Students unsure of Career Services' role
Office plans for new online tools to help with student outreach
Students say getting a job is a top priority after graduation but less than 8% made an appointment at Career Services last year.
Roughly 52% of students, according to a Spectrum survey, don’t even know UB has a career office.
Yet, UB spends $174,488 on the office’s budget yearly. The money goes toward job fairs, conference trips, workshops, computer programs and more.
The Spectrum found 71% of 238 students said they have never used Career Services. And only 45% of students who said they used Career Services went to the office more than once.
Director of Career Services Arlene Kaukus said Career Services’ role is to prepare students to get jobs by helping them with resumes and networking. It also helps get them on-campus jobs. But it does not engage in tailored job searches or find them specific jobs. Students are supposed to use the tools, career fairs, workshops and apps like Bullseye to find jobs on their own.
Kaukus said The Spectrum’s survey numbers aren’t reflective of how many students are using her office’s resources because they don’t include Career Services programming, like job and career fairs. She said 10,896 students, undergraduate and graduate, either attended a job workshop or career fair or had an appointment with Career Services last year.
That number is about a third of the student body.
Malik Wilkinson, a junior biomedical engineering major, has never visited Career Services, but wished UB marketed it better to students and emphasized it at orientation. He said he “scratched together” his resume on his own and then found an internship online.
“I’ve been giving out my resume to the internships I knew of and that’s two things I had to do myself. It’s a shame, like, it would have been nice to know I could have gotten some help.”
He said it was “pretty disappointing” that no one at UB had told him about Career Services or pushed him to try it. He’s been in Capen several times but has never seen the Capen 259 office.
In addition to the survey, The Spectrum approached more than 100 students for interviews about Career Services and almost none knew the office existed. Even students standing near Capen 259 didn’t know it was there. The office is located down a corridor in a corner.
Wilkinson has attended career fairs, so according to Kaukus, he has used her office’s services, even if he didn’t know it.
“If there are people better suited to put my resume together and help me, then yeah, I want to see them.”
Kaukus said her office needs needs new ways to reach students. Her five counselors had 2,307 student appointments last academic year. Students had 464 job interviews on campus last year.
One student may have interviewed for several jobs. That means at best, less than 1.5 % of students had an on-campus interview last year.
Kaukus points to online networking apps like Bullseye, which some students refer to as Handshake, that attract many more students than traditional means. She pointed to the 15,858 students who used Bullseye at least once last year.
That was a 36% increase from the 2016-17 year, she said.
“I don’t use Career Services but I use Handshake, I’m checking that every day,” said sophomore biomedical engineering major Erik Nimmer. “Gotten in touch with some jobs and it's updated usually. I just don’t think I need to go to Career Services for what it has.”
Nimmer said he’s done resume building in other classes before and feels he needs to focus on networking. Teachers have gone over cover letters and job interviewing in class, according to Nimmer.
The office does not track how often students log on to Bullseye or how many students get jobs using it. Handshake instead provides data to the office on an annual basis, according to Kaukus.
Career Services considers the job listings on Handshake part of the jobs it offers students, Kaukus said. Bullseye listed 32,739 jobs in the 2017-18 academic year, according to a Career Services report.
Krapi Vani, a senior computer science major, said she feels international students get surprisingly little advice on career opportunities while at UB. “There are things like work visas and other requirements a company in America has to go through to hire someone like me. I’ve gone to the job fair before and the moment they find out you’re an international student, they leave you alone.”
Vani said she didn’t know where Career Services was located but would want an office to help her find work. Other international students The Spectrum interviewed had mixed opinions about Career Services.
Kaukus said she was surprised to hear of Vani’s experience and insisted Career Services has a deep relationship with International Student Services. Career Services advisors are aware of the “nuances with the rules and regulations” international students deal with, she said.
Kaukus said students’ busy schedules sometimes makes office hours in Capen less productive than having online apps.
“We are always in Capen to help students, but that just isn’t the most realistic way to reach as many students as we can,” Kaukus said. “We are looking into things like a chatbot … and an artificial intelligence to help build resumes to reach more students.”
The AI program would cost $26,000 in yearly leasing fees and would include an additional startup fee, according to Career Services. The program would use data from the office to look over students’ resumes and give automated advice to students online.
“We don’t have any set dates yet but this program would be an easy-to-use resource for any student,” Kaukus said. “The AI would give exact advice, unique to what the student has already.”
Kaukus said the chatbot was primarily for students who are “too busy” for in-person appointments.
“If a student wants to work on their resume at 2 a.m., they can contact the chatbot and get answers that way,” Kaukus said.
Vice president for Student Life A. Scott Weber announced a new job program in fall 2018. The program, Here to Career, will work with Career Services and not replace it, Weber said.
Here to Career is catered toward giving students on-campus jobs and pairing them with an adviser to help them use that experience on a resume and in interviews. The advisers will also help students manage their schedules and check in on students’ work progress.
Director of Student Engagement Phyllis Floro said the program will have its own set of advisors but did not have a specific number of total advisors with the program in its first full semester. Students should still see Career Services counselors, she said.
Floro said Career Services “will work together” with Here to Career to “ensure that students make the most of their employment.”
Career Services holds workshop events, networking trips and job fairs specialized for specific professions.
Career counselors give the students who use the service personalized advice. She said she often receives emails from alumni thanking her for her help.
She said there were no plans on reducing Career Services in the immediate future.
*Jordana Chazen contributed reporting to this story.
Thomas Zafonte is the senior features and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Thomas_Spectrum.