Re-Visioning Career Services for New EconomyCareer Services Revs Up for New Economy

by Shelley L. Moore, assistant director of Career Services
and Jennifer McLean, director of counseling, career and disability services.

For most students, college is a value proposition: Invest in a college education with the expectation that, upon graduation, you will enjoy a long-term return on your investment in the form of career opportunities and advancement within your chosen profession.

First impressions do matter. Career Services assists students and alumni to make a positive first impression with résumé help, interview practice, and workshops on professionalism and etiquette. Photo by Cindy D. MeixelPennsylvania College of Technology takes that investment seriously, and the Career Services Office is tasked with supporting the promise of “degrees that work” by preparing graduates to compete and excel in the workforce. However, today's students and new graduates face unprecedented challenges as they transition into their first jobs, due in large part to the economic crisis that took hold of the country in 2008.

Between 2008 and 2009, the unemployment rate for college graduates across the nation doubled, from 2.1 percent to 4.3 percent, and more than 1 million college graduates lost their jobs. The difficult economic climate has placed greater pressure on college students to prepare themselves for exceptional competition in the workforce as they now compete with not only new graduates, but also with seasoned professionals who have been displaced by the sagging economy. The hard economic climate has been evident on campus with decreases in the number of job openings posted with Career Services, the number of employer participants in Career Fairs and the number of employers participating in on-campus recruiting activities.

Career Services launched its “In Case That Rock Star Thing Doesn't Work Out” campaign to help capture students' attention early in their college experience. Photo by Cindy D. MeixelStudents are aware of the challenges they face, and in the 2009-10 academic year, Career Services saw a record number of students looking for assistance. Career Services has also experienced a dramatic increase in requests for assistance from alumni. Student and alumni requests for support ranged from how to tie a necktie, to mastering the second interview for a Fortune 500 company, to assistance with re-careering and updating skills. To accommodate the rapidly escalating need for services and heightened employer expectations, the office has established additional programming to address student and alumni requests while extending its outreach to the academic schools, collaborating with faculty to tailor Career Services concepts to specific industries.

Now more than ever, it is important for students and alumni to work with career services to create a résumé and cover letter that highlights specific technical skills and abilities acquired through education and experience. As résumés and cover letters provide the initial “introduction” to the employer, it is critical that these contain enough “wow” to stand out from the competition and generate the best chance to secure the elusive and coveted interview.

Career Services can help with acing the interview, as well. Just as the résumé and cover letter provide the introduction between candidate and employer, the interview is the proverbial “first date” – and first impressions do matter. Research before the interview is critical to success during the interview. Career Services can help students and alumni prepare by conducting mock interviews tailored by position, providing assistance with researching the company and its clients, and stepping through the sometimes daunting process of salary negotiation.

Twice each year the on-campus Career Fair connects Penn College students and alumni with potential employers. Many employer representatives also are Penn College graduates. Photo by Jennifer A. ClineWith the economy on the verge of recovery, possibly now is the time to think about graduate school. In the past year, Career Services has assisted a record number of students with choosing a program and getting started with the graduate-application process. An additional two-year educational investment, while the economy continues to recover, may be the key to entering the workforce at a good time, with additional qualifications.

Career development begins as a freshman and lasts a lifetime. Visit or call Career Services to gain insight into job trends, get advice about career advancement and re-careering, and hone the skills to help maximize the return on your educational investment. Check the office’s resources at www.pct.edu/careerservices. ■

About the Authors

Jennifer McLeanJennifer McLean, director of counseling, career and disability services, holds a doctorate in education from Capella University and master's degrees from the University of Illinois and The Pennsylvania State University. She has worked at Penn College since 2001.

Shelley MooreShelley Moore, assistant director of Career Services, holds a Master of Education in adult education from The Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. She has worked in Career Services at Penn College since 2004 and has taught part-time since 2009.

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