Finding a job in this economy can be particularly challenging. To make it easier, the Career Center at California State University, Dominguez Hills has improved on the general job fair by creating targeted events for those looking for specific careers. Recently the Career Center hosted two such events, one in education and the other focused on the “green” (environmentally conscious) sector.
For graduating seniors looking to start their teaching careers, the education job fair held on April 20 was an opportunity to meet with more than 30 recruiters from school districts, charter schools, and organizations that hire tutors, child care personnel, and professionals that provide supplemental education such as before and after school programs.
Miguel Zuniga, a senior majoring in kinesiology with a teacher option, attended the education job fair with the hopes of finding a single-subject secondary (high-school) position close to home and to CSU Dominguez Hills. He did some homework before attending the job fair by checking the Career Center’s website to see what recruiters were participating. He identified five recruiters he felt may be seeking high school physical education (P.E.) teachers in the geographic area in which he wants to work. However, the fair confirmed his thoughts that there isn’t a demand for P.E. teachers. He discovered that recruiters were mainly looking for candidates with credentials in science, math and special education. But that wasn’t all bad news; it helped Zuniga to rethink his job plan, which will give him more options. He said he’ll go back to the drawing board and try to get into the science credential program or prepare to take the California Subject Examinations for Teachers® exam, so that he can teach science.
“If that’s what they want, then that’s what we’ll give them,” Zuniga said, adding that he went to school to become a P.E. teacher, so he hopes to be able to teach in that area at some point, in addition to teaching science.
Zuniga seems to be on the right track. Carol Bosman-Anderson, interim director of the Career Center, said it’s all about qualifications. Students with higher degrees and more certifications will get more attention. She added that recent college graduates are in the best possible position to find a job as the economy recovers. They are more marketable than someone who has been laid off mid-career, and are certainly more marketable than students with only a high school diploma, who are twice as likely to be unemployed.
But job seekers need to take initiative and follow through on first steps. Bosman-Anderson said the fair is an opportunity for students to develop their skills in talking to employers about their qualifications and following up on those conversations.
With plans to do just that, three classroom friends came to the fair together. Seniors Megan Sawelson, Aly Leavitt, and Jenny Kim came in hopes of finding a position in the Los Angeles area teaching multiple-subject in elementary school. They talked to recruiters about their qualifications and collected business cards. They plan to follow up with emails, thank you letters, and phone calls, to remind recruiters and hiring managers about their special skills.
“You need to stand out. Think of all the emails and resumes they get,” said Kim.
Although applications for most any job these days is done through an online process, the fair provides an opportunity for students to connect with recruiters.
“That’s what is happening at a job fair. Your personality is coming through. You’re making a connection with that recruiter,” said Bosman-Anderson.
Vicki Johnson, Career Center counselor and organizer of the education job fair added, “Students need to be persistent and visit the Career center. We give them a lot of tools to help them find a new job in their field.”
For students still investigating what career possibilities a field of study holds, a job fair may be further out in the game plan. An earlier stage may be one of exploration, in which students learn from working professionals about salary ranges, what skills, degrees and certifications are needed, a picture of daily work life, possible career paths, as well as recommendations for getting into a field.
For students considering a career in a green field, such as one that helps to produce clean energy, encourage recycling, or save the environment, the Career Center presented a panel discussion on green jobs on April 25, led by Bosman-Anderson and featuring four experts in different industries.
The four panelists said above salary, they found their work in a green organization to be rewarding. Mike Schaadt, the director and a marine biologist at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, said he found a job where he could live out his life-long passion and goal of going to the beach every day. He urged job seekers to follow their passion and interests. Cesar Encarnacion, the chief engineer at Myako Hybrid Hotel, said he has always enjoyed figuring out ways to make things work better and that’s what he does at the hotel—he finds ways to make the hotel operate more efficiently. He suggested that students get as much of an education as they can, even if they aren’t sure about what direction they will go for a career, because it all helps in the end.
Originally a waitress and aspiring rock star in 2001, Elise Goldman, a water efficiency specialist at West Basin Municipal Water District, said “green” wasn’t part of the vernacular then, but she kept an open mind and a career path opened up that ultimately led her to where she is now. She recommended that students keep an open mind when taking internships because they can open unexpected doors that lead to fulfilling work.
Some of the perks of working for a green organization can also be unexpected. David Pettit, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said after working in private practice for many years he happened to be trying a few cases involving the NRDC when a job opening became available there. He was interested in working for the organization, plus he could avoid cross-town traffic and ride his bike to the office, which is closer to his home.
Bosman-Anderson suggested the next step for students exploring green jobs and industries would be to do research about organizations that align with their personal interests.
Through workshops and printed materials available at the Career Center and tutorials on their website, students can access information on what to expect from job fairs, as well as what they should expect to do to maximize results.
For more information, visit the Career Center website or call (310) 243-3625.