With spring just around the corner, Penn State students are preparing for career fair season. Spring Career Days, held at the Bryce Jordan Center, will be held on Feb. 5 and Feb. 6 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. However, the process in which they develop career-oriented goals differs between each of Penn State’s colleges.
Ashley Rippey has been working with the Smeal College of Business since 2014. She currently serves as managing director of the Business Career Center.
“I oversee a staff that purely works with undergraduate business students,” Rippey said. “We try to assure that students are prepared for the workforce and that there are jobs waiting for them on the other side.”
Rippey works with students roughly 10 to 12 hours a week.
A key role Rippey plays in student career development is helping with resumes, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles. She also often discusses interviewing skills and salary upgrades.
“We hear all the time from recruiters that our students are well-prepared,” Rippey said. “Recruiters continually come back and hire because they are so satisfied overall.”
However, Rippey stressed the importance of early career preparation. The college encourages students to engage with the Career Center as early as freshman year.
“It’s not too early to do resume reviews or internship applications,” Rippey said. “A lot of students don’t know that, or it’s scary for them so they push it off.”
According to Rippey, every Penn State college was servicing their own career management system last year. Employer relationships and job postings were isolated from each other. However, this year the university moved to Nittany Lion Careers— which gives every student access to all jobs.
Smeal also offers events targeted to business students specifically.
“We host a career fair in the fall called ‘#MegaFair,’” Rippey said. “Of course, we host business-targeted professional development events to the tune of about 30 a semester.”
Along with the wide variety of events, the college hosts a one-credit career course known as BA 297. This course reviews career preparation and strategies.
Rippey also mentioned that students are often faced with a lot of distractions— like football games, THON and other student organizations.
“It’s really easy to just put the blinders on and lose sight of the big picture,” she said. “So, I think utilizing Career Services no matter what college you’re in is my best piece of advice.”
Bob Martin has been the assistant dean for internships and careers at the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications for 19 years.
“Our goal is to bring student’s dreams and ideas to fruition,” Martin said. “Then, they can transition right into a post-grad internship or entry-level job. I’m most proud of the initiatives we have created for our college and students throughout the years.”
Martin said the college has a multitude of opportunities for student career preparation.
“I often sit down with students and go over a variety of different internship leads and create strategies on how to approach them,” Martin said.
The Bellisario College of Communications also has mock interview sessions, etiquette dinners, and cover letter and resume workshops.
Although many students utilize these personal meetings, the most popular events are three communication-specific internship and career fairs.
This past November marked the first ever Comm Careers in the Capital event, which took place in Washington, D.C.
“This event really got off the ground quickly,” Martin said. “We had 33 companies involved and it was really a fantastic start to a new event.”
Another well-known event is the Job Expo, which celebrates its 20th anniversary on March 15 in the HUB-Robeson Center. Martin said he expects to see about 70 to 75 companies, 200 recruiters and over 500 students in attendance.
“We try to develop opportunities so when the rubber hits the road, students can easily get an internship or job,” Martin said.
Success in the City is the third communications specific event set to take place on Feb. 22 at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, New York.
The college travels six busloads of students to New York, while another 150 students travel on their own. Last year, the event hosted 79 companies, 225 recruiters and 450 students in total.
“Between those three career communications specific events, we know we are going to have upwards of 180 companies recruiting Bellisario students,” Martin said. “Frankly, I don’t think there’s another college in the world that does that.”
Susan Knell serves as the director of the Liberal Arts Career Enrichment Network— an office created specifically to support liberal arts students as they intern, study abroad, research and participate in career-building activities. Knell has worked at Penn State for 24 years total in both the Eberly College of Science and the College of Liberal Arts.
“I love being able to help students as they explore their career options and prepare themselves for their post-graduate lives,” Knell said.
Liberal arts students have a variety of resources available to assist them with career exploration and development such as the Liberal Arts Career Enrichment Network, Career Services in Bank of America Building and academic advisor meetings.
In addition, all liberal arts program students have accounts in the new university-wide career service management system, Nittany Lion Careers.
“From those accounts, they can schedule one-on-one meetings with career coaches, upload resume drafts to get feedback via email, see upcoming events— both campus-wide and specifically for liberal arts majors— and search for internship and job opportunities,” Knell said.
Knell said one program that is “particularly beneficial” for liberal arts students is the Alumni Mentor Program. This program connects students with alumni in similar career fields.
“Many liberal arts students select their majors because they are passionate about or interested in that particular topic or discipline,” Knell said. “Since they have a wide range of career options open to them, connecting with a mentor can really help in identifying their specific path and the steps that they need to take to make a successful transition to the professional working world.”
The College of Liberal Arts also hosts a larger event, Fall Career Days, which provides opportunities to student looking to work in private or government sectors.
“Tapping into the available campus resources can help them in making those connections and identifying a future career direction,” Knell said. “Testing the waters as a student and determining where they want to land after graduation will help to make that transition a smoother one.”