By: ALLISA CORAK
As the semesters pass, it seems that graduation is coming around at lightning speed. For IU South Bend seniors, commencement is about 15 weeks away and life after college will begin. But how should students be preparing for the next step?
Head of IUSB Human Resources Harry Vasilopoulos answered that question.
Vasilopulos is known by his students as the professor who always encourages them to look past the classroom for their education. He does this with a specific and strategic two-step process.
He says the first thing to do is build a resume, not just write one. “Building a resume takes a very long time,” he said.
But don’t wait until the last minute. “My advice is students need to start thinking about career management as soon as they start their sophomore year,” Vasilopoulos said.
There are many ways to build a resume in and outside a classroom.
The first idea that may pop into a student’s mind is an internship. According to Vasilopoulos, internships are one of the many things students can do to build their resume. Other opportunities like volunteering, working with faculty mentors, student research or attending conferences offer beneficial out-of-classroom experiences, too.
Study abroad programs at the university are what the professor considers one of the “single most significant” opportunities a student can take advantage of.
“If an employer looks at a student’s resume and sees that this student has traveled overseas, studied overseas, completed a experiential learning component overseas, it’s going to give them, as you can imagine, an enormous competitive advantage,” he said.
Vasilopoulos said in a time of a disengaged American workforce, the more a student can show they are engaged, will help them stand apart from competitors.
“Employers want to get a sense that this person sitting in front of them, outside of the academic qualifications they have, they have the energy, the enthusiasm, the commitment, that they are engaged, young professionals,” he said.
Students can also join a club or group that corresponds with their major. Vasiloupoulos said the participation is resume-building. “It’s important because the mere participation, membership in student organization gives the student the opportunity to add something to their resume, but also gives them the opportunity to get exposed to meetings and activities on campus and off campus. It gives them the opportunity to listen to speakers for their profession.”
“Students must take very seriously the idea of building a resume over a period of time because it shows commitment, it shows engagement, and that’s what employers want to see apart from academic credentials,” said Vasilopoulos.
A club offered by the university, SHRM, is open to any student who wants to be a part of a Michiana professional network. The group connects students to the decision-makers of the area and can help get a foot in the door.
The second step of the process is making meaningful connections with future employers and those who work in the student’s prospective professional field.
According to the professor, getting in touch with a faculty mentor can help students start exploring real professional opportunities.
Faculty mentors can help build a list of employers of choice. Students can learn how to make a list of prospective employers and begin to visualize themselves in that career setting.
Vasilopoulos said visualization of the future can help students plan now. “The Ideal way of doing things is to say, ‘Where do I want to be when I’m 40? What level do I want my career to be?’ Then, reverse engineer that backwards,” he said.
What if a student waits until the last semester before graduation to take any action on their future? The professor said, “You’d have a lot of work to make up.”
He said a procrastinating student should immediately find a faculty mentor and come up with the best resume possible, but don’t panic. There’s still time.
“If you aspire to a dynamic, progressive, productive career, the strategic thinking really starts as soon as you enter college, not when you’re getting ready to exit,” Vasilopoulos said. “Until students understand how critical this is, they will not give it the value it deserves.”
The professor noted that students should start this process as soon as they can and should do as much as they can with it to make a smooth transition into a professional life after college.