As an introduction, I have been teaching college since 1988.  Since then, I have had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of students, all investing in themselves, all looking to find better work than they could otherwise have found without their education.  They were in college for a reason.

I received my bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1982, masters in Economics and Finance in 1987 and have been a working professional since 1984.  I was at first hesitant to pass along employment or job search advice, believing that what I had to say was already known to my students and telling them some job search tips would not add any value to their effort.

When the credit crisis was in full swing in 2008, I realized that what I knew, most students did not know concerning how they approached their education, how they would approach a job search while in school or after graduation.  Since the beginning of 2008, former students in record number contacted me, they knew I worked in banking, most took my classes, others did not but somehow found me, all were looking for work.  They asked if I could help them find a job.

Here are the things that kept them from being successful in finding work with or without a degree.  [This is not an all-inclusive list, it won’t answer every question, email me at if I can be of further help.]
1.  While working on your undergraduate (bachelor’s) degree, make every attempt to find work that compliments your major or what you eventually want to do.

a. Between high school and college, a neighborhood friend of mine got me a summer job with him at an appliance repair store.  They needed warm bodies to help install air conditioners in all of the housing projects in the City of New Orleans.  A furniture or appliance store had sales on window units, sold them all over the City and contracted the installation work to local shops.  While the job paid reasonably well at the time, it did nothing for my college business studies.  A waste of time for me.  I should have worked as a teller in a bank.

b. Those of you who are waiting tables and bartending – I would get out of those professions as quickly as humanly possible unless you want to run or own a bar or restaurant.  I completely understand that sometimes you simply need the money.  I did when I was installing the air conditioners.  There are better ways to make money while building your career.  Think that if you are doing something that may be fun at the time, your fellow students are not doing those things.  They will be further along than you when applying for real work.

2.  Make use of your in-school contacts.  Your classmates may be working, and may know who is hiring and form contacts through those people.

3.  Join a student organization that can bridge the gap between campus and professional organizations or employers.  I mentioned to my classes that the Finance & Economic Association (FEA) is one such organization.  It has attached to it, the Finance & Economics Advisory Council, comprised of business managers in the community, those are your contacts.

4.  Use campus resources like a career development office for help in finding work or resume preparation.  Show your resume to a working professional, ideally someone who is responsible for hiring (corporate recruiter), ask them to critique your resume.

5.  Definitely make use of the internship program through the University.  Internships, as I have known them, come in three forms:

a. An internship is an arrangement through the University and your college department, for you to work in some capacity acceptable to the University, at an employer known to the University.  You enroll in a course, listed in the University catalogue and you will receive credit for the work that you do.  The school ensures that you are not simply making coffee, but are doing actual work at an acceptable place of business that wants to be part of the internship program.  UNO’s college of business has internship opportunities in just about every department.  The Marketing Department demands each of their marketing majors perform at least one internship as a requirement to graduate (or at least it used to, I think that some internships that were offered are no longer offered).

b. The internship can be paid or not paid.  I have always approached these at my company this way:  If the student is doing work for their course and the business is not benefitting by their work, it would be unpaid.  If they are doing work that benefits the business, I am all too eager to pay them.  Not everyone approaches these internships the same way.

6.  Former students who have contacted me over the past year chose not to gain any work experience while in school.  After graduation, they found themselves competing with their former classmates that did have experience.  Those with experience AND education got the jobs over those with only education.

a. Their solution to not getting a job was to go to graduate school.  Well, if they didn’t hire me with only a bachelor’s, a master’s degree must be the solution – they thought.  Wrong answer!  They made matters worse.  Now you have two degrees, no experience, a higher expectation for work, an expectation for more money and you know nothing about any industry that you approach, now what do you do?!?

b.  [Since I am in banking I tend to use banking examples.]  Those with degrees and no experience asked me for branch manager jobs.  They have no earthly idea how the branch runs, or what their staff does, they know nothing about the products and services of the company and they want to run the branch – that’s why they do not get hired.

c. One former student said that after graduation with her finance degree, she "applied with every bank in the City.  They would only offer me a teller job” she said.  Exactly, you should have been a teller while in school, learn  the operations of the branch, then she could have been a big girl and been offered a management position (perhaps an assistant branch manager) upon graduation.  She felt like a big girl with degree in hand, and was insulted when she did not get a management job 24-hours after graduation.

d. Many industries in today’s economy are highly regulated – banking and financial services are some of them.  You need EXPERIENCE to understand the laws and rules, blending those with your course knowledge to form a management employee that is in demand.
7.  GRADES:  If you go back long enough, it was impressive in and of itself to be in college.  Your parents or grandparents may not have gone to college, it was not expected “back then.”  Grades have been used as a selection mechanism since so many have turned to higher education, a degree is more of an expectation than a luxury.  An employer faced with 100 resumes can start to trim the pile by looking for experience and/or grades, selecting the best combination for the business.

a. I have NEVER been asked for my grades, I have NEVER asked for someone’s grades.

b. The value of your grades, while some employers will filter their hiring based on them, will rapidly dissolve once you are hired.

c. I have seen too many former students, graduates with “great grades” get fired for not producing on the job.

d. A loan officer, stock broker, insurance salesperson, retailer, will not be worth the paper that their transcript is written on if they can’t produce for the business.  Those are sales positions, granted.  However, the same goes for analysts, accountants, administrators and branch managers.

e. I have seen it too many times, those who are in the business when part-time or in school, get the valuable face-time with other employees.  Once they graduate, they are already in the door.  Assuming that you are doing satisfactory work, your grades are taking a back seat.

f. The ‘blind’ applicant is only a resume to the recruiter or human resource person.  You are an unknown quantity to the business no matter what your resume says.

8.  CREDIT:  Especially if you want to work in financial services, your credit report is far, far more important than any transcript you will ever hope to have.  In banking, I can hire someone with a 2.0 GPA and decent credit.  I will NOT hire a 4.0 GPA and crappy credit.  With poor credit, you are viewed as (1) someone who is not financially responsible, (2) does not honor their own financial commitments and (3) is a security risk.

a. Check your credit score as soon as you can and make every attempt to have as clean a credit report as possible.

b. Credit scores are generally according to this scale:
“A” Credit = scores from 680 to a high of 850.
“B” Credit = scores from 640 – 679
“C” Credit = scores from 600 – 639
“D” Credit = scores from 550 – 599
“E” Credit is 549 and below.

c.  If you have "no credit" you should make every attempt to estab;ish some.  It shows responsibility.

d. Again, I have seen many, many applicants come to an interview with (1) great grades, (2) great perdonal references and (3) great resumes, get turned down for work due to their credit.
9.  The RESUME:

a. You should have a resume on hand, at all times, ready to go.  I hire a significant number of students, wanting to get them into the entry level of the business that they can marry some of their education with the actual business environment.  When I have approached them about work, I ask them to send me a resume.  Many, perhaps most, say that they don't have one.  If there is a good time to give a wrong answer, it is when you are in school, wrong answers are more tolerated there.  However, keep in mind that you are in a competitive environment, someone else is also looking for work, be in the front of that important line.  If you don't have a resume and are reading this paragraph, STOP and put one together right now.

b. Many times I am told that "I have nothing to put on a resume."  That could be accurate, everyone had to start some place, we all had "blank" resumes at some point in our lives.  Just having one with your education shows that you have thought of this, have put one together, have your contact information on it, and are more prepared to start your professional career than the next person who has no resume.  Delivering pizza is perfectly fine!  You have work experience that has taught you something!  Such as scheduling, time management, what is the product, how is it sold, who buys the product and what kind do they buy, etc.  That is EXPERIENCE.

c. DO NOT have errors on the resume.  Take the time to check it out, and run it by another person or two before releasing it.

d. DO NOT put:  References available on request.  If I have asked for your resume, or if you sent it in response to an ad, THAT is your initial contact with the business, to those doing the hiring.  Your resume is incomplete!  Why would you hold back references, those that can vouch for you??  As a person that is doing the hiring, if I am interested in you and it may be company policy to check references, I HAVE TO GET BACK TO YOU AND ASK FOR MORE INFORMATION!  OR, I wonder if it would be easier to pick up the resume after yours that is complete? Get the picture??  Have a complete resume, ready to go, on your computer.  UPDATE it routinely.

e. What I do personally:  I have a folder in my computer with my resume in it.  Each year, I pull up the resume, make any necessary changes and save it under a different name.  I use file names like "Resume2016."  I retrieve that file, make necessary changes and save it as Resume2017."  I do this each year, I can see what my resume looked like in years' past, what I have entered and perhaps what I have deleted.  I can't tell you how many times I have been asked for a resume, even at this point in my life.  Universities need it on file for academic credential purposes, some jobs need a fresh resume periodically, you may want to be part of an organization that will want a resume, you may be nominated to serve an organization as an employee or volunteer, they will want a resume, the list goes on.  HAVE A RESUME.
f. I know that resume writing is a very subjective area.  If you asked 10 people how to write a resume, you will probably get 11 different approaches.  Items outlined above are based on my experiences on the subject.

10.  GRADUATE SCHOOL:  Since I received my masters in 1987, the credential keeps on paying dividends.  “Back then” grad school was not as attended as it is now.  The last four professional positions that I applied for and was hired for, including the position that I currently hold, ALL asked if I had a master’s degree.  ALL were looking for that credential.  Now more than ever, tomorrow more than today, graduate school credit and graduate degrees will be in demand.  It is the new standard.

a. If you hold or will hold a business undergraduate degree, the Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA), may be the degree that you think of first, but not the one that you should think of.  Ideally, you should get a masters degree in the field of your undergraduate.  If you hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting, you should pursue a master’s in accounting.

b. Look at the curriculum for an MBA, it is too repetitive to what you already learned.  You are not “mastering’ anything.  It remains the first reach for business students, most business schools will offer this advanced business degree before any others, it sells better.  The business world sees it as a “terminal” degree.  One that ends your academic pursuits (does not end your learning).

c. UNO used to offer a master’s in economics with significant emphasis in finance.  Tough curriculum; this program was replaced by the PhD program currently in force.

d. Any of you that want a master’s in finance or economics, should filter into your undergraduate coursework at least six (better yet, nine) hours of calculus, three hours of linear algebra and maybe even calculus of several variables.

e. Story:  when registering for my very last semester in my undergraduate economics program, I told one of the faculty members of my interest in graduate school, in economics specifically.  Told him about the program at UNO and that I would be applying.  He congratulated me on wanting to enter grad school, wrote a letter of recommendation for me to enter.  He also asked how many calculus courses I completed.  None, I told him.  “No way,” he said.  “You will not last one class.”  I took a 5-hour calculus in my last semester of undergrad.  Got into the master’s program and within the first 15 minutes of the very first class, there were calculus problems in economics on the board.  The MBA students were flying out of the room, unless they had the preparation

f. The MBA, I am convinced, was designed for other disciplines to earn business training.  You will find engineers and liberal arts graduates pursuing MBAs as the oil company may require the credential of their professionals to move into management positions.  Liberal arts graduates get an MBA to enhance their marketability.
g. The MBA degree is fine to earn.  (I hire MBAs.)  Ideally, master the subject that you pursued as an undergrad.

h. The PhD:  a whole other level of study and commitment.  Blisteringly difficult work, around the clock, year-round for about 50 to 60 credit hours after you have your masters.  Less than 1% of all of the students that I have met have even mentioned it.  If any of you want such a credential, first, think it through, then research the curriculum of the area of study that you want to immerse yourself in for the next several years, then contact me.
11.  Now more than ever, a business that is hiring college graduates wants a CAREER-MINDED, WORKING PROFESSIONAL.  Much has been written about the balance between career, family and leisure time.  It is an individual decision.  Some people work a lot of hours, some would prefer to work less.  Understand that the level of dedication may positively correlate to one’s salary or promotions.  A business does NOT want:

a. Someone that thinks “it’s over now that I have my degree” and wants to relax on the job.  You are now like a freshman in the working world, as you were a freshman in the college world at one time.  It is time to actually make the business (and yourself) money.

b. Someone that wants to “squeeze a two hour day into eight.”

c. (Ladies) that want a place to go between having kids.

d. I do not hire liberal arts degree holders.  There are too many business grads to choose from, those that have educated themselves in material that will benefit the business.