Q&A with Patricia Carretta, Director of University Career Services

Posted: April 15, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Editor’s note: This weekly question-and-answer column with George Mason administrators appears every Thursday in the Daily Gazette.

By Daniel Walsch

Pat Carretta
Patricia Carretta
Photo by Neil Adams

With the end of the semester and graduation rapidly approaching, this must be a very busy time of year for Career Services.

Yes. The students who have postponed planning and taking steps to do their job search are now starting to feel some of the anxiety that comes with putting things off. We are seeing an influx of students who are just getting started with their job searches. We are also continuing to see students who have been active but are facing a challenging economy and a competitive job market. They’re coming back to us to review what they’ve been doing. Also, our schedules are very full from talking with student groups and even going to classes to speak.

Our office utilizes the services of PatriotJobWeb, a system that allows students to complete their profiles, upload their resume, and access posted job listings. To give you an idea of how busy things are, this past December we had about 1,400 students register with PatriotJobWeb. That total doubled from December 2002.

Do you still have people who have graduated come back for your office’s assistance?

We encourage students to use our services even after they’ve graduated. Up to six months after graduation, there is no fee for our services, which include counseling time, assistance with job search preparation, and providing help in the updating of resumes. Last year, 11 percent of people who came to us for individual assistance were George Mason alums; 34 percent were seniors; 19 percent were juniors; 15 percent were graduate students; and 18 percent were freshmen and sophomores.

What is the Office of Career Services’ basic mission?

We have three primary constituencies. The first, of course, is students. With them, our mission is to involve them in the assessment of their career interests and job skills and to engage them in career exploration. We are really committed to experiential learning and arranging for students to gain experience in the workplace, particularly if it applies to their own career and academic interests. This helps them gain more occupational knowledge and learn more about themselves. Then there is the job search itself. We help them gain access to job leads and to prospective employers. So, from the students’ perspective, we work to help them find out what their goals are and then to come up with a job search plan of action before they graduate.

The faculty is another important constituency for us. In 2003, we spoke to nearly 400 classes. That’s over 9,000 students. The university’s faculty has been extremely supportive in allowing us to enter their classes to either let their students know about our services or to actually discuss job searching strategies with them. Right now, we are looking to build on the collaboration that we have developed with the faculty. Finally, the third constituency is the business community. We work very hard at identifying ways to involve them in programs and services at George Mason that they may view as being of interest to them. Employers recruit differently now. More and more employers try to drive candidates to their corporate web sites. Yes, some continue to use more traditional recruitment strategies, but technology is now playing a major role in how corporations target and recruit prospective employees.

How is the Career Services office organized?

Most members of our staff are career counselors. Each of our counselors is responsible for working closely with a specific set of academic units and for delivering a full range of services to their students. The counselors share information on employment trends and ensure that we share common goals regarding the preparation of students for the workplace. For example, we have counselors working closely with students from the School of Information Technology and Engineering and with the College of Visual and Performing Arts. It is the challenge of the counselors to become experts in what kind of career internships and full-time jobs are available to students in those areas and to help those students develop strategies, as well as locate resources, for identifying possible jobs. Our work with the academic departments is an ongoing collaboration.

Overall, we have nine professional staff members, part-time and full-time. Then there is a joint appointment we have with the School of Management. This is probably one of our very best collaborations. This person works with us to help ensure the programs we offer are meeting the needs of the management students.

What kind of contacts and relationships does your office have with the business community?

We have a team of people who are engaged in that kind of outreach. Last year we created a new position in our office–assistant director of employee relations–who is charged with developing a strategic plan for cultivating stronger relations with the corporate community. Once the finishing touches have been made on this plan, it will be formally launched later this year. I look at George Mason’s Development Office and see how that staff works on raising funds. Our mission is to raise jobs; look for ways to better connect with employers in the area; engage employers in programs here at the university; and create ways in which employers can meet with our students in a meaningful way. This is a challenge, of course, because the job market has declined.

Still, we’ve been getting a good deal of constructive feedback from employers in the region. We want to showcase our academic departments and create opportunities for employers to visit campus and meet with deans and faculty.

Does your office, then, have overriding goals for the next academic year?

We are now in the process of developing goals that are measurable and realistic. Thus far, our year has been successful despite the fact the number of employers who are looking to hire college students has declined. Employers are being very careful about coming back and hiring. We’re doing all we can to bring those employers back to campus. For students, it’s no longer enough to just have a good resume. A good strategy is essential. This past year our office had about 4,000 individual appointments, so, from our end, there remains a large interest. I’m very excited about the prospect of bringing together members of the corporate community with key members of our own campus community to further explore ways that we can make our partnerships even stronger. The students and the region will be the ultimate beneficiaries.

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