As we are about to wind down the semester and students look forward to graduation, many students are still contemplating going to graduate school, taking some time off, traveling abroad or taking a new job or their first career-oriented job! For our graduate students they may also be thinking ahead in terms of a new job or a promotion or even further study. While this time is a milestone moment…it can also be daunting. Especially in our post-COVID and uncertain world. How might we help our recent graduates?
First, I encourage all our students to visit our Career Center and make sure they get connected with our Alumni Office here at UIS for the best and most up-to-date advice, career opportunities, and networking ideas. But I wanted you to know these students probably can use some broad-based or out of the box suggestions and advice as well. Hence, I am encouraging all of you to interact with our recent graduates to share your career stories, successes, trials and tribulations.
Therefore, this issue of the Dean’s Quarterly invites our alumni and friends and stakeholders to share their stories about their first jobs out of college and what they did when they graduated? There is nothing more powerful or instructive than hearing about those firsthand experiences especially when some students are not sure exactly what their next career or educational step might be.
Use these next sections as a guidepost (of sorts) to submit your stories or suggestions for our recent graduates which we will post separately for our new graduates to reflect on. These ideas may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Those Students who Really Don’t Know What to do Next
Here are some nontraditional, big picture or starting out ideas to get us started:
- Become a Research Assistant
- Find an Internship
- Invest in Your Passion
- Start a Business
- Pursue a Part-Time Job That You’re Passionate About
- Teach English Abroad
- Work at Your College or University
- Regroup at home
- Continue your education;
- Take a gap year
- Take an apprenticeship
- Search for your skill-set on LinkedIn
- Go to career fairs
- Look for recruitment program
- Don’t get trapped by your degree
- Do not be afraid to fail
- Be open to change – do not be scared to step outside of your bubble
- Find a mentor to lean on for advice
For our alumni, what did you do after you graduated, what was your first job? What stories can you share with our new graduates?
Public Affairs and Nonprofit Routes or CPAA graduates
Maybe the Federal government was your first start and career? Listed below are some 21st century routes to federal service.
The Pathways Programs offers clear paths into federal service for students and recent graduates through federal internships or full-time jobs. These opportunities also provide meaningful training, mentoring and career development for employees.
The program provides current high school, college, graduate and advanced degree students with paid opportunities to work in federal agencies. Internships may be part-time or full-time, and they may be yearlong or limited to the summer. Agencies hire interns on a temporary basis for up to one year on a specific project or for an indefinite period until the intern completes his or her degree.
Recent Graduates Program
This program is a one to two-year developmental program designed for individuals who have received an undergraduate, graduate or advanced degree from a qualifying educational institution or program. Candidates must apply within two years of receiving their degree, except for veterans who have up to six years to apply due to their military obligations. Program participants receive at least 40 hours of training and professional development and complete an individual development plan. They are also assigned a mentor they can work with during their time on the program. If they meet certain requirements, participants may be eligible to convert to full-time federal employment.
Presidential Management Fellows Program
This program is the federal government’s premier leadership development program for advanced degree candidates. Individuals are eligible for this competitive program if they received a qualifying advanced degree within two years of applying. This two-year fellowship includes 80 hours of training each year, a senior-level mentor, a mandatory four to six-month developmental assignment, and optional rotations of one to six-months duration. It is designed to provide challenging work assignments and opportunities to network with other future leaders.
Many federal agencies and departments offer unpaid training opportunities to students currently enrolled in an academic program. As a student volunteer, you will gain valuable work experience in the federal government as it relates to your field. If you are interested, you should look on agency websites’ career pages for volunteer opportunities or contact the personnel office at the federal agency or department of your choice. These volunteer positions may be posted on USAJOBS.gov, but there is no central listing of student volunteer opportunities.
But, how did you get your first federal government job? Would you ever work for the federal government?
Nonprofits May be the Way to Go
For many of our alumni and friends I know you got your start and have pursued careers in the nonprofit world. Indeed, there are many amazing career pathways within the nonprofit sector. From environmental organizations, foundations, art organizations, to women’s rights social services this post touches on what you need to know in order to be able to apply at one.
- Identify the Causes You Feel Most Passionate About.
- Check Out Nonprofits Closest to Home.
- Use Informational interviews.
- Volunteer for Your Favorite Charity.
- Find a Nonprofit Internship.
- Use Social Media to learn about charitable organizations, find valuable contacts, and to make yourself more visible.
- Cast a Wide Net.
Share your stories with our brand new graduates so they can have a firsthand idea of what it took to find your role in the nonprofit sector. When you started, was it just a job or was it a passion or a calling? Of the 7 reasons that pundits offer about going into nonprofit work. Are they accurate? Share your story!
State and Local Government Opportunities
When you first started your careers or took a job in local government did you ever think about working for the City of Springfield or Sangamon County or perhaps your local village, town, city or county back home? Yet many of you did! Today, entry level career paths may be right on student’s doorstep. And certainly, local public service desperately needs qualified leadership to fill administrative roles of all kinds. What better way to immediately give back to the community and start a career path directly helping the public. Each public entity web site has a human resources page to scan for opportunities.
How did you get your job in local government? Did you knock on someone’s door in HR or in the Mayor’s or City Manager’s Office to talk about a career in local government? Was it such a direct or indirect process? Certainly, many of our alumni are in substantial State government positions here in Illinois and elsewhere. How did you get there? What was your first job? Did you consider local government and should new CPAA graduates think about local government for their careers?
- Local governments employ more than twice as many workers as State governments.
- Professional and service occupations accounted for more than half of all jobs; fire fighters and law enforcement workers, concentrated in local government, are among the largest occupations.
- Although job prospects vary by State and region, overall prospects are expected to be favorable.
- Employer-provided benefits are more common among State and local government employees than among workers in the private sector.
- Local government can make a real difference for local people.
- Excitement about integrating ideas and skillsets to get better outcomes.
- Few employers combine so many disciplines (engineers, nurses, landscape designers, youth workers, app developers, etc. towards the same end goal.
- You believe in the power of place-based, community-led approaches.
- You’re passionate about aligning business, community and government to achieve social, economic and environmental outcomes.
- You can see that the greatest challenges of the next 50 years will be solved first at a local level – small local action leading to big widespread change.
- You have more to offer than your qualifications and experience.
Of course, there may be residency requirements to meet and many positions are “civil service” which means you must qualify for the position. Many civil service requirements for professional positions are evaluated by “open-structured tests” which essentially means your resume.
What was your first job in state government? What stories can you share? Local government could mean Peoria or perhaps Chicago or tiny Lincoln. Each locality and role is distinctive and sharing stories about your career experiences about local government can be empowering for our new graduates. How did you navigate promotions or moves from agency to agency? Our new graduates need to hear those stories from the trenches!
Continue on to Graduate School
First, I would hope newly minted graduates from UIS would think about securing a graduate degree from here! There are plenty of options like public administration, policy, business, political science, legal studies, environmental studies, public health and other fields. In fact, this may be the best time to jump right into graduate study to ensure you have the credentials for the next job or promotion or career change:
- To bump up your salary potential.
- To set a career change in motion.
- To follow your passion.
But, what was your decision to pursue a graduate degree? Was it linked to salary or promotion opportunities? What was your graduate school experience like? What was the motivation or driver behind obtaining a graduate degree? How did you determine the best time to get a degree? These are all important questions our new graduates will have and you should feel free to share your experience.
The purpose of this Dean’s Quarterly is to get you thinking! But it is also to get our new graduates thinking about their choices after graduating from our College. It is not meant to provide definitive guidance on what to do next in life and career. But I encourage you as active alumni, friends of the College and stakeholders to share your stories with our new graduates that we will publish here or on our web site over the next month. For students graduating please reach out to our Career Center https://www.uis.edu/career/ as your one stop and "go to" UIS office for help in your next career step whether in education or employment.
May graduation is the most significant moment in our students’ lives no matter what anyone may think. They should be proud, but they should know their upcoming graduation is just their first step. As a College of Public Affairs and Administration, our premium and the context of their overall education (regardless of the degree) is in service to the public interest. It is going out into the world and making a difference. There are many ways to accomplish that. Whether they pursue a career in government, nonprofit or private sectors or go on to further their education, there are many pathways to serve their family, neighborhood, community, state and nation, and world. But first and most important, to serve themselves. But you know that, you have been there and done that, you have advice, stories of success or pitfalls to avoid, you know what was on your mind when you graduated and how you got to where you are today.
In service to our new graduates in 2022, I ask that you contribute your story of success and what guided your decisions when you first graduated from UIS and CPAA. Send us your recollections and advice so that we may in turn share those with our new graduates. In these rather tumultuous times I think guidance from you as proud alumni and friends are needed now more than ever.
In closing, remember your career path and those that helped you along the way. Please consider providing that assistance and encouragement and maybe even job prospects to our latest graduates of the College. We are happy to pass those along and to work with you to find the best and the brightest our College has to offer.
Best wishes all for the brightest of futures!
Robert W. Smith, Ph.D.
The UIS College of Public Affairs and Administration