December graduation adds both joy and stress to the holiday season

Whether you’ve busted your butt to graduate a semester early, you’re cutting your victory lap in half or you happen to be graduating right on time, heading out into the “real world” right before the holidays can be nerve-wracking.

One of the biggest decisions you’ll make as a fall graduate is whether to start working right away or wait and see if your chances of securing a job improve in May. The job market changes depending on many factors including your specific area of study, so speak with your college’s career advisors before making plans for life after graduation.

Graduating in the fall has its advantages, like entering the work world as the new corporate fiscal year begins. This means new positions arise as companies manipulate their budgets, according to College of Communication career services manager Debbie Kubena. You’ll want to throw your hat in the ring early in case new positions become available, so don’t delay applying and setting up interviews. Both Kubena and Robert Vega, the assistant director for Liberal Arts Career Services, agree the holiday season can slow down the workload for some companies, which leaves them more time to focus on filling their open positions.

One disadvantage Kubena warns graduates about is the temptation to delay their job searches. Take advantage of the extra time and get ahead of those in your field that are graduating in May by beginning to look for a job as soon as possible. “Many unemployed candidates halt their job search over the holidays for a variety of reasons — the myth that hiring stops during the holidays, their own holiday activities, even the belief that they should wait and start fresh in January — and this can give a December job-seeker an advantage,” Kubena said. Michael Dean, an administrative associate for recruiting and career services support in the College of Education, agrees December graduates should use the spring semester to apply for jobs, considering those graduating in May are usually more focused on finishing their degrees than searching for full-time jobs.

What happens if you do secure a job, but you won’t start until after May commencement? You won't have classes to take, so how you spend that time is entirely up to you. You can choose to relax and blow off some steam, or “it may be helpful to consider the question, ‘How can I use this time to build my skills set in ways that will benefit my future employer?’” Vega suggested. “After assessing their resources and needs, students can judiciously approach the options for their six-month interim.”

Also, if they’re interested, December graduates can participate in the university-wide commencement ceremony in May, because there won't be one for fall graduation. All you have to do is talk to the convocation representative in your college to have your attendance approved.

Graduation is the time to celebrate your accomplishments and begin a new chapter in your life. For some, you will only graduate from college once, and although you may feel nervous about finding a job, take a quick break from the stress on Dec. 8 and 9 to enjoy commencement weekend. After all, the university is celebrating you.

Commencement Activities 
College graduation is a milestone in every student’s life, and the 2012 fall graduates will have Saturday, Dec. 8 and Sunday, Dec. 9 to celebrate it. Commencement, the university-wide recognition of graduates that takes place in front of the Tower, only happens in May, but December graduates are welcome to participate in the spring commencement ceremony if they want to be recognized in a group with their fellow college graduates. Those interested can contact their college's convocation representative for more information. As for fall commencement weekend, the Tower will be orange with “12” displayed on all sides to honor the graduates on Saturday and Sunday.

Because graduates are only recognized in groups during commencement, the colleges host their own convocations during fall and spring graduations to recognize them individually. The manner in which they are recognized depends on the college and its traditions. Also, some convocations are not solely for undergraduates; all colleges except education, fine arts, liberal arts and geosciences will recognize both their departing undergraduate and graduate students. You can check your college’s website for information regarding its specific convocation.

In addition to the convocations the UT alumni group, the Texas Exes, will host a celebration for the fall graduates called The Great Texas Ex-it. The alumni group will provide a free glass of champagne and other refreshments for fall graduates and their families in the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center on Saturday, Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

December graduation tips from the experts

Debbie Kubena
College of Communication career services manager

1. Don’t wait until January to start your job search.
2. Be smart about your search. Don’t send out hundreds of resumes in the hopes of catching someone’s eye. Pick several types of positions you’re interested in and pursue them.
3. Before you leave for the holidays, go to your career sercivces center to fine-tune your resume and work on your interviewing skills.
4. Check in with your contacts again, and let them know you are in the job market.
5. Be patient, proactive and positive.

Robert Vega
Liberal Arts Career Services assistant director

1. Meet with career services to ensure your resume and cover letter(s) are polished and ready.
2. Create or update your LinkedIn profile so it reflects your background and the field you're interested in pursuing.
3. Never miss out on an opportunity to network. Talk to family and friends about your job search over the holidays; you never know who might have valuable information or connections.
4. Google yourself and clean up your online image, which includes monitoring Facebook privacy settings.
5. Find out what you can do to gain experience and be a stronger candidate for the positions you're pursing. Use online tutorials or take an informal class to increase your skills set.

Michael Dean
College of Education's 
administrative associate for recruiting and career services support
1. Network. When recruiters come to UT, usually it’s the same recruiter visiting time after time. If students are able to go and speak with them, the recruiters will know what their major is by the time they’re seniors.
2. Be consistent with the formatting of your resume. There are different templates you can use, so just make sure it’s all the same.
3. References. Make sure your references know you’re using them.
4. Practice interviewing. Practice the standard questions in the mirror and get familiar with yourself through those. That way you’ll be ready when you have the interview.