As graduation nears, many University of Indianapolis seniors are trying to figure out what their next steps will be. But senior creative writing major Wade Thiel already knows.
Thiel will work full-time for an alumni-run copywriting company where he has worked for the past year. And although he would prefer to write poems or novels, Thiel said that this is a good way to put his creative writing skills to use, and much better than having nothing.
“I never expected to come out of school with a job. I expected to be bar tending or working at a restaurant or wherever I was going to be working—in a factory or something. But it’s weird to think that I’m actually going to start a career,” he said. “… You end up with the things that you need by chasing the things that you want.”
Although simply graduating from UIndy does not guarantee students will find a dream job right away, alumni are able to find work with compensation that is competitive with national averages.
A university study showed that UIndy alumni have a higher employment rate than other college graduates. The study compared itself to a national survey by Rutgers University, and found that 70.7 percent of UIndy alumni are employed full time, versus 51 percent nationally. The study also showed that 10.9 percent were enrolled full-time in graduate school, versus six percent nationally. With all the numbers counted, the percent of UIndy alumni who are unemployed but seeking work is 3.1 percent, versus six percent nationally.
The average starting salary for UIndy alumni living in Indiana is about $44,000 one year after graduation, according to university data. After five years, that average increases to about $55,000, which is slightly lower than the overall national average of $57,600, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Vice President of Institutional Planning and Research Patrick Alles said that the salary figures are encouraging, but there is not enough data to compare the figure to the nation overall, even though cost of living is typically lower in the state.
“While it’s encouraging based on what we know for those working in Indiana, we also know that Indiana’s salaries compared to the nation are not quite as strong as some other areas,” he said. “So I think if we had data on graduates outside the state, those numbers would probably go up noticeably or substantially.”
Logically, some majors start out on the higher end of the average and some are lower. However, Alles said that a UIndy liberal arts education gives graduates the base that they need to change positions during their careers. According to Alles, that and personal satisfaction are as important in choosing a career as researching how much certain majors make starting out.
“That’s a very practical approach, but that minimizes and really kind of denigrates the real purpose of going to college. The purpose of college is that for the next 30 to 40 [years] or however long, really a lifetime, that you’ve got something you can use,” Alles said. “… You now have a capacity to learn things in a quicker and deeper way than you would have otherwise, so that in five, 10, 20 years, when you have to change careers, you can do it—you can do it fairly quickly.”
According to a study by the American Association of Colleges and Universities, 80 percent of employers think “all students should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.” The study also states that 93 percent of employers think a candidate’s ability to think critically, communicate clearly and solve problems “is more important than their undergraduate major.”
One UIndy grad who exemplifies this is Juan Paz, president of the Alumni Association and a member of the board of trustees. His position as senior property tax manager for Simon Property Group Inc. requires him to value Simon shopping malls throughout the Midwest.
“When I went to the University of Indianapolis, they didn’t have real estate classes, and I’m working for the largest real estate company in the world,” he said.
Although he had to take some courses in between, Paz believes that his time at UIndy gave him the base that he needed to get from where he started to where he is now.
Paz was born in Peru and came to the United States when he was a sophomore in high school. He earned three degrees from UIndy, one bachelor’s degree in the now defunct paralegal program, another in business administration and a master’s in business administration.
Paz said that he would hire only UIndy graduates if possible, because he has worked with enough alumni and seen their drive and tenacious work ethic.
“They do whatever it takes to accomplish their work. If it is staying, for example, time that they may not get paid, they’ll do it, because they want to finish the task, and finish the task correctly,” he said. “… That is something that you just don’t see anymore.”
Paz said that alumni have benefitted from personal attention from professors with real-world experience, rather than huge lecture halls and professors with only theoretical knowledge. Paz spent a year at a large Indianapolis college, and he said that the small class sizes were one of the reasons that he transferred to UIndy.
“Let’s face it, there is no way that during a semester a professor can manage 100 people,” he said. “… Now you condense it down to your 10-15 people, and you’re able to not only know them by name but know where it is that they need extra help.”
However, although graduating students are prepared, as Paz said, many have yet to secure a post-graduation job.
In a recent informal online survey conducted by The Reflector, 91 percent of undergraduate seniors graduating in May or August said that they felt their UIndy education had prepared them for a career in their field of study. However, 45.5 percent said that they had a job lined up for after graduation, not taking into account those continuing on to graduate school. Of those who had a job lined up, 83 percent said that it was in their major area of study.
One key to breaking in to a desired field is having someone, whether an internship supervisor or a UIndy alum, who can vouch for you, according to Director of the Professional Edge Center Corey Wilson.
“Just as important as what you know is who you know,” he said.
Wilson added that, in addition to registering with the Professional Edge Center, students should seek out people in their desired field. Professionals are busy, he said, but everyone has to eat, so asking someone to get lunch or just coffee is a good way to make connections.
Wilson also said that creating a LinkedIn profile that looks professional and doing as many internships as possible are both important. He added that there is nothing wrong with students doing internships after graduation, but the internships should be in the field that they want to break into, rather than exploring options.
“Any additional experience and exposure that you have, the more marketable that you will be to the world of work,” he said.
According to Wilson, however, one of the most important things for students to know is how to pitch themselves quickly to a reference or potential employer. Whether part of the graduating class or the freshman class, Wilson said that every student should start thinking about this.
“You can’t spend an hour or 45 minutes just trying to step through who you are,” he said. “You need to be able to succinctly say who you are, what experience you have and what you’re thinking would be your desired next professional outcome.”