Starting a career: how students can prepare

BYU grad Alec (left) and his wife, Sarah Sears, marched in a Provo parade while interning with Community Action in summer 2016. (Alec Sears)

Multiple resources on the BYU campus aim to help students transition from graduation to starting a career, and the University Career Services office wraps up most of those in a one-stop shop.

Students can get help with creating resumes, interviewing tips, networking, job and internship counseling and more. Students can also register for the Student Development 317 course, which is designed to help them prepare for and manage the transition from university to a career.

University Career Services Director Jodi Chowen said one of the best career prep strategies is an internship, which allows students to try out a job and see if they like it. This also allows the company to see the student as a prospective employee.

“It is the new way that companies are recruiting students,” Chowen said. “Of those who do internships on campus, I think more than half of those turn into full-time offers.”

Chowen and her colleagues ask graduating seniors if they have a plan post-graduation and if they need assistance. Roughly one-third of BYU students ask for assistance.

“We were surprised to see that even in a college like engineering, almost a third of their students are still asking for help,” Chowen said. “We sometimes make assumptions that, ‘Oh, the engineers are fine — it’s really the liberal arts students we need to focus on,’ but in reality, those students needed help in equal proportions to some of our liberal arts majors.”

Some of the liberal arts programs had fewer students who were seeking help. Chowen said this can be partly because of the number of students going to graduate school.

“I’m a subscriber to (the idea that) there are no bad majors on campus. Every major is a great major,” Chowen said. “You, the student, need to know what you want to do with that major.”

Many students have more experience than they give themselves credit for. Chowen said getting involved in activities outside of academic classes is a good way to start preparing for the transition. Clubs or part-time employment can help students think about the experiences they are having and determine what they want to do in the future. 

Alec Sears, a recent graduate, didn’t know what he wanted to study when he started school. He took a career exploration class to see the different classes and areas of study.  

From right: Sarah Sears and Alec Sears (right) stand in front of the Abraham O. Smoot Administration Building. Alec recently began working at Clearlink in Salt Lake City after graduating from BYU with a degree in public relations. (Alec Sears)

“I also heard from one of my friends back home that she was in the public relations program, and the way she described it sounded really fun,” Sears said. “At the same time I was taking that career exploration class, I took intro to PR just kind of on a whim, and I decided to go full-steam ahead with it.”

Sears has taken advantage of various opportunities offered at BYU and elsewhere. He participated in three internships simultaneously last summer, which gave him an array of experience. He was also a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America.

“My best experience was getting a job at University Communications,” Sears said. “I thought it sounded fun, so I applied and that turned out to be the best hands-on experience with real-world application of writing stories and pitching ideas.”

Sears graduated from BYU in April with a degree in public relations. He recently began a job in Salt Lake City at Clearlink as an outreach specialist.

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