Landing that first job

Landing That First Job

In Higley Hall earlier this month, students gathered in corners of the auditorium and scribbled their job-search emotions on Post-it notes. There were a few that sounded hopeful—“exited,” one read. Another one: “motivated.” Some were a bit more reserved—“curious,” wrote one student.

But some expressed outright fear and anxiety with words like “clueless,” “stressed,” and “depressed.” Not at all surprising coming from a group largely comprised of seniors about to set off into the workforce. And even though Denison is ahead of the curve with active career support programs, and, of course graduates with the all-important liberal arts skill sets—the national statistics are still unnerving: 44 percent of recent college grads across the country are underemployed. Another 5 to 10 percent don’t have jobs at all.

The man leading the exercise, Josh Jarrett, was on campus holding one-on-one info sessions with students, tabling in Slayter, and offering this presentation as a way to educate students about  his organization, Koru, which recently partnered with Denison to assist students in landing career experience and that first job offer.

Denison partnered with Koru earlier this year to further strengthen career prospects for graduating seniors, and invited Koru team members to campus to discuss their business model, which includes programs that embed students and graduates within their partnering companies, including REI, Microsoft, Amazon, and Zulily. The idea is to give the job-seeker some first-hand experience to bridge the route from campus to career, and to position them to create networks and interview for positions with those partnering companies when their Koru experience is completed.

Jarrett himself is a liberal arts graduate, and he shared his own concerns about life after he graduated from Dartmouth. He thrived, he said, on the structure and support of the school environment. “I was really good at that game for 22 years,” he said, “but then I walked across that stage, and it was a different game.”

He also shared with the students the Catch-22 that employers face when dealing with new graduates. “Employers love the skills that liberal arts grads have,” he said. “They write well; they work well in teams; and they’ve seen the world through a different lens.” But the résumé—the piece of paper that can put a candidate in the interview line—doesn’t help to differentiate the skills of a liberal arts graduate from those of a student from any other school.

It doesn’t help that employers get cold feet when it comes to hiring anybody—no matter their degree—in his or her 20s. It’s a group, says Jarrett, hoping to move up the ladder quickly. A young hire could mean a mobile one—someone looking to move on as soon as he or she has gained the needed experience—and that’s not such a great investment for a company.

Jarrett asked the group to consider this: A job-seeker who submits a résumé cold has a 6 percent chance of landing an interview. That stat rises to 80 percent when the potential hire is introduced to members of the company, so it makes sense to start—and prove yourself—from the inside.

“Denison students have always succeeded post-college,” President Adam Weinberg says. “But as the global economy changes, we must sharpen, broaden and deepen our support.” Koru is one way that Denison is doing just that. Bates, Brown, Vassar, and Colorado College are a few of the schools that have partnered with Koru in its founding year.

For Jarrett, the Koru experience can be summed up by the company’s name. It’s a New Zealand word that describes a fern right before it unfurls. “It’s a moment,” he said, “of coiled potential.”

The first round of deadlines for the fall Koru experience is coming up on May 5. For more information, visit Koru’s site or see what other opportunities are available on the college’s Life After Denison page, which includes information on the Office of Career Exploration & Development.

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