Campus Connection: Career development explains approach

Send your best suit to the dry cleaner, flat-iron your favorite shirt and shine those dress shoes; it’s time to leave the reserve and hunt for that first job.

As Gannon University seniors have fewer than two months until graduation, the time to lasso that entry-level position is now. But while they now find themselves at one of life’s crossroads, where should Gannon’s contribution to the workforce turn for employment help?

Anxious job searchers need look no farther than Gannon’s office of Career Development and Employment Services, according to Jim Finegan, the office’s director. Housed within the Student Success Center on the first floor of the Palumbo Academic Center, the staff sends out several emails a week about open internships and offers resume workshop, interview practice and other helpful career search tips.

Gabriella Piatt, a senior accounting and finance major, has been receiving emails from the career development staff since her sophomore year, and that the career guidance is indispensable.

“A lot of the stuff you can find online,” Piatt said, “but it’s so nice to have someone there to calm your fears, settle you down and tell you ‘You’re going to be OK, everything looks good.’ They reach out to you as much as possible.

“You just have to take advantage of the emails that they send out to you and really make sure reading them.”

Throughout the year, Finegan and his staff visit classes across campus to present their career search seminars. They visit around 70 or 80 per year.

“Last year I did about 500 resumes myself,” Finegan said. “With most of those resumes I never met the student. It was a result of me being in the class talking with them.”

The career office has also expanded employment opportunities by advertising local job fairs. The WestPACS Spring Job and Internship Fair was held last Wednesday at the Monroeville Convention Center, Penn State Behrend’s Spring Career and Internship Fair is Wednesday and Mercyhurst University’s Career Fair is scheduled for Thursday.

But where in that list is a Gannon-hosted job fair?

The university has arranged a job fair in the past, Finegan said. In fact, Gannon used to be a member of a university consortium, which included Behrend, Mercyhurst, Edinboro University and Allegheny College. A job fair, a graduate school fair and an education fair would then rotate every year between the consortium members.

After several years of the rotation, the consortium universities developed identities by the number of participants in their fairs. Gannon, for example, attracted the most students whenever it hosted the graduate school fair. Thus, the university has held a graduate and professional fair every year since the 1980s.

Finegan cited Gannon’s graduate placement rate at slightly over 88 percent. A total of 44 percent of these graduates advance to graduate school, while the other 44 percent find employment within their field.

The 88 percent placement figure illustrates the quality of graduates Gannon is producing, Finegan said.

“What that tells us is that even though we’re not doing a job fair, our students are still very competitive in the job market,” he said. “They’re still doing very well.”

Piatt said she understands why a job fair Penn State Behrend might be a more appropriate location for a job fair.

“Penn State’s a bigger school so it just makes sense for them to have it,” Piatt said.

Because of the variance in seniors’ post-graduate careers – whether students apply to graduate school or send out their resumes to employers – Finegan said the career office altered its approach to providing career counseling.

“We shifted our focus somewhat away from the employers and directed it toward the student,” Finegan said. “We do a great job of educating our students on how to find a job, and we put our focus towards them year after year when it comes to resumes, interviewing, job searching, that they will manage and control their job search better.

“So we have not invested a lot of time going to employers and things – we help students do it, we know how to connect them and whenever we can we will, but we’ve moved away from that. We’ve become a more student-focused center.”

This student-centered method has resulted in treating each student as a separate individual. Lauren Tatanus, a senior science 4+3 pre-physical therapy major, received one-on-one counseling from John White, the career development office’s assistant director.

“He simply just listened to me,” Tatanus said. “From all of his listening and note writing, he was able to see that I am a very service-oriented person.

“By him giving me the personality tests, I was able to be reassured of the person that I am.”

Finegan’s hope is that no student cowers from their job search, nor tries to go it alone. But that anxiety, he said, is normal.

“Anxiety helps to move us,” Finegan said. “Hopefully it moves us in a positive direction. What happens with students, particularly with seniors is they procrastinate. Fear sometimes creates procrastination. You move away from what you’re uncomfortable with.”

The career office advisers can recognize the warning signs and provide the student the assistance for coping with their job-search anxieties.

“The student is going to be more effective when they have a better understanding of their fear,” he said.

Eldar Binaliugly, a senior accounting major, said his experience with the career center was overwhelmingly positive.

“As I expected, they gave me only helpful advice,” Binaliugly said. “They should continue doing their operation just as they do.”

Finegan and his staff have not “closed the door” on the proposal of bringing a job fair back to Gannon, he said. But it would take a lot of effort to do so.

“We’ve already looked at it from a staff perspective,” Finegan said. “That takes us away from some of the other things we’re doing that we see as being very student-directed. That’s the impetus behind why don’t we have one.”