A career center staff member approached Sally Hunter, who was sitting alone at a table, to ask if she needed any help with anything.
“I have a meeting with Chelsie in five or 10 minutes,” Hunter said.
An undecided first-year, Hunter was in the College of Liberal Arts’ Career Services for an appointment with Chelsie Sturm, the instructor of one of her classes: major and career exploration.
“I have so many different interests,” Hunter said. Her academic advisor recommended she take the course to help figure out how her strengths and passions would fit into a major and, eventually, a career.
The course Hunter enrolled in is one of several offered, or required, by colleges across the University campus. They’re part of college career centers’ effort to draw in students early in their education to avoid the panic that comes with looking for a job senior year.
Eighty-six percent of first-year students said they’re attending college for better job opportunities, Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for student affairs, told a Board of Regents Committee Feb. 11, citing 2009 survey data.
Students who, like Hunter, take CLA’s career exploration course have higher retention rates after their first year at the University. They are also more likely to graduate on time.
Paul Timmins, CLA career center director, said he isn’t surprised graduation rates are higher for those students, because “they’ve taken the time to see what the University has to offer.”
CLA helped about 5,100 students in 2009, Timmins said.
Jeannie Stumne, lead career coordinator for the College of Education and Human Development’s undergraduate career services, said the number of students coming into the office “ebbs and flows.”
She said CEHD tends to see more students when it gets closer to graduation, semester registration or job fairs.
Generally, each college offers individual guidance in major and career decisions and helps with job application preparation, like resume writing. Job postings, networking opportunities and mentor relationships also await students in college career centers.
Carlson School of Management requires its sophomore students to take its career skills course, but Director Morgan Kinross-Wright said the Business Career Center offers a “full suite of opportunities,” including connecting students with local business people.
The staff at each of the career centers are equipped to provide specific information relevant to the students in their respective colleges.
“We all know a little bit about a lot,” Kinross-Wright said of her counseling staff, or “coaches.” Some coaches have a deeper knowledge of a specific field and can help students more directly.
Each career center is constantly trying to draw in more students, offering opportunities that will hopefully attract younger classes.
Requiring the business career skills course is a way to ensure the opportunities are “being presented to students before they think they need [them],” Kinross-Wright said.
For Hunter, the strategy worked. She said without the class she probably wouldn’t have sought help in CLA’s career center until she was looking for an internship or a job, much later in her academic career.
On Monday, students can attend the University Job and Internship Fair at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Representatives from more than 200 organizations — for-profit, non-profit and government jobs included — will be there to talk with students and recruit for jobs and internships.
“Think of it as a networking event,” said Timmins, one of the fair’s coordinators. “It’s a chance to go meet with employers.”
-Taryn Wobbema is a senior staff reporter.
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