012, Kentucky’s unemployment is 8.6 percent, higher than the national average of 8.2 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But students who are willing to work shouldn’t get too dismayed about the current job market, said Robert Unseld, associate director of the Career Services Center.

“The economy our graduates are facing is the same economy everyone else is facing,” he said. “A good will to work and continual job searches will find success.”

Cody Murphy, a senior from La Vergne, Tenn., sent out 25 resumes for a meteorology position. So far, he’s only heard back from two potential employers, one in Illinois and one in Louisiana.

“I guess my biggest fear is adapting to the real world,” he said. “There’s that transition from being a college student to being a professional that’s pretty scary.”

Unseld said these fears are common among the seniors the Career Service Center works with.

“Their biggest concern is the unknown — what to do next facing a world of decisions they haven’t had to make before,” he said.

Unseld recommended seniors plan ahead to reduce anxiety over finding a job.

“Take time and plan out the next three months to get a job, six months, nine months,” he said. “Break it into manageable chunks, and you’ll be less anxious about your future.”

Unseld also said rigorous job searches are key to snagging a good job.

“Our graduates need to be prepared to answer the questions about why they’re the ones who should be hired, compared to someone with more experience,” he said. “Work put into a job search directly relates to success outside of searching. You can’t casually look and expect much.”

Despite his fears, Murphy, a “fifth-year senior,” said he’s ready to leave the Hill and take a break from education.

“Graduation couldn’t be here any sooner,” he said. “I didn’t take a break between high school and college. I’m 18 years strong on school, and now I’m done and over it.”

Some students already have a job waiting after graduation. Tony King, a senior from Cleveland, will be working as a residence coordinator at the University of Central Arkansas next fall.

King is a fourth-year senior who majored in advertising while at WKU. He also works as the Community Advisor at Pearce-Ford Tower.

Instead of looking for a job directly associated with his major, King wanted to follow his passion of working with students.

“It was back-and-forth with me, because I love advertising and doing graphic design, but I also love working with students and seeing them grow and mature,” he said. “I’ll still work on advertising and graphic design on the side, but it will be freelance.”

King said he did not work with the Career Services Center to find a job. Instead, he heard about a placement exchange, which he described as a sort of job fair, through the Department of Housing and Residence Life.

King also did not use the Academic Advising and Retention Center to graduate on time, aside from meeting with his adviser.

“I knew it was a problem with people graduating in five years,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but I didn’t want to.”

The AARC offers services such as the Best Expectations Program and The Learning Center, which gives students a place to study, computers to use and free peer-to-peer tutoring, according to its website. TLC also offers Workshops for Success and Peer Assisted Study Sessions, according to its website.

Stephanie Burba, a senior biology and math education double major from Magnolia, Ky., is thankful for the time she’s had at WKU.

“It is surreal knowing that I am graduating in two weeks,” she said. “WKU has molded me into the professional, leader and academic I am today. My undergraduate career has been filled with lots of firsts, wonderful friends and great accomplishments.”