Career Services: Here for More than Just Seniors

By Kenneth Glidden, Head Culture Writer

Career Services, located in Clark 103, has a multitude of services available. To most students, it seems like something one would start to visit in junior or senior year when the concept of starting your career after college begins to sink in. After having a wonderful conversation with the director of Career Services, Jennifer Pickerell, I am here to tell you about all they have to offer and how, even as a freshman, you can gain great resources and knowledge by visiting Career Services.

Image provided by Jennifer Pickerell

When asked to give a brief rundown of what Career Services offered, Jennifer dove right in with a service they offer to Bearcats that haven’t even started their classes yet. She stated, “They can take our online career assessments, as can any registered McKendree student or any alum. We have two online, one is Focus and the other is called True Talent….What we then like to do is go through the assessments with the students or alums because we know it doesn’t give you the answer but just helps us start the conversation.” 

This is a useful tool for any Bearcat that many may not know about. If you are unsure of the major you would like to pursue, or you’ve decided on a major but aren’t sure what to do with it career-wise, you can take one of these assessments and then meet with Career Services so that they can help point you in the direction that works best for you. Though some services are just for first years, or just for seniors, this is a great example of the services they provide for any Bearcat.

Jennifer also said, “Most of our services we really try to drive home the fact that anybody can use them. So it can be anything from cover letter assistance, resumes, references pages. It could be for a part-time job, an internship or a full-time position.” She also mentioned that Career Services has a lot of drop-in days in Piper Academic Center (PAC) saying, “Students can just stop by and just ask us questions. It can be about job search, majors, anything like that, but really we’re just trying to get out there and let people know we are here.” Not only do those that work for Career Services help students themselves, but they also host a lot of labs, events and more to help students boost their career preparedness as well as increase networking opportunities and experience in work-related scenarios such as interviews.

“We also do career labs. We try to do them once a month. So what that is, if you are wanting to really work on a resume, cover letter, linked in profile or something like that, you can come anytime during the lab…and if you have questions, we’re there and you can ask us.” Jennifer mentioned, not only will they help you with these things during the labs but they also offer help online if you contact them. She then went on to talk about the various events that Career Services hosts for McKendree. “The career fair is one of them we host every February. In addition, we co-host several career fairs with SIUE (Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville) and three other partner schools. That way all of you get a chance to attend several throughout the year.” I was unaware that there were various career fairs available for our student body to attend, but I do know how helpful McKendree’s career fair is to its student body.

I interviewed various students on why they attended the career fair and how it was able to help them gain knowledge and appreciation for career development. When asked how these students found out about the career fair, almost all said they were told about it in class. Some also mentioned the email blasts regarding the fair which is a great way to spread the word about an event on campus. I then asked what their intentions were when they went to the fair. 

Senior student Taras said, “My intent was to find a job. But I also wanted some feedback from the recruiters about my presentation and resume.” Sophomore Noah mentioned, “I was kind of just going to scope out the local firms and network. I have a couple interviews lined up too, if I want to stay out in St. Louis.” The beauty of the career fair is that you get professional experience and feedback from real employers without the stress and pressure of an actual job interview. As Noah mentioned, he was able to even score some interviews without even having to leave campus. 

Most students, when answering this question, mentioned networking. With up to 65 different guests invited to attend (though less in recent years due to COVID-19, among other factors) the career fair is a great way to practice your networking skills in a low-pressure environment. Taras also said this when I spoke with him, “I learned that meeting just one recruiter in person is much more effective than applying to 10 jobs online. Talking to a recruiter about my projects and working experience made them more interested in me than just having it written in a resume.” This is beyond true. There is only so much a company can gather from a resume and cover letter, so when given an opportunity to network with people and companies in person it can help in so many ways. 

Ethan, another senior here at McKendree, and his friend Caleb said this when I asked him and his friend Caleb what they learned at the career fair, “Talking to people is a lot easier than it sounds, especially companies.” Junior Caleb added, “They kind of do all the talking.” To which Ethan replied, “It’s more of them giving out information and you asking any questions you want to know about the company.” So, to anyone that may have missed the career fair this year, don’t be afraid to check it out next year!

Moving on from the career fair, Career Services offers many more fairs, clinics and labs for McKendree students. For instance, Jennifer told me about an upcoming event called the Dining Etiquette Seminar. It will be conducted on April 5th and here is how Jennifer describes it, “We’re bringing in a professional etiquette speaker. She will talk about everything from dining etiquette, just professional etiquette in general. We’re gonna do a networking exercise… She’s gonna talk about what exactly is business casual and you will enjoy a four-course meal while you are learning this stuff.” 

So, if you like good food and want to increase your knowledge base on etiquette, email Career Services about it soon (the Career Services email is provided at the end of the article)! There is also a career conference that will be making its comeback from a Covid cancellation in the spring of 2023 where there will be guest speakers who talk about a variety of things career-related. This includes financial areas such as negotiating, pitches and understanding budgets as well as topics like life after McKendree, first year on the job, networking and job searching. This conference will also have small group networking sessions and mock interviews. 

If you aren’t able to make it to the career conference for some reason, you’re not out of luck! Career Services also offers a 1-credit class periodically under the UNI prefix called, Careers: The Job Search and Beyond, which covers all the topics mentioned in the Career Conference. 

Career Services also offers mock interviews for those that reach out to them needing help with interview preparedness. If you want something tangible to help you with your career building, you can ask Career Services for their Career Planning Guide. This guide will be your go-to for examples of good resumes, cover letters and much more. Jennifer said, “It’s 60+ pages of just, all kinds of information about the job search. Sample resumes, tips and tricks on how to write one. References pages, cover letters, LinkedIn, networking, thank you letters, resignation letters. We tried to pack everything in there that a student might have questions on. We have one overall, one for graduate school and one for education students.”

Jennifer then went on to speak about a resource they have called Handshake, saying, “We also have Handshake, online job systems. We are really trying to let students know about that. We purposely went with them because they are nationwide, so no matter where you live you can look for positions and internships all across the country and then we handle all the information there as well as our internship program.” 

Handshake is a recruiting platform for college students and college graduates. Much like other job search sites, you have the opportunity to set up a profile and look into different companies to apply for jobs or internships. What’s great about Handshake though, is that when you upload a resume or cover letter to apply for a job, Career Services will look over your resume or cover letter and give you feedback on how to improve them. The internship program is also available for students here at McKendree (unfortunately excluding education and nursing majors) which offers 3-8 upper-level credit hours as well as real-world experience.

At the end of my interviews with my fellow students, I asked if there was anything they wish McKendree offered that was career-related. I tend to ask these kinds of questions because it is the first-hand experience and creativity of the student body that helps push schools to become their best versions. Sometimes our ideas can be a bit far-fetched, but as Kanye West put it best, “Shoot for the stars and if you fall you’ll land on a cloud”. 

Taras had an amazing idea that would get students to want to put their nose to the grindstone and get good grades. This was his idea: “I wish McKendree offered guaranteed internships for students whose grades are above average. This will push students to study harder, and acclaim those who already do.” Noah had this great idea, “I think the class Finance 306 (Consumer Finance) should be a gen-ed requirement and teach you how to apply for jobs on LinkedIn and find companies to apply for specifically…” This is a fantastic idea because most majors that aren’t business-related, don’t have to take classes where you learn how to do things like that, even though it would be helpful in any career field. 

Lastly, Senior Charlie said this, “I wish that McKendree offered more internship opportunities out of college. However, I feel like McKendree has lots of resources, but it’s up to the individual to seek those out.” I completely agree with this, especially as a student who came in halfway through the school year in my freshman year. I missed a lot since I was unable to attend New Student Orientation (NSO). I learned a good bit of knowledge from UNI-101, but I have learned the most about what the school has to offer just by perusing the school’s website and looking for what McKendree has to offer. 

To finish things off, I asked Jennifer if there was anything she wanted to voice to the student body and this was her response: “Don’t wait! Don’t wait until your senior year, especially since we are a small school. Take advantage of that and get to know us better. So I can make sure that if I talk to students and I think they could be a good fit [for a job/internship] I can be like ‘Hey! Don’t forget to look at Handshake, this is on there.’ Come in early, come in often, definitely do an internship if you can. Take advantage of all those things so that you may be more confident when you graduate…. Give yourself time to explore, and don’t feel like you have to know every single aspect of your life.” 

If you need any sort of career-related assistance, something as simple as resume review, to a professional outfit for an interview and even internship opportunities give Career Services a shout! Their email is careerservices@mckendree.edu and they are open in Clark 103 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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