Explore Your Future with the Career Development Center
On most days, Kathleen Grant and the advisors of the UC Career Development Center work in a comfortable, air-conditioned office suite on the ground floor of University Pavilion. But when asked how her organization supports students, the director of the CDC points to a photo of her team standing outside, smiling but sweaty in hard hats under a sweltering summer sun. “Do you know what U-Pull-&-Pay is?” she asks.
The picture comes from the CDC’s site visit to the David J. Joseph Company, the Cincinnati-based scrap metal recycling firm behind the used auto parts chain. Grant explains that despite U-Pull-&-Pay’s junkyard looks, its inventory requires highly skilled management. “The folks that they hire on entry-level to work in their databases are making $50,000 a year,” she says. This kind of insider knowledge helps Grant and the CDC connect students with surprising opportunities for their careers after graduation.
Career development is all about discovery, whether that means finding unusual companies on the job search or identifying unexpected skills to include on a résumé. The CDC’s resources guide students through a full journey of exploration. Knowing oneself, knowing the career field, matching oneself in the career field, and the actual job search: mastering these four steps of career development, Grant says, “teaches students to fish” for positions throughout their lives.
What Works for You
For that first step of self-knowledge, the CDC offers a number of assessments to help pinpoint individual interests and goals. Personal advising directs students to reflect on their skills and see how the abilities they’ve developed can transfer between roles. Many graduate students are stepping out of academia for the first time when they begin a job search, making transferrable skills particularly important. A teaching assistant, for example, might identity time management and communication as key skills when thinking about classroom management. Those talents would be just as valuable when applying for a corporate position in human resources.
UC students can get a quick overview of their career fields through the CDC’s HireUC website. Over 8,500 companies are listed, in a range of fields that runs from accounting to waste management, and can be sorted by industry, location and type. But Grant reminds students not to overlook print resources in their career search: the CDC gets the Cincinnati Business Courier, an important place to find companies that prefer to recruit in a more old-fashioned way. Her team is also constantly expanding the CDC’s relationships with employers through career fairs and networking events.
The next step of career development winnows down the field to specific employer characteristics. Grant emphasizes that companies can offer wildly varied experiences for the same job title. She compares two Cincinnati logistics companies, TQL and Bridge Logistics, both of which broker sales for transporting freight. TQL, the better-known of the pair, employs over 3,200 people and runs on a “work hard, play hard” mentality. By comparison, Bridge Logistic has about 30 employees and a company culture that emphasizes work-life balance. “They actually to do a pretest to check if someone is really suited to do this. They want you to come and stay,” she explains.
Once students find their perfect fit, the CDC helps them develop the perfect application. The center provides practice interviews, résumé critiques and cover letter evaluations that polish job seekers and their materials. Different circumstances call for different documents, as Grant herself well knows. “I have a CV that’s six pages long, with all my presentations and publications,” she says, “but I also have three functional résumés.” In an academic setting, the thorough listing of a CV helps a search committee choose among a smaller pool of well-qualified candidates. In the time-stressed corporate world, a long CV is overwhelming. A shorter résumé highlights a candidate’s specific value to score an interview.
No matter the size, however, keywords are a constant. “If you look at some of the big companies, there’s a big old computer behind the scenes that’s looking and scanning your résumé. It’s not a person,” Grant says. The CDC trains students to analyze a company’s communication for its most important phrases and terms, then use that language in describing their own skills. Even small variations in wording can be crucial to keep a résumé from falling through the cracks. As a colorful example, she says, “You may be using the language of your major, and you may say purple. But if the company says lavender, they’re not going to pick that up.”
A Job for a Career
All of these complications make searching for jobs practically a full-time job of its own. Grant, only half-jokingly, says that “every time I work with a student or alum, they end up with homework.” But the CDC is ready to guide students on the journey. When the payoff is a career that’s more than a job, the work is worth the reward.
Written by Daniel Walton, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate School