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During the academic year, Southeast Missouri State University's student-led publication, the Arrow, contributes campus news for KRCU's digital and broadcast audience.

Finding Careers and Being an Exceptional Employee After Graduation

Graphic by Lily Niebrugge
Southeast Arrow

Most students come to college with the primary purpose of finding a long-term career in the field of their choice.

Yet, an article by Forbes claims that in a 2023 survey, less than half of college graduates felt confident that they would be able to secure a job after graduation and that two in five graduates felt that college did not teach them to be mentally or emotionally prepared to enter the workforce.

Assistant Vice President of Academic and Workforce Development Dan Presson said while all alumni have different paths after graduation, whether it be joining the military, starting a career, taking on a part-time contract in theater, or beginning graduate school, 70% of SEMO graduates are able to further their goals within six months after graduation.

Presson claimed that the majority of students find success after graduation because of SEMO’s career-centered programs.

“SEMO is an incredibly career-focused school. So, a lot of our faculty members are really focused on making sure students are career-ready. And you'll have faculty members who are deeply engaged in a student's resume writing, cover letter writing, interview skill building, and then also helping them find jobs and network,” Presson said.

Many students are able to line up job interviews through SEMO’s partnerships and networking opportunities.

Fourth-year graduate student and business major Jaden Kight was able to line up an interview with the Southeast Missourian for a multimedia account executive because she attended one of SEMO’s career fairs.

“I attended the career fair here and reached out to them and then kind of lost touch and then they emailed me yesterday and asked if I would want to do an interview next week,” Kight said.

SEMO often hosts events to help students not only get careers but also to help improve their interview skills and workplace etiquette.

One of these events was an “Advice from your Future Boss Panel,” in which four representatives from various companies from the area gave advice to students on how to impress employers after graduation.

From left to right, Laura Parker, Josh Hartman, Dennis Foley, and Alan Schoen introduce themselves at the beginning of the Advice from Your Future Boss Panel.
photo by Lily Niebrugge
photo by Lily Niebrugge
From left to right, Laura Parker, Josh Hartman, Dennis Foley, and Alan Schoen introduce themselves at the beginning of the Advice from Your Future Boss Panel.

One of the speakers on the Panel, Laura Parker, President of Coalter Insurance Group, said the best thing a new employee can do to get promotions or a raise is to stand out and be “exceptional.”

“You have to be exceptional. You have to stand out. You can't do just the bare expectation of being an employee and being an eight to fiver,” Parker said.

Parker and the other panelists agreed that if an employee doesn’t go above and beyond to be exceptional, they risk becoming replaceable.

Panelist Josh Hartman, the Plant Manager at Carlisle Construction Materials, said that being exceptional starts at the interview. He believes the best thing a fresh-out-of-college applicant can do at an interview is ask well-researched questions about the company.

“If you come into that interview, and you have questions lined out, I don't mean like ‘What kind of benefits do you have? ‘What's your starting salary?’” Hartman said. “No, go on and learn something about that company and have those questions lined out. I know every time I have an interview ‘I go into what kind of questions you have for me?’ and they just kind of look at me and go, ‘Nothing right now.’ That, to me, means you don't really want the job.”

Different careers often have other ideas for what makes a new employee exceptional.

Panelist and Talent Acquisition Specialist for Bank of Missouri Alan Schoen said the bank prefers applicants with strong ties to the community.

“With the bank, we're a community-based organization. So we literally look for somebody who looks forward to having ties in those communities, that is looking to stay in those communities and has activities that they do that tie them to those communities,” Schoen said.

As hard as it is to get a long-lasting career, Presson believes that SEMO students are exceptionally hardworking and, because of their experiences, should have no trouble building a resume and landing a job.

“The students that are on this campus have got to be some of the most hard-working students in the state of Missouri, at least in the Midwest,” Presson said. “I am constantly amazed at the skills, the work experiences, at everything that students at SEMO bring to the table. Because our type of student that we've got here is a student who doesn't shift a job, comes to campus, takes a class, and then goes back to their job. And so we've got a lot of students with really great experiences on their resume.”

The Southeast Arrow, a news partner with KRCU Public Radio, originally published this story.