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Sue Bush
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Commencement To Time Clock :"A Daunting Thing"

By Jen Thomas
07:01AM / Friday, April 06, 2007

MCLA senior student Ryan Bissonette
North Adams - With a May 12 commencement edging ever closer, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Class of 2007 has little more than 30 days to prepare for life in the "real world."

“Graduating from college is kind of a daunting thing,” said senior Teddy Bourgeois. “It’s a huge hurdle.”

Some students are already working to secure full-time employment after graduation. With bachelor’s degrees and resumes in hand, this new swarm of "worker-bees" are ready to hit the job market.

The Job Search

Seniors are looking into varied occupations and professions, including opportunities that are a step away from their college major. With help from the college’s Career Services Department and the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), students can research job prospects while finishing up their last semesters in school.

Bourgeois has accepted seasonal employment with Overland, a Williamstown-based outdoor trip organizing company. His experience as a camp counselor qualifies him to lead groups of 7th-9th graders on back country hiking trips through the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.

MCLA senior student Teddy Bourgeois
“I was really looking for new positions in outdoor leadership and education,” Bourgeois said. “I heard about the job from [MCLA’s coordinator for the Center for Service] Spencer Moser and I was really interested in the trips they run.”

Overland’s summer program takes school-aged children from all over the country on trips throughout the nation, including New England, Alaska, Hawaii, and Europe. Bourgeois’ trip, called the Blue Ridge Explorer, lasts two weeks and includes backpacking, kayaking, and rafting.

Senior Christina Landeta, is actively searching for work in the social service and human service fields. Having studied sociology, anthropology, and social work at MCLA, she hopes to get a job with the Massachusetts court system or as a specialized residence director.

“It started off slow at first, because I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go to grad school or work first,” Landeta said. “I literally just started the search.”

With a degree reinforced with on-campus responsibilities as a resident advisor as well as the leader of various clubs, Landeta hopes her personal education-sprinkled-with-experience employment package helps her land a "dream job."

“I want to be in a setting where I know I’m making a difference in the lives of people I work with,” she said. “When I grow up, I want to be an Assistant Dean of Students on a college campus.”

Taking The Long Way

Business Administration student Maureen Cherry recently initiated her search, but she’s already interviewed for accounting positions in Massachusetts.

“I’m looking for something in business or accounting,” she said.

MCLA senior student Maureen Cherry

Cherry was accepted at Assumption College and the College of Saint Rose, but she opted to postpone further higher education for a few years.

“I would rather work,” she said. “It’s important to have work experience before getting a master’s.”

Ryan Bissonnette, an English/Communications and Psychology major, wasn’t actively searching for a job when he was offered a position as a sales associate at KeyBank.

“It was really anything I could get,” he said.

Bissonnette views this job as a stepping stone to a future career in an unrelated field.

“I’m really looking for a job with tuition reimbursement, so I can go back to school to get my master’s in psychology,” he said. “I eventually want to be a consultant for children with special needs and learning disabilities.”

Money Matters

Most students are looking for work that will provide enough financial reward for a recent graduate.

“I’m looking for something that puts me at a good pay grade right now,” Bissonnette said, stating that the range he is looking for is around $35,000 a year.

Landeta hopes for a range between $26,000 and $35,000, while Cherry expects to make about $30,000 a year at an entry-level position.

“I don’t want to be stuck with my parents for a couple of years,” Bissonnette said, but added that he doesn’t expect to be making too much with “just a bachelor’s.”

Bourgeois, who hopes to acquire a full-time position with Overland or a related organization after his summer stint, recognizes the financial problem but feels it might be worth it.

“If you’re willing to trade an awesome experience for lots of money, than it’s all right,” he said.

Getting Help

Though underutilized, the college’s Career Services, run by Sharron Zavattaro, provide resources and feedback for students just stepping into the job market.

“Students are beginning to get their options together,” Zavattaro said.

Along with resume-building seminars and mock interview sessions, the Career Services office keeps students up-to-date on the availability of local jobs and internships through an online database with NACE.

“College students have a tendency to put off and wait until the last minute to begin their job hunt,” warns a Career Services website, which also details strategies to aid students in their pursuit of the perfect job.

With a focus on guiding college students through the necessary steps in preparing for a career, Zavattaro and her staff meet individually with students, professionally print resumes, provide tests that identify talents and interests, and post an extensive list of open positions.

“Sharron Zavattaro has helped me tremendously,” said Landeta. “I would have to say that my resources have guided me in the right direction and have aided me along the way.”

Yet few students take advantage of the services provided at the college.

“[Zavattaro] helped me in getting on the right path on getting people to notice me, but people don’t go see her,” Bissonnette said. “I think it’s not being assertive enough and not having a whole lot of independence.”

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

A dearth of Career Services visitors points to a more disturbing trend at the college: few graduating seniors are focused on post-college options.

“I don’t know anyone who has gotten a job, just those looking at summer theatre,” said Fine and Performing Arts major Mary Domenichelli.

When asked, Business Administration and Economics department chairperson Nancy Ovitsky could not name any students who had jobs lined up for after graduation.

“It’s not hard to find seasonal work,” Bourgeois said. “It’s full-time work that’s difficult.”

“People are intimidated by graduation,” Bissonnette said. He believes students aren’t looking past acquiring summer work or are hoping to go on to more college.

Still, others are determined to put their degree to good use.

“I plan to keep looking until I find what it is I want,” Landeta said.

Jen Thomas is a senior student and member of the MCLA Class of 2007. She is an correspondent.
Your Comments
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I guess most of the college students will not be working in the Northern berkshires...people with five, ten years on the job aren't making $36,000 around here!
from: Mikeon: 04-07 00:00:00-2007

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