Departments work to prepare students for careers

Departments work to prepare students for careers

Dec. 6, 2013

Diana Goldwire and Todd Prater have one goal – they want students to succeed.

Goldwire is Director of the Career Development Center, and Prater heads up the SOURCE (Student Opportunity, Undergraduate Resources and Community Engagement) Center. They work together to help students discover their passions, and then prepare them for meaningful careers.

Prater is excited about how well the partnership is working.

“We are in the same location now (first floor of Smith Hall),” he said. “We can complete the cycle of helping our students all in one place.”

For example, students may visit the SOURCE Center to talk about choosing a major.

“We have various assessment tests they can take that will help identify interests and skills,” Prater said. “And once a future career is chosen, I can send them next door to Diana to talk about internships and other opportunities that will help them find jobs.”

Another tool for both groups is mentoring.

“It is so important for our students to see and meet alumni who are willing to serve as mentors,” Prater said. “Last spring, we hosted a luncheon for students and mentors that featured a really nice panel discussion with young alumni. Because it was so informal, the students were able to relax and get more out of it.”

Goldwire said it has been rewarding to see alumni return to serve as mentors.

“It’s important to get these people back on campus,” she said. “They are so impressed to see all the resources we have available now that maybe weren’t here when they were enrolled.”

And it’s good for the students, as well.

“They have the opportunity to see and meet alumni who come back, people who are committed to this place long after graduation,” Prater said. “It’s a way for them to know that this is home, this is a place where you can return and where you can contribute.”

Mentoring also can be vital in a job search, Goldwire said.

“These are alums who have successful careers, and they are invaluable sources for networking,” she said.

For example, she had a senior accounting major and golfer who was hoping for a dream internship.

“He really wanted to work for a golf place,” she said. “I know an alum who works for a golf club. I contacted him and asked if he had any openings. He got the student an interview, and the accounting person took him on. I’m not sure that would have happened if not for networking.”

Many students don’t realize the importance of internships.

“We recently had a human resources person on campus to talk about the application process,” Goldwire said. “She pretty much told the students, ‘If you are graduating with just a degree, you are not going to get a job.’ A degree is so important, but an internship or work experience is just as important. The two together is the way to get a job.”

Preparing for graduate school is another focus of both offices.

The SOURCE Center and Career Center have many resources to assist applicants, including practice tests and help with interview skills.

“Some students don’t know there will be an interview involved,” he said. “It’s entirely different from what they are used to.”

And when it comes to a job search, many employers are using situational and behavioral interviewing, Goldwire said.

“You aren’t just asked what your strengths and weaknesses are, you’re asked how to resolve conflict or how to deal with a policy you don’t like.”

Prater agreed.

“Some companies even have group interviews where they will sit you down with other applicants and give you a quick scenario. They want to know how well you work in a pressure situation with a team you don’t know or how you get along with others. It is so competitive out there right now, and we want our students to be prepared.”

Goldwire said a good relationship with the state Department of Labor and staffing companies has been a blessing.

“They are very good about making sure we are communicating the correct information to our students,” she said. “And they are active participants on our job board. Just today, we have more than 1,220 employers who are using our job board, and we have 325 jobs listed.”

Although today’s job market is incredibly competitive, Goldwire and Prater are confident LaGrange graduates will be prepared.

“But it’s not going to be handed to you,“ Goldwire cautioned. “You have to work for it, and we are here to help you.”

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