The sidewalk leading to the Lion Shrine was almost turning blue with Penn State caps and gowns Friday, as eager grads waited to snap a couple last photos of their time as a Nittany Lion.
Among the hundreds of people were laughs, tears and talks about the future.
Penn State’s graduation ceremonies are this weekend at University Park.
“I think being a Penn State grad helps you be employable,” said psychology major Scott Traweek, who already has a full-time job lined up when he returns to his northern Virginia home.
Traweek will soon start work as a project consultant at Cvent, a privately owned meeting management company in McLean, Va.
But just having a degree, Traweek said, isn’t the only thing that helped him land a job before he even graduated. Utilizing on-campus career fairs, networking and working with the alumni association were the most important efforts.
“It’s really up to the kind of person you are, but Penn State offers so many amenities that allow its students to find jobs,” Treweek said about finding a job despite a tough economy. “What I found is you use these assets and show professionals that you have things like good social skills, can think critically and can be a quick learner.”
Other graduates, such as Evan Landis and Marina Chang, also have full-time jobs awaiting them, while others said they are either continuing the job hunt or applying to graduate school to further their education.
Some students said the best way for them to find jobs in their career field was specific online tools and websites, and using Penn State resources like career fairs.
Landis, an architectural engineering major, will be moving to Washington, D.C., this summer to work as an architectural engineer for Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger. He said the Penn State College of Engineering pushed him to apply for internships to gain experience and attend career fairs through the school to meet contacts that could potentially lead to a job.
Chang, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, will be moving back to her hometown to work for CBS Radio in the advertising sales department. She said the experience in the College of Communications as a public relations student helped her hone her creativity skills that will be beneficial to her new job.
Chang said she started her job search in September when she teamed up with professionals from the alumni association who acted as mentors.
But for another New York City-area native, Stephanie Sarra, and Virginia native Tristan Hwang, graduate school is their best bet.
Hwang, a double major in criminology and international politics, said continuing his education and aspirations of working for the government will help him stand out from the crowd.
“I want to continue now so I can either jump in the workforce after I get my master’s or take a new route into law school,” he said. “Getting a job is tough these days, and I think more school on top of internships makes you more desirable in a competitive world.”
Hwang will start graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh this fall with a concentration in public policy.
“It’s my personal desire to look ahead and set myself up for the better long-term,” he said. “My grandparents only needed a high school diploma to work, then my parents needed a bachelor’s degree, and now my generation needs to go beyond that.”
Hwang is another student who worked with the alumni association.
“There are so many people, clubs and fairs that Penn State provides, so you’re not left jobless when you graduate or want to continue your education,” Hwang said. “It’s tough in the economy, but there are so many ways to help yourself.”
Nutrition major Sarra also is taking a stab at graduate school, she said. Not enrolling until next spring, Sarra said the field she is leaning toward requires her to have additional education.
“You need to have a master’s degree. There is no real way around it, and to pursue something I enjoy is totally worth it,” Sarra said about becoming a registered dietitian and studying the food aspect of nutrition at the research lab at the food studies department.
For her, both the education and real world experience is equally important in finding a job in the future, as a majority of students agree.
Chang said if she had advice for anyone still going to college, it would be to network and use the resources the university has to offer and get experience through internships.
“Your degree helps, but it’s nothing like getting actual hands-on experience through internships or working with others,” Chang said. “Not everyone is a kind of go-getter like that, but the sooner you get that experience, the better off you are in the long run. You get to know people, learn the industry and make a lot of contacts.”