By CityTownInfo Staff
August 21, 2009
The following is the transcript of an interview with John Scanlan, Assistant Career Director for Cleveland State University. Mr. Scanlan has over 22 years of experience in the career services field and has formerly served as Career Coordinator for the university. He holds a Master's degree in Counseling from Cleveland State University as well as a Master's in Political Science from the University of Illinois.
CSU's career services center is a centralized office and has several satellite offices scattered throughout the Colleges of Business, Urban Affairs and Engineering. The Career Services offices serve all students and alumni regardless of major. The staff consists of eleven career coordinators, two assistant directors, a director and several support staff and graduate students. They offer insightful resume critiques, career development advising and mock interviews. Their career fairs are the largest in the state, drawing several hundred employers each year.
CSU is an urban community school with more than 15,000 students. They have strong graduate programs in many areas including the College of Urban Affairs, which ranks second in the nation.
CityTownInfo: Do you have any career related books or websites that you recommend to your students?
John Scanlan: One book I wrote, "Careers in Action", is used as the textbook for our career development class. Last night someone actually left me a message saying he talked to me several years ago and that my book really helped him. Then he told me he is back in the job market and he had some questions for me, so good old-fashioned books can be very helpful sometimes, depending upon student needs. For self-assessment I recommend, "What Color is Your Parachute" by Richard Bolles. For people in the midst of a career change who are trying to explain their skills on resumes, I recommend "The Resume Catalogue" by Yana Parker.
As far as websites go, like any college career advisor I'd hope students use their own career services center's website. We have filled our site with all kinds of useful information, including our workshop schedule, sample resumes, cover letters and advice about different topics like relocation and salary negotiation. Any college will have a website like that, so I hope that would be a student's first step. I want my students to use our registration system at Cleveland State also. We use the Experience.com system to store our student resumes and post jobs, so that's an important website for our students to check out early on.
CareerBuilder and About.com are some additional websites I like and recommend to students. Monster and CareerBuilder are also good sites to register with and post resumes on. Indeed.com has also recently become more popular as more people have learned about it.
The problem one can get into with websites is that there are so many of them, people can spend entirely too much time on their computer instead of with face-to-face networking. I tell students to think of their job search is in terms of people, paper and pixels, where "people" equals the networking aspect of the search, "paper" is the resume and cover letter, and "pixels" refer to time spent in front of a computer. Pixels should only account for about 10 to 20 percent of the job search. Too often it's 50 to 60 percent of the process because people are scared to get out and meet people and go to networking events. Introverted people are going to have to force themselves to do this however, because meeting as many people as possible and networking at professional associations is the best way to find a job.
In Cleveland, we are very fortunate to have a strong chamber of commerce. It's called the Greater Cleveland Partnership and it has many, many subgroups. They have networking meetings and educational events going on all the time. Those same resources are available in most cities and towns.
CityTownInfo: Is the Career Services Center's advice on Cleveland State's website available to the public?
John Scanlan: Yes it is. The site (www.csuohio.edu/offices/career) is where our career office's advice, resume examples, and more can be found.
CityTownInfo: Do you offer any community outreach programs?
John Scanlan: Yes, it is $55 for a non-alum or non-student to use our services. There is a fee for alumni, but it is waived for alumni who do not currently have a job. We just want them to remember us later down the line when they get a job. The website's information of course is free though.
CityTownInfo: What career advice do you give to someone entering college today?
John Scanlan: Even though a student may be pressured by their parents, spouse or family member to choose a practical major right away, it is okay for the student to take some time to figure out what they are truly passionate about. I tell students to do well in their introductory classes, which mostly just requires showing up to class. I also advise students to take a career development course if it's offered at their school, even if they think they don't need it. I also think it is important for them to try an internship, co-op or anything they think could turn into a career and test it out. The best thing that could happen is that a student finds his or her niche, and the worst thing is he or she discovers what does not fit his or her idea of fun in the future.
CityTownInfo: What differences do you see from students today versus in years past?
John Scanlan: I talked to a student the other day who told me he had decided he would become an engineer if he didn't work out as a nurse. I am not sure it is very different from students in years past, but it's an indication students feel they have more choices and may in fact possess more career indecisiveness since there are more options for them. I have seen more students who are concerned about majors likely to lead to immediate employment, and of course to jobs where they can make money. This can at least partly be pinned on the recession. It can be problematic, however, because some students are ill suited for careers like engineering for example, but may pursue those paths just for the money or job security. A student may feel like they have to go into a particular field so they can earn the most money, but they would be better off with a choice that matches their personality.
CityTownInfo: What are some suggestions you make to students to help them stand out from other job applicants?
John Scanlan: First of all, I recommend they present themselves professionally. It may not be cool to wear a sport coat or a suit coat with a shirt and tie or a skirt and blouse with a jacket, but students should do it anyway. We want students to think about how they are being perceived by an interviewer who is probably older than they are and has different values than they do. Also, employers need people they can count on, so we tell students to convince the interviewer they will show up on time, learn the company's way of doing things and be the solution the company is seeking.
I recommend students spend time with their career advisor to review their resume and cover letter and make them both perfect, because it is absolutely essential to look good on paper. The next thing I recommend is to stay in touch with people; a college career advisor should be part of the students' networks also. Too often we see students come in for a quick shot of help and then never return, so we advise students to visit the career services office more frequently, especially if they feel stuck.
Finally, I recommend mock interviews, even several if needed. We tell students that if they are going to be on stage, they need to rehearse, and that's what practice interviews are for. We even recommend they have the mock interviews videotaped so they can see for themselves how well are they coming across. We don't want anyone to ever wing an interview. Students wouldn't walk into an exam without studying, so they shouldn't blow an interview by not rehearsing.
CityTownInfo: That preparation involves researching the companies and their business perspectives?
John Scanlan: Yes.
CityTownInfo: Does Cleveland State accept two plus two programs?
John Scanlan: Yes, we do. We have articulation agreements with the three major community colleges in our area. We just finished a big project with the largest Community College in the county including a job fair which was partnered with a local TV station. I learned from Cuyahoga Community College that there is a lot of interest in certificate programs now because people think it will be a quick fix towards a new job.
CityTownInfo: Is the recession having an impact on student enrollment? Do you think enrollment is down because of a lack of income, up because people know the job market is much more competitive so they are returning to school to earn a higher degree, or up because students are staying in school longer because so few jobs are available?
John Scanlan: According to our survey of recent graduates, more people are planning to continue onto graduate school. Some fields, including education and social work, require a master's degree, but in general, graduate school as a hedge against not finding a job is not necessarily a good idea. Many employers prefer a few years experience between a bachelor's and a master's degree anyway, especially in the business area. As far as student enrollment goes, applications are up and admissions are up, so we expect enrollment to increase as well, but we won't have exact figures until school starts in August. As far as why enrollment is up, we are seeing more people who never earned a bachelor's degree coming back to finish, but it's hard to say what the exact reasons may be.
CityTownInfo: Can you share any data on the placement rate for graduates from your school?
John Scanlan: Based on the preliminary results of surveys from our graduates and of the employers, 50 percent of graduates from December 2008 and May 2009 have secured positions, which is better than the national average right now.
CityTownInfo: Is Cleveland having the same recessionary problems Detroit and other midwestern cities are experiencing?
John Scanlan: Oh, absolutely. At a traditional fall or spring career fair, we normally have about 200 employers. This year it fell off to about 150. Some people who had originally registered back in December of 2008 for the February 2009 fair cancelled because their situation had changed. They said they would not be hiring and they did not plan to attend. For our government career fair, however, we had a few more employers than last year. We had 44 agencies represented, so they are definitely in a hiring mode.
CityTownInfo: Do you think most people stay in the area or do most people just go where the jobs are?
John Scanlan: About 85 percent of our graduates stay here. That may have changed in the past year or so, but Cleveland is a big family town and students are reluctant to leave their families. We have about 700 international students who of course are more open to relocation, so it's possible they may look out of the Cleveland area. A lot of people like Cleveland and that's where most want to stay.