Faculty Offer Career, Life Advice To Saint Leo University’s Graduating Students
From being prepared for an interview by researching the company to not trying to be like everyone else, here’s guidance for grads.
It’s just about time for Saint Leo University’s graduating students to turn their tassels on their mortarboards, receive their diplomas, and make their way into the world.
Among the soon-to-be graduates, many have secured jobs in their chosen fields, while others will go on to graduate studies or are seeking positions in their majors. They enter a job market that is better than expected with job growth increased 253,000 for April 2023, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Average hourly earnings rose 0.5 percent for the month and increased 4.4 percent from a year ago.
Saint Leo faculty members were asked to share their career and life advice for graduates in advance of their big day. Here are their thoughts:
Go With All Your Heart
Dr. Harsha Perera, assistant professor of physics/physical sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, advised, “Never stop learning and enjoy what you do. Wherever you go, go with all your heart and be yourselves; the effects will help change someone’s life, including yours.”
Getting that first job after college is not an easy task, Perera said. “Prepare to face rejections; it is very normal. After you land there, you will learn so much you haven’t learned anywhere else, so there is no need to panic.”
And last but not least, Perera advised, “Don’t forget to listen to your loved ones; they may know what you are capable of more than you know of yourself.”
For Dr. Kenny Embry, associate professor of communication and marketing in the Tapia College of Business, it comes down to choices. “Your first job will probably tell you more about what you don't like than what you do,” he said. “Don't fret about choosing the perfect first job. Take what you can get as soon as you can get it and learn about yourself.”
However, Embry also offered this life advice: “Who you choose to love and who you choose to influence you are the most important decisions you will make. Choose well.”
As for landing the job, he told Saint Leo graduates, “You are not being hired for your expertise. If anything, you are being hired for your enthusiasm and the ability to learn. Every organization chooses to hire for attitude and train for skills. If you have the right attitude, they will teach you the skills.”
He also offered advice for the workplace. “The relationships you make within a job will give you a pathway to your next job, but also start shaping your character. Be sure to stand out for all the right reasons. Do not fly under the radar. Do not try to be faceless or anonymous. Admit mistakes quickly. Never point out flaws without solutions. When you only find problems, that's called complaining. However, when you identify the problem and a solution, that's called problem-solving. One is valued. The other is not.”
To help get that first job, Dr. Cynthia Selph, assistant professor of music/music ministry in the College of Arts and Sciences advises graduates to create an organized and professional looking electronic portfolio or website “that showcases your accomplishments throughout your college career.
“Be sure to include student clubs, service activities, and lots of photos or videos of your activities,” she continued. “Résumés are important first steps, but a website gives future employers a chance to see you interacting with your peers and colleagues.”
Selph also offers advice on how to keep that first job. “Get to know your colleagues and care about them personally,” she said. “A team player who can enhance the work of his/her colleagues is a valuable asset for any employer.”
“I have always advised my students with the following points on working in corporate America,” said Dr. Okey Igbonagwam, assistant professor of computer science in the School of Computing Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Data Science (CARDS).
“Seek answers to solve the tasks given to you, but do not ask the same question twice,” Okey Igbonagwam advised. “Never allow others' unfavorable perceptions to become their realities about you. Therefore, be a self-starter and demonstrate that you can do the tasks.”
He also advises graduates to show flexibility — the ability to be a team player while also being able to work individually. And, “Limit your social butterfly,” Igbonagwam said. “Yes, be friendly, [but] with seriousness.”
Dr. Joseph Cillo offers some life advice for Saint Leo’s graduating students. “Live your life and simply respect the lifestyle of others,” the assistant professor of criminal justice said. “The diversity of our nation should be viewed as a strength rather than as a reason to compartmentalize our society. Today’s graduates have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and in the process create a world that welcomes change.”
As for career advice, Cillo advocates preparation. “Never go to an interview without first researching the company and the services and/or products offered by the company,” he said. “Look to the demographics of the company personnel especially the officers and board. Be prepared to demonstrate an understanding of the company's clientele and customers.”
Dr. Khalilah Louis Caines, director of field education and Graduate Social Work Program instructor, offered one piece of practical advice and one bit of inspirational guidance for grads.
“Always look for and be open to opportunities to enhance your skills,” Louis Caines said. “Things are changing constantly, and it is important that you find ways to improve the work that you do.”
In life, “Don’t compare yourself to others,” she advised. “Everyone’s journey is different. If you focus on trying to be like everyone else, the world will miss out on who you were created to be.”
Help for Grads
Saint Leo University’s Career Services offers advice for students and alumni throughout the year, but especially at commencement time. For more information about services, programs, and resources Career Services has available, email CareerServices@saintleo.edu or call (352) 588-8346.