Ask Laura Cella ’12 what an average day looks like for her, and you are sure to hear a typical response. She wakes up, eats breakfast, goes to work, comes home, cooks dinner or orders takeout and goes to bed—six days a week, four weeks a month, 12 months a year.
What Cella fails to mention is she is currently working three jobs to support herself in New York City, though her dream is to record her own music.
Cella, a music performance major with a vocal emphasis, pursued the Elon Bridges program after graduation last May and has remained in New York City ever since. Currently, she interns with a music venue, works for a composer and operates the kiosk at a restaurant. Cella’s passion is music, but for now, she is more focused on paying the bills than on recording albums.
“I don’t necessarily see myself at these jobs forever,” Cella said. “My goal is to work my way up. These part-time jobs are helping me to stay in New York. My parents aren’t helping me financially, but you know you want to make it in the world, and you have to do what you can to make it.”
Like Cella, many graduating seniors at Elon University are struggling to land their dream jobs. Though Elon’s employment ratings are historically relatively high, the poor economy and unstable job market have forced many young alums to pursue alternative avenues.
Elon’s Career Services surveys graduating classes three times to collect statistics on employment, graduate school enrollment and unemployment. One survey is administered on the day of graduation, one three months after graduation and one nine months after graduation. Tom Vecchione, executive director of Career Services, said Career Services typically receives an 85 to 90 percent response rate from those surveys.
“All in all, we always end up saying, ‘We’re reporting x, y and z,’” Vecchione said. “What question a savvy person will say is, ‘What is that based off of? What is your total population?’ And we’re always in a good position to say it’s 85 percent to 90 percent. We’re hearing from the vast majority of students. We feel really confident in terms of what we’re saying.”
Since he started working in Elon’s Career Services office in 2005, Vecchione said student attendance of the Student Development Center has increased dramatically. Because of the Center’s resources and its extended staff, he said there has been an approximate 20 to 30 percent increase in student traffic of the office. Typically, Vecchione said about 90 percent of graduating seniors report using Career Services before graduation, a number that is nearly 15 percent higher than the national average.
“Elon is very serious about career services, as you guys know, so this is not a big surprise,” Vecchione said. “I’d be very worried if it wasn’t, but this is good news.”
Career Services staff is located in each college to assist graduating seniors in the job search and application processes within their prospective majors. Here is a breakdown of employment ratings by college.
Historically, Elon College has the lowest ratings in terms of employment but the highest in terms of graduate school enrollment.
Lauren Limerick, associate director of corporate and employer relations, said she believes this is due to the nature of the arts and sciences curriculum. She said many psychology, sociology, anthropology, chemistry, English, biology, art, art history and religious studies majors come to Elon with graduate school plans in mind, so she believes that is why Elon College places an emphasis on undergraduate research and scholarship.
In helping arts and sciences majors select higher education programs or careers in their respective fields, Elon College hosts a graduate school fair and invites employers such as Teach for America, Match Education, Boeing, Disney, the U.S. State Department and the Peace Corps to campus for informational meetings and interviews. The College also offers customized student professional development per the requests of faculty, Limerick said. Additionally, the College offers basic career resources such as self-assessment exercises, resume and cover letter development and exploration of career options.
“The key is for students to take initiative early and often,” Limerick said. “We’re not a placement office, but we can help students network, develop their resume and cover letters and guide them to options they may have never considered or thought possible.”
Limerick said it is hard to judge whether or not arts and sciences majors are taking advantage of the resources Elon College offers, but she said students have shown commitment this semester.
“I have to say, from a personal perspective, students are showing up to information sessions that relate to their major, and they are engaging, if not interviewing, with recruiters,” Limerick said. “However, again, it takes initiative and drive and a real desire for success to land a great internship or job. We’re not handing out opportunities, but we are advocating for them and encouraging students to be prepared and to be persistent.”
Martha & Spencer Love School of Business
Typically, the Martha & Spencer Love School of Business leads Elon in employment ratings.
Raghu Tadepalli, dean of the Martha & Spencer Love School of Business, said he believes this is because professional schools, like business schools, emphasis employability even before students arrive on campus.
“I’d said that from the get-go, the students have been told, ‘Keep thinking about what it is you want to do when you graduate,’” Tadepalli said. “The Student Professional Development Center is also working with the students from day one, so I think when the parents send their students to business schools, usually they are very interested to know about job prospects, and as a consequence, I’m sure the students are getting it not only from the professors and the staff of the Professional Development Center but also from the parents saying, ‘Have you done this internship? What have you done?’”
Tadepalli said students work with Jan Pagoria, the director of internships for the Love School of Business, and other faculty to seek employers and land jobs. He said business faculty as well as alumni work to develop relationships with potential employers, and a large number of students receive job offers via their internships.
“We had a student who went to work for New York Life last year, and we are told that she’s been really pushing for them to come back and hire more Elon grads,” Tadepalli said. “Hooray for her! But, that’s what we hope happens. The company itself is very happy with her, so they’re looking to come back.”
School of Communications
Historically, the School of Communications serves as the average in employment ratings, though it has seen an increase in graduate school enrollment over the past five years.
Ross Wade, assistant director of career services for the School of Communications, said he believes the increase in graduate school attendance is the result of the poor economy.
“Honestly, I think it’s because the economy sucks,” Wade said. “I think people are going to graduate school because either there aren’t a lot of job opportunities or they can’t find anything, so they want to delay reality and at the same time get new skills because they think it will make them more marketable and be able to make a higher salary.”
Wade said he believes another reason why communications students are seeking higher education opportunities is because they are unsure of what career paths to pursue.
“Students don’t know what they want to do with their lives—[they think] that going to graduate school will miraculously tell them what they should do, but that’s really the opposite of what they should do,” Wade said.
Wade said he believes the competitive nature of communications students helps them to obtain job offers. He said he also thinks the real-world advice given by communications faculty is helpful in guiding students.
“Faculty typically come from a professional background, so they’ve been in the business,” Wade said. “They know the important stuff, like having a good resume and reel and interview skills, so they automatically incorporate that into their curriculum.”
As the School’s assistant director of career services, Wade helps communications students compile e-portfolios, reels and resumes. He advises them on how to prepare for interviews, and he networks with communications alumni to find opportunities in the industry.
“That’s the real benefit to the School of [Communications] is that there’s people dedicated to this population,” Wade said. “Then, that population moves into the real world, and so by default, we kind of move in with them a little bit.”
School of Education
Though few education majors are employed on graduation day, typically the majority is working by the time the three-month follow-up survey is administered.
David Cooper, dean and professor of the School of Education, said openings at elementary and secondary schools are not known until the school year finishes usually. Because of this, he said most education students are not hired until July or August.
Occasionally, though, Cooper said students are given job offers while they are student teaching.
“It’s hard to resist those,” he said. “So, at the end of the student teaching, which is typically a few weeks before graduation, sometimes our students are actually given a contract pending the awarding of their degree.”
Cooper said the School of Education is aware some states mandate teachers receive their master’s degrees within five years of teaching, and because an increasing number of education majors are from out-of-state, the School anticipates some will pursue higher education opportunities instead of teaching positions.
“We’re aware of some of those realities for them, but a lot of it is really difficult to track because state regulations vary so much across the country, there’s not really a uniform standard for that,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the School of Education hosts a teacher career fair where education majors are able to practice their interviewing skills. At the fair, which takes place every spring, human resources employees and administrators from several school districts interview students throughout the day. Evaluations, in which interviewers are asked to comment on the preparedness of the seniors, are given to students at the fair’s conclusion.
“The Elon seniors come out very, very well on those [evaluations],” Cooper said. “So, we know they are getting themselves properly prepared not just for the interview but for the jobs themselves.”
Cooper said education majors seem to take initiative when searching for teaching jobs. He said they not only take responsibility for their own learning but for the logistics surrounding their learning as well.
“They seem to be good at planning, good at organizing their time,” Cooper said. “And so they’re looking ahead at those careers and getting themselves lined up for them properly.”
In looking towards the future, Career Services hopes to strengthen its relationships with Elon students, Vecchione said. He said the staff wants to see students more than once before they graduate and leave Elon.
“Now, we just want to deepen the experiences,” he said. “It’s great for a senior to say, ‘I used you guys,’ but that may have been two weeks before they graduated. We want to get multiple experiences when they get here.”