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A guide to getting real-world employment

Are you one of those people who knows exactly what they want to do in life? If so, you’ve probably been going to job fairs and frequenting the Career Center since you were a freshman. You took the time to research your likes and dislikes, submit well-written resumes to a handful of your favorite companies, and practiced interviewing techniques until you were blue in the face. You’re already signed up for post-graduation employment, and are just waiting for your diploma to move on to the real world.

If you’re like the rest of us, however, you probably don’t know exactly what job you’d like to pursue after graduation. The “real world” seems awfully big and scary, and you don’t want to work at McDonald’s your whole life. If this describes you, the Career Center can help you get back on track and avoid all those greasy fries.

The Career Center is located on the fourth floor of the University Services building, and offers a wealth of career-related services to PSU students and alumni. Resume writing, job searches, mock interviews, workshops and recruiting information are just a few of the ways the Career Center can help students narrow down their job search and find employment they’ll be happy with. The key is starting sooner rather than later – you may be pressed for time now, but it’s not too late to find a job!


Step one: Identify strengths and weaknesses

The first step in finding a job is determining your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. You can do this either by meeting with a career counselor one-on-one or by taking one of the several personality assessments the Career Center offers. Individual counseling is available free to current PSU students.

One of the more popular tests is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a “personality assessment instrument,” according to their Web site, which helps identify a student’s strengths, skills, values and preferred working environments. MBTI workshops are held regularly and include not only administration of the test but also interpretation of its results. The next workshops are June 14, 21 and 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. – for more information or to register, contact the Career Center.

Step two: Find your calling

The next step in finding employment is matching your strengths with a career field. The personality tests will narrow down which type of job would be the best for you – now find out which of those you’d be interested in. You may be predisposed to working in the waste management field, but will you like it?

The Career Center Web site, www.career.pdx.edu, has a list of Career Center and Internet resources organized by major, degree or certificate and purports to answer the question “What can I do with a major in … ” A quick glance at the page for math majors reveals a list of books specifically for math majors and then liberal arts majors in general, vocational biographies, professional associations, Internet sites and a link to the PSU math department. Students can also go to a career counselor to help them narrow down an occupation.

Step three: Do your research

Once you’ve found a field you like, locate all the companies you think you’d like to work for. Again, a career counselor can help you, or a quick search on the Internet for, say, “forest products companies.” Find out all you can about prospective employers before signing on for the rest of your life – you may find that Acme Incorporated exploits children in Third World countries, or that all employees must wear ridiculous uniforms on alternate Tuesdays.

Look at listings from past job fairs the Career Center has offered, you may find a company you never thought of. Although no job fairs are scheduled in the near future, two were held this year and both included numerous not-so-common employers, including CyberCamps, Mittleman Jewish Community Center and the Wheat Marketing Center. Click on the “Career Fairs” link on the Career Center Web site.

Having a strong background about a prospective employer also helps make a good impression in the interview (see step five). One of the biggest complaints from employers is that students come into an interview knowing nothing about their company except that they make “cool shoes.”


Step four: Write your resume

OK, so you’ve decided that the IRS is the place for you – how do you notify them that you’re predisposed to handling large amounts of money? Send them your resume. You say you don’t have one? Never fear, the Career Center is here.

The Career Center offers several options for clueless resume writers. Their Web site offers tips for writing resumes and job search correspondence, including cover letters and interview thank-yous. Career counselors can offer assistance in filling out job applications, preparing and critiquing resumes. However, the best introduction for novice job searchers may be a resume preparation workshop.

Resume preparation workshops are held regularly through the Career Center and instruct students on the basics of resume writing, duplicating resumes and producing scannable or electronic resumes. Cover letters are also included. All workshops are free to current PSU students. The next one will be held June 27 from 2 to 3 p.m. – to register contact the Career Center.

Step five: Prepare for the interview

You’re almost there. You sent in a picture-perfect resume, and ABC Inc. was so impressed they want you to come in for an interview. But are you ready? It’s not just a matter of showering the morning of and knowing your social security number – you’ve got to seal the deal in the interview. A stunning resume may get you in the door, but a stunning interview will keep you there.

Several options for interview novices are available through the Career Center.”Introduction to Interviewing” and “Effective Interviewing” workshops are held regularly, and mock interviews can be done with career counselors.

“Introduction to Interviewing” gives students tips on preparing for interviews, what to expect and frequently asked questions in the interview. The “Effective Interviewing” workshop expands on the first to give students techniques to improve interviewing skills and an opportunity to practice those skills in taped mock interviews. Both workshops will be offered in late June – contact the Career Center for more information or to register.

Mock interviews are also an excellent idea for timid or unsure students. Once a student has gone through both workshops, a career counselor acts as an interviewer and videotapes a practice interview with the student.

Post-interview critique will reveal strong and weak points, and offer areas for the student to work on. There is a $10 charge for current PSU students.

Step six (optional): Go to work

This step actually isn’t optional. You spent all that time finding a company and preparing for interviews, and the first day is not a good time to be late.

Congratulate yourself if you find out that the job you picked is a perfect fit, and come back and thank the Career Center. However, if you find that your employer is still not the best despite all your hard work, all is not lost. All the job search services listed above are also available for PSU alumni for a small fee. And if you decide soon enough, the Career Center should still have you on file.

The Career Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information on all job search-related matters, contact the Career Center at (503) 725-4613, www.career.pdx.edu or e-mail them at [email protected]