Graduates look beyond college, discuss career aspirations

graduate thoughts.jpgAs final classes wrap up, many soon-to-be graduates are deciding how they want to move forward after college. Some seniors feel anxious about starting a life after college; others anticipate it with excitement.

One possibility for graduates is continue their education and earn a higher degree at a graduate school. UAA is currently offering six doctoral and 23 master’s programs.

After spending so many years in the education system, other graduates prefer to start their professional career directly after college.

Tyler Lockley will be earning bachelor’s degrees in political science and economics. For Lockley, graduate school or traveling after graduation was not an option. He wants to start his professional career as soon as he can.

“I feel my degrees have prepared me extremely well for the workforce and I know my skills can place me in a position to work anywhere for almost any company,” Lockley said.

He has applied for a job with Levvel, an IT consulting and advising services business in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Lockley decided to apply for the job about two months before graduation. The company’s values and the emphasis on responding to change in technology is what drew Lockley’s interest to the company.

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“We live in an ever-changing world… Your business must adapt and become more efficient in utilizing new technologies,” Lockley said.

In case his plan does not work out, he intends to work in a field that will provide him with flexibility.

“I would like to work in the finance or cryptocurrency industry, most likely something in the tech or start-up area,” Lockley said. “Those type of jobs allow for more freedoms and room for growth than a typical corporate structured nine-to-five [job].”

Early childhood education major and special education minor Alexia Blalock already secured a position in her professional field.

“I really like the group of people that I’m graduating with, because we all have been working together my last semester,” Blalock said. “For early childhood education, you have to do an internship, so you get to talk to people who are also doing it.”

For Blalock, this internship has already proven to be beneficial for her future career.

Over the last semester, she has been observing a kindergarten class at Rogers Park Elementary. The school has a program specially designed for highly-gifted children in each grade. It currently serves about 200 children in kindergarten through sixth grade, but the program is growing.

“[The school officials] are going to split the [kindergarten and first grade class], because they’re just getting so many kids,” Blalock said. “They asked if I would take the kindergarten position next semester, so that’s what I’m going to be doing.”

The position was offered to her in the middle of November. She had already started to make post-graduation plans, but when the principal offered her that position, she gladly took it.

“Traveling is the dream and I always thought that’s what I was going to do, just to take a break from school. I was also interested in the special education program for my master’s,” Blalock said. “Maybe in the future, I can do that, but right now, I’m just focusing on getting ready to teach.”

For students who are unsure of what direction to take after graduation, the UAA Career Exploration Services can provide assistance. They offer a variety of programs and events designed to help students with the challenging transition between university and a professional career.

As Molly Orheim, director of CES emphasizes, it is important to start early.

“I don’t want to see a senior in the CES offices for the first time — two weeks before graduation,” Orheim said. “That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to help them if they come to the offices, but the earlier you start preparing for your career, the better.”

CES offers services for all students from freshman to senior year. Other services such as mock interviews, resume reviews and job shadowing programs are important parts of CES’ work. In addition, they assist students in establishing contact with possible future employers.

In July, UAA launched Handshake, a career networking and recruiting website similar to LinkedIn, replacing the old College Career Network. Since then, over 1,300 employers have joined the UAA Handshake community and many UAA students have been successfully recruited by them.

Students looking to jump start their career exploration prior to graduation can schedule career development appointments with CES through their free UAA Handshake account under uaa.joinhandshake.com.