By Anna Toth
Wearing a business suit and carrying a briefcase with his resumes, Cleveland State University student Jory Barcelona walked into the Fall 2017 Career Fair on Oct. 6 with hopes of finding a job or internship related to his engineering major.
Instead, Barcelona spent a lot of time talking to employers who weren’t looking for engineering students or who weren’t in the engineering field at all. He had a hard time finding employers who were relevant to his desired career path and industry.
“It’s hard to tell just by their name what industry the company is in.” Barcelona said.
The Fall 2017 Career Fair, hosted at the Wolstein Center on Oct. 6, offered students direct access with 140 employers. But with so many employers offering everything from internships to part-time employment in sales, some students had trouble finding the right opportunity for them.
“I think that if the fair was better organized, maybe by industries, that would make it easier,” Barcelona said.
Part of the problem with organizing the employers by industries is that many employers were looking to fill multiple positions within their company that overlapped with many industries. Skylight Financial Group was looking for financial planners and administrative assistants, while the Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield Park was looking to fill a multitude of positions, from servers to audit clerks.
With so many employers looking for a variety of things, it’s hard for a student to find and make that perfect connection. This is especially the case when very few employers at the fair catered specifically to certain majors within the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS), such as Film and Digital Media, Journalism and Promotional Communication, and Political Science.
“We have a good breadth of employers, but we don’t have focused outreach,” Jessica Colombi, executive director of Career Services said.
The lack of focused outreach is why students like Barcelona can feel lost in a sea of employers at the larger Career Fair. That’s why, as newly appointed Executive Director of Career Services, Colombi is dedicated to making sure that students have a life line when searching for jobs.
That’s why Career Services is hosting Careers with Social Impact Day, or CSI Day for short. The event is taking place on Thursday, Nov. 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature 50 employers instead of the 140 at the Career Fair.
The more focused fair is sponsored by CLASS, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs and the College of Sciences and Health Professions.
“It’s sponsored by those colleges because those are our highest need students, and our highest need students in terms of needing to know that their majors apply more broadly,” Colombi said.
She explained that if students are an engineering or pre-med major, they were probably going to get a job in those fields.
“But if you’re a health sciences major, if you’re getting a literature degree, you could go anywhere,” Colombi said.
CSI Day is just one of the new ways that Career Services is trying broaden how it helps the students here at Cleveland State. It’s modeled by their Meet the Accountants night, a special night for accounting students to meet financial groups around the Cleveland area.
While Colombi is excited about the events and wants to look into hosting similar focused events for other majors depending on demand, she’s less interested in the events and more interested in the other aspects of Career Services.
“We are not in the student event business, we’re in the student development business,” Colombi said.
In order to put student development first, Cleveland State’s Career Services Center is being restructured to meet increasingly tough expectations and standards. Part of this is making sure the Career Services Center has the resources and funds they need to adequately help students. This year, it meant adding a $48 charge to students’ tuitions.
The university made the decision to charge students a Career Services fee for a few reasons. The first was to make up for state budget cuts to the university.
The second was to raise the profile of Career Services, with the reasoning that if students saw it on their accounts, they’d be more inclined to use the service.
The third was to make sure that Career Services got the funds that they needed to operate efficiently.
“Those dollars support our operating budget,” Colombi said. She went on to explain that there was a little bit left over, and she has created several different pitches for the use of it. They include getting a faculty fellow for Career Services, continue paying the student workers and maybe updating the Hire a Vike website.
“It’s not like we’re buying new office furniture,” Colombi said, in regards to the money from the tuition charge. “It is going to the Career Services and is acting as operating dollars.”
This wasn’t the only major financial decision made in regards to Career Services this year. While the university made the decision to tack on the Career Services fee to students’ tuition bills, Colombi made the decision to let Cleveland State alumni use the university’s Career Services without charging them – a change from previous years when alumni were charged an odd sum of thirty dollars a year to use the university’s Career Services.
“We take appointments with alumni just like we take appointments with any other student,” Colombi said, explaining the reason she took the charge to alumni students away.
Colombi considers the $48 charge to current students’ accounts an investment in their future and their ability to use Career Services in the future, especially since it all goes into operating costs and restructuring Career Services from top to bottom.
“Career Services are in the hot seat right now,” Colombi said. “Universities’ ratings are increasingly based on employment outcomes.”
Colombi explained that, before this year, there were no records of how many students came and went from the Career Service Center, and even less for how many students found it helpful.
In addition, the actual way that employees helped students didn’t change either. Part of this might be because Career Services has operated under many different departments.
“Career Services has served under three different vice presidents since 2013,” Colombi said, “It was under enrollment, then it was under university engagement and now it’s under student affairs.”
While Colombi was just appointed Executive Director of Career Services earlier this year, she has served as interim director twice before. She hopes to reorganize the department and get it running on solid ground to meet the new standards.
In order to meet these new standards, Colombi would like to shift focus from big events like the Career Fair to smaller workshops like the Resume Rx and Mock Interview Days, both of which were designed to help students and give them a taste of what it was like to interact with professionals in a workplace environment.
There are also other services that students can get from Career Services on any given day, such as career advising, professional presence coaching and resume review.
Colombi is also making sure that Career Services forms partnerships within the university to make sure that all students know and are utilizing career services, and they graduate knowing how to go out there and get that ideal job.
“We’re really trying to build relationships with faculty, department chairs and deans to support the students,” Colombi said. “I feel very confident in saying that this team has the needs of our students written large in our minds every day. That’s why we’re here.”