Students are unaware or unwilling to use the job resources offered by Stony Brook University’s Career Center when unemployment rates are at their highest in years.
“What is the Career Center?” Lisa Jackson asked.
Despite her laughter, the junior majoring in marine sciences appeared quizzical as she leaned in and propped her crossed arms on the kitchen table. Her suitemate, Danielle Wischenka, a junior in psychology, gave a brief description of a few
Career Center services, such as resume workshops and finding internships.
“Oh, I didn’t know they do that,” Jackson said.
Wischenka explained to Jackson what to do with her resume but not who to ask for assistance. According to the Career Center’s 2009-2010 Calendar of Events and Career Guide, counselors are available Monday through Friday to help students with their resumes. Antony Lin, communications assistant at the Career Center and a Stony Brook alum, checks rough drafts of resumes and cover letters on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Lin said that he feels students underestimate themselves when it comes to writing resumes.
“Students think that being a cashier isn’t relevant, but you gain lots of skill,” Lin said. Lin said that as a cashier you learn how to be organized and responsible with money.
The counselors’ efforts are effective, Wischenka said. She said she liked the resume workshops the most. ‘They tore my resume apart,’ she said.
Despite Wischenka’s knowledge of the Career Center, students like Jackson aren’t unusual. ‘It’s a continuous challenge, getting the word out,’ said Marianna Savoca, the director of the Career Center. The Career Center hasn’t figured out a solution, Savoca said.
Another one of Jackson’s suitemates, Sahita Pierre-Antoine, a junior majoring in political science, sat at the kitchen table a few minutes later and said she didn’t know what the Career Center did either.
‘It actually helps,’ Jackson said excitedly and proceeded to tell Pierre-Antoine everything she learned.
Even after Jackson and Pierre-Antoine found out about the Career Center, they still didn’t plan on going this semester. Jackson said her future is far away and has other priorities, such as getting through the semester, studying for her GREs, finding a graduate school and internships. Jackson is also a swimmer for Stony Brook University and plans to use its athletic academic advising center, when she’s ready for resume help.
Pierre-Antoine said that she doesn’t have time. With her classes back-to-back, work at the Transfer Office in the Administration Building of Stony Brook University five days a week and belly dancing three days a week in which she teaches a work-out class and is president of the club, Pierre-Antoine’s days last from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Ebony Kerr-Percy, a full-time Management Trainee at Blinds-to-Go and a Stony Brook alum, said students are ignoring the resources. ‘It’s a good resource that students don’t know about,’ Kerr-Percy said. ‘They know, but don’t take advantage of it.’
Blinds-to-Go participated in the Part-Time Job/Expo Employment fair held by the Career Center. The Career Guide explained the part-time job expo as linking students with on-campus jobs, such as work-study and student assistant positions with university departments, and off-campus opportunities, like part-time positions with companies such as Blinds-to-Go.
Although he works at the Career Center now, as an undergraduate studying environmental studies, Lin said he didn’t go inside the office to use the services that he currently does like the resume workshops because of his schedule and shyness. Instead, he attended job fairs and on campus recruitment presentations.
Savoca said there’s a difference between the job fairs and on-campus recruitments. ‘In job fairs, employers are trying to get their brand across,’ Savoca said. ‘On campus recruitment is more of an investment for companies because they’re conducting real one-on-one interviews with students, not just positioning themselves as employers of choice.’
The other resource that Lin used was called Monster Track before its name changed to ZebraNet, what people now associate with the Career Center. ‘The zebra, that’s the only thing I know about the Career Center,’ Jackson said, describing an incident when she was handed a stuffed animal zebra.
‘ZebraNet is an outlet for connecting to the Career Center,’ said Amie Vedral, a walk-in advisor at the Career Center. ZebraNet offers information on all career events, a resource library, ZebraCAN and everything except on-campus jobs, Vedral said.
Vedral described ZebraCAN as a network of alumni and their contact information that students can interview to learn about the professional world. Vedral said students must attend a one-time hour long orientation, which educates students on logistics, contacting employers and conducting productive interviews.
‘The students are taking up a professional’s time and are taught to use it as effectively as they can,’ Vedral said.
Lin concluded that the Career Center isn’t going to be able to get every student to use it. ‘You can only go so far,’ Lin said. ‘There are always going to be a few [students], a good chunk no matter how hard you try.’
Lin said not every student is going to use the Career Center, but they’re not guaranteed a job either similar to the rest of the population. The United States Department of Labor reported an unemployment rate of 10.2 percent in October. The highest rate in 26 years.
Pearl Kamer, chief economist at the Long Island Association, said she feels that the unemployment rate will take a while to recover. ‘The economy may be recovering technically, but it will be at least three years before it becomes normal,’ Kamer said.
According to Kamer, students are doing the right thing by trying to get into the job market. However, there are students who plan to go straight to graduate school either to avoid paying undergraduate loans, avoiding a stubborn job market or to get a better degree. Mahbubur Rahman, a graduate student in a post-graduate pre-med program, said that his friends enrolled in graduate programs, so that they don’t have to pay loans. Kamer said that it’s better to get out into the job market instead of going to straight to graduate school.
‘Get out there and make sure that’s what you want,’ Kamer said. ‘If you get admitted to a prestigious law or medical school, it may pay to get a few years of experience.’
Arjun Lagisetty, a senior with a dual major in computer sciences and applied math, is trying to get into the job market, but is affected by being an international student. ‘People closed down my doors to financial opportunity,’ Lagisetty said. ‘They stopped hiring international students. The recession hit me right in the spot.’
He said he has been trying for the past two years to get an internship with all kinds of banking and non-banking companies, like Chyron, a broadcasting technology company, and Bloomberg. ‘I wanted an exposure to the industry, not painting the wall or something like that,’ Lagisetty said.
Savoca said students should focus on getting internships. ‘They need an internship,’ Savoca said. ‘They should have two, but one is good.’
Internships help when students have their focus, but if a student doesn’t know what to do the Career Center can still help with their Career Decision Clinic. Chantel Mitchell, a sophomore majoring in biology, attended a Career Decision Clinic to talk with someone on deciding if changing her major to psychology will help with her desired career as a physician’s assistant.
Savoca said the Career Decision Clinics are held twice a semester before students can choose their courses. She said that the clinics were originally meant for freshman and sophomores until she discovered that upperclassmen also attended. Now, one of the changes by the Career Center includes expanding its outreach of the Career Decision Clinics to juniors and seniors.
Mitchell said she wants a job to pay her bills and get first-hand experience in her career. Although the recession isn’t what inspired Mitchell’s job search, Savoca said it prompts the staff to work harder for the students. ‘It’s a lot of stress because we’re not satisfied with the results and upset about the fewer job opportunities,’ Savoca said. However, that doesn’t dissuade them from giving it their all.
‘We could say ‘Oh well, it’s the economy. Good luck people,’ but it’s not like that,’ Savoca said. ‘We can’t control it, but adapt to it. Students need to also.’
But, students aren’t adapting or at least they aren’t using the Career Center. Lagisetty visits the Career Center only twice a semester. The two things he feels that students should follow is getting their own references and networking. ‘There’s a lot more opportunities than going to the Career Center and job fairs,’ Lagisetty said.
However, according to Lagisetty he doesn’t completely neglect the resources from the Career Center and attended the Information Technology, Science and Engineering job fair. He received some interview calls two or three weeks after the job fair, but said the majority of them came from outside the Career Center. As Lagisetty stood in CVS pharmacy waiting for his passport pictures to be printed, he said he got a full-time job with OpNet Technologies, a leading provider of solutions for managing networks and applications. The pictures were for an eligibility card so that he could get paid, one of the restrictions he faces as an international student.
The Career Center avoids the restrictions of the economy with its limited job opportunities by constantly readjusting. ‘We’re always changing because the markets are changing,’ Savoca said. ‘We have to be up on it if we want to do our job well.’
Savoca listed two other changes within the Career Center; the government job fair and employer prime-time events. She said that the Career Center is going to be hosting its first ever government fair on Jan. 15, 2010.
‘Who’s hiring?’ Savoca said. ‘The government.’ The Stony Brook University Career Center will represent the official Long Island site for the fair.
Savoca continued to explain that the employer prime-time events is an opportunity for the employers to spend a few hours in the Career Center with one-on-one counseling sessions with students on a drop-in basis. She said it’s more of an exposure for the employer and a more in-depth look at the company for the students, which is different from the on campus recruitment presentations.
‘It’s not just a handshake,’ Savoca said. ‘There’s more time to talk.’
The recession has left the job market to be very competitive, prompting employers to look for specific qualities. Cheryl E. Mendes-Ellis, chief of Navy Officer Programs, said she wants a person who has strong leadership and analytical skills, competitiveness and willing and ready to serve their country. ‘Slackers need not apply,’ Mendes-Ellis said.
If a slacker has any idea of what they want to do and scrounges for some type of motivation, the Career Center wants to help.
‘We get to help with your future,’ Savoca said. ‘It’s fun.’