In Spite Of, The Career Center Continues to Deliver

Monday, June 15, 2009

CareerBy now you have felt the effects of an ailing economy. In South Carolina alone, home developments have been placed on hold or cancelled, and bankruptcies are on the rise.

In spite of a suffering economy that looks dismal for recent graduates, there lies a glimmer of hope with the SC State University Career Center. Interim director of the Career Center, Joseph Thomas, says “I am proud of our students and I am also proud of our staff. We are working hard within the Career Center to turn the corner of excellence.”

This “corner of excellence” has been evidenced in the internships, co-ops, scholarships and full-time job opportunities that students have obtained by working with the Career Center. According to Thomas, the U.S. Customs Service has 1,000 available jobs. Last month, ten students signed contracts in part because of the educators’ day recruitment fair which was held on campus on Thursday, April 2, 2009, and most recently, five SC State University students received internships with Bi-Lo Corporation. According to Thomas, “Bi-Lo had eight internship positions for the summer and SC State students received five of those eight, and we are very proud of that.”

In spite of a tough economy, “the Career Center will continue to prepare students for the world of work,” says Thomas. This preparation has not only resulted in the recent Bi-Lo internship recipients, but has also resulted in a number of other opportunities for SC State students.

On Monday, April 27, 2009, four students were recommended for second interviews in Charlotte, N.C. with the Charlotte Housing Authority. In April, student Montina Myers finished her internship with the Tyra Banks Show in New York. Student Kirsten Pratt received the $1,000 Geico Achievement Award in May. Pratt was also one of two recipients for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Scholarship. Mustafa Salaam received the scholarship in the category of mechanical engineering. Recent graduate Sade Morris- Hinton has begun working full-time with Geico.

These are just a few of the examples that, “in spite of the economic downturn, students are still getting jobs,” says Thomas. Thomas also owes much of this success to Dr. Valerie Fields, interim vice-president of Student Affairs, as well as his staff, including career counselors Rudine Williams, Sherry Mack-Michael, and Kristal Hutchinson, as well as administrative specialist Anquanetta Darby. Executives such as Ken Peterson, Bi-Lo Vice President, Deborah Lipsey, a plaza human resources manager for Geico, Kevin Fullington of Duke Energy, Harvey Brown of Wal-Greens, and Ralph Martin with the FBI, should also be credited with keeping the torch alive. Establishing a rapport with companies can mean full-time job opportunities and co-ops for students. However, this success can only be obtained if students establish a relationship with the staff at the Career Center. So, where do you begin?

For any student who wishes to work with the Career Center, you must first contact your career counselor. Register online through the Career Center’s student career tracking system. This online registration service gathers pertinent information about students, including a resume. This information will allow the staff at the Career Center to better market students.

“As companies call and we market students and as we talk to our employers, we can just sit at the computer, point, click and send information instantly,” states Thomas. Thomas also notes that the Career Center is experiencing a milestone with the on-line student tracking registration system. Over 1,000 students have registered with this new form of point/click technology. The online technology will provide a better means of satisfying the customers, our students, as well as our stakeholders and employers.

Dr.Fields says that Thomas has met and exceeded the challenge to increase registration. “Thomas and his staff members have been challenged to increase registration by 25 percent each year, as well as to enhance their tracking system to inform the University community of the number of permanent job assignments, co-ops or internships, and the number of students referred for an internship or co-op assignment,” says Fields.

After registering with the Career Center, you must prepare for the “real world of work.” The Career Center assists students with developing their resumes and coordinating mock interviews. “We try to give the students enough tools to use so that they can go out there and defend themselves,” says Thomas.
A resume is a tool that a student should use to express their talent, skills and ability. Students should also practice their interviewing skills through mock interviewing. The Career Center has several mock interviewing stations, and upon completion of this interview, students are reviewed by the Career Center staff. These sessions will develop students’ soft skills.

James Hampton, a graduate of SC State University and a systems engineer with Lockheed Martin, says that these soft skills are significant in any corporate environment. “A lot of schools don’t communicate that having a 4.0 grade point average is great,” says Hampton. “But, you still must have soft skills,” he continues. He notes that these soft skills include dressing professionally, presenting yourself well and giving good presentations.

Merely uploading a resume and becoming a member of the student career tracking system is not enough. To secure the best advantages, Thomas advises that students get involved with the business and industry cluster, comprised of a variety of representatives from non-profit organizations, member businesses and government business. Members also include faculty, staff and students from SC State. Students meet with cluster members to learn about the employment programs offered to them.

Hampton says that the business and industry cluster benefits students and the company. “The business and industry cluster has benefitted Lockheed Martin by exposing the company to young engineers getting ready to come out of school and tapping into a base of prospective employees,” says Hampton. In turn, students are exposed to the aerospace and defense industry and to cutting edge technology.

Gary Krafft, human resources director of QS/1, agrees with Hampton. Krafft says, “I think that the business and industry cluster presents an important, additional forum for QS/1 to provide outreach in our state.” He is also pleased that the health care company can do their part annually to provide some measure of financial assistance to SC State, ultimately supporting deserving students.

According to Thomas, in spite of the tough economy, the business and industry cluster provides students with access to member organizations that may be a great fit for co-op, internship and permanent employment opportunities.

To find this great fit, according to Fields, “the Career Center has partnered with Institutional Research to better utilize data when making decisions regarding placement,” she says. “This has served as an excellent assessment measure.”

In spite of a challenging economy, SC State University’s Career Center is turning the corner of excellence. Producing internships, co-ops and full-time job opportunities is the culmination of hard work and preparation. Becoming a part of the business and industry cluster, getting involved with mock interviews and registering with the Career Center tracking system is a means of preparation. According to Thomas, “we must make sure that students are doing the right things, saying the right things and presenting themselves well. They are representing not only themselves but our beloved University.”

As you can see, the Career Center is getting students ready to thrive, in spite of a rough economy. The Career Center also offers resume writing assistance and other services.

For more information contact the Career Center at 536-7033.