Students shouldn't wait until they get here to take advantage of their school's career services program.
Students shouldn't wait until they get here to take advantage of their school's career services program.

DURANGO, CO - With unemployment still above 7.5 percent it can be a challenge for college graduates to get a start on their career path after school. To help their students, today’s college career services programs must offer more than “a slightly gloomy place with 3x5 index cards posted on the wall listing bad job openings…” So says Suzanne Lucas in her CBS Money Watch article “The best place for college students to find a job.”

Spurred by state budget cuts and driven by a desire to offer students more personalized tools to stand out from the crowd, the FLC Career Services Office was revamped in 2011. The office went from a centralized program to a decentralized one with Career Services coordinators focusing on each of FLC’s three schools: Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; Natural and Behavioral Sciences; and Business Administration, as well as the Teacher Education program.

“The decentralization has allowed Career Services to have a physical presence in each of the schools,” says FLC Career Services Coordinator Pat Dommer, who works with the School of Business Administration and Teacher Education. “This has created more exposure of the offices and services, and more opportunities for students to get assistance.”

“I think the benefit is that each of us has a degree and experience in one of the majors that our schools have to offer so we have a story to share with students,” adds Jill Kolodzne, coordinator for the School of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (AAHS). “I think AHSS faculty feel like they have someone who can relate to their students and research AHSS specific information better than before when it was just a generalized office.”

In addition to the individual coordinators offering more specialized assistance, the FLC Career Services program is continuing to adapt and expand to meet the needs of its students. Acting as a clearinghouse for job openings is still important, Ms. Lucas says in her CBS Money Watch article. That’s especially true for majors like accounting and engineering, where grads have received specialized training in their classes for their specific careers (both programs at FLC enjoy high employee placement success and high salaries, with over 90 percent of engineering grads getting hired straight out of school).

Yet a liberal arts education, with its mission to create a well-rounded graduate with a diversified education, means that career services programs need to go beyond being just a place for students to search job opportunities.

“At a high-achieving liberal arts college, most students are capable of doing just about everything,” says Ms. Lucas. “Therefore, career centers at these places tend to focus on aiding students figure out what they want and then helping them gain relevant experience.”

To help students gain that insight and experience, the FLC Career Services program offers the more traditional assistance, such as career fairs, interviewing and resume workshops, and networking opportunities. In addition, the program holds events that go beyond the nuts and bolts of job hunting, like the Etiquette Dinner where students learn how to have a lunch or dinner meeting with a potential employer, the boss, or a client. There are also presentations that each coordinator makes in the classrooms of their respective schools to give students more personalized guidance and focus as they move through the many options a liberal arts education offers.

Technology is playing a bigger role in the job search as well. The FLC Career Services program is looking to more and more online resources to plug their students into the employment world. The Candid Career app, for example, on the Career Services website offers interviews and advice from thousands of professionals in a wide variety of fields. Students can even use College equipment for Skype job interviews.

Internships are one of the best ways for students to start on the path to a great career and one of the most important things a career services program can offer. To enhance the College’s internship program, FLC Career Services and the Durango Chamber of Commerce are collaborating on an effort to better connect students with employers offering internships, even assisting employers wishing to start an internship. The chance to do an internship gives students the opportunity to fully experience a particular job without making the commitment of a full-time employee. This kind of insight can either solidify a student’s interest in a career path or serve as a heads up that they should pursue something else. “After all,” says Ms. Lucas, “a three-month internship looks good on a resume, while a three-month stint at a regular job makes you look unreliable.”

A college degree is a key step toward getting a job, but landing that perfect career requires skills, connections and experience beyond the major. That’s where a good career services program comes in and the revamped FLC Career Services program is ready and willing to offer its help, all a student needs to do is take advantage of it.

Ms. Lucas offers sage advice in the last lines of her article when she says, “So perhaps the next step on any college student's career path should be an appointment with the campus career center. They may be able to help in more ways than one.”

Visit the Fort Lewis College Career Services website for more information on how the program helps students, faculty, staff and the community.