Greg Alexander

Balancing work with school earns dividends

Baltimore Sun, September 16, 2007

The job market has been increasingly tough over the years, mandating that college students position and market themselves to help land that dream job after graduation. Whereas good grades and a resume outlining some extra-curricular activities performed during four years on campus used to be adequate material to ensure garnering a good job – and avoid the dreaded move back home with the folks – times have changed. Employers are looking for more from job seekers than just performing well in the classroom, and colleges can help in this area by providing real world experience through on-campus jobs, internships and co-op jobs.

“Employers now want to see work experience on a resume; it’s not all about the grades. Having a job during college is seen as an extension of the classroom and is the foundation for a quality resume,” says D. Lynn O’Neil, director of student employment services at Johns Hopkins University. Neil, who has been at Johns Hopkins for 21 years and created the department, says working during college provides students with practical skills, such as time management and how to interact in a professional setting, both keys to an easier transition from college to the workplace.

“For some freshmen, the jobs they have during college are their first jobs ever, so it’s a good opportunity to gain skills and be able to include some work experience on their resume. It’s important to supplement real world experience with classroom performance,” says Amy Mantegna, employment manager in the human resources department at Loyola College. “We encourage students to look for a job in their field of study to see what piques their interest. In addition to gaining skills relevant to their field, it also allows them to develop good habits that employers value, including dependability, ability to work on a team and responsibility. Students who can balance classroom demands while holding down a job are seen as responsible. Also, they gain basic office skills, such as using a fax machine or photocopier, and how to dress properly and act professionally in an office environment,” says Mantegna.

Janet Daley, director of cooperative education at Villa Julie College, says that students who work on campus also are able to “try on different hats” to see what type of job they’d like after college. “In college, it’s OK to have three of four different jobs because employers know that you are trying to find your niche. In the real world, however, if you have three of four jobs in the span of two or three years after graduation, it can hurt you,” says Daley.

It’s not just the students who benefit from on campus employment, Daley adds. “We have a student working in my office who is majoring in information technology who has more knowledge in that area than I do,” she laughs. “We can place a student who is good at marketing and event planning in a department on campus that has a need for that type of work, enabling that student to bring something to the table. Our study abroad office has three students working there who all have studied abroad, an example of how we strive for very targeted placements.” Daley says that her office primarily coordinates co-ops and some internships, explaining that internships are for class credit, but the student does not get paid, while co-op students get paid but cannot earn class credit for the work. Co-op placements are typically for one semester, Daley notes, but students are allowed to return to the same department the following semester if desired or seek work in another department or off campus at a local business. “We love for them to stay here on campus, of course, but my philosophy is that you have to get out in the real world, too. We do want them to leave the nest.”

Mantegna says that at Loyola College, all of the academic and administrative departments offer jobs to students and that job placements are for the full academic year. “We have a huge variety of jobs. Students can choose to be lab assistants, work in the athletic department or the student development areas, such as the student newspaper or radio station, or they can apply for a community-based job, which can be on or off campus and can include tutoring or working with seniors and the disabled,” says Mantegna, adding that Loyola employs about 1,100 students per academic year.

Johns Hopkins’ O’Neil says that due to the school’s many campuses in the area, students who want to work for the school can work in variety of settings. “While I work with students here at the Homewood campus, we have jobs available at any of our campuses, including medicine, public health and the Peabody Institute, as well as jobs off campus working for a local business. Everything is automated, allowing employers to post a job on our Web site (, which will be uploaded within 24 hours. Students can enter a number of search options – they can search by job type, location or whether they need a work/study job.” O’Neil explains that the financial aid office on campus awards work/study opportunities to students in need. “Work/study students sometimes have an advantage when looking for an on-campus job because although they receive the full per-hour rate, the academic department here only pays 30 percent of that rate because the federal government is subsidizing the other 70 percent.

“Jobs on campus can be anything from tutoring to Web design to being a lifeguard, and there is no limit to what a student can earn,” says O’Neil, who notes than average pay for all student jobs on campus last year was $9.37 per hour; the average rate for off-campus student jobs was $11.71.” She notes that last year, there were 2,000 undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students from the Homewood campus on Johns Hopkins’ payroll, which represented $32.5 million in earnings for these 4,000 students who worked on campus. “We have more jobs than we can fill for our students and have never had difficulty finding them a job,” says O’Neil, who adds that the school also has a job fair each September, drawing over 1,000 students.

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