The Johns Hopkins Gazette: December 1, 1997
Dec. 1, 1997
VOL. 27, NO. 13


Career Planning Gets Students On Track

Job hunting? Patricia Matteo is the one to see

Aaron Levin
Contributing Writer

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Ready to graduate and make your fortune among the employed? Well, better start soon and work hard, says Nimesh Shah '97, who knows from experience. "If you're spending less time looking for a job than your pre-med friends are putting into getting into medical school," he says, "you're going to be far behind in finding work."

Patricia Matteo, director of the Career Planning and Development office in Merryman Hall, couldn't agree more.

In her Career Planning Development office in Merryman Hall, director Patricia Matteo works with senior Jay Parikh. Parikh, an English major, currently has Microsoft and Morgan Stanley on his list of companies to explore for his first job.

"The old placement model--where you walked into the placement office and were handed a job--is gone," says Matteo. "Today you have to be more entrepreneurial, more aggressive.

"Employers look for certain attitudes," she says. "They want results. They're asking, 'What are you going to add to my organization?' They want to hire students who are self-reliant and proactive in their job search, because those are the qualities they want in their employees."

Matteo's office has stepped up efforts to help students land the right kind of first job. In the two years Matteo has been on the job, she has expanded the number of programs offered to job-seekers from 20 to 90. These include sessions on resume writing, interview preparation, long-term career decision making, job-search strategies for international students and ways for Ph.D. students to market themselves to industry.

Usually large corporations involved in technology or business come to campus to recruit. Microsoft, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Andersen Consulting, McKinsey and Bloomberg have all come calling recently. She credits Hopkins' strong academic curriculum and hard-working culture for producing a high "yield," the percentage of interviewees called back for a second interview. Usually this figure hovers around 20 percent, but the Microsoft recruiter found himself with 60 percent.

Matteo is trying to build relationships with smaller, growing companies who don't usually recruit on campus. For a start, the office offers a referral service. "Call us and we'll send you a set of appropriate resumes," she says.

Now her office is taking advantage of the latest Web technology to bring students and jobs together. She and the kids are now testing (along with Duke, Virginia, Chicago and USC) a job-hunting system called JobTrak. "We're moving to an on-line, Web-based system. Students submit resumes on-line. Prospective employers download and review the resumes, then send us a list of students they want to interview when they come to campus."

Meanwhile, the Alumni Relations Office has created a database of more than 1,700 Hopkins graduates who are willing to help students look for jobs.

"The list is broken down by geographic region and career fields," says Korkud Egrican, assistant coordinator of alumni relations. "It's not a job placement service, but students can write to these alumni for advice on how to look for jobs in their fields."

Job hunting isn't something to begin when spring arrives in your senior year, says Matteo. "Ideally, the process should begin freshman year," she says. "Students should spend some time visiting companies or organizations where they might like to work, making contacts and finding internships. By their senior year, they should have a good idea of what they want to do after graduating."

What you do depends on where you are in that process. For instance, at a job fair, someone simply gathering information might ask prospective employers about internships or what course work or experience is needed to fit into their companies.

"On the other hand, if you're actively looking for a job, wear a suit," says Matteo. "Tell the employer what your strengths are and what you want from a job. Leave a resume and follow up. Employers complain that too few potential applicants actually follow up on those initial meetings."

The common denominator, she says, is that job hunters take responsibility to go after possibilities. For new engineers, job prospects may be good, but that's all the more reason to start looking early, before the best jobs are snapped up by more aggressive applicants. On the other hand, employers seeking liberal arts grads--in journalism, advertising or policy analysis--don't go out looking for students. So liberal arts grads have to use more creativity to find out where they can break into these fields, then parlay networking and internships into a first job.

In the old days, she said, "your first job was your last job. Today, your first job is your first job." Now, she says, there's no such thing as a lifetime job. People have to be more responsible for managing their own careers.

Nimesh Shah found a lot of Matteo's advice useful even before he graduated last spring. The biomedical engineering major from Boston did all the right things. Deciding he wanted to work on Wall Street, Shah found an internship at Alex. Brown while still at Hopkins. He signed up in January for a "Day on the Street" trip to New York, sponsored by Career Planning and Development and Alumni Relations. There he listened to Hopkins grads already working on Wall Street explain different career paths: investment banking vs. asset management vs. research. What he learned clarified his own thinking about the field.

"The reality is that 90 percent of Wall Street is selling, no matter what it's called," says Shah. "So if you can't sell yourself, you're not going to make it."

Shah ultimately took a job after graduation, and moved to New York in July. Ten minutes after he started, he learned his whole department had resigned. He got on the phone immediately and called his now-extensive list of contacts, finally landing a job in equity research back at BT Alex. Brown in Baltimore.

He expects that soon enough his own phone will start ringing as another rising crop of Hopkins seniors tests the waters of the job market. Shah says he'll be waiting, ready to offer advice from his own experience.