Compiled by Alison Hogue, Student Services Manager & Career Development Coach, Career Center
This article is part of Carolina Ties, a semester-long series of articles that focuses on a chosen topic. The Spring 2016 topic is “Life beyond the Horseshoe gates” and explores student preparation for life after UofSC.
The mission of the Career Center is to “educate and empower students in their development of lifelong career management skills.” Career Center staff members are dedicated to helping students learn how to utilize the tools and resources available to help them navigate big career decisions. These resources are grouped into the Career Center’s “Decide it. Experience it. Live it.” model. Each phase offers unique programming for students related to career planning.
Studies conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics show that 80% of students will switch majors at least once during college, which can take extra time and money. In order to maximize the chances of finding the right major and securing a skilled position in an area of interest after graduation, students should connect with Career Center staff early and often. As a first step, students of all majors should visit the Career Center to get their career questions answered, register for upcoming events or learn how to utilize print and online materials. Students also may schedule one-on-one appointments with career coaches to take assessments and learn about career exploration services. Career coaches help students create achievable action plans and connect them with additional resources both on and off campus, including Spur Connections, a self-guided job shadowing tool and daylong, guided group visits to employer sites. Many of these meetings with career coaches take place in the Career Center’s resource rooms, which feature advance technology provided by the Parents Annual Fund.
Employers prefer to see two or more career related experiences on a student’s resume. Experiences can be peer leadership, student organization involvement, community service, research, study abroad, part-time jobs or internship and cooperative education (co-op) experiences.
Students are encouraged to begin applying for internships or co-ops during their sophomore year. Internships typically last 8-12 weeks and may be paid by an employer or taken for credit through an academic department. Co-ops offer two unique options: the student can go to school full-time and work part-time in a paid position related to his/her major for 2-3 semesters, or the student can leave school and work in a paid, full-time position related to his/her major for 2-3 alternating semesters while retaining student status. All participants receive a notation of their co-op participation on their transcript. Website tools such as the Career Center, JobMate or CareerShift databases can help students find positions to fit their needs. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2015 Internship & Co-op Survey Report, 70.8% of internship employers and 62.6% of co-op employers said the primary focus of these programs is to convert students into full-time, entry-level employees.
Additionally, the Career Center offers two work-readiness classes for credit ― ECHE 202 is for chemical engineers participating in internships or co-ops, and University 201: Exploring the World of Work class is for all other majors. These classes, as well as participation in co-op or the Career Center Community Internship Program, count toward Graduation with Leadership Distinction in Professional and Civic Engagement.
The Career Center can help students prepare for job fairs, interviews or graduate school. Drop-in services and appointments are available for resume or curriculum vitae reviews, personal statement or cover letter feedback and mock interviews. Networking also is a vital part of the job search process. It starts with family, friends, faculty and alumni but can also include employers.
Attending employer information sessions or job fairs are great ways to make connections. Career Fest (for non-technical majors) and the Science, Engineering, and Technology Fair (S.E.T.) are offered in September and January of each year. Over 200 employers representing all majors attend these events. Leading up to these fairs, students are encouraged to participate in Job Fair Prep Week, a week of programming designed to prepare students for navigating job fairs. Past presentations have included resume reviews, personal branding, developing an elevator speech, creating an effective LinkedIn profile, mock interviews, networking, “ask an expert” Q&A sessions and dress for success workshops led by recruiters. Smaller, more targeted fairs also are offered throughout the year, including the Part-Time Job Fair, Health Professions Fair, Pharmacy Day, Education Recruitment Day and the Graduate and Professional School Fair.
The Career Center offices are open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Thomas Cooper Library and Swearingen Engineering Building. Students may attend drop-in hours from 1-4 p.m. daily to get their questions answered without an appointment or make an appointment by calling (803)777-7280. Whether a student is at the beginning of the major exploration process or ready to graduate, services are available to help all students reach their career goals.