By Tracy Haney/Accent editor

Cap and gown – check. Invitations – check. Graduation gift list – check. Plans for the rest of your life – not so fast. As seniors prepare for graduation, which is just a month away, they are loaded with an even heavier burden of landing their first job and entering the world of professionalism.

According to Career Services Director Laura Melius, this burden can be lightened with a little early planning and a stop at the Career Services office.

“Ideally seniors should start thinking about their ideal job at the beginning of their senior year,” Melius said. “If you’ve done your homework, by this time you should be making final decisions.”

Melius admits this is not always easy since some employers don’t start looking for employment candidates until an opening becomes available.

She did say, however, some employers are seeking fresh college graduates to fill positions.

Internet friendly

“A lot of it is looking at the right places,” Melius said. “I think a lot of students are discouraged because they look on the big Web sites and see so many jobs that require five-10 years experience.”

Melius suggests visiting Monstertrack, which specifically targets college graduates, on www.monsterjobs.com.

The Internet is a very useful tool when it comes to finding job opportunities, Melius said.

She reports the use of the Internet as a main resource for employers to receiving job applications jumped from 12 to 17 percent last year.

Seniors can also benefit from tools like EKU eRecruiting, which allows students to search jobs online, have new job listings sent via e-mail, post rsums to online rsum books searched by employers seeking Eastern students, access the Career Services database and connect with university alumni and career mentors.

Students can sign up for eRecruiting and get other useful tips at www.career.eku.edu.

Making connections

Another important source for finding a job after graduation, according to Melius, is networking.

“The old adage is true – it’s not what you know but who you know,” Melius said. “A lot of times that can be a deciding factor.”

Often graduates don’t necessarily move on to a professional career. Of Eastern students, Melius said in the past three years 49 percent have gone on to graduate school.

If seniors haven’t been accepted to graduate school by the end of their senior year, Melius suggests they look at alternative options. Career Services can help students figure out what can be done with their specific degree.

Start early

Currently Melius estimates more than half of seniors use Career Services, but students can start benefiting from the program anytime as a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. By being productive while you are younger, like getting co-op credit, internships or other related experience, students can make the burden of job hunting easier, according to Melius.

“Students should get a plan together to positively move forward toward achieving their goals,” Melius said. “That last semester a lot of students are juggling so many things … to add job search on top of that; it’s very tough.”

Senior Tim Cox, a criminal justice major, is postponing his own job search until after graduation. He plans to spend the summer in Anchorage, Ala., on a missionary trip with Campus Crusade and is leaving his search for a law enforcement position for when he returns home to the Cincinnati area.

“What happens, happens,” Cox said. “There’s no point in stressing over it.”

Panic stage

Erin Michalik, a senior English major from Louisville, admits she is stressing over the process of finding a job.

“I’m in the panic stage where my parents have reminded me that rent is free at their house,” Michalik said.

Michalik has decided to postpone graduate school and is looking for jobs in her major.

She said she’s used Career Services for help and has talked to a lot of faculty and friends about the process.

“It’s like ‘Oh God, I have to join the real world now’… It’s difficult,” Michalik said. “I totally understand why people take a semester off college.”

No matter what stage of the job hunt a student is in, Melius said Career Services can help students “dream big and identify resources to achieve those goals, personal and professional.”

“Helping students is what we live for,” Melius said. “Student success is our success.”