Getting the job done

Sac State’s career expert says it’s never too early to think about what you want to be when you grow up

During your first days at college, your priorities might read as such: locate a cheap pizza place, avoid the demanding professor your cousin warned you about, and get a date with that hottie from your summer-orientation group. Deciding what you want to be when you grow up is something for junior or senior year—not even on the radar yet. But Marilyn Albert, director of the Career Center at California State University, Sacramento, can offer plenty of reasons why first-year students should add career planning to their to-do lists.

When should students visit the Career Center?
We encourage students to visit us during their first year. It’s silly to wait until senior year because there is so much we can do for students besides just helping them find jobs after they graduate.

What can you do for first-year students?
For one, we can help them pick a major. We help students match their interests and personality types with complementary areas of study. Students can use our Major Finder to determine their personality type and preferred work environment. Our entire library is set up according to this model, so it’s easy for students to build on the results of the major assessment. We also help first-year students understand the world of work and encourage them to start thinking about building a career versus just getting a job.

What’s the difference; aren’t a job and a career the same thing?
Oh, no. A career is a variety of experiences throughout your lifetime—such as paid jobs and unpaid volunteer service—that follow a theme that you create for yourself. A career is not simply a series of jobs, but something that grows with you as you pick up new experiences and skills. A career is not a destination, it’s a journey.

Can you help students find part-time jobs?
Absolutely. We work with lots of employers and often have hundreds of job listings at places like the State Capitol … and technology companies. All of the employers we work with are willing to work around students’ class schedules. We try to give students meaningful opportunities to do work related to their majors. It’s a great way for them to get hands-on experience while earning money.

What job-search resources does the Career Center have?
We subscribe to MonsterTrak, a subset of that is just for college students. We also have the Job Opportunity Board (JOB): It’s a database of jobs along the I-80 corridor that is only accessible to Sac State students. Last year we had more than one thousand jobs listed on JOB. We subscribe to dozens of newspapers and magazines that list jobs and students can also submit their résumé for the Fast Match program, a database that matches their skills and interests to available jobs.

Do these services cost anything?
No, they are all free to students and alumni. In fact, a lot of alumni come back after being on the job market for a year or so and say “I wish I had visited you sooner.” We provide a lot of valuable services.

What should a student do if he or she wants to visit the Career Center?
Just walk in! A career counselor is always on call and available to review résumés or just show students what the Career Center has to offer.

How can you help students who are about to graduate and look for a job?
We’ll help them write their résumés and conduct mock interviews to prepare for the real thing. We have the job-search tools I mentioned earlier, and we even have an etiquette dinner so students can practice being interviewed during lunch. A number of companies also do on-campus recruiting, so students can actually do an initial interview here on campus.

What are employers looking for in today’s graduates?
It’s going to sound cliché, but they want good communicators—people who can articulate ideas and know how to apply them. They want people who are responsible and who show initiative—the “self-starters” who come up with their own ideas instead of waiting for someone else to tell them what to do. They also want students who have practical experience. That’s why part-time jobs and internships are so important.

How do Sac State students rate according to employers?
Employers really like our students. Many of our students work while going to school, so they are responsible, hard working and take more initiative. We have employers calling us every day with jobs to fill.