This weekend, more than 6,500 University of Virginia students will walk the Lawn one last time before dispersing to jobs and graduate schools around the country.
Their best allies in the search for that critical first job? The hundreds of thousands of alumni who have walked the Lawn before them.
“So many of our alumni have returned to Grounds for recruiting events this year, or have mentored our students from around the world,” said Everette Fortner, associate vice president of career and professional development and director of the UVA Career Center. “Their input gives students on-the-ground insight into different industries and companies, which is incredibly helpful as they chart their own career paths after graduation.”
The Career Center held events throughout the year to connect students with employers and alumni, ranging from large career fairs to more intimate panel discussions. In total, 868 companies visited Grounds to talk with students during career fairs, information sessions and on-Grounds interviews, with more than 1,000 alumni returning for such events, sponsored by the Career Center. Many students also enrolled in the Virginia Alumni Mentoring program, which pairs students with alumni working in their fields of interest for either a semester-long mentoring program or quick “flash chats.”
“Our alumni give students very grounded, very realistic advice,” said Mary Elizabeth Luzar, the director of student and young alumni programs, who helps fourth-year students organize events with alumni. “Talking with them seems to make our students feel a lot more comfortable and confident in their job search.”
Many alumni came back to recruit at one of the 12 career fairs that the Career Center hosted this year, ranging from the 2017 UVA Job & Internship Fair, which attracted more than 210 employers and 2,000 students, to more targeted events like the Impact & Sustainability Career Fair, which included more than 30 employers representing nonprofits, government agencies, energy and environmental organizations and more.
Each of the Career Center’s six career communities – hubs for students interested in particular industries – hosted events connecting job-seekers with employers and alumni. These included a Film Industry Networking Breakfast held during the Virginia Film Festival in November, where more than 60 students met with nationally acclaimed writers, producers and filmmakers; and a Serving Society Conference hosting non-governmental organizations, nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurs, attended by more than 140 students. A Global Career Development Day for students interested in international careers was also a hit, with more than 150 attendees.
UVA students also have access to thousands of job postings on Handshake, the Career Center’s online recruiting platform, including many posted by alumni eager to recruit new talent from their alma mater. The graphic below reflects some of the many industries posting openings on that platform and recruiting undergraduate students.
Even before graduation, all of these efforts have paid dividends for this year’s graduating class.
Industries with earlier hiring timelines, such as finance or consulting, have shown strong preliminary employment rates. For example, preliminary numbers indicate that 88 percent of undergraduate students graduating from the McIntire School of Commerce have received job offers, plan to attend graduate school or are delaying their job search. This year, more than 500 Commerce School alumni served as mentors, organized company visits, participated in events or posted job opportunities.
“Alumni are the single best career resource for our students. Their engagement is key to every aspect of our service,” Assistant Dean for Commerce Career Services Denise Egan said. “The ‘give back’ ethos has deep roots at McIntire and alumni model this ethic in a variety of ways.”
Similarly, the Darden School of Business reported strong alumni involvement and preliminary employment rates. So far, 84 percent of the Class of 2017 have reported job offers, many from the 119 companies that visited Darden to recruit this year. That percentage is expected to increase as more students return survey data.
Other pre-professional schools have also fared well. The School of Nursing expects that 80 percent of its graduates will have accepted job offers by graduation, with other graduates having several interviews lined up.
“There are more nursing jobs available this year, so our graduates have the luxury of considering more opportunities before making a decision,” said Theresa Carroll, senior assistant dean for academic and student services.
The School of Law does not report employment data until 10 months after graduation, per instructions from the national accrediting agency for law schools. However, administrators there expect another strong year, similar to the 98 percent employment rate that the Class of 2016 enjoyed. The National Law Journal noted in 2017 that UVA appeared on its “firm favorites” list more than any other law school in the country, and the school currently has graduates working in every firm in American Lawyer’s list of the 100 top-grossing U.S. law firms.
The Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy is also continuing to collect data. Three Class of 2017 master’s students were named as finalists for the U.S. government’s prestigious Presidential Management Fellowship, a two-year training and development program that selected only 6 percent of applicants this year. Two graduating students also earned Fulbright Scholarships.
Early reports are also promising for students interested in industries that hire later in the spring and summer, such as media, technology, education, architecture and entrepreneurship. The Career Center continues to gather data from the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Architecture, the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Curry School of Education. Top industries recruiting students so far include everything from technology and marketing to real estate and defense.
Regardless of industry, surveys of previous UVA classes indicate that the Class of 2017 has a lot to look forward to. A 2016 Gallup survey of millennial alumni, which polled the classes of 2001 to 2015, showed that recent UVA graduates surpassed national averages in each element of well-being measured, which included employment and workplace engagement; financial, social and physical well-being; and attachment to their alma mater.