9/17/2009

SLAC Pays Dividends in Challenging Job Market

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Sitting in the interview room at Franklin & Marshall's Career Services office, Deb Saporetti '91 passes a paper across the table outlining the current job market for graduates.

"Hiring down 7 percent for Class of 2010," one headline says. "Fewer grads have jobs, more headed to grad school," says another. This is exactly the type of news that makes Saporetti's message about the Selective Liberal Arts Consortium so important.

Comprising 14 highly selective liberal arts colleges, SLAC has provided employers with access to top-notch undergraduate candidates for entry-level positions since 1987. The program offers students the opportunity to participate in regional interview days, held annually in Boston, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., during December and January.

"SLAC gives you a leg up on the competition," says Saporetti, employer relations coordinator at Career Services and point person for the College's SLAC efforts. "The challenge is getting the message to students. It's difficult to get through the 'noise' of campus e-mail. It's a great opportunity, especially in today's market."

While many students wait until late spring of their senior year to begin hunting for jobs, SLAC gives them a chance to begin the process in the fall. Students apply on the SLAC Web site for pre-selected interviews at one of the four cities, and employers choose students they would like to interview.

"This is an advantage for employers because they only go to one city, and students come to them," Saporetti says. "For students, it's a chance to meet with a wide range of employers in one day, including government, nonprofit and for-profit organizations. That's a tremendous selling point."

Emily Garrett '09 is glad she took part in last year's SLAC regional interview day in New York, even though it did not lead directly to a position with one of the participating companies. "I wish more students had applied because it was such a good experience," says Garrett, who interviewed with three companies in one day. "It taught me to take the initiative to put myself out there, and write cover letters and résumés. Now I'm doing four or five every other day."

The experience helped steer Garrett toward a career in sustainability. She currently holds an internship with Greenstreet Construction, a high-end construction firm that specializes in energy-efficient, healthy and sustainable building.

"When you're in college, you're bombarded with e-mails from Career Services, and I usually just put them in the trash can," Garrett says. "But junior and senior year, I thought maybe I should go for it. One e-mail prompted me to go to the SLAC Web site. The SLAC event helped me decide what type of job I wanted."

Saporetti tells seniors to take advantage of every opportunity in their career search, not only events like SLAC. "Say you have an internship in a hospital setting," she says. "If you're in an elevator and see a doctor, take those few seconds and ask if you could come and observe. It's about putting yourself out there."

Students may now register for SLAC interview days taking place in December and January. Mandatory orientation sessions, designed by Career Services to prepare students for the interview process, take place Sept. 26, Oct. 6 and Oct. 14.

"The competition is so great that we want to go through the process with students to help them optimize their experience," Saporetti says. "It's amazing how flawlessly it works. It's a win-win for everyone involved."

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