Moving from the classroom to the workplace and a career can be overwhelming. When it comes to positioning students for a successful job search, Ivy Tech Community College Northwest's Office of Career Services provides a full range of services to students, alumni and community employers.
When it comes to figuring out what to do, how to get there and all the steps in between, Ivy Tech Career Services has developed a multitude of resources - career exploration and assessment, majors fair, job search workshops, job postings, resume critiques, interviewing practice, networking opportunities and more under the watchful eye of Regional Director Chandra L. Gary over the last nine years.
“I’ve spent my entire professional career in this area, trying to help others discover what it is they like to do and how they can make a career out of that,” she said. “There’s a big difference between a career and a job. When you enter the workplace and start doing the same thing for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and 50 weeks in a year, you should be using your gifts and talents and enjoy it.”
Last month, the Indiana Career and Technical Education Awards for Excellence informed Ivy Tech’s Vice Chancellor of Student Services R. Keith Howard that they were chosen as this year’s award recipient in the guidance/career services category.
“The Dean of our Nursing School Gail Smith-Estes actually nominated them. Here’s an example of our faculty acknowledging a really good program that helps not only nursing students but all our students. She thought our Career Services met all the criteria for the award and wanted to recognize them for their efforts. Since I oversee the department, all I did was sign the paperwork,” he said. “It’s a very competitive process so I was very pleased to learn about the award. Anytime your colleagues get recognized for their work it’s gratifying.”
For Gary, who started out studying robotics because she liked Star Wars, the path to her career wasn’t defined until she pursued organizational management at Calumet College several years later.
“When I was younger, I knew I wanted to go to college, but I was always too embarrassed to say that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” Gary explained. “I can identify with the students here when they say they want to be a crime scene investigator because they like watching CSI, or they want to pursue something in the theater because they enjoy Glee.”
Whether addressing the needs of a recent high school graduate or an adult returning to school, Career Services strives to connect with students as early as possible once they enroll at Ivy Tech.
“Either way I know from experience that it’s never too early – we promote career and college readiness to local elementary, middle and high school students - or too late to take action. Like many of our nontraditional students, I was working while going to school part time. It took me 10 years, so I lived it, I was that student,” she said. “That’s why our program really focuses on promoting awareness. We’re not like other Student Services that require interaction – most students meet with someone from admissions, financial aid, the registrar’s office and academic advising when they enroll at Ivy Tech. So we have to reach out to them and the faculty, making it as easy as possible for everyone to utilize our services.”
Starting with the message that Career Services is much more than a department for students nearing graduation, Gary’s approach to finding a job, changing careers and becoming more marketable through education centers around, “Meet Them Where They Are – Direct Them Where They Want To Go.”
“We partner with faculty to schedule class time so we can introduce students to the Career Services Department as early as possible,” Gary explained. “We also plan innovative workshops like our recent “Dancing at the Ivy” which combined ballroom dance instruction with valuable job search information. I’m especially proud of JobZone, our electronic job search assistance program that provides students the convenience of uploading their personal documents and applying for posted job opportunities anytime and anywhere by simply logging into a computer. We can also critique resumes and conduct practice interviews online for students who find it easier than stopping by our office – or in some cases, less intimidating than doing it face-to-face.”
From researching careers and employers to gaining relevant work experience that builds the skills and attributes employers seek, Career Services helps students stay informed about the job market for new college graduates.
“It all starts with asking questions and exploring options,” Gary said. “We’re here to help students research those options and test out different paths. As they are making decision and plotting their direction, they have access to all the tools necessary for searching, interviewing and accepting a job on the path to a career they will love.”