Posted May 11, 2009

A conversation with Temple career guru Rachel Brown


With the economy mired in a recession, graduates across the nation are understandably feeling a bit more anxious about jobs and careers than members of other recent graduating class. But Rachel Brown, director of Temple's Career Center, says that students who've been coming to see their career coaches aren't despairing. "Yes, the job market is tight, but Temple students are resilient," she said. "The jobs are out there, and students are going to do whatever they need to do to get them."

To help Temple graduates in this challenging market, the Career Center is running its first "Job Search Open House" on Commencement day (May 14, 2-4 p.m., 220 Mitten Hall). Grads will get a "Senior Success Portfolio" — a comprehensive job search tool kit created by Temple career coach Robin Marks that combines all of the center's resources on subjects such as resume writing, networking, job searches and researching employers.

The Temple Times visited the Career Center to get Brown's take on the current job market and advice for the class of 2009. 


Temple Times: The big question on the minds of many graduates and their families is: Are there jobs still out there?

Absolutely! The statistic we've heard is that 22 percent of employers who recruit new college graduates are not hiring this year. But that means 78 percent are still hiring. We still have employers coming to job fairs, recruiting on campus and posting jobs. The need to hire new college graduates hasn't gone away — and it never will. Across every sector, employers need to bring in new, well-educated minds.

TT: Are there sectors of the job market where graduates can find pockets of opportunity?

The answer will vary depending on who you to talk to and what region you're in, but one strong sector is the federal government. With Obama's election, there's more faith in the system, and government employers will be winners. Education also continues to be a strong sector, especially in the Philadelphia area, where there are so many colleges, universities and school districts. According to our graduate survey results, for the last five years, the School District of Philadelphia has been one of the top three employers of Temple graduates. And despite all you read about budget deficits at hospitals and nurses having problems finding jobs, health care is still a huge employer in the region.

TT: Is there one piece of advice that every job seeker needs to know?

This isn't the only "must-do," but without question, graduates need to know their core skills and strengths. And in this market, it's absolutely essential to have the ability to articulate those skills and strengths on the dime. You can't miss any opportunity. So if you're on an elevator and you strike up a conversation with someone and they happen to be in the industry you want to be in, you have to be ready to introduce yourself and give your 30-second spot on your skills and your background. If that sounds scary, don't worry — our coaches at the Career Center can help you develop and rehearse your spot so you're prepared for any situation.

TT: And the other must-dos?

You must have flawless presentation. You cannot afford one typo in your resume, because in this market, it's going to go in the trash. Your presentation has to be flawless in dress as well — you have one chance to make an impression. Second, think broadly about the types of positions and industries that you could look into. Broaden your options. Follow up on every contact. And number five, of course, is: Don't give up!

TT: What do you mean by "follow up on every contact"?

I'll answer that with an example. We did a program during Career Week in February with a vice president from an international bank. After the session, he waited for students to approach and ask him questions. Out of 50 students, about 12 came up to him afterwards. Maybe four students asked him for his card. And only one student out followed up by e-mailing him a thank you and sending a resume. The bank wasn't hiring, but the vice president was so impressed that he brought that student in for an informational interview.

TT: A lot has changed since graduates' parents searched for their first jobs. How have social networking Web sites changed the game?

One of our career coaches, Megan Pongratz, recently did a presentation on social networking at a Temple sorority. She told them about a Career Builder survey that says 22 percent of recruiters use social networking sites to screen job candidates, and 34 percent eliminated candidates based on what they found. The good news is that 24 percent of hiring managers who researched candidates found content that solidified their decision to hire the candidate. We see this as an opportunity for students to shine. The best way to sell yourself is to update your Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn profile regularly. And if you still want to share your party pictures, have two accounts — one that's private and one that serves as your resume.

TT: Any other tech tips?

You have to think about everything you do as part of your job application. Is the voice mail message you have on your cell phone professional? Is your e-mail address You might want to change that. Your presentation needs to be flawless.

TT: When Temple students graduate, they join Temple's large alumni community. How can grads channel alumni loyalty?

Recently, Temple launched a Web site called myowlspace. It's an online community of Temple alumni and friends. After setting up a profile, Temple students and grads can search alums and find someone who's working for an employer or in a field they're targeting, then shoot them a message. The alumni aren't there to give you a job, but they're there to talk with you about their experiences. And boy, does that go a long way. There's a lot of good will that Temple alums have for their alma mater. So let our alums help you. Also, Temple alumni can use the Career Center for free for the rest of their lives — that's not true at many schools.

TT: What if students miss your special "Job Search Open House" on Commencement day at the Career Center (May 14, 2-4 p.m., 220 Mitten Hall)?

If you can't join us, I strongly encourage you to connect with the Career Center as soon as you can. We're open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you just have a quick question, the best way to start is to come during walk-in hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you have more than a quick question, call our office to schedule a 30-minute coaching appointment.  Either way, we'll welcome you with open arms. You can meet with a career coach, talk about your job search to date. We can help fine tune and enhance your resume and your job-seeking methods. We can give you practical suggestions and strategies that you can use for the rest of your life.

TT: You've worked at career centers at the University of Texas at Austin, Georgetown, Penn and Stanford and as a human resources professional and recruiter in high-tech firms. How are Temple students and graduates different from others?

I have been blown away by the work ethic of Temple students, which is no surprise given the how many work while they're in school. It's their drive to succeed. There's no sense of entitlement. Instead, there's a sense of 'I'm going to go out and get it.' Temple students are tough — they're fighters. If there ever was a group of graduates who can overcome whatever obstacles this recession throws in their way, it's this group.