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Career Center keeps students on track

The USF Career Center’s mission is simple: It deals with things that cause students high levels of stress, anxiety and frustration. In other words, its main focus is to assist students in making the transition from academic life to professional employment.

“We’re a comprehensive, centralized career center,” said Drema Howard, the center’s director. “We work with students (in) making a career decision and giving them information and teaching them how to explore information and then attaching that to a major.”

The Career Center provides services to undergraduate and graduate students as well as alumni.

“We work with students helping them gain employability skills and career-related work experiences, and then we prepare students for the job search,” Howard said. “We do that in a number of ways – with resume critiques, interview strategies, teaching them how to network, how to initiate contacts with employers. And then we actually create venues that will connect them to these employers.”

However, Howard stressed the importance of working with students as early as possible. Early contact with the Career Center aids students in making informed decisions regarding class choices, extracurricular activities and work experience.

“When I first went in there, I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do,” said Stephanie Smith, a freshman majoring in accounting. “Now I feel really confident.”

The career development process consists of four steps. The first, the career assessment, is a good tool for undecided majors, Howard said. It helps students find their skills, interests and values.

“Every person has a certain cluster of unique skills, abilities and talents that matches to the world of work. And when you find a match, you can’t help but be excited about what you’re doing,” Howard said.The second step entails career exploration. With the knowledge the students attain about themselves, they are encouraged to research the possibilities available to them. The students are then assigned career specialists that help them turn their interests into career decisions.

“You could do that by reading about the information, researching online, shadowing people and part-time jobs, Howard said. “If you don’t experience it and keep moving in that career field, most probably you’re not going to stay in it for very long. So this is where we help prepare students for an effective job search.”

The Career Center’s staff offers resume workshops and conducts practice interviews in addition to teaching students how to do self-directed job searches and how to network.

The third step of the process is making an informed decision about the career and deciding a major. Howard said one of the main stumbling blocks students encounter is a lack of knowledge about the realities of the job market. The final step is career implementation, which is the job search. The whole process is available to students free of charge online as well as in person, so students can work at their own pace at home or alongside professionals at the Career Center.

Leslie Moss, a recent graduate, said the Career Center helped her to get a job at Florida Metropolitan University. She loaded her resume online with the help of the Career Center staff and was surprised at the results.

“When you put your resume up, the employers actually look at it,” Moss said. “And they come to you.”

One of the new features at the Career Center is the virtual video interview, which consists of students sitting in front of a computer and answering prescreened questions.

“It tapes the information, and the students are given a URL, which can be attached to the resume. The employer can see the resume and hear the student articulate their skills and their career goals.”

The Career Center is located in SVC 2088 and is open to all students Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.