The first day: "We tell our students the first day of class is the second-most-important day in their college careers, after graduation...

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The first day:

“We tell our students the first day of class is the second-most-important day in their college careers, after graduation day, which is the most important,” said Tim Apolito, coordinator of community relations for the University of Dayton’s criminal-justice studies program.

Here’s what Apolito means:

Focusing on your career, starting to market yourself and learning how to land your first professional job has to start the first day of your college life.

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“It’s how they work and market themselves in the time between [the first day of college and graduation] that will be the catalyst for their careers,” Apolito said.

And that’s why, on their first day of college last August, the class of 2008 was alerted to the fact that their job search was beginning.

All incoming students were told they must develop personal Web sites with a résumé and picture in their first year.

The first-year students also were encouraged to make video résumés.

These exercises jump-start a career search for anyone, not just students.

Program Chairman Jim Adamitis also suggests a double major or a minor just in case students are concerned they may have not chosen the right major. And that’s a major approach to getting a job when you get that degree.


The other side:

If you have even the slightest misdemeanor in your background, it could cost you the job you’re applying for, as some job seekers have found out the hard way.

It seems very petty to be denied employment because, as one reader has complained, a search of your criminal background shows you may have been fined for not keeping your dog on a leash and you forgot to mention it in your job interview.

To job applicants, digging up trivia such as this that allows a potential employer to withdraw a job offer is devastating and unfair.

Do companies do this because they can and then feel smug about punishing applicants for the sins of commission and omission?

Deborah Becht of San Antonio, a senior vice president of human resources for a financial institution, says absolutely not.

Checking an applicant’s background clearly is an important step in the employment process, employers assert. And, said Becht, having to withdraw the offer doesn’t make the hiring officer happy, either.

“A company goes through a great deal of time, effort and expense to screen candidates and make offers,” said Becht. “When offers must be withdrawn, there is disappointment and frustration on the part of the hiring officer. You have to start all over at square one to fill the position. Feeling ‘smug’ is hardly accurate.”


The recruitment game:

“Provide information to a recruiter as if you were talking to a hiring manager.”

That’s the advice of Catherine Beck, a career consultant and management coach. She’s the author of “It’s Your Career, Take Control” (Davies-Black, $20.95).

“Be selective about what you say,” she advises. “Recruiters are screening you; they are not your buddies. Don’t share personal information or negative statements about your former company or boss.”

What’s important to remember is that the recruiter is paid by the employer to screen candidates to fill the job opening. And no matter how warm and friendly and encouraging they are, they are first and foremost paid representatives of the employer. Not of you.

E-mail questions to Carol Kleiman at ckleiman@tribune.com. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.