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“Recruiters don’t count semesters”

München, 08/30/2016

Can one do a practical in every vacation – and still complete one’s studies on time? Here, Dr. Stephan Pflaum of LMU‘s Career Service discusses the pressures on students, and what recruiters are really interested in.

Should I take a break or plunge into the next practical? “Students often put themselves under too much pressure,” says Stephan Pflaum.

How much effort should students put into the search for the right practical?
Dr. Stephan Pflaum: That is a question many students are confronted with. Indeed, in my experience, students are positively obsessed with the notion that they should do as many practicals as they can, garner as much professional experience as possible – preferably abroad – and still finish their courses within the prescribed period. In my opinion, they would be well advised to take a break every now and again.

Professional recruiters are not primarily interested in the number of practicals a student has taken nor how many part-time jobs she have had, nor do they demand that the candidate has an unbroken CV and must have completed his course within the officially specified period. Firms are looking for real personalities. They want to know what the candidate has done in addition to his university studies. What interests did she pursue that were no directly related to the subjects she studied? Active involvement in voluntary work – as a students’ representative or as a mentor in one or other of the mentoring programs at LMU, for instance – is a real advantage. The number of practicals one has completed is comparatively unimportant. What really counts is the total package on offer.

Should students then be willing to take a semester longer than planned?
Unreservedly – yes! I know of no recruiter who tots up the number of semesters a job candidate has spent at university. On the contrary: Many firms complain that job-seekers with a Bachelor’s degree enter the job market too early; in other words, they are too young and immature for a professional career. These companies argue that such students would have benefitted from spending a little more time studying. International experience, which may mean that it takes longer to complete one’s primary course of study – such as internships or university courses or part-time jobs abroad – are never rated as a knock-out criterion. The focus is more on what else people have done while studying.

Why then are so many students convinced that they must get through their university courses as quickly as possible?
In social networks one can readily observe how students work themselves into a sweat in this context. Then there are the career magazines, which propagate the misleading notion of the perfect CV and feature exciting stories about the young tigers who have started their own companies and are allegedly rolling in money by their mid-20s. But this ideal is now being challenged: More and more companies are now interested in hiring people whose CVs do not conform to this convention, and reveal the sorts of discontinuities and sudden changes in direction that make people interesting. Meanwhile, breaking off one’s studies temporarily or switching subjects in midstream may actually be interpreted positively. In the course of the interview the recruiter can always ask for details of the whys and the wherefores, and there are usually good grounds for such reversals and restarts. Careers that follow the standard script are now very much the exception.

What career services are available for students at LMU?
LMU’s career advisory staff at Student und Arbeitsmarkt offers a broad array of services for students about to embark on a professional career – including individual counselling sessions for people seeking guidance for the transition, and specialized courses such as Business Administration for Graduates in the Humanities. In addition, there is our mentoring program, which enables students to confer regularly with an assigned mentor who has professional experience in the sector of interest. We at Student und Arbeitsmarkt are always ready to put students in contact with suitable mentors in the business world.

Vacations don’t have to be filled with an uninterrupted succession of practical classes. For instance, on September 16th, you can visit the Open Mentoring Lounge organized by LMU’s Career Service Student und Arbeitsmarkt. The event gives attendees the opportunity to become acquainted with seven commercial firms representing various sectors of the economy. The basic idea is that students work on a case study in cooperation with their chosen firm and, in so doing they learn what working for the company actually involves and whether they have the skills needed for success. Informal job interviews may also be conducted, though in much more relaxed atmosphere than they are likely to encounter anywhere else. To register (open until September 4th) and for further information, go to www.s-a.lmu.de/oml2016

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Dr. Stephan Pflaum supervises LMU’s Mentoring Program, which is part of the initiative Lehre@LMU, and is the first port of call for new mentors, mentees and the University’s commercial partners.