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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


‘Real world’ awaits: As UW students enter job market, advisors, professionals offer employment advice

For many UW-Madison students, it is the end of an era. The countdown to graduation has begun. Within weeks, several thousand students will be turned loose upon the real world, armed with diplomas and plans for a future.

However, several challenges lie ahead for each college graduate, and many pitfalls exist along the path to success. In order to aid the fresh graduate in search of the perfect job, employers and UW alums have submitted tips to make the hunt for the perfect job a little less daunting.

The resume

The most common way to apply for a job is to send out a resume to prospective employers. Although drafting a resume may seem like a simple thing, it is important to remember that the resume is the primary, most important contact between applicant and employer, say employment counselors.

Since some employers may receive hundreds, or even thousands, of resumes in each hiring cycle, some experts suggest an applicant should make his or her resume as attention-grabbing and ‘perfect’ as possible.

Greg Iaccarino, career advisor for L&S Human Ecology Career services, suggests having separate headings on a resume for separate accomplishments.

“We advise students to write a resume with separate section headings for their experiences,” Iaccarino said. “One heading for teamwork, one for leadership, one for community services. Don’t just have a section that describes ‘work.’ Separately describe your skills and experiences.”

Lori Kannenberg, firm administrator for Lawton & Cates Law Firm, says it is always good to research the company before sending out a resume.

“It’s more of an attention-grabber if [the applicant] reflects they know something about the firm. Do a website search, or mention in the cover letter that you heard about us on the news, things like that,” Kannenberg said.

Laura Spinell, director of Human Resources at Twin City Hospital, said the first thing that catches her eye on a resume is volunteer experience.

“Volunteering is always a big plus,” Spinell said. “It shows where a person’s true desires may be and tells a lot about a person.”

The interview

For the lucky applicant who is granted an interview, preparation is important. If at all possible, speak to others who have interviewed with the same company and ask them what to expect. Many companies may ask an interviewee to solve puzzles or answer seemingly abstract questions.

Spinell also advises showing up on time, in the right place, and being neatly dressed.

“I notice things like appearance. I notice if a person has their tongue pierced,” Spinell said. “We also notice if the interviewee shows up on time and knows who they are supposed to interview with and where. Occasionally, we see people who are supposed to be interviewing with Twin City Healthcare, which is down the road. We are Twin City Hospital. If you don’t care enough to figure out where you will be working, you probably aren’t going to be what we are looking for.”

Iaccarino also advises asking questions, rather than just answering them, during the interview.

“Find out about the employer, what groups they are affiliated with,” he recommended. “Learn as much about a company as you can before agreeing to work for them.”


Many former students fall into the trap of waiting for the right job and not working in the meantime. Unlike the minimum-wage jobs most college students have encountered, it may take weeks or even months from the time the resume is sent to the time of actual hiring.

Kannenberg said at her law firm, weeks may pass between the time a resume is received and the new employee begins working.

“From the time we advertise for a position, it can take, conceivably, a month to fill it,” she said.

During that waiting time, bills may pile up, rent still needs to be paid, and food needs to be bought.

Iaccarino suggests finding a job that may not be up to one’s standards to carry the applicant over in the meantime.

“We advise students to be as flexible as possible. Get your foot in the door,” Iaccarino said. “Take a job at the company you want to work for, even if it’s not the job you want. Once you are in the company, it’s easier to network and switch jobs than it is from the outside.”

UW-Madison graduate Chris Gile said he wishes he had done just that.

“I graduated in December, and I very recently found a job,” Gile said. “I kept thinking the right job at the right company would come along, and so I didn’t want to get a lesser job in the meantime. I’m in debt right now because I haven’t been working. I should have gotten a job to pay the bills while I waited.”

Kim Nance, a project manager at a mutual regional insurance company in Wisconsin, said she feels it is important to get a job in a field that you want to work in, even you only intend to keep the job until a better one opens up.

“Your first job after graduation can be very important. Often, what you start out with is what you’ll end up with,” Nance said. “You get into a field and you keep moving up the ladder, and as you advance, you get paid so well you don’t want to change fields, since it means you have to start over and may get less pay.”


Getting the job

Often, a person may get a job and find it is not what he or she expected. Many companies designate the “grunt work” to new employees to test their abilities and to help them get acquainted with the company.

Copywriter and graphic designer Rodney Alling experienced this when he first graduated.

“I had to take a low-paying job for the first couple of years in design to build a solid enough portfolio,” Alling said. “But the experience was worth it.”

After working in an agency for a few years, Alling struck out on his own.

“Working for yourself in any business automatically makes you not only the creator of the end product, but the sales force, billing department and accounts receivable all in one.” Alling said. “But it’s worth it. Some agencies will tuck you away in a corner doing one thing over and over, and you lose touch with the large picture.”

Alling also said he likes the freedom of being his own boss.

“I like to work for myself,” he said. “On a sunny day, I take my laptop and hit a coffee shop and then go outside if I want.”

Iacarrino advises students to get involved with professional groups related to their field. “If you get out there and network with others in your field, and you decide to switch jobs, you will be a blip on the radar screen of other companies in the profession.” he said.

But for those who decide to stick with a job that doesn’t meet their expectations at first, Kannenberg said the best way to advance in a company is to show initiative.

“If there’s a lull, go and ask people if there’s anything you can do to help,” she said.
Either way, Kennenberg added, once a person has been hired, that person should keep the company informed if they decide not to keep the job. They shouldn’t just stop showing up, as that could have negative effects on future employment opportunities.

“What’s alarming to me is that these people don’t realize their future prospective employers will likely call us for references, and it may have an impact on their ability to get a job,” she said.

With so many college graduates inundating the job market at once, career opportunities are limited, and many students may not find themselves doing exactly what they had planned. The trick is to keep searching for the right job and to give different opportunities a chance before settling for something.

For recent graduates, Iaccarino adds that advising will be available throughout the summer. L&S Career Services is located at 905 University Ave., Suite 160.

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