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Center teaches lasting job skills

With recent changes in the economy, career advisers say it is important for students to focus on how to find a job before receiving their diploma.

Major corporations are responding to the economic changes with hiring freezes and downsizing, such as the Ford Motor Company?s recent lay-off of 5,000 employees.

According to Drema Howard, director for the USF Career Center, students should not wait until the last minute to make a career decision or plan their job search.

?As the economy changes, it will become even more critical for students to be proactive in their job search and not assume the jobs will be as easy to come by as they were this time last year,? Howard said.

But Howard said students should know while the economic forecast might be unpredictable, it is still possible for students to find employment.

One way graduates may have an advantage in the new job market is to develop skills that will make them more appealing to perspective employers, Howard said.

?Research has shown that if students have developed their skills and invest time in conducting an effective job search, they will find employment,? she said.

Howard said the services at the USF Career Center can guide students through a professional job search.

The goal of the center is to teach students to develop skills that will last beyond finding a first job, she said.

?Our goal is to teach students not only how to find that first job in their chosen career field, but be able to find their second, third and fourth jobs throughout their careers,? Howard said.

Howard said the Career Center is a career planning and job search service that helps students develop employability skills through services such as part-time jobs, internships and cooperative education. The ultimate goal is gaining full-time, professional employment after graduation, she said.

?Students who leave it (finding a job) to chance may be overwhelmed by the professional world,? Howard said. ?But students who learn early the skills necessary for the business world will be successful.?

Howard said the Career Center services are clustered under two major categories: preparing students for a successful job search and creating venues that allow students to network and interview with hiring employers.

Services that prepare students for the job search include individual career advising, workshops, a career library, a job search computer lab, videotaped practice interviews and business dining seminars.

In addition to helping students prepare for a successful job search, the Career Center staff also offers various services that help students network and interview with future employers, Howard said.

Services include a Web-based job listing, candidate resumé referral program, on-campus interviews, cooperative education program, employer information sessions and annual career networking and job fairs.

This fall, the center is offering students new services, such as the new electronic resumé software, Career Connections.

Howard said not only does the new service allow students to apply for and schedule on-campus interviews and have their resumés referred to employers, but students can now do a keyword search of employment opportunities on the jobline.

?Students can now RSVP to attend employer information sessions and submit their resumé directly to employers who have positions listed on the Career Center?s jobline,? Howard said.

After developing the necessary techniques to prepare for the business world, the next step is to get through the interview successfully.

Alice Spurgeon, senior vice president for domestic marketing for Walt Disney World, said potential employees must be comfortable with themselves.

Spurgeon said she often looks beyond academics when deciding on whether to hire someone.

Spurgeon said she focuses on two areas when assessing a candidate?s potential.

?I try to get a sense of what that person really enjoys.? she said. ?I believe most people excel when they are doing something they really love to do.?

Spurgeon also wants applicants? perspectives on their strengths, and that does not necessarily mean in an academic sense.

?I look for someone being themselves, that way I know what I am getting,? Spurgeon said.

Being comfortable in an interview can be a challenge, so Spurgeon suggests that an applicant prepare for the interview.

?The key is to think ahead of time how you can contribute to the company,? she said. ?Know what the employer wants and know what you can bring to the table.?

Spurgeon said even previous experiences can be beneficial in landing a job.

?Some of these skills are acquired in life experiences, such as volunteer work or previous work experience. Even if that job is not directly related to the job a person is applying for,? Spurgeon said.

Contact Ann Norsworthy