Making sense of the job market
For senior Hillary Bates, Sac State’s Career Center has served as a sort of launching pad for her future. The accounting major was able to spiff up her resume, sharpen her interview skills and even learn how to weigh job offers with the help of the center’s counselors.
The result would be envy of any student in the country. After interviews with eight different accounting firms over the past fall semester, Bates came away with five job offers. This summer she will start to work for one of the country’s “Big Four” accounting firms, Ernst & Young, in its Roseville office.
Joining Bates at the same accounting firm will be Lillian Li, who also had her pick of job offers after working with the Career Center. The staff helped her write a personal statement
that won her a scholarship, and showed her the proper etiquette for a business lunch.
The Career Center doesn’t guarantee multiple job offers
for every student, but it can help students find their way in
today’s world of work. “Not only did the Career Center help
me become a better job candidate, it also taught me things
like the value of lifelong learning throughout my career to be
ready for other opportunities in the future,” says Bates.
As students seem to start career planning earlier and earlier
during their college education, the Career Center has become
one of the most popular destinations on campus. It recorded
nearly 40,000 visits last year, and has been recognized for its
work, earning the award of excellence from the California Career Development Association in 2003.
“Students know that work will be such a large portion of their lives and they want to make good decisions about what they do with their work lives,” says Marilyn Albert, director of the center. “Our role is to give them the counseling, the resources and the opportunities to help them use their education here to find rewarding careers.” It is apt to become even more popular as the economy produces more new jobs. According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, businesses are expected to hire 14.5 percent more new college graduates in 2005-06 than in 2004-05.
“We work hard to help prepare our students for new job
opportunities,” says Eva Gabbe, manager of recruiting programs
at the center. “At the same time, we are working with employers in the Sacramento area and beyond who look to us for talented employees. We have become one of the campuses that recruiters visit on a regular basis.”
Helping students set career direction begins during freshman
year. Nearly every day faculty who teach freshmen bring their
classes to the Career Center so students can get an introduction to career planning and become acquainted with the vast resources in the center.
After deciding a major, or sometimes before, students can drop in for one of the most popular services: career counseling.
“Many students only know about careers through what they
have learned from family or friends, but it is a big world out there and there’s much to be explored,” says Martha Schuster, training supervisor at the center.
Two veteran career counselors at the Career Center say one of
their most important roles is working with students to help them
find satisfying career paths of their own choice.
“We try to find out what interests a student, either in the classes he or she takes or what the student does with spare time. From there we teach the students how to relate their interests, as well as their values and skills, to the decisions they are making about their academic programs and potential careers,” says Dave McVey, a career counselor for 20 years.
Christye Peper, who also has been at the Career Center for 20
years, says she tries to help students begin to see the broad range of career possibilities in their major. “Many students are surprised to learn how creatively they can apply their education in a variety of fields and diverse occupations.”
McVey added that career counselors also remind students that the work world is constantly changing. “We want students to know that they will probably change jobs and/or careers several times during their lifetime and that new jobs and emerging fields will be created that don’t exist right now so it is helpful to keep learning new skills,” he says.
Peper and McVey are just two of the 11 career professionals
available to Sac State students, thanks to a successful partnership between the Career Center and the counselor education graduate program in career counseling.
During a walk-in appointment, a student can talk with a counseling graduate student such as Lisa Noma. She spent the fall semester critiquing resumes, explaining the resources of the Career Center and answering general questions about jobs and careers. “It has helped me Iearn how to develop rapport with
students as they start to explore their career possibilities.”
When students begin their search for jobs, another slate of Career Center services comes into play.
Student gain work experience through opportunities such as
internships or cooperative education arrangements. The Career
Center’s cooperative education program was strengthened last
fall with the addition of counselors focusing on the University’s Colleges of Engineering and Computer Science, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Health and Human Services. “What we have done is to have counselors imbedded within those Colleges so they can be more accessible to students. The program helps our students gain real job experience in their fields,’’ says Albert, the Career Center director.
More formal than an internship, cooperative education involves an agreement between a student, an employer and the University for a paid job with academic credit.
“The co-op program really enhances the ability of students to get employed after graduation. Employers like to see that work experience on their resume,” says Julie Collier, a Sac State counseling alum who is now a career counselor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
The Career Center also prepares students to enter the workforce through its workshops. Students start by attending the Career Center’s “Resumania,” during which students bring in their resumes for review by local employers. Students brush up on their job interview skills during the “Mock Interview” workshop. And the Career Center’s “Major Fair” and “Career Fair” both attract hundreds of students exploring academic and
career options. There is also the popular “Etiquette Dinner” which helps students with the finer points of dining over business.
The etiquette dinner was so helpful to accounting major Li that
she attended two. “One of my job interviews took place over
lunch and I really felt comfortable eating and knowing which fork to use with the salad,” says Li, who is from Beijing, China and was still becoming accustomed to Western dining habits.
Recruiters show great interest and confidence in Sac State students who sign up for job interviews through the Career Center, says recruiting manager Gabbe. Last semester more than 200 recruiters visited campus to interview students for job openings. And it is not just Sacramento-area employers who recruit at the University. An engineering firm from Idaho hired 16 Sac State engineering
graduates last spring.
Once they land a job, Gabbe says, students today tend to be
more savvy in areas such as salary. “Students are coming out of college and go into their first jobs with loans to pay off and other expenses, so they are learning the importance of negotiating their salaries.”
But accounting senior Li says she learned something even
more valuable from the Career Center. “One of the most important things that the Career Center does is to help give students the confidence we need to go out into the work world,” she says.