Looking to map out your career? For Columbus State University students and graduates, Kimberly Mullen should be your go-to gal.
On any given day, the director of CSU’s Career Center can be found conducting mock interviews or hosting workshops on resume writing or business etiquette -- anything to help students prepare for the work force.
Larger than that, it’s her job to stay abreast of what’s going on in the local business community -- especially which companies are coming, going and growing. The university is part of a larger movement to keep young talent in Georgia, so Mullen tries to help match CSU students and graduates with industries within the state.
Mullen spoke to the Ledger-Enquirer about the local job market, hot jobs in the area and ways to stand out from other applicants. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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What’s the job market looking like for recent CSU graduates?
It’s very good. In the state of Georgia, it’s good. Locally, if you talk to the industries, a lot of people are hiring. And with the (college readiness) survey that we just did with over 100 Georgia employers, what they’re saying is they’re still going to be hiring new graduates. It’s not going to decrease. They’re going to hire more. Those that said they weren’t going to hire more said they were going to hire just about the same. So we’re not seeing a decline in the employment industry, locally or in the state of Georgia for college graduates.
Now, that doesn’t mean that someone who really isn’t pursuing the market is going to have an easy time finding a job. In order for someone to get the job they really want, you have to know how to pursue the market. You have to know how to have the right resume, the interview skills and know where to look. Some people look mainly at one source. Maybe that’s the classifieds. That’s just one piece. You have to be on the computer looking at what’s out there, comparing things. I always say look at the classifieds, look online. Don’t use just one tool to help yourself find a job. And talk to as many people as you can. While you’re doing that, make sure you’re asking yourself the important questions. Do I really want to do this job from 8 to 5? I think one of the things students do is they try to find that job but they don’t think, ‘Is that going to make me happy from 8 to 5?’ If you can be happy in your job, you’re going to be productive, you’re going to grow and you’re going to be successful in that job. If you’re not happy, you can still be productive, but you’re kind of sometimes stuck because the passion isn’t there.
We’re also seeing higher unemployment rates — not just in the state but nationally. Do you think that means there’s going to be more job competition for college graduates?
I think it’s going to be about the same. Each year, we graduate more and more students. Colleges see that. Enrollment is going up. There is more access to education than there used to be.
It's competitive. But I think it's going to be about the same. While it may grow to be a little more competitive, I really think that's where we come in to teach not only college graduates but the ones that didn't go to college what kind of skills we can help them get so they're more ready for the work force.
As for the economy, I don’t see it as being a hindrance to people finding a job. I think people just have to be creative in their job search. Maybe it’s time to take a risk. Maybe you’re always wanted to do something but you weren’t sure, but sometimes you do have to take a risk to grow.
So it's competitive. What do you think someone needs to do to stand out from the competition?
Are you referring to education or experience? I think it’s a combination. I don’t think that one skill plays over the other. If we’re talking about the university and the students we’re graduating, first they want to have the education. That’s just a piece of the puzzle.
Let’s put the puzzle together. I have this education, so what kind of skills -- if I haven’t received them yet — am I going to put in my path to get some experience? Whether it’s internships or work.
And then it’s being able to sell yourself. So it’s your resume, it’s your interview, it’s how you package yourself. It’s a combination of things. You fit those things together, and then you’ll be able to see the whole picture of the puzzle.
(If) you have the GPA, but you may not have the experience, at one point you’re going to have to start getting that experience. Maybe you have a really low GPA and the job that you want has a requirement for a high GPA. So maybe you need to think about taking other classes or furthering your degree. You start thinking about balancing it out . . .
When people put their resumes together, we’re brought up to be humble and not to boast. We have people who come in and we go over their resume and they say, “Well, I didn’t want to put that. It sounded kind of like I was bragging.” And we say, “No, you need to tell us this on your resume. We can’t figure this out unless you tell us.”
What are some hot jobs now in this area?
Definitely teachers. Nurses. IT. Those are always kind of the top ones. And those are always ones that are transferrable to other areas too.
(Organizations also) need finance majors. You’ll need business majors to manage people, to look at finances of a company, to do accounting for that work flow. So those are very important skills as well . . .
Call centers. All of our major industries here have a form of call center and customer service (center). (That) teaches people how to be customer-friendly. I think that at some point we lost an edge where it used to be the customer is always right. We lost a little bit of that. We need to get back to some of that.
The one thing about (call center) jobs is you don’t always have to have a college degree to get those jobs. So we have a lot of our students now who are working those positions. They’re very valuable and there’s a lot of growth in those positions.
What jobs would you not recommend people go into at this point, maybe because the industry isn’t doing too well?
I don’t really have one that I wouldn’t recommend. The reason why I don’t have one I’d recommend is because it may be where someone’s passion is. So if they’re really passionate about that, then you don’t want to discourage that path. I don’t really know of any markets right now that are not going well to where I wouldn’t push someone in that path.