Monday, December 16, 2013

More Grad School Thoughts

Completing a grad degree has many rewards, as indicated in our post last week. 
However, there are also many reasons not to go.

Grad school can be...

1. Highly competitive. Graduate programs always have fewer spots than undergraduate programs. There's competition for seats, research positions, grant money, and often as a result, departmental politics.
2. An excuse not to leave school if one is afraid of entering the workforce.
3. A challenge to one's ability to set priorities. 
4. A strain on relationships. You might be offered a grad/research assistant position and free tuition, but your spouse will have to fend for him or herself in a geographical area away from home.
5. Stressful, as grad work can  take 2–7 years of your life. Not everyone finds they can complete an MA  degree in the typical one or two years and a Phd can take many more years. Personal obligations often intrude, or lack of finances makes it difficult. Or your supervisor doesn't like your research.
6. Expensive. Graduate schools can be very expensive. If you are not going to work during your studies, or will not receive an assistant job and waived tuition fees, the cost of your education is going to mount and the debt might push you into accepting any job after graduation, out of necessity.  
7. An obstacle if you appear to be too qualified for a lower level job. During an economic downturn, should you find yourself looking for employment, having an advanced degree can be a problem. You might hear, "sorry, you're overqualified."

Feeling overwhelmed? We have drop-in hours every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2-4. A career counselor can help you work through all your concerns!

Adapted from

Monday, December 9, 2013

Grad School Thoughts

Should I stay in school? Should I get another degree? What will this cost me? my family?Should I work for a while? Do I need to have related experience before I apply to a graduate program? 

All of these are excellent and appropriate questions for students (and alums) considering graduate school. If you are an MSU student or alum, your career counselor can help you consider your options.  

Reasons to go to graduate school
    Advance your career.
     Many careers require at least an MA or more even for entry level positions. A graduate degree can open up a wider array of opportunities in such fields as psychology, social work, healthcare.
    Greater earning power
     This is a common reason why people go to grad school. However, it should not be the only reason, since getting a grad degree is a very serious commitment.
    Because you want to.
     To learn, to think critically, to accept the academic challenge. 
    Realization of interest.
     Not everyone realizes during undergraduate school what interests them and graduate work can give you a new beginning, as graduate work does not always need to be connected to your undergraduate studies. For instance, your BA might be in English, but you decide you are interested in an MA in counseling. Many grad programs prefer students to have a varied (and unrelated) background.
    Career change.
     If your current career is unrewarding, an advanced degree can help you to transition to another career.
    Upgrade your education.
     Your knowledge of your field may be outdated.
    Work on advanced projects.
     The computer scientists who delved early into computer graphics set the standards for much of the CGI technology used in movies today.
    Access to advanced equipment and tools.
     In a similar vein, entering a graduate program could mean having access to advanced equipment on campus -- such as the astronomy lab, supercomputers, rare books, and even great minds.
    Higher potential for future promotion.
     While obtaining a graduate degree does not necessarily always lead to a high-paying job right away, it can open up opportunities for future promotions.
    Not being stuck behind a desk.
     If you have the necessary education to qualify for a high-ranking position in your chosen industry, it means that you often have the option of not sitting behind a desk all day.
    Employer incentives.
     Some large corporations have funds set aside that will pay partial or full fees for qualified employees.
    Free tuition.
     In some cases, grad schools might not only waive your tuition but also give you a stipend for living expenses, in return for taking on the work of a teaching assistant or research assistant.
For more information on graduate school, visit our website
* (Adapted from

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Benefits Count!

The following article is courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, and provides some very important info as you consider your first professional position.

As you look for your first job, you’re probably not thinking about becoming ill, retiring, or looking for tax breaks. However, you should consider benefits to be an important part of your compensation package. According to the most recent survey of new college graduates, the top benefits desired by new hires include medical insurance and such “core” financial benefits as salary increases, tuition reimbursement, and a 401 (k) company match. Benefits that deliver more immediate satisfaction, such as family-friendly benefits, more than two weeks of vacation, and flextime are increasingly important. A good benefits package can add as much as 30 percent to your overall compensation and may make a huge different in your work/life quality! Here is information about some commonly offered benefits: 

Health Insurance

This is an important benefit for three financial reasons: 1. Even if you have to pay for all or part of the coverage, it’s cheaper to get insurance through an employer at group rates than to purchase it on your own. 2. Health insurance is comparable to nontaxable income—providing health insurance could cost your employer upwards of $4,000 per year per employee—and you don’t pay tax on it. If you were to purchase health insurance, it might take more than $5,000 per year out of your pocket—after taxes. 3. The third advantage, of course, is, if you get sick or have a surfing (or horseback riding or bungee-jumping) accident, your medical treatment is paid for (in part or in full, depending on your policy). Annual salary increasesMore money? Of course that’s a good thing. In recent years, some employers have frozen salaries—not given any raises—or given minimal, 1.4 percent raises. According to Aon Hewitt’s annual U.S. Salary Increase Survey, average salary increases over the past couple of years ranged up to about 4 percent. If you earn $44,500, a 4 percent raise will increase your income by $1,777. Tuition ReimbursementOne way to get ahead in your career is to continue learning—keep up with the latest trends in your profession. In this case, your employer pays all or a portion of your tuition costs for classes related to the business of the company. In some cases, employers reimburse for nonbusiness-related classes and for supplies such as books. 

401(k) Plan

A 401(k) is a retirement plan that allows you to put a percentage of your gross (pre-tax) income into a trust fund or other qualified investment fund. In many cases, employers will match your contribution up to a certain percentage—this is “free” money that can add to your overall compensation package. Why is this important to you since retirement is still 30 or 40 years away? According to The Motley Fool, a multimedia financial-services company, someone saving $5,000 a year beginning at age 25 will have $787,176 at age 65 (assuming an 11 percent annual return on savings). Waiting until age 35 cuts your investment earnings in half, to a total of $364,615. Wait until age 45 to start your retirement fund and you’ll have only $168,887—not much to live on in retirement. Typically, you can direct your contributions and the matching funds into investments offered through your employer. And your 401 (k) is portable—you can take it with you if you change jobs. Flex spending accountAlso known as flexible benefits and Section 125 plans, these plans let you put aside money (via a deduction from each pay) before taxes to cover various types of costs such as payment of health insurance and life insurance premiums, and vision care, dental care, or child- or dependent-care costs. By using money held out before taxes, you’ll spend pre-tax dollars on necessities and you’ll show less earned income on your federal tax return—so you will pay a lower percentage of your income in taxes.

Family Friendly Benefits

Do you have to have a family to collect these benefits? Absolutely not! Family-friendly benefits can mean a lot of things. 

  • Flextime allows you to vary your workday start and stop times, within limits.
  • Paid time off (PTO) deposits your paid-time off (e.g., vacation, holiday, sick, and personal days) into one bank from which you withdraw days, which you allocate as you wish. This means you could wind up with more than two weeks of vacation.
  • Telecommuting allows you to work from home or at an alternative work site for part of the week, checking in with the main office via telephone and computer. Some employers provide the office equipment for home use; in other cases, you cover the costs associated with telecommuting.

Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder,

Monday, October 21, 2013

References: How to Assemble a Successful References List

Tips for Top-Notch References
(Adapted from an article by Kelli Robinson -- Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, copyright holder,

"References available upon request" is a statement that can make or break your job offer. Here are 9 tips for assembling a successful reference list. 

1. Ask, don’t assume. Ask your references for permission to use their names. Confirm the following:
Do the people you include as references actually want to give you a reference?
Does their schedule permit time to discuss your qualifications?
Most importantly, what kind of reference will they be? When it comes to references, neutral is the same as negative, so ask your contacts to be honest: Can the people you ask give you a positive recommendation?
2. Let the professionals do the job. Potential supervisors are not interested in hearing friends or relatives talk about how nice you are. They want confirmation for their main objective: Are you going to deliver the duties of the job? Good reference sources include previous supervisors, co-workers, professors, or advisers. Think outside the box: If you voluntarily coordinated an organization’s fund-raising effort, the organization’s supervisor could be a great reference. It doesn’t matter that you weren’t paid.
3. Avoid name dropping. A reference’s name or job title is insignificant compared to the information he or she will provide regarding your strengths and weaknesses. CEO may be a loftier title than supervisor; however, who can better attest to your abilities on a daily basis?
4. Provide references with the appropriate tools:
Give each reference a copy of your resume, so he or she has a complete picture of your background.
Provide a description of the job to which you are applying. Knowing the duties and responsibilities ahead of time will prepare references for questions they may be asked and help them relate your experience to the potential job.
Alert references to potential phone calls. Contact your references and tell them to anticipate a phone call or e-mail.
Tell them the name of the company, and the position for which you interviewed. If you know the name of the person who will check your references, offer that information, too.
5. Keep your references informed. Were you offered the job? If so, did you accept? When will you start?
6. Thank your references. When you accept a job offer, take the time to write each of your references a thank-you note. They have played a valuable part in your receiving an offer. Keep in touch.
7. Don’t end contact with your references. Send an e-mail, call, or meet them for lunch on occasion. You never know when you may need to call upon them to be references in the future.
8. Update your list. Just as resumes become outdated, so do reference lists. As your career builds, keep your reference list up-to-date.
9. Return the favor. Your references may have been the deciding factor in your job offer. When you are asked to be a reference, say yes.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Perks of Becoming a Student Employee

My name is Kevin Aquilano, Sophomore Student Ambassador forThe Center for Career Services and Cooperative Education. As freshmen atMontclair State University, I wanted to find on-campus employment that wouldallow me to maintain a consistent work schedule and GPA. I decided to beproactive with my job search and  visitedthe Center for Career Services and Cooperative Education to discuss my options.Coincidentally, the Center was hiring and I fit the qualifications for theposition. Through my work at the Center, I learned about all the other ways togo about finding on-campus employment: Career Services Facebook and Twitterpages, the Career Directions online job board, or by attending the Part-TimeJob Fair.

There are numerous benefits to working on-campus, from theconnections I have formed with faculty and staff members, to the flexible workschedule.  It would be much moredifficult to work off-campus and schedule it around the demands of my courseload. On-campus employers care about your school work and know that you are a studenthere first. Student Workers also gain an inside perspective of how the officesare run and how different events are planned and executed.  I’ve been able to build my resume andnetworked with staff to land a summer internship.

I have had the opportunity to visit my high school to speakwith the students about my experience as a college freshman. The students oftenask if it is possible to maintain a high GPA while working on-campus. I alwaysencourage them to look for work, as I believe it is very possible to juggle anon-campus job and a full course load. It takes organization and timemanagement, but the skills I’ve developed and the connections I have madedefinitely makes it worth my energy. 

The Undeclared Student

*Please attend our Majors & Careers: Make the Connection Workshop
Tuesday, Oct. 29th 11am-12pm 
Machuga MPR

Being an undeclared student can be both fun and nerve-wracking at the same time. It can be interesting to explore your options, but it can be nerve-wracking and scary when you don’t have a clue what you really want to study. Maybe you don’t want to be the type of student who declares a major one semester only to change your mind and declare a new major the next year. Maybe you want to keep exploring your options until you find your niche. That is why you should remember to schedule an appointment with your academic advisor to discuss potential majors and minors, as well as the best courses to take that pertain to your interests.   

Remember that there is a deadline for declaring a major! You should be declared by the end of your sophomore year, or at the beginning of your junior year at the latest. Moreover, if you are an undeclared sophomore with a 47-56 credits, a hold may be put onto your account.

If you are not sure about what to major in, the Center for Career Services and Cooperative Education can be a great first step in that selection process. For instance, you could try the Self-Assessment and Career Exploration Test- a free, interactive, web-based guidance program provided through Focus-2. Focus-2, evaluates your interests to allow you to develop a clearer picture of your goals. To learn more about this program and to even take the test check out:

There are more self-assessment tests such as Career Planning Process, The Holland Game, and The Kiersey Character. To continue with these self-assessment test please visit:
After you have done some self-assessment, you may be wondering “What can I do with this Major” you can research your intended major below:

In order to learn more about potential Careers within a particular major go to:

Also, to get the inside scoop on industries and specific organizations from Montclair State University’s Vault Online Library checkout the link below:
***Current students will be able to use their MSU Net ID and password, while Alumni can contact the Alumni Association at 973-655-4141 to get your id and password.***

You can also come to the Center for Career Services and Cooperative Education for Career Counseling. Our career counselors will help you choose a major, identify possible careers, and learn job-hunting techniques. Interest Testing is also available with Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Strong Interest Inventory.

Don’t forget if you need help with your resume or just have a quick question, “Drop-in” Counseling is available during the semester on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 2:00 – 4:00 PM.

To further your career planning and job hunting skills sign up for one our many workshops where you’ll learn How to Get an Internship, Effective Writing Skills, Getting into Graduate School and much, much more! Checkout the link

Now, all of this useful information should get you one step closer to declaring the major of your dreams. Take it one step at a time, there is no need to rush to make a decision. Hopefully, with all of this research you will learn more about yourself and where you would like to be in the near future-- I know I have!

By Lahana Jules, Student Ambassador