Career Services counselors can help prospective employees hone job hunting skills and develop a strategy to ease frustration and hasten progress on the road to vocational bliss.
Job placement, of course, is foremost on the career service menu. Each month literally thousands of professional employment opportunities are posted with the career office.
Additionally, Career Services hosts a number of employment fairs throughout the school year and provides first-class facilities for on-campus interviews with corporate recruiters.
But putting job seekers in touch with potential employers is just a small part of the career assistance offered at SHSU. The most beneficial programs are perhaps the ones designed to help job hunters get hired.
To this end, Career Services offers professional counseling, testing and evaluation, and a variety of instructional seminars on such topics as résumé writing and interviewing techniques. The office also maintains an extensive resource library to help students and alumni fine tune their job hunting skills and strategy.
"We like to think of ourselves as a full-service office," said Charles Western, director of SHSU Career Services. "We offer all of the regular services and programs that you'll find at most comprehensive universities across the country."
Yet unlike many major universities, he said, all of the career services available to SHSU students are also available at no cost to SHSU alumni.
"Assisting former students is an important part of our mission," said Western. "When graduates go out and meet the world they sometimes find that things aren't quite what they expected them to be. Careers don't pan out or they learn more about themselves and decide they want to pursue something else.
"At Career Services," he said, "we can turn them on to things and people that can get them started in the direction they want to go."
Job opportunities solicited to Western's office encompass virtually every major discipline in the business world and target employees of varying levels of experience.
"Most people operate under the assumption that the jobs we post are all entry-level, low-paying jobs," Western explained. "Quite a few are, but we also get jobs in here that require a good deal of experience."
Western encourages SHSU graduates of all experience levels to register with Career Services as soon as they find themselves in the job market. While it's likely that all earnest job seekers will eventually find a job, he said, Career Services can help direct a job search and cut out a lot of wasted time.
"One of the saddest things we frequently hear from students and alumni is, 'I wish I had known about you sooner,' or 'I wish I had stopped by earlier,'" he said.
To enlist with the Career Service office, job seekers must establish a career file which contains a current résumé, letters of recommendation, college transcripts and copies of applicable certificates and licenses.
For SHSU graduates living out of town, the registration process can be accomplished through the mail. Former students who have previously registered can simply reactivate their old file and update it as needed.
Once registered, job candidates are profiled in an SHSU data base. As employers query the university for possible candidates, the database is checked and the employer is provided with a list of those clients who meet the criteria established for the job.
The career file is also used to supplement applications to specific employers. When instructed by a Career Services client, the file information is forwarded to interested employers.
While job hunters able to visit campus can take advantage of all SHSU career services, those living out of town can receive quite a bit of help over the telephone or via computer.
Career related questions can be directed to Gwendolyn Lucas, the office's primary career adviser, at 409-294-1713. Lucas can provide insightful tips on such topics as résumé writing, successful interviewing, researching companies and exploring career options.
Clients can also phone the office to find out if their name has been forwarded to potential employers as the result of a database search.
E-mail advising, a relatively new service, can be accessed at firstname.lastname@example.org. This program is the first of several technological innovations on Career Services' agenda.
This spring, the Internet will add innumerable resources to the office's job hunting arsenal when two computers are installed in the career library. With the addition of Internet access, career advisers will be available to instruct patrons on the intricacies of on-line job hunting.
In the near future, Western said, SHSU will post an on-line job vacancy bulletin on the Internet. The job list, updated daily, will be accessible exclusively by Career Services' clients.
Another offering currently in the works at the SHSU Career Services is the Alumni Career Network. The network consists of former students working in various professional capacities who have agreed to share their personal experience with students or other alumni on a similar career track.
"Individuals pursuing a career in a particular field can benefit tremendously from a one-on-one discussion with someone who's successfully traveled the same path," Western said.
Western is currently recruiting professional alumni willing to participate in the program.
Network volunteers agree to meet with students or fellow alumni referred by Career Center counselors. The meetings, which usually last about an hour, are held at the workplace and might include a tour of the facility in addition to an informal chat.
"The alumni usually share their personal stories with students," Western said. "They tell how they got started in their profession, what they like about it, and offer advice about course work, training and career considerations."
In addition to helping fledgling professionals map out their career paths, the Alumni Career Network provides SHSU graduates with an opportunity to meet with other like-minded professionals.
"The alumni network works both ways," Western explained. "Volunteers can also solicit career advice from fellow network members."
Because the Career Services acts as the contact point for network referrals, participants need not worry about being deluged with students or other professionals seeking advice. The entire process, Western said, is very much controlled.
Similar programs established at other universities have proven quite beneficial to both students and network volunteers, he said.
SHSU graduates interested in joining the SHSU Alumni Career Network may contact Western at 409-294-1713. SHSU's tradition of training professionals to meet the needs of corporate America is no secret to human resource managers, Western said. Due in part to the success of their predecessors, SHSU graduates are in great demand.
"More and more, employers are looking at the quality of graduates rather than the size of the university they come from," Western said. "We are getting a lot of feedback from employers who have interviewed at SHSU and they are quite impressed with the caliber of student we are offering. And, most importantly, they are coming back for more."
This, Western said, is good news in an era where corporate downsizing has forced business and industry to dramatically reduce on-campus recruiting efforts.
SHSU alumni have also played an important role in keeping university graduates in the forefront of the job market.
"Alumni support is critical to Career Services mission and, most importantly, to the success of our graduates," Western said.
"Not only can our alumni help their fellow Bearkats get a foothold in the job market, they can be valuable advocates for the university as well. Beyond simply bolstering alumni spirit, this advocacy gives the university precious exposure in corporate circles that can reap rewards down the road."
SHSU graduates are also helping students get a taste of the professional world by providing internships and cooperative education experiences.
Today, more than ever before, Western said, employers are looking first at job candidates who have some degree of practical experience in the workplace.
Furthermore, he said, research indicates that 80 to 85 percent of the students participating in internship programs are eventually hired by the company with which they intern.
Western is actively recruiting companies to participate in a variety of SHSU internship programs. These semester-long relationships, encompassing most academic disciplines, provide students with valuable on-the-job training while furnishing employers with able, eager, and affordable personnel.
"Participation in an internship program is truly one of those 'win, win situations' we hear so much about," said Western. "Not only do to both parties benefit from the agreement, but the relationship forms lasting ties that help bridge the gap between academic and corporate communities."
"We would like to get our alumni more involved with the Career Center," Western said. "Their support can greatly enhance our ability to help students and their fellow alumni pursue meaningful, rewarding careers."