| 03.18.2018

Weighing their options – Career Center focuses on producing capable, employable students

On the third floor of the Idaho Commons, past a dimly lit hallway in a back corner, administrators at the Career Center at the University of Idaho work daily to organize events, seminars and projects with the goal of helping UI students do what they came here to do: find a job after college.

“I mean, yeah, you”re at school, but what”s next?” said Kristine Tims, the Career Center office manager.

The rise of college career services has made recent garnered attention in outlets including, LinkedIn and USA Today, as colleges nationwide have started increasing efforts to educate students on finding and keeping a job.

Photo file by Alex Brizee | Argonaut
University of Idaho career adviser Eric Anderson speaks with UI student Ty Prince at the 2015 Fall Career Fair in the Kibbie Dome.

Following record-breaking success at the UI Career Center, administrators said it will continue to expand this year.

Tims said administrators at the Career Center are always busy helping students succeed in finding their career path.

She said the center utilizes various resources to reach out to students, including tabling, programs like Hire a Vandal and frequent events.

“(The Career Center) is ultimately to help our students for that next step and to link up employers and students,” Tims said.

A changing focus

Career Center Director Suzi Billington has been with UI for 21 years. She said the purpose of college career centers have changed with the times and the economy.

Billington said the UI Career Center opened shortly after World War II, a time of economic prosperity when jobs were abundant.

At the time, Billington said, students expected to get “placed” into a job after college. Career centers made the placement process their focus.

“[Students] didn”t have a choice of what job that they would get,” Billington said. “They were just given a job.”

Billington said today, the process is different.

She said the modern college career center now focuses more on student responsibility and on giving students the tools they need to find a job tailored to their specific expectations, skillsets and interests – rather than immediate job placement.

“If that first job that you get aligns with what you want, you”re more likely to be successful,” Billington said.

She said students today have much more of a choice when it comes to the job they get after school, so the emphasis is on the student”s responsibility to make that decision for themselves, Billington said.

But between World War II and today, the economy has taken various turns, and Billington said the Career Center has been affected by each one.

Growth continues

Since they began in 2008, the attendance of a typical UI Career Fair hovers between 900 and 1,000, Billington said. At UI”s 2015 fall career fair, there were approximately 1,200 students in attendance, making it the best-attended Career Fair UI has ever hosted.

She said the fair included the more employers than it has before, and was moved from its usual spot at the Bruce Pitman Center to the Kibbie Dome to accommodate the number of attendees.

Billington said the main goals for Career Center administrators are to expand services and staff – particularly career advisers.

Currently, the center has three advisers. Billington said that is not enough for the liaison model the center is working toward, where the vision is to have at least one expert in every college and career.

She said the center administrators plan increase that number to six next year through additional state funding, which UI has already received this fiscal year for employment readiness enhancements.

The funding will also pay for a new position that deals specifically with internship development and employer relations   in Boise.  

Billingon said the Career Center is funded by State General Education funds, and also by revenue generated from Career Fairs, where employers pay fees to attend.

Billintgon said the center will recruit more employers for the School of Journalism and Mass Media, which saw fewer employers at the Career Fair than other majors, such as engineering.

Utilizing a resource

Billington said advisers see approximately 3,000 students in individual appointments per year. During those appointments, students can learn how to write a resume and cover letter, how to search and apply for jobs and internships, how to get through an interview and how to negotiate a salary, among other things.

Billington said the most popular service the center offers is resume advising. Students can learn how to write a professional resume or bring their own resume in to be reviewed by an adviser, no matter what condition their resume is in.    

“We have everything from a handwritten draft on a sheet of scratch paper as a resume to something that”s very, very well developed,” Billington said.

Billington said the center offers services for students of every major and year in school, including alumni. Some students utilize the center from freshman to senior year, while other students stop by the center just once or twice during their entire college career.

A first-time visitor to the Career Center can make an appointment in person or over the phone to see an adviser.

At that appointment, Billington said the adviser will get a sense of how certain a student is of their major. The adviser will ask about factors the student finds important in a future career, such as location and salary.

Based off this information, as well as the student”s individual experiences and knowledge of their desired career path, the adviser will help find and research jobs tailored to their requests.

Billington said she wants more students to become aware of services the Career Center offers. She recommended students start visiting the center earlier in their college career, rather than later.

“I think students are realizing the fact that it is a very competitive job market and that networking with employers is really valuable,” Billington said.

Taylor Nadauld can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu

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