Get insight into 10 career-related areas so you can help your son or daughter plan for a career.

1. Choosing a career/choosing a major

Security vs. adventure. Accountant, Peace Corps volunteer, journalist, college professor.

Ultimately, your son or daughter should make the choice. Of course, you may want to mention factors to consider, such as job-market demand, salary ranges, long-range opportunities, skills required, and so forth. Just because an occupation is "hot" now does not mean it will be equally in demand in 10 years, or that your child has the aptitude or motivation for it.

2. Choosing to double major/choosing a major and minor

Most employers do not place a students 6premium on a double major. It usually requires an extra one or two semesters to obtain a second major and does not particularly enhance a student's marketability. Exceptions would be a second major or a major and minor chosen for a specific career, such as English and chemistry for technical writing, or a health policy major and business minor for hospital administration. Of course, some students may choose to double major primarily for academic/intellectual purposes.

3. Grade point average (GPA)

Some students who get off to a rocky start eventually pull up their grades; however, this can be difficult to do. Advanced placement credits and study-abroad courses generally do not count in the computation of a student's GPA.

Some employers use GPA cutoffs in considering applicants for job openings. Others stress the student's overall background: experience, number of hours worked during the school year to finance college, leadership activities, and other key skills or attributes. Encourage your son or daughter to make academics a high priority beginning with the freshman year. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that it may take him or her a while to adjust to the rigorous academic demands of college.

4. Obtaining marketable skills

Most employers today put more emphasis on graduates' skills than on their academic majors. Encourage your son or daughter to develop strengths in at least two or three of the following areas:

  • Quantitative skills (e.g., accounting, statistics, economics);
  • Communication skills (e.g., written and oral);
  • Marketing/selling skills (e.g., sales, publicity, fundraising);
  • Scientific skills (e.g., lab skills, scientific research);
  • Leadership skills (e.g., supervisory, extracurricular leadership roles, teamwork/team leader).

5. Leadership activities

Many employers rate leadership activities even more highly than GPA. Students who were very active in high school activities may be less involved in college extracurricular activities. However, employers regard high school as "ancient history" for a college senior. It is more valuable for a student to be involved in a few meaningful leadership roles on campus than to be in a "laundry list" of many campus clubs.

6. Experience

You may want your son or daughter to work in his or her hometown every summer. However, the experience gained as a lifeguard or ice cream shop counter clerk does not compare to that which comes from an internship in the career field that he or she aspires to enter. Future employers will seek graduates with relevant, real-world work experience. Some students have little to write about on a resume if their summers were spent in school, traveling, or working at low-level jobs. We strongly suggest that students seek career-related experience for their sophomore and junior summers.

7. Graduating early, graduating late

Some students graduate early through advanced placement credits, heavy course loads, and summer school courses. The advantages are lower educational expenses, and the ability to start employment or graduate school earlier. The disadvantages may include the sacrifice of academic honors, work experience, and extracurricular and volunteer activities that may contribute to a student's maturity level and qualifications.

Other students graduate late due to light course loads, academic difficulties, changing majors, poor academic advising, lack of direction, or reluctance to leave the cocoon of the college environment. Advantages to late graduation include the ability to improve grades with light class loads, extra time to change majors, the ability to take additional electives to improve marketability, and extra time to gain more career-related or leadership experience. Disadvantages to late graduation are increased college costs, and possible disapproval of employers and graduate schools.

8. Planning for graduate/professional school

Students aspiring to graduate or professional school should:

  • Be clear about the reasons they want to go on for further education;
  • Research the qualifications required for admission and be realistic about their chances of acceptance; and
  • Have a "Plan B" or back-up plan in case they are not accepted.

Students should discuss their interest in graduate or professional school well before their senior year with their academic adviser; the college's graduate or professional school adviser (e.g., the pre-law or pre-med adviser); and a college career adviser to obtain advice and guidance from three different perspectives.

9. Taking time off

Many students want to take time off after college graduation and before attending graduate school or taking a career-related job. Future employers will want to know how the student has spent the intervening time. Do activities during this period demonstrate relevance to future career goals and/or a good work ethic?

While short-term travel may be personally broadening, it does not increase a student's marketability to employers unless it is seen as career related. Therefore, the time off may result in a longer job search. For example, management trainee programs, which often begin shortly after graduation and hire large numbers of new graduates, may be filled by the time your child is ready to begin a job search.

10. Using the college career center

Students should visit the career center no later than their sophomore year. Most career centers provide individual career counseling/advising, workshops, internship assistance, and career fairs and programs—services designed specifically for underclassmen.

Your son or daughter should seek help early with choosing a career and preparing for it. Competition for good jobs, particularly in certain fields, is stiff. The career center can advise students about how to become strong candidates for their fields of interest.

By Marcia B. Harris and Sharon L. Jones. Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

UAB News

  • Tips on insomnia, snooze buttons, hot baths, putting phones away and more
    Tips from a UAB sleep physician on ways to help fall asleep and wake up refreshed.

    Have trouble sleeping or waking up? You are not alone. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates 30-35 percent of adults complain of insomnia. It is common in groups such as older adults, women, people under stress, and people with certain medical and mental health problems.

    Amy Amara, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist and sleep medicine physician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham says there are a host of factors that can disrupt sleep; but she also offers some suggestions that can help you catch those elusive Z’s.

    Amara, who sees patients at the UAB’s Sleep/Wake Disorders Center, says the bottom line to waking up refreshed is to get enough hours of sleep. Easier said than done.

    “Cooler environments are helpful for promoting sleep,” Amara said. “A hot bath just before bedtime may be helpful because the body temperature decreases quickly after getting out of the tub, thus promoting sleep. The best sleep environment is cool, dark and quiet.”

    For some sleep issues, a visit to a sleep medicine physician is valuable. Sleep professionals can help individuals understand their body’s preferred sleep time and needs. Tools such as sleep diaries can be helpful. Sleep physicians can also help with more complicated issues such as circadian rhythm disorders.

    Amara also recommends a consistent exercise program, which helps make sleep less fragmented and promotes alertness during the daytime. A regular program is important, because a single day of vigorous exercise can sometimes disrupt sleep that night. The type of exercise is less important — find something you like to do, and stick with it.

    If you are consistently waking up groggy, or hitting the snooze button many times, Amara says going to bed earlier can help; but be sure to optimize your ability to sleep by reserving your sleeping space for just sleep. No TV, no reading, and no electronics in or near the bed. Your smartphone can wait until you get up.

    For some sleep issues, a visit to a sleep medicine physician is valuable. Sleep professionals can help individuals understand their body’s preferred sleep time and needs. Tools such as sleep diaries can be helpful. Sleep physicians can also help with more complicated issues such as circadian rhythm disorders.

    “Light is definitely an alerting signal to help you wake up, but the timing of light exposure is very dependent upon the individual,” Amara said. “If the light is given at the wrong time, it can actually end up making it harder for you to wake up or can shift the circadian rhythm in the wrong direction. A sleep medicine doctor can assist in providing a plan to shift the rhythm in the right direction.” 

  • Organisers, students hail inaugural summer science camp
    Shirley Sanders-Ginwright, Programme Director for the University of Alabama at Birmingham Centre for Community Outreach, revealed that the three-week camp was the UAB's maiden venture outside of the USA.
  • Game on
    Mark Ingram forges a future for the Blazers.

    Written by Charles Buchanan

    What happens next?

    Mark Ingram, UAB’s new athletic director, has lost count of the number of times he’s been asked that question. His arrival on campus has coincided with a pivotal moment in Blazers history—when UAB is lighting up networks and national headlines with a bracket-busting NCAA Tournament basketball victory; a British Open success story; and the planned return of football, bowling, and rifle. That leaves Ingram with plenty of decisions to make about the direction of UAB sports, not to mention a packed schedule and infinite to-do list.

    But that’s how he likes it. “I’m not interested in easy,” Ingram says. “Easy is boring.” A former student-athlete himself—he was a two-year starter for the University of Tennessee’s football team—Ingram has led athletic development offices at Tennessee, the University of Georgia, and the University of Missouri. The North Carolina native came to UAB from Temple University, where he served as associate vice president/executive senior associate athletics director.

    Now he’s looking after 450 talented student-athletes on 17 intercollegiate teams—and serving as an ambassador to a fired-up fanbase, the community, the media, and more. Recently, Ingram discussed the Blazers’ current challenges and future opportunities:

    Let’s start with the reinstatement of the three sports. Rifle returns this fall and bowling next year, but why must football wait until 2017?

    President Watts’s announcement on June 1 marked the beginning of a process, not an end. Football reinstatement is different because there are many rules for a Football Bowl Subdivision program, and the requirements are more detailed than for other sports. We also have to consider Conference USA, where the status of football affects all of our other teams, and we must be mindful of the safety and well-being of our student-athletes.

    Conference USA and the NCAA have been tremendously helpful. Rebuilding a program is not completely foreign. But other schools did it so long ago that a lot of the rules did not exist or were different. Our circumstance is unique.

    We’ve also got to continue to raise funds to do this properly. We are so grateful to the community leaders, donors, fans, students, and alumni who got us to the minimum amount to begin the reinstatement process. We will need support for operating costs as well as facilities to help our athletes be competitive.

    What are the facility needs?

    In my meetings and tours with master planners, we have identified approximately $55 million to $60 million worth of renovations that will give us adequate facilities for all of our athletes. That figure covers a wide range of things, including a football practice building that would include a weight room, training room, locker rooms, meeting rooms, and coaching offices. Most, if not all, of our competitors nationally have such a facility. We also need to improve practice facilities for other sports. We have a track team but no track. We need a new tennis facility. Men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and volleyball share one court at Bartow Arena, which makes scheduling practices and games difficult. We also need to renovate almost all of our locker rooms. The new soccer project [BBVA Compass Field] has started.

    I enjoy finding creative ways to enhance spaces for our student-athletes because it makes such an impact on their experience. It builds their confidence and pride, and it elevates their play. Here’s a great example: After softball moved to its new facility on campus, the team went to the NCAA Tournament five years straight. Improved facilities also help recruiting. Right now, a lot of coaches aren’t showing locker rooms or other areas that might give a negative impression. We want to give our student-athletes the facilities that position them to compete for championships. There is an arms race, and we have no choice but to play if we want to win.

    There’s a lot of interest in an on-campus football stadium, but we’ve got to have a strong financial plan first. The same goes for every facility—and for all of our activities, down to renting a bus to take a team to the airport. We’re not doing anything unless we have money to pay for it, just like any other office at UAB or any other athletic department.

    How will you capitalize on the Blazers’ newfound national fame?

    Our whole department is working on that because so many people have reached out, wanting to partner with us. We will capitalize on the attention through vendor relationships, multimedia rights, and partnerships with local businesses that want to get involved.

    We’re also going to find creative ways to promote football even when we’re not playing. We’re going to have a recruiting celebration after signing day, and we are enthusiastic about Homecoming this fall. We want our coach and team out front to keep UAB football in the conversation.

    We also are building new relationships on campus. There are many opportunities to do that at UAB, which is so strong academically. For instance, the health of our student-athletes is a critical emphasis for us, and we have a world-class medical research center down the street. A partnership could help build both programs.

    How do you keep the momentum going for donations to support football and UAB’s other teams?

    Many of the people giving to this effort have made five-year pledges. It’s critical that they fulfill those pledges by September 1. We need the pledge payments now to ensure our future success and eliminate any doubt of our communities’ support and interest in UAB athletics.

    We’ve got to continue to raise more money, sell more tickets, improve our partnerships, make better deals for multimedia rights—no matter how we generate money, we need to get better at it. At the same time, we must reduce our expenses. We will find efficiencies throughout our teams and department and identify where we can save money without impacting our work.

    What role can UAB students play in the future of athletics?

    The students give us momentum and create the atmosphere at our games. The fun and energy start with them. We want them in the stands and will continue to engage them.

    It seems that Birmingham is embracing the Blazers more than ever. How important is that community connection?

    Being Birmingham’s hometown team is the most important thing. We’re grateful that the community is rallying behind us and seeing an opportunity for positive change. So many people have said they are supporting us because it’s good for Birmingham. We need more of that. If you make a donation, buy a ticket to a game, or purchase a Blazers T-shirt, you’re making a difference.

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