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Ready for Work

Aria Behrouzi was set.

Last fall, the leaves hadn’t even begun to change colors on trees across campus, but the senior chemical engineering major already had a job offer in hand from a national, high-profile manufacturing company. Now, Behrouzi thought, he could relax and concentrate on his research and academics, while classmates poured over online classifieds and sent out resumes by the dozen.

But over the next few months, unlike the foliage that calmly fluttered to the ground around the Brickyard, the U.S. economy crashed with a jolt of cold, harsh reality, taking Aria’s job – and many others – with it.

“I got laid off before I even started,” Behrouzi said.

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It was devastating news, delivered in what began as an innocuous, “how-ya-doing” type call from Newell Rubbermaid headquarters. An entire division, intended to offer young graduates from around the country a paid, full-time rotation through every facet of operations, went up in smoke.

“My whole life, I’ve been one of those people who wanted to have the ‘next step’ in place, and I knew I did everything I could have,” said Behrouzi, a Caldwell Fellow. “The conversation started out great – I thought they were going to tell me which work site I would be assigned to – but it went downhill pretty quickly.”

The next week, Newell Rubbermaid laid off thousands of employees, Behrouzi said.

” I was dumbfounded,” he said. “There was no indication that it was coming.

“My job was gone in a blink of an eye.”

“We felt so badly for Aria, because it was so sudden,” said Carol Schroeder, director of NC State’s University Career Center [UCC]. “For a student to lose an offer for no fault of his own – that was really difficult.”

But after a few days, Behrouzi regrouped and began to contact as many professors and staff members as he could, searching out new contacts and possible leads.

“I can remember talking to Aria about continuing to work hard – even when the market is tough, there will still be pockets of opportunities out there,” said D. R. Ingram, who works with NC State’s chemical and industrial engineering students at the UCC. “He’s one of those students who exerted great effort in the job search.”

Behrouzi covered all the bases – networking, shaking hands at career fairs and submitting his information to an infinite number of “black-hole” job opportunities he’d seen on the ‘net.

“I was extremely disappointed, but you can’t beat a dead horse back to life,’ he said. “What’s done was done, so I started looking again.”

And in his spare time, he went “shopping” at a local grocery store.

“I had done an internship with Kraft Foods,” he said. “Since I was interested in food, my sister got the idea that we should go to the store and look at the back of each package to see who manufactures the products.

“I was trying everything I could think of.”

The next week, Behrouzi attended an engineering career fair on campus, and met representatives from the Savannah River Site (SRS), a nuclear materials processing center operated for the U.S. Department of Energy. After several interviews and a facility tour, he was offered a position at the end of April.

“Things turned out well – it felt like so much was happening for the last few months,” Behrouzi said. “I was doing job interviews, all while studying for tests and exams and working on my senior project.

“It wasn’t planned, but it was one heck of a ride.”

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Although Behrouzi’s grocery-store scavenger hunt didn’t result in a new job, he did get several calls for his efforts. It’s that type of outside-the-box thinking that will help students find success in a tumultuous market, Ingram said.

“You have to be creative and assertive in your job search,” he said, “and be flexible in regards to the types of positions out there, as well as their geographical locations.

“The most important thing of all is to maintain a positive attitude,” Ingram said. “You have to view the half glass of water as half full instead of half empty.”

As graduation day approaches, students facing an uncertain job market tend to fall into two categories. The first group, comprised of students like Behrouzi, always has that “next step” – which can mean anything from full-time employment and graduate school to military- and public-service opportunities – in mind.

Other students suffer from “recession paralysis,” becoming so distracted by the constant stream of negative news reports that they decide to shelve their the job searches until after graduation – a time when thousands upon thousands of additional grads (as well as more-experienced workers also searching for employment) are on the market.

As the job market began to tighten, a collective of NC State career center professionals jumped ahead of the curve in hope of eradicating the “condition,” and began meeting to ensure that the university was doing all it could to assist its graduates in finding gainful employment.

“We all share a common goal, to create opportunities for all of our students,” Schroeder said, “working together to make maximum use of the resources and employer relationships that we have developed, as well as sharing innovative ways to reach students.”

These self-described “innovation counselors” work tirelessly to get job news to NC State students any way they can – through various university web sites and the ePack portal, but also through culturally relevant outlets like Twitter, LinkedIn and a myriad of blog sites.

“We’re finding jobs for students,” Schroeder said. “Jobs are out there – they may not always be the exact jobs students seek, or jobs in the locations of their choice, but there are opportunities to get a foot in the door.”

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Admittedly, finding the right position can take time, and Schroeder encouraged both NC State alums and current students to take advantage of any potential career-services opportunities available to them.

The University Career Center assists all NC State students from the moment they arrive as freshmen through a full semester after they graduate, while business management, design, textiles, BTEC, Co-op and agriculture and life sciences students can take advantage of additional resources within their respective Colleges and programs as well.

“When students know there is hope, and that there are resources and professionals to help encourage them when the going gets tough, they are more likely to participate in the job-search process,” Schroeder said. “Our students and alumni are not on their own, and they don’t have to do it all by themselves.”

In addition, the NC State Alumni Association offers a variety of career services programs to its members, featuring everything from job search consultations, resume review sessions and access to job postings – many from employers looking specifically for NC State graduates.

“The quality of an NC State degree, the university and the students themselves make NC State alums attractive to companies we hear from,” said Sue Simonds, director of Alumni Career Services.

Resources are available to everyone from soon-to-be alums graduating on Saturday to those who received their diplomas decades ago.

“We assist alums from all colleges and majors, at any point in their respective careers,” Simonds said. “No matter what place in life you are at, we are available to assist you in your career planning and job search.”