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How graduating students make use of the Career Center

Higher numbers of employers interviewing on-Grounds, more students using center’s interview room

As the 187th Final Exercises occur May 20-22, the University and its 11 schools expect to give out 6,671 degrees for bachelor's, master's, first professional and doctoral and advanced graduate degrees. Many of these students are using the tools afforded to them by the Career Center as a way to get ahead in the job market.

Career Center services

The University Career Center has grown in recent years as graduates have entered a difficult job market, and the program has expanded to include an internship center, a Virginia Alumni Mentoring initiative and systems designed to help students explore their interests.

These systems include exploring careers that students are interested in, assistance in shaping a student’s professional brand and helping students develop skills needed to obtain and sustain a job through advising and workshops.

The center also has student Career Peer Educators to assist students with resumes and cover letters and help them use the center’s resources.

Third-year College student and Career Peer Educator Yae Ji Cha said the purpose of the Career Peer Educators is to support career development by connecting students with resources, which can lead to “information sharing.”

“We're trained to know all of the resources and programs the Career Center runs, along with many other resources in general at U.Va., so that we can connect students to the relevant opportunities they seek,” Cha said.

Although Career Peer Educators help with the organization of the Career Center, their primary job is to be a tool for students to use in navigating through the job market.

The center also provides a networking system to connect students with alumni and employers.

“I think what the Career Center does really well is equipping students with the lifelong skills they need to be self-sufficient in their career development,” Cha said. “So these are skills such as writing tailored resumes, cover letters, professional email etiquette, interviewing and how to network, among other things. The Career Center also hosts a lot of networking events for students to meet both U.Va. alumni and other professionals in their desired fields, as well as opportunities to meet employers.”

A growing program

Participation from both employers interested in University graduates and students getting involved with the Career Center has grown substantially in the past few years.

The number of employers participating in the on-Grounds interviewing program went up 10.2 percent in the past year, with 378 employers interviewing on Grounds between fall 2015 and spring 2016, Everette Fortner, associate vice president of career and professional development, said.

The use of the center’s interview room increased 13.4 percent over last year, with a total of 1,664 interviews this past academic year.

Fortner also said Virginia Alumni Mentoring has become a major initiative for the center since fall 2015. Within that program, there was a 40 percent increase in alumni who registered, and a 5 percent increase with students who engaged in the program. Over 500 students met with alumni in the first full year of the program.

Advice on moving forward

Many rising fourth-years and other students may be wondering when the right time is to start planning for job searches and what resources they should use.

“[There are] three steps — make a list of target companies in which you are interested in working, research those companies on LinkedIn and find U.Va. alumni that work at those companies,” Fortner said in an email statement.

Fortner suggests students contact alumni at potential employers to learn more about their jobs and how received their roles, as well as to take any advice those alumni might have.

The Career Center also wants students to know what to do when they have finally obtained an interview.

“Talk to employers about your skills, not your major,” Fortner said. “Emphasize the transferable skills that you have developed in your classes and co-curricular activities. Take risks — if something comes along that is not exactly what you are targeting, consider what you will learn from it and go for it for the experience.”

Fortner said the University brand itself can also help graduates stay competitive.

“U.Va. is an extremely strong brand among many employers,” Fortner said. “Leverage that brand, especially among alumni.”

Graduating fourth-years are moving into the workforce and volunteering, and some are still looking for post-graduation opportunities. The Career Center will continue to offer services and resources to graduates for a short period of time.

“Career counselors can really help map out the action steps you need to take to reach your career goals,” Cha said. “Graduating fourth-years can still make appointments to speak with career counselors up until December 31, 2016, and will also have access to our new interface Handshake.”

Handshake is a new online career portal the University recently announced will replace CAVLink on June 15.

“Handshake is this really cool new platform that's algorithm based like Facebook to learn about your job interests and will recommend jobs based on what you've liked in the past, so I want to encourage fourth-years to take advantage of that resource while they can,” Cha said.

Cha said the Career Center wants to help all University students.

“The job and internship search, as well as the pursuit of finding a meaningful career, is a difficult process that can be emotionally taxing and confusing,” Cha said. “We want to help. Know that you are always welcome at the Career Center and that you can definitely and absolutely should come, even when you feel like you don't have it all figured out.”

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