Steve Jobs once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do."
While a college education provides the foundation for learning the ins and outs of your dream job, knowing how to get your foot in the door is equally important. Fortunately, Pittsburgh area colleges and universities provide ample resources to prepare students for creating outstanding resumes, networking and making the best impressions in job interviews.
Career Counseling Right from the Start
The Professional Development Center at Westminster College provides a robust and wide range of services to students and alumni. Throughout the academic year, programming related to networking, resumes and cover letters, LinkedIn, internships and gainful employment is available.
“The fall season kicks off with the Professional Networking Symposium—a networking event for students and alumni—that is fully supported by the institution,” said Jen Hough, assistant director, Professional Development Center at Westminster College. “Classes are cancelled so that all students are able to attend the panel sessions as well as the career and networking fair.”
Westminster also provides individual career counseling sessions and appointments throughout the year. “Additionally, a section of the first-year program (Westminster 101) is devoted to career planning and services,” added Hough.
During the first semester on campus at Seton Hill, students complete a self-assessment to confirm their choice of major or narrow their choices of majors if they are undecided. “Students then construct their college-level resumes and become acquainted with our career management system for locating internships and job opportunities,” said Renee Starek, director of the Seton Hill University Career and Professional Development Center. “Students learn about career possibilities in their individual majors and are required to complete at least one internship or experiential learning opportunity.”
Chatham University begins the education journey with a mentorship program for first-year students and first-year transfer students. “Students can apply to the program, and they are matched with an alum or professional in the community for their first year,” explained Leslie Somerset Talley, associate director, Office of Career Development. “Mentors provide support around navigating their first year and their career goals while also participating in campus events such as an annual etiquette dinner.”
Meeting Industry Leaders
Networking opens doors in all walks of life and is especially important for career development. “To help students meet employers before they apply for positions, we offer two virtual job fairs for Seton Hill students as well as numerous regional opportunities to network and find employment,” said Starek. “In addition, the Office of Alumni Relations has developed a Career Connectors program, which connects Seton Hill alumni in a variety of industries with current students. The alumni mentors help answer questions our current students have on a variety of topics related to working in their particular industry or company.”
“At Westminster, many programs offered throughout the year rely upon the expertise of industry leaders and their participating in campus events as well as the amazing participation of Westminster alumni—a group that is very giving with a focus of student success,” said Hough.
Seton Hill concentrates its efforts to include the competencies that the National Association of Colleges and Employers has identified to be the requisite skills most sought after in new graduates. The focus areas include career and self-development, communication, critical thinking, equity and inclusion, leadership, professionalism, teamwork, and technology. “By incorporating these core competencies into our academics and programming, we are preparing our students for lifelong career management success,” explained Starek.
One of the key ways that Chatham prepares students for finding work after college is through the university's internship program. A partnership between Academic Affairs and the Career Development Office helps students learn how to apply what they are learning in the classroom in a real-world setting.
“All undergraduate students are required to complete at least a three-credit internship in order to graduate,” explained Talley. “Internships are completed at a site related to the students major and/or career goals. The internship gives students an opportunity to have real-world experience to add to their resumes, build and articulate important competencies, and expand their professional network in their field.”
What About Today’s Job Market?
According to Talley, the job market looks hopeful for students preparing to graduate over the next few months. “The NACE Job Outlook report for 2022 shows that companies are planning to hire 26.6 percent more college graduates for students graduating in the Class of 2022 compared to last year’s class,” she explained.
Hough believes the pandemic brought more options for students including remote job opportunities. “The method of obtaining those experiences and opportunities relies heavily on the motivation and persistence of the seeker,” she explained. “It is a relationship that needs to be cultivated between the students, staff of Westchester’s Professional Development Center, employers and alumni.”
Talley also noted, “While it is exciting to see the job seeker market that is to come, it is still important to recognize that employers are being selective and that job seekers will need to present their best selves on their resumes and in their interviews. Employers are most interested in seeing skills such as problem solving and teamwork on candidate resumes.”
The tools offered by these schools and others will no doubt give students an edge. Now, go do that “great work” Steve Jobs talked about.