Trends for graduates stress

computer skills, following

nontraditional career paths

This time of year is a hectic one for Emory University Career Center Director Tariq Shakoor and his colleagues as they help match prospective employers with graduating seniors.

Employers are looking for students-including liberal arts graduates-with comprehensive skills in computers, desktop publishing, computer graphics, the Internet and web site construction, said Shakoor, author of the new book How to Get a Job in Atlanta.

Hiring has increased in technical areas such as engineering, software development and computer science. However, the service sector of the economy still leads the way in job growth, and the Southeast is second behind the Midwest/North in terms of economic growth and strength.

Employers complain that new graduates lack career focus and knowledge of the company or industry in which they are interviewing, are inflexible and unwilling to relocate, do not prepare adequately for interviews and have unrealistic salary and advancement expectations. "None of this is new," said Shakoor. "It just seems that not enough students are understanding what employers are looking for. Those who do are finding a very friendly market."

Graduates hone skills before leaving school

Before entering the workforce, most students are beginning to realize that they need work experience to be marketable. "This is a good sign," said Shakoor. "They also will have to sell prospective employers on their experience as much as their education, their enthusiasm as well as their experience, their skills as well as their ambition." And many students "haven't gotten the message about the opportunities available with small and mid-size 'no-name' companies," he said.

Shakoor finds students increasingly concerned with quality of life issues. They want to know about company culture and leisure and benefits packages.

However, it may not be enough for Fortune 500 companies to lure the best and brightest graduates with attractive starting salaries and benefits packages anymore. "More students are asking questions about what good this corporation is doing in the world," said Andy Fleming, program director at the Center for Ethics in Public Policy and the Professions. Fleming, who conducts values seminars for students, has observed that many of them "don't want to give their lives and energies to companies that are harming the public good or are indifferent to it."

Fleming predicts that companies demonstrating a serious commitment to improving the world will attract the best workers in the future. Concern with the public good correlates with another recently noted trend, that young workers are more interested in integrating family and work than the previous generation. The connection is natural, said Fleming, and it's good for business. "Employees who feel good about themselves and their lives will want to contribute and give something back."

Graduate/professional schools cite trends

A healthy economy and triage for deep cuts from past downsizing makes job prospects bright for this year's MBA class at the Goizueta School.

For the 280 daytime MBA students, two major career focuses this year are consulting and the Internet/high-tech arena, which includes electronic commerce and Internet marketing. "The economy is good for our graduates," said Samantha Renfro, director of career services. "I'm not seeing a significant increase in the number of companies coming to campus to recruit, but I am seeing an increase in the number of job opportunities for our students. More offers are being made and made earlier."

College grads and MBAs aren't the only ones using their degrees in business. While many of those completing graduate degrees at the School of Arts & Sciences will pursue careers in college teaching, shifts in higher education and the global economy present new opportunities for graduates to put their research and teaching skills to use in a variety of settings. Emory PhDs are finding positions in business, industry, government and nonprofit organizations.

"While the PhD is a research degree, our programs emphasize writing and oral presentation skills, which are just as valuable in business meetings as in the classroom," said Eleanor Main, associate vice president for graduate studies.

Enrollment and graduation rates in the School of Nursing set records in 1997 with 93 new MSN graduates and 131 undergraduate BSNs. These graduates are all assured employment in the rapidly changing health care arena, according to B.J. Amini, the nursing school's special projects coordinator. In particular demand are the MSN graduates, who have completed an advanced practice curriculum that prepares them to function in a wide variety of settings.

Looking beyond traditional job prospects

With more law students than ever interested in international law, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) recently established a task force on international law careers to give law schools and students information on what practicing attorneys are doing, as well as provide a resource guide on international legal career options. "We want students to know that they can be engaged in global issues and practice international law from their hometowns instead of having to travel overseas or take a job with a multinational firm," said Carolyn Bregman, the law school's director of career services and chairperson of NALP's international law task force.

For third-year student Todd Elmer, pursuing an international law career means global networking-and not necessarily on the Internet. "The Internet was helpful in doing background research, but it doesn't replace personal contacts, which is absolutely the key," said Elmer, who developed overseas contacts by talking with peers and professors. He came up with plane fare and recently returned from face-to-face interviews in Brussels, Paris and Geneva.

Students at the Candler School are part of a growing number of seminarians nationwide who are seeking careers outside traditional parish ministries, said Mary Lou Greenwood Boice, assistant dean of admissions and student services. A growing number of Candler graduates are postponing parish ministry for options such as pastoral counseling, social justice or youth ministries, Christian education and university or seminary teaching.

As one of the seminary's youngest graduates, 23-year-old Dave Burnhardt said his decision to postpone parish ministry to pursue a PhD in religion and ethics "is the best use of my time and gifts right now." He plans to return to his native North Alabama eventually, perhaps "helping prepare students for seminary, since that area of the country has a minister shortage."

Whatever their job prospects, future ministers across the nation are more likely to be female, said Boice. Candler has seen a substantial rise in the number of women students over the last five years-46 percent of its seminarians are women compared to 33 percent in 1992.

-Nancy Seideman

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