"UB Career Services increases number of freshmen, sophomores getting career help"

Career Services provides students with a place to explore various career paths and discover their strengths

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After six practice interviews and a three-month long application process, Christine Naassana arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio to begin her journey with Teach For America (TFA).

Naassana, who graduated from UB in 2014 with Bachelor’s degrees in French and political science, said UB’s Career Services became a source of emotional support during the TFA application process. Getting into the program would allow her to teach in low-income neighborhoods – and she may not have been able to do it without the program’s help.

But it isn’t just soon-to-be graduates who should be using the office to get a handle on career paths. Career Services would rather help student as soon as they enter college.

Students who visit career services early in their college career find jobs three times faster than those who don’t, according to a 2010 National Association of Colleges and Employers study. But in the 2009-10 academic year, only 10 percent of the people who used UB Career Services were freshmen and sophomores. Since, UB has almost tripled that statistic.

“Career Services helped me feel like I wasn’t alone in the application process,” Naassana said. “Even if you’ve had a successful interview in the past, it can never hurt you to do another one. You’re always going to [gain] an insight that you couldn’t have on your own.”

Director of UB Career Services Arlene Kaukus said the office looks at each student as an individual, and although the name suggests otherwise, students shouldn’t only stop by at the end of their college journey.

To increase underclassmen participation, Career Services reserved more staff time for undecided students and created programs tailored to underclassmen. As a result, in the 2012-13 academic year, 27 percent of students who used Career Services were freshmen and sophomores.

Career Services provides students with a place to explore various career paths and discover their strengths, according to Kaukus. She advises freshmen and sophomores to visit Career Services often. She said students who understand their skills, passions and values are more likely to choose a fulfilling major and career path.

“Our services are customized to where you are at in your four years and what’s unique about your experience,” she said.

Bethany Bissell, a senior business management major and career peer adviser, helped Aishani Bhalla, a freshman computer engineering major, refine her résumé during a 20-minute express appointment Tuesday.

Bhalla is preparing for the UB Tech Fair on Sept. 30 in Alumni Arena, where engineering and computer science students can network with employers in their field. Bissell helped Bhalla redesign her résumé and make it more professional, she said.

Career Services offers UBE 202, a three-credit course geared toward undecided freshmen and sophomores to engage students in self-exploration early. UBE 202 helps students explore their strengths, develop decision-making skills and choose a major and career path, according to Career Services’ website.

Kaukus said having a discussion with a career counselor could open many doors for students. Naasana followed Kaukus’ advice and met with career counselor David Youhess during her senior year to prepare for the TFA interview process.

“Everything I practiced with David came out in the real interview,” Naassana said.

Kaukus suggests juniors and seniors should work on developing a professional network and building technical skills, while freshmen and sophomores should work with Career Services on self-exploration.

Juniors and seniors also need to “build their toolkit,” of job-application skills and “practice, practice, practice,” Kaukus said.

She encourages students to gain an “insider perspective” on his or her chosen major or career path and to connect with members of the UB Alumni network.

“We see alumni from two vantage points,” Kaukus said. “Alumni are people we can help, but very, very importantly for our department, we see alumni as people who can help us help you.”

Jenna Smith, Career Services’ coordinator of assessment and marketing, said students should engage in experiential learning.

“Students [wrongly] feel that just because you get the degree means that you will always be handed a position,” she said. “In reality, it’s the outside-the-classroom learning experiences that make students intellectually richer, better people.”

Career Services can help students prepare for their experiences out of the classrooms, assisting them in refining résumés and preparing for different types of interviews, such as traditional interviews, group interviews and phone interviews, she said.

“We really meet you where you are,” Kaukus said. “We are really here to open up students’ thinking … [and] help them make choices that are consistent with who they are.”

email: features@ubspectrum.com