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Career Cafe's Menu Helps Students Prepare for Career Expo

Exactly one week before to its Career Expo takes place, the University of San Diego's Career Development Center was busy helping its students prepare to be at their best.

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On Thursday, the center held its Career Cafe event in the Hahn University Center forums, and the menu had several helpful selections for students to prepare for the March 1 event.

Upon entering the forum room, USD career counselors were positioned at tables to answer any questions or tips they could provide to a student. There was information on pointers for professional dress shopping, where to shop, mobile apps to find deals on dress clothes and do’s and don’ts for what to wear to a job interview and/or job fair. Around the corner was one of three photo booths where students could get a professionally done photo that could be posted on a LinkedIn account or other social media platform.

Each of those stops were certainly helpful, but upon entering Forum C, that's where the meat and potatoes of preparing for a job fair resided. One section of the room was open to students to register and learn more about Handshake, a service the Career Development Center uses to help students with job and internship searches, to schedule appointments, utilize career resources and provides students to on-campus events, on-campus interview opportunities and more.

On the other side of the room, several tables were lined up, each one featuring real employers with representatives who were volunteering their time to be on hand to talk to USD students. It was a chance to meet a professional and have them do a resume evaluation for students and to get to know them a bit better. The resume review was a chance for an employer to tell the student about the importance of presenting a resume that’s free of spelling errors, is neat, clean and effective.

For Karen Jordan, chief financial officer with the San Diego Blood Bank, her focus was on reminding students to have keywords that stand out and to have a short, concise introductory paragraph to an employer. Otherwise, she said, chances are good that your resume will end up in the ‘no’ pile. Why?

"Six to ten seconds, that's all the time they'll look at a resume in the first round,'" Jordan said. "There are 100-150 resumes for every job opening, so what can I read in six to ten seconds? Your name, did you put the key competencies in the top paragraph, they’ll look at what companies you've worked for or what school you attended. It's a very quick glance.’"

Jordan, whose son, Ryan, is a first-year student at USD, helping students in this capacity. She enjoys giving back — "It's a fantastic opportunity for the students to get real-life advice to help them. Every school should be doing something like this."

The Career Development Center has done the one-stop Career Cafe concept for three years. It serves as a springboard for students who will attend the Career Expo, which more than 100 different companies will be in the Forum rooms in search of students who can serve as interns, apply for entry-level jobs or can network and learn more about USD students while the students learn more about a company they could potentially join in their post-college future.

Before a student can be served, though, they have to look at the Career Cafe menu. Pascual Benitez, a chief investigator for the County of San Diego's Office of the Alternate Public Defender, was another prime person for students to meet Thursday. Benitez has attended each Career Cafe after he initially spoke to a USD class about his employer and then attended a psychology job fair on campus. Since then, his office's last four interns have come from USD.

"I really like giving back and our department doesn't have a lot of opportunities to tell people who we are, so this event has been great. I can help students understand what the real world is like. I can talk to them, see their resume, put it aside and ask them to talk about themselves. I've had one student today who wants to be an accountant, another seeking a position in the arts and another studying marketing and international business. I want them to express themselves because what they say should mirror what's on the resume. I ask them test questions, too, such as what are their strengths and weaknesses."

His method follows how the Career Development Center wants to help USD students learn. There were tips on forming an elevator speech, to research the companies you want to connect with at the Career Expo, dress to impress, have a clean resume that’s poised to be noticed, and to have a few questions ready to ask an employer.

Preparation, after all, is a key to success. The Career Development Center had pathways everywhere one looked on Thursday. The reward will be how it is executed March 1.

—Ryan T. Blystone