Career Services readies Penn Staters for interview, employment success

Washington, D.C. -- A short drive from her former co-op site at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Penn State senior Jennifer Miller told the University's Board of Trustees today (March 20) how her co-op research experience better prepared her as a life sciences major and future medical school student.

Joining Miller were three additional panelists who spoke about Penn State's role in helping students with career planning and employment preparation: Jack Rayman, senior director of Penn State Career Services and affiliate professor of education; Martin Rafael Cepeda Jr., university relations recruiter for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals; and Betsy Lau, recruiter manager for Accenture, a global management consulting and technology services company. Cepeda and Lau, who also are Penn State alumni, recruit Penn State students regularly for their employers.

Miller discovered her research opportunity at NIH through The Eberly College of Science Cooperative Education Program, suggested by her undergraduate adviser as a way to enhance her education and her medical school applications.

"I networked with some of the best scientists and clinicians in the world," she said of her experience. "I learned about science, professionalism, communication and culture. Perhaps most importantly, I learned about myself.

“Additionally,” she noted, “my credentials as a scientist have grown in ways I could not have achieved without leaving the classroom.” Miller recently accepted an offer to attend Penn State’s College of Medicine.

Rayman highlighted the three major functions of Penn State Career Services: recruiting and employer relations, career counseling and planning, and career programming.

“With more than 900 different employers recruiting on campus each year, Penn State is visited by nearly every one of the Fortune 500 corporations,” said Rayman. In the most recent recruiting year, the top five employers of Penn State graduates were, in order, IBM Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Johnson & Johnson, Liberty Mutual and Siemens Corporation.

Rayman noted that Career Services faces challenges of connecting better with students at University Park and all Penn State campuses. He and his colleagues are exploring five technology initiatives to address this concern:
• a 15-module career management certificate program that would be delivered to students jointly online and in person;
• the development of three career seminars through Penn State’s online course management system, ANGEL, to allow students at any location to participate at their convenience;
• the ability for each student to develop an e-Portfolio, or online structured diary, to help organize and archive work-related experiences, values, skills and abilities;
• a video interview project for students at all Penn State campuses to participate in interviews available at University Park; and
• the establishment of a Web-based system that would allow Career Services staff to conduct and share workshops and seminars with students at all campuses.

"For some reason, students are requesting fewer interviews, and the number of interviews conducted in association with on-campus career fairs has increased appreciably," said Rayman. Student interview requests dropped from 41,196 in 2004-2005 to 17,131 in 2006-2007. The University hosted 13 career fairs from Fall 2006 through Fall 2007, attracting 22,179 student attendees.

Employer participation in career fairs reached a three-year high of 952 during the current academic year. Rayman said career fair participation fees from employers have provided a major source of revenue to help Career Services significantly expand program offerings, such as career workshops. These examples of career outreach programming have become an area of significant growth.

Students made career counseling requests most often concerning resume preparation, career choice and planning, and job searches. Interview skill assistance is another area of high interest to students. While he was a Penn State student, Cepeda served for two terms as a Career Services mock interview intern. After completing a two- to three-week interview training course, he conducted two hour-long mock interviews with students each week, completing between 75 and 100 student interviews. Not only did he help his peers refine their job interview skills, he also developed professional skills as a future human resources specialist.

Like Cepeda, Lau recruits students from college campuses across the United States. Her employer, Accenture, is a global company that seeks "new employees who can show us a record of leadership and campus involvement," she said. "Accenture finds that Penn State students exhibit these qualities in leaps and bounds.

"Penn State is one of Accenture's largest sources of entry-level talent," she continued, "and has ranked No. 1 on our list for many of the last 10 years."

Lau cited several of Accenture's senior executives who praised Penn Staters for their superior qualities as well-prepared, high-performing interns and employees. She added, "I would personally rank Penn State's Career Services office the most efficient, organized and customer service oriented of all Career Services offices I have worked with."

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Last Updated March 19, 2009