Career Services office refines efforts

By Anthony Rentsch

(Kristin LaFratta/Daily Collegian)
(Kristin LaFratta/Daily Collegian)

As the 2014-2015 academic year kicks into gear, the University of Massachusetts Career Services office is putting enormous efforts towards   helping students – both new and old – think about life after classes.

The role of Career Services, said Nessim Watson, is to help students learn how to market themselves to potential employers, a skill that often goes overlooked amidst the daily grind of classes and homework.

“Nobody teaches you how to market yourself,” said Watson, an assistant director for Career Services, who is responsible for helping science, computer science, engineering and BDIC majors, as well as graduate students. “I see a lot of kids in my office with technical skills and abilities but that cannot market themselves. The ability to market your skills effectively is as important as the content of your major.”

“If you have one but not the other, you are not going to go anywhere,” he added.

“We see the whole student,” said Assistant Director for Career Services Rebecca Bell. “Our job is to help them translate experience into concrete skills and to help them learn how to present those skills in a way that helps them to get that job or internship.”

This is where Career Services comes in. The office provides UMass students with all of the resources they need to market themselves, including resume and cover letter writing support as well as mock interviews.

Once a student is confident in his or her ability to express their skills, strengths and interests, Career Services has a myriad of resources to help build connections with potential employers. According to Watson, UMass Amherst Career Services hosts the largest career fair in Western Massachusetts, featuring over 100 organizations located locally, nationally, and internationally.

Specialized career fairs for students of different majors are also held throughout the year. Career Services even works with students for up to a year after graduation in order to connect them with job opportunities and other UMass Amherst alumni. Last year alone, according to the 2013-2014 annual Career Services report, 827 on-campus interviews were scheduled as a result of career fairs and employer information sessions.

While the department offers an entire range of traditional career advising help, Rebecca Bell said that many casual events are also planned to reach a wider audience. On Sept. 29, for example, there will be a “What (Not) To Wear” Career Fashion Show from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall.  The event will include students modeling interview-appropriate attire, representatives who will give participants feedback on their own interview attire and a booth that will take professional headshots for LinkedIn accounts.

As hinted at by the LinkedIn photo booth, Career Services has made significant efforts recently to emphasize the importance of having an online presence.

“It is as important as having a resume,” Watson said of having online accounts such as LinkedIn, which serve as confirmation for employers that you really do exist.

While all of the resources are at students’ fingertips, many students fail to consider the idea of having a career until their junior or senior year. The transition from student to employee is an incredibly daunting process, which is why Watson said  Career Services is making a concerted effort to connect with underclassmen early.

“A lot of students do not find out about us until senior year,” Watson said. “We are reaching out to freshmen and sophomores now.”

Unfortunately, as Bell mentioned, since many students do not find out about Career Services until later in their college careers, few students use the valuable resources that the office has to offer.

“Our workshops are definitely under attended,” she said. “I would love to see more students use our resources.”

UMass Career Services has certainly taken steps toward making Bell’s hope a reality. In the past year, two new career advisors have been added to the staff.

For more information about the UMass Career Services office, or to get started with the process of searching for a job or internship, like their page on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, visit 511 Goodell Building Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; walk-in advising hours from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., or go to the Library Learning Commons Tuesday 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

 

Anthony Rentsch can be reached at [email protected]