Sunday, August 27, 2006

College-bound job-seekers can look to on-campus career centers for assistance

By Liz Garone
Special to Sunday Jobs

Going off to college can bring with it myriad new challenges, one of the most vexing being how to pay for all of those books and supplies. For many students, the start of the school year doesn't just mean hitting the books but also the pavement to find a part-time job to help cover school-related expenses. What is nice about looking for work as a student is the host of services available right on campus. Almost every school has a career services office that students and recent graduates can use without any charge.

At Modesto Junior College, the first place to go when looking for work is the Career Development and Transfer Center (CDTC) on the East Campus. During the 2005-2006 school year, the center listed more than 1,000 positions, both on and off-campus, according to Claudia Ramirez, the center's technician. When students find positions that interest them, they receive referral cards from Ramirez. The cards include the job number and instructions on how to apply for the position. The cards also let potential employers know that the student has been referred through the school. "A lot of employers only want to hire students, and they like that there is no charge for them to list a job with us," Ramirez says .

To make it as easy as possible for students to apply, the MJC's Career Development and Transfer Center has a computer lab where students can perfect their cover letters and resumes. There is also a job binder with job descriptions and deadlines for off-campus and out-of-town positions as well as a library of career-related books.

Ramirez says the best advice she can give to students when they are looking for work is not to be afraid of contacting potential employers directly. "Try to connect with them," she says. "Talk to them, ask if you can job shadow or work part-time. Do whatever you can to get some work experience before you get your degree."

Christine Hollister, the director of Career Services at CSU Stanislaus, agrees. "It's not too early now for students to start planning for that first job out of school," she says. "In addition to getting their academic preparation, students also need to prepare for professional employment. They shouldn't wait until five minutes before they walk up on stage to get that degree."

To help students land the jobs most suited to their potential careers, Hollister offers them the opportunity to meet with one of two career counselors who can help them focus on a particular field by going through a detailed assessment process. Once students know the types of positions that interest them, the counselors will conduct mock interviews with them and assist with their job searches. Counselors are available by walk-in or by appointment. During the 2005-2006 school year, the staff at Stanislaus' Career Services Center helped close to 8,000 students in their job searches, according to Hollister. "That's a lot of students," she says.

One of the biggest mistakes students make is not doing their homework before they apply for a job, according to Kelly Patterson, the assistant director of the Career Services Center at UC Merced. With the Internet, there really is no excuse, she says, as almost all companies have Websites, and a lot of background as well as hiring information can be found on them.

The schools' career centers also have Websites that can be a wealth of information and resources. On the UC Merced site, for example, students can download both a resume guide and an interviewing guide. They can also apply for jobs directly from the site, according to Patterson.

When reviewing students' resumes and cover letters, Patterson constantly finds ones that aren't targeted to the specific employer to which the student is applying. "Sometimes, students even have the wrong job or position number on their resume," she says. For certain employers, that's enough to stop them from considering the applicant further. "You really need to prepare a strong cover letter and resume and tailor them to each job you're applying for," Patterson says.

After a student lands an interview, it is important to stay in touch with the employer, Patterson says. "They should follow up at the appropriate time - usually 7 to 10 days after the job closes - with a phone call."

Additional resources:

Modesto Junior College Career Development and Transfer Center

CSU Stanislaus Career Services Center

UC Merced Career Services Center

Employment Development Department CalJOBS

Modesto Bee classified ads

Student Jobs

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