February 14, 2021
University of Mobile sophomore Hannah Colson, a creative writing major, uses the Handshake platform, a career platform designed specifically for college students and recent graduates. (University of Mobile photo)
Earning a college degree is a worthy accomplishment on its own, but at some point down the road, each student is going to have to get a job and pay for those student loans.
In the following Q&A with The Alabama Baptist, Lawrencine Mason, career services coordinator in the Student Success Center at the University of Mobile, describes how a college career center can significantly enhance a student’s job prospects.
Q: What’s the mission of UM’s career center?
A: The Office of Career Services provides students with concrete strategies to facilitate the discovery of their calling, identify a career and discern the community in which they are to serve.
Q: Most students don’t enter college knowing exactly what kind of job they want when they graduate — or they change their minds several times along the way. How does UM Career Services help students develop professional goals?
A: Career Services assists students, first by prayer and presenting to them the idea that God is the first worker, and by Him all occupations exist for His glory and for the good of all mankind.
We also give assessments to students as part of their required freshman seminar class. The results of these and other tools help them decide on a major, acquire an internship or externship to test out their interest in a career, take a class that interests them and finally decide on a professional calling.
Q: How do you link students with jobs and internships?
A: Career Services connects students with jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities through Handshake, a career platform designed specifically for college students and recent graduates who are seeking entry-level jobs, internships and other opportunities. Handshake helps them highlight the “hard skills” they have learned in class and practice “soft skills” such as communication and listening, etiquette and getting along with other people. Handshake also allows us to receive and share career and professional development opportunities with faculty and staff that will benefit our students. We also post career opportunities to our social media platforms and reach out to students who are looking for professional development opportunities when we learn of them.
Q: Does the career center help students learn interviewing skills and resume-writing?
A: Yes! We offer group training as well as individual meetings with student workers to discuss soft skills needed in their role, any skills that need improving and ways to discuss these learning goals and objectives with their current supervisor. I also offer a communication skills workshop for students who need a little extra help in that area.
We also help students identify the types of career development opportunities that will help them acquire or improve their soft skills; and offer in-person and virtual workshops to help students and recent graduates with resumé writing, interview skills, preparation for an internship/externship and negotiating a salary for their first job offer.
Q: How do UM’s career services dovetail with employer needs, especially in the local community?
A: We work to maintain relationships with our employer partners in the Mobile area to meet their needs by approving Handshake job postings, if applicable, to the majors and areas of study we offer. We participate in networking events, talk through duties and requirements of positions and determine which soft skills and hard skills are a must-have and which can be learned on the job. We can help employers develop a job description and network with faculty who may know of a student who fits the bill and will do a great job for them. I also recommend students for positions when appropriate and connect them with the prospective employer.
Q: Describe some of the career events UM hosts and any adjustments you’ve had to make due to the pandemic.
A: Career Services hosts our UM Campus Career & Seminary Week during the fall semester, and our UM Campus Career & Grad School Week during the spring semester. These events are campuswide initiatives in which students, faculty, administration and staff assist and participate in myriad ways. Typically, we have guest speakers, company representatives, graduate school admissions representatives, seminary recruiters and local professionals who interact with students.
Since COVID-19, all career, grad school and seminary fairs have had to move to virtual events in which we offer group and one-on-one sessions for students to meet employers and recruiters. And the faculty’s guest professionals interact with our students in a virtual format as well.
Q: At what point should students start using the career center?
A: I encourage students to begin right after attending a preview day of the college of their choice. Become acquainted with the career counselor and stay in touch with him/her. At UM, career services and the work-study program are connected, and you may be the first student who comes to mind when a job comes open.
I also recommend that students visit their career services office at least once per year until they graduate to stay on track with career planning. Maintaining an updated resumé and Hand-shake profile are key to a successful job search.