Blugolds are in demand.
For the third consecutive year, more than 96 percent of UW-Eau Claire’s most recent graduates reported having jobs in their field or enrolling in graduate programs within six months of graduation, according to the university’s First Destination survey.
Even more impressive?
The growing number of UW-Eau Claire graduates who land their first job well before commencement.
Nearly 70 percent of 2015-16 Blugolds who responded to the survey already had jobs before graduation, a number that has climbed steadily since 2012-13 when it was at 55 percent.
“Having a job lined up before I graduate means that everything that I have worked for over the past five years has paid off,” says Stephanie Little, an accounting major who will work as a technology risk consultant for Deloitte in Minneapolis after graduating in May. “I can sleep easily at night knowing that I will be able to pay my bills after graduation and live a comfortable lifestyle in Minneapolis thanks to the excellent education I received at UWEC.”
Part of Blugolds’ success in finding jobs so quickly is the emphasis UW-Eau Claire places on the liberal arts, says Staci Heidtke, associate director of Career Services.
Given the ever-changing employment landscape, the ability to communicate effectively, collaborate to meet a common goal, and quickly solve problems are highly sought-after skills in all fields, Heidtke says.
“A liberal arts education offers depth and breadth; broad knowledge of the world, as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest,” Heidtke says. “It teaches students how to think, how to learn and how to see connectedness in the world.”
Employers have definitely taken notice, Heidtke says.
“Employers tell me they need to hire people who are career ready,” Heidtke says. “They look for new graduates who have experience in the world of work as well as the soft skills needed to quickly contribute to a team of professionals.”
Of the 2015-16 UW-Eau Claire graduates who reported that they are employed, 91 percent had their jobs before or within one month of graduation, 98 percent were working before or within four months of graduation, and 100 percent were employed within eight months of graduation.
“Having a job lined up prior to commencement has taken a lot of stress out of my life,” says Brittany Martin, a marketing major from Chippewa Falls who will work as a business development specialist at Mill City Credit Union in Minnetonka, Minnesota, after graduation. “Searching for a full-time job is quite a lofty job itself. You have to make it a priority to spend time networking, searching and applying. Doing all of that on top of internships and classes can be stressful. Starting the job search early helped to alleviate some of that stress and led me to accept a full-time position months before I graduate.”
There is no better way for students to gain the real-world experience that employers value — and land a job before graduation — than through internships, Heidtke saying, noting that having previously worked for an employer continues to be the No. 1 way that graduates find their first professional job.
According to the class of 2015-16 First Destination report, 44 percent of Blugold interns received full-time job offers at the end of their internship.
“On the employers’ part, it is wise to lock in new hires who have experience in their organization, understand the culture of the company and are ready to contribute, on day one, to the company’s goals and mission,” Heidtke said. “It’s a win-win situation. Interns join a team that they know and, presumably, like. They understand the work, and have confidence they can do it.”
That was true for Stephanie Born, an information systems major from Chaska, Minnesota, whose summer internship with Securian Financial Group in St. Paul led to a full-time job offer.
After her May graduation, Born will work as a senior business technology specialist for Securian.
She learned about the Securian internship through networking, and later connected with the company’s human resources representative during an on-campus career conference, Born says, adding that Career Services’ staff and the College of Business’ business etiquette seminars prepared her to make the most of the opportunities to connect with potential employers.
She also credits the many experiences she had as a Blugold, including being part of the National Student Exchange program, with helping her develop her own personal brand, which helped her stand out during her interviews.
“As a passionate planner and someone who is very motivated, I was hoping to have a job lined up before I graduated,” says Born. “I was excited when I received the job offer this past fall. I feel really good about graduating, and am very excited to start working in June.”
Currently, 61 percent of Blugolds have at least one internship before they graduate, and many students — like Martin and Little — have multiple internships, according to UW-Eau Claire's Institutional Research office.
As a Blugold, Martin had two marketing-related internships, one on campus in Career Services and the other with Royal Credit Union.
The RCU internship was especially helpful in getting the job with Mill City Credit Union, says Martin.
“In both internships, I developed my communication, leadership and problem-solving skills, all relating to a wider breadth of marketing knowledge,” Martin says. “However, what most set me apart from other candidates was my experience interning for a credit union. I already had a well-developed understanding of the credit union industry. Interning for Royal Credit Union was crucial in my ability to find a full-time job before I graduate.”
Internships give job seekers real-world experiences to talk about during job interviews, as well as a better sense of how the business world works, says Rachel Martell, an international business major from Stillwater, Minnesota.
For example, her work as an intern with Andersen Windows gave her relevant experiences to discuss during a job interview with DHL in Chippewa Falls, and helped her better articulate how her career goals align with DHL’s operations supervisor position, says Martell, who will begin her career with DHL after graduation.
While internships are important, Martell says UW-Eau Claire also offers many other experiences that made her an attractive candidate first as an intern and then as a full-time employee.
“My resume stood out because I studied abroad in Costa Rica and had an immersion experience in India,” Martell says. “This was attractive to employers because it showed my willingness to jump out of my comfort zone and succeed. Clubs and student organizations also contributed as they played into my leadership and time management skills.”
All her experiences made her a more adaptable and well-rounded person, someone employers know would be willing and able to take on many different tasks, Martell says.
“My advice is to get out of your comfort zone whether it be studying abroad, joining an unrelated student organization or holding a job while being a student,” Martell says. “These are the experiences that helped me achieve my goals in school and now into my career.”
Little also made the most of her experiences on and off campus, noting that she was on the Blugold volleyball team for two years and studied abroad in England.
Through an 18-month internship with the Small Business Development Center, she worked with local businesses to prepare financial projections and learn about their business structures, and she was an intern in Deloitte’s Premier Student Program, which led to a full-time position with the company.
“On top of the technical skills of accounting, finance and information systems, all of the group work and projects that we did in the College of Business has improved my communication and collaboration skills,” Little says. “My problem-solving skills have developed from my leadership experiences as well.
“As a student who enjoys being busy and involved, I think that UW-Eau Claire gives students ample opportunities to create their own success story.”
With commencement just weeks away, the soon-to-be-graduating Blugolds are glad they were able to create college success stories with such happy endings.
“Having a job lined up before commencement is surreal,” Martell says. “I expected only those at the top of the class to have this opportunity, but this shows that with hard work and determination, any of us can reach our goals.”
Photo caption: Blugolds (from left) Brittany Martin, Stephanie Little, Stephanie Born and Rachel Martell are among the numerous UW-Eau Claire students who have jobs lined up before graduation.