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Looking for a job? It takes thought, career counselors warn

By Jingmin Feng and Andrew Martasian
On April 21, 2012

Students preparing to leave their undergraduate and graduate programs for the work world will find a somewhat stronger economy in Massachusetts.  But their ability to land a job will ultimately depend on how prepared they are for the job hunt.

Shuyi Wang, a second-year journalism graduate student at Emerson College, was supposed to graduate this May, but will delay another semester so she can be more prepared.

"I need the internship experience since I never did one before," said Wang, who is looking for a summer internship.

This is not a unique situation.  Students' chances of employment are better if they know what they want to do and have prepared themselves with the appropriate educational experiences, including internships or extracurricular activities, career counselors say.

"It depends on the prep," said Ken Mattsson, assistant director and liaison to alumni and graduate students at Emerson's Career Services. "What I say is one of the biggest issues: students not making the investment in themselves to actually figure out what it is and what they want to do," said Mattsson.

Career Services at Emerson College helps students figure out what sort of job they want to look for when they graduate because many students do not have a clear idea about their future.

"What mostly happens is that students wait and they don't think or they don't want to think about it so then once they get here, then it's catch up time," said Mattsson.

Another problem is that students rely too heavily on resumes and do not put themselves out there.

According to Mattsson, when students try to get employers to notice them, they should not necessarily lead with their resume.

"No matter how good your writing is, you're more persuasive," said Mattson, who believes that "it's about what you know and who you know" when it comes to getting noticed.

Paul Miller, managing editor at the Keene Sentinel, said he looks for certain "intangibles" when looking for a new hire.

"You can't tell if someone has those intangibles from a resume," said Miller.

However, Miller said a resume is still helpful to show an applicant's writing skills and whether they were involved in their school.

For international students, the job search can be more difficult because of language and cultural barriers.

Jing Zhang, a second year graduate student at Emerson College who will graduate in May, is now doing an internship at 451 Marketing Company.

 As a Chinese student, when considering the difficulties in looking for jobs, Zhang faces not only a lack of full-time working experience, but also the challenge of good conversational skills in English.

 "When it comes to expressing myself in English, I always feel like there's something missing, I can't fully show my ability." said Zhang.

In addition to the language problem, many foreign students also face a big cultural barrier.

Amy Luo will go back to Taiwan after graduating from Emerson College in January. Her major is Integrated Marketing Communication and she feels that she cannot compete with American-born job applicants in marketing.

 "People majoring in marketing usually have a good knowledge of local popular culture," said Luo,"but for me, a foreign student, I'll never know as much as the native people. So many companies are not willing to hire foreign students. Many of my friends who stay in America usually tend to work in companies with a multi-culture background. "

Mattsson says there is a cultural difference between the United States and other countries that causes this problem.

"I would say the main difference is in a lot of other cultures, it's much more hierarchical and you are expected to basically be quiet until you are asked and that just does not work in our culture."

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