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Governors State Career Director Interview: Start Researching Careers ASAP

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
June 9, 2009

The following is the transcript of an interview of Darcie Campos with Governors State University. Ms. Campos is their Director of Career Services.

Ms. Campos has her master's degree in College Student Affairs from Eastern Illinois University. She comes to Governors State with work experience from various universities and in the corporate sector, where she worked as a recruiter. While working in Higher Education, she has spent most of her time focused in the Student Affairs areas of Career Services and Admissions. Campos is committed to helping students explore their career and leadership potential through volunteerism, involvement, and career and leadership development. She works hard to foster relationships with students, alumni, faculty, and employers, to strengthen university ties and to develop new initiatives.

Governors State University is located less than an hour southwest of Chicago in University Park, Illinois. GSU is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and offers 50 degreed programs, beginning at the undergraduate junior level and continues through bachelors, masters and doctoral degree programs.

In the Career Services office, students will receive career guidance and advisement on all areas of career development. GSU'S Career Services office provides resume, cover letter and CV critiques, mock interviews, networking pointers, building a job search strategy, interviewing, and skills identification. In addition, they provide a variety of on campus programming ranging from the etiquette luncheon, career preparation week, and five to six career fairs each year.

Interview Transcript

CityTownInfo: What career advice would you give to someone entering college today?

Darcie Campos: One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to make sure that they research their career interests in advance. So many students enter college with an idea of what they want to do when they get out, and then they end up changing their minds and finding that they are spending a lot more money and time than they had expected. Students should be sure to research their choice ahead of time so they are sure they're entering the right program the first time around. This could include taking a skills identification assessment that will look at a student's interests, likes, and dislikes in order to help them have a better idea of what career path might be right for them.

There are many different websites to help students make sure they go into the right program - the Occupational Outlook Handbook is probably one of the best known guides for choosing a career, which people can find at any library and online also. The website is www.bls.gov/oco; it's a guide provided by the US Department of Labor, which gives information about careers, job duties, educational needs, and expected growth for the field.

I also encourage people to research which jobs are projecting the largest growth for the next ten years or so. I recommend taking a look at the top jobs to see if there is something they may want to consider. Right now with the way the economy is, people have concerns whether their desired field is going to be viable when they graduate. Career longevity is definitely worth researching.

The medical field is projected to have large growth - whether in medical assistance, as a home health aide, occupational therapist, or physical therapist - there is a lot of growth in those sectors of the health industry. However, I don't advise a student to go into nursing if they hate the sight of blood. Students should go into something that they know they are going to be successful in because they enjoy the work.

It's important that students prepare early, and take advantage of all the services the Career Services Office offers from the very start of their collegial experience. I would like to see students come into the career services office the very first time they are on campus, to make sure they are on the right path with their career development. We advise students early on about the importance of internships, of joining student organizations, and having some type of leadership experience on their resume.

Also, many students don't begin thinking about resume development until shortly before or after they graduate. We believe it is important for students to begin thinking about ways to develop their resumes while they are still students. What can they do while at GSU that will allow them to build a stellar resume while they are completing their coursework? We hope to answer some of these questions for students.

We want them to take advantage of all the services we offer. We really try to reach students and to provide some great opportunities for career development. So many times students don't think that a career advisement is something they need until they are ready to step foot out the door or are already gone. We want them to realize that career development is something they get while they are a student here, and need to continue to develop throughout their entire career.

CityTownInfo: Do you think that most students are resourceful enough to know to go online to look for helpful information?

Darcie Campos: With the prevalence of social networking sites like Twitter, Myspace and Facebook, students are much more likely to be more aware than they were before. While there is still some unpreparedness, students today are becoming more and more prepared early on, which is great. With the amount of technology that's out there today, helpful resources are easy to find. If a student is determined enough, wants a degree, and to become successful, there are so many resources out there and are able to be utilized early on - resources that are free or don't cost a lot. I also think it's important to have guidance counselors in high schools who really try to direct the students to research potential programs and take self-appraisal tests. It's important for admission professionals from universities who are recruiting on high school campuses to get the word out that it's important to research career options, and to encourage students to attend college visit days in advance.

CityTownInfo: Going back to your comment about skills identification and assessments, do you have any particular tests that are your favorites?

Darcie Campos: We use the Strong Interest Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Assessments, which both offer a lot of insightful information. We make decisions on which assessment to use on a case-by-case basis. Both tests are great because everything is administered online, so testing is user-friendly. For example, we'll have a brief counseling session with the students ahead of time and let them know what the Interest Inventory is going to gauge, that it is not a test and that there are no wrong or right answers. We basically let them know what to expect, and they can take the test anywhere they want to, on any computer. If it is more convenient for the student to take it at home, they can do so, and their results come to our office. Students don't see the results until they come back for a one-on-one counseling session with the career specialist or a career advisor. That way we make sure students are getting the right information to guide their decisions and that they are analyzing the assessment correctly.

I think the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is great if you want to host a workshop throughout the day and then have a roundtable with students in the afternoon. The test really explains the different personality types and the importance of being able to adjust to work with individuals who aren't quite like them. I think the Myers-Briggs is a great tool to administer to groups of people working directly together to promote team building and understanding. Students learning about their personality type will also learn a lot about which career path they will be most successful pursuing.

CityTownInfo: Say you have a student - an incoming freshman who hasn't chosen a major yet, and then you have someone who is just about to graduate, who has focused on a certain program. Do you think that their type would change if they took a Myers-Briggs analysis five years into their career once they've already gotten some experience under their belt?

Darcie Campos: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is most likely not going to change, because people are who they are. If a person is an introvert, that person is an introvert. If that person is an extrovert, s/he is an extrovert; the nice thing about the MBTI is that it can explain why a person might behave a certain way. It helps with self-discovery and helps people understand perhaps why they see things the way that they do, and why they work well with some and not with others. The Myers-Briggs can really tell a lot about an individual and their relationship with other people, which I think is neat.

However, if a person were going to take the Strong Interest Inventory, the results may change, because the test really takes a look at where a person thinks his/her strengths lie. So when an assessment reads develop, it might tell that person to develop that particular area because s/he has an interest, but not the skill set to pursue a related career yet. S/he might need coursework to really develop skills for that career path. The "development needed" areas are going to change if a student gets more schooling and if they get more real-world work experience. If they take a Strong Interest Inventory when they come in versus five years after they graduate, it's probably going to show pursue in different areas on a higher scale.

CityTownInfo: Do you ever encourage your students to put their MBTI personality type on their resume? I know that that's not going to make or break an employer's decision, but they may notice a personality type that they work particularly well with.

Darcie Campos: No, we haven't. Part of the reason is that not every employer is familiar with MBTI. And I would hate for the employer to make a snap judgment about a student based on type.

CityTownInfo: You had mentioned that the medical field is hot; are there any other particular programs or majors that look to have promising futures?

Related Article: Thinking of Becoming a Physical Therapist? Then consider this excerpt from a real-life Career Story written by a PT:

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is that I get to help people. There is also a lot of variety and you are not sitting behind a desk all day. Every 45 minutes a new person walks through the door with a different story and a different injury. The job stays interesting throughout the day.

The worst part of the job is dealing with the insurance companies. They are a pain to deal with and make it a challenge to provide the level of care that patients deserve.

Job Tips: 1. It is important to do some shadowing or get a volunteer job at a local physical therapy clinic so that you understand what the job consists of on a day to day basis.

2. It is also important to study hard in school and get good grades so that you can be accepted and excel in your area of specialty.

Additional Thoughts: Physical therapy is a very rewarding career. You help many people to return to their regular way of living without any pain or limitations. It takes a lot of hard work too though and requires a graduate degree from an accredited program.

Click here for a full list of CityTownInfo's "real life" career stories from practicing Physical Therapists.

Darcie Campos: In the health field, I would definitely say Occupational and Physical Therapy programs are hot. We never have to encourage employers to come on campus for career fairs for those positions, because those jobs are in high demand. In addition, our Speech Pathology Program also does really well, as well as Education with a specialty - whether it's special education, math, science, or a foreign language - those areas are often sought after.

I recommend if students are interested in going into the field of education that they really think about the area they're going into. It's going to be very, very competitive if they are going into PE or English, for example. However, if students focus on areas that schools have a difficult time filling, then they are going to have an easier time finding a position in a good school district.

CityTownInfo: Is your school making any program adjustments to deal with the current recession and if so, are the changes being made across the board, or are they more focused on specific areas?

Darcie Campos: I haven't noticed any major changes made due to the recession. The economy has affected everyone, and budgets are lot tighter than they used to be, so we have to now be more creative. In our office specifically, we know that we have to make our students even more marketable. We have to encourage them to partake in counseling sessions, workshops and the progressive work that our office is doing.

For example, we partnered with the Academic Resource Center recently to put on a career preparation week for our students. We did it in the open, so everyone would see us. There was one day during the week that was all MBTI, where students could come in and take the assessment, and get their test score right there. Students had the opportunity to sit down and go over their results and then participate later in the day in a roundtable discussion. Another day, we advised students on how to write an effective resume. We also had a day when we discussed social networking sites and the impact they have on employment. We spent a day teaching students how to stand out at an interview and how to really sell their skills. We offered multiple sessions to maximize our efforts to attract students. We also offered an etiquette luncheon, because we know that so many students today, especially those graduating with masters and doctoral degrees, are going to experience an interview luncheon or dinner. For the first half hour we focused on the dos and don'ts of business and social etiquette. We talked about how to dress appropriately for an interview and even had a small fashion show where students modeled appropriate interview attire. During the next hour and a half we served a sit down meal and I gave a tutorial on what the table settings mean, how to eat soup appropriately, and what interviewees need to know about dining etiquette.

We want to make sure that we are giving our students the best edge when they graduate, that they are creating a great professional image, and that they feel good about themselves. This is why we put together our "Meet the Challenge" workshop, where we focused on resumes, cover letters, job search strategies and successful interviewing. We even did a segment on self-esteem building and de-stressing. We want students to be confident, as it can often be scary going into the workforce for the first time or transitioning into another career later in life.

We have a very large nontraditional student population with many students who have already been working for many years before college. They may not be going further unless they go back to school and get a degree. A lot of them are first-generation college students, so it's especially scary for them. We want to make sure that we give them all the tools necessary to feel comfortable and to feel like they have a competitive edge when they leave.

We've really stepped up our programming in our office. Last year we held about 400 one-on-one in-office counseling sessions, and this year we had 771. I hired two graduate assistants from the master's counseling program to give student assessments for us. We served 1,610 total walk-ins over the course of the year. I think students here are recognizing the importance of getting into these office doors and really taking advantage of the services, which is great.

CityTownInfo: Is enrollment up also, because people are trying to prepare for the future?

Darcie Campos: It is; enrollment is up 8% from winter last year.

CityTownInfo: What kind of advice regarding negotiations do you recommend to students? Do you tell them to just take what they can get, due to the economy, or do you encourage them to ask for more so they have the peace of mind that they at least asked for additional salary, benefits, etc.?

Darcie Campos: Due to the state of the economy, many are just hopeful for employment at this time, with the hopes of getting their foot in the door of a great company and the knowledge that they can work towards what they want a little bit further down the road. However, if a student would like to negotiate, I recommend doing the appropriate research to see what a fair starting salary for the position is so they are equipped with the knowledge that they have done their research and are going in asking for what is fair. The employer can always say "no", and then the interviewee can determine whether or not they want to accept the offer that's on the table, continue to look for other negotiable areas, or simply another opportunity.

CityTownInfo: Have you ever heard of an employer rescinding an offer if an interviewee made exorbitant requests?

Darcie Campos: I tell students to be fair with what they ask for. We get a salary survey each year from the National Association of Colleges and Employers for a student to use as a resource so before counter-offering they know what is and isn't fair to request.

We provide counseling sessions on how to negotiate, as it can be very intimidating negotiating a job offer for the first time. When someone is entering the workforce for the first time, looking for a promotion, or in the middle of a career transition, they don't always know where to start. It is important for students to be able to set realistic expectations. We tell them the national average starting salary for someone entering their desired field with the same level of education, and then we determine if they will be able to live on that particular salary. I had a student I worked with in the past who went into a field that wasn't the field she wanted to go into because she knew her circumstance as a single mother required her to make a better living. Sometimes circumstances affect which program someone chooses, but my recommendation is to also go into something the student will be able to enjoy. Much of our lives are spent working.

CityTownInfo: Right, work is such a huge portion of your day that you had better like what you are doing.

Darcie Campos: Exactly. We spend much of our week working. So I definitely encourage students to be realistic, and pursue fields that are attainable and interesting to them.

CityTownInfo: For salary negotiations, do you recommend a salary survey book or do you have any websites that you suggest?

Darcie Campos: Salary.com is a website we recommend and we keep all of the NACE salary survey information in our office.

CityTownInfo: Other than salary research, what else can a student do to prepare to find a job?

Darcie Campos: I encourage students to evaluate their interests, values, and skills. If they have work experience, they should see how those skills could transfer. I also encourage students to start building a professional network early on. Networking is so important! It's not enough to simply send out resumes online. Rather, a job seeker should be networking and getting their name out there. Students can join professional organizations as a way to meet people working in their field of interest. I encourage students to volunteering and do internships, which will help them to be more competitive and may get an employers' attention.

CityTownInfo: What kind of online resources do you wish were available to help you with the student's career selection? For example, something you've heard requested from students or something that you specifically know would be useful from your experience and expertise?

Darcie Campos: We have a variety of resources currently in place that I think are good. We provide students with Vault.com, which is an online resource that's really a good component when researching employers. We have "What Can I Do with this Major" linked on our website, which is great as well. A lot of students think, I am going to go into criminal justice, so that means I can (only) be a police officer. They don't realize the extent of the areas they can go into with a degree in criminal justice. "What Can I Do with this Major" is an excellent resource because it also links students to professional associations, which I encourage all students to get involved in, because it helps them start building their professional network early on.

We have our e-recruiting database that we use to post all of our on and off campus jobs, and we have student employment opportunities listed through this site as well. We offer internships, part-time and full time job opportunities. Students can post their resumes and upload them to resume books to be seen by employers.

However, if I were to look for an additional resource, it'd be great if there were more job search sites out there that took some of the guess work out for applicants getting connected with viable opportunities. So many times I hear from students that some of the sites bombard them with opportunities that are not in line with what the applicant was searching for. It would be nice to have more job search sites geared towards specific programs or with a better matching system for candidates and employers.

CityTownInfo: I hear there are a lot of recruiters online who are just fishing around without a concrete opportunity.

Darcie Campos: This is true; often recruiters are looking to recruit for "potential" openings. We don't work with a large number of recruiters or 3rd party firms because of this. We want to make sure our students are applying for viable opportunities, or if they are working with a recruiter or staffing agency they are aware of the ways they often work. Students can then decide if they want to be considered for "potential" openings.

CityTownInfo: Another situation is that there are some actual positions out there, but a job just may be in limbo forever because of the way the economy is and how companies are trying to reduce headcounts.

Darcie Campos: I've seen the frustration with the time it's taking people to get placed. I tell students not to get frustrated and not to think because it's been three weeks that they are out of the running.

Interviewing takes a lot of patience. There are so many factors that are attributed to the long wait to fill a position. Often executives find that they have to jump through many hoops to get things signed off on before they can post a job or make a hiring decision. I advise students to wait two to three weeks post-interview and then if they are so inclined they can call the interviewer to check on the search status, but interviewees also need to be patient.

CityTownInfo: Also, maybe the position isn't the exact one that the student was looking for, but it could still be a really good opportunity and a good resume builder.

Darcie Campos: I have had that discussion with students, too. Often they'll want to turn down an interview because they think it's not related to what they want to do. I recommend taking the interview regardless, because at the very least, it's great practice. Interviewing is going to help students be more prepared for the position they really want. And the student just might find that they fit right into the company's culture and that the job might be a better fit than they first realized.

CityTownInfo: Also, because so many companies are running really lean and a lot of employees are wearing so many different hats some employees can kind of craft the position to fit their skills.

Darcie Campos: Exactly. I try to tell students to be open-minded when it comes to positions not fitting their ideals. A first job might not be exactly what they were looking for, but it might be a transition to something relevant to their path. Sometimes, it's just important to get a foot in the door of a good company that will allow someone to grow with the organization.

CityTownInfo: Do you have any career related books that you recommend to your students?

Darcie Campos: I would recommend the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which is also available online at www.bls.gov/oco for those interested in learning more about specific fields or occupations. It's also available at any library in a hardbound edition. In addition, What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles is a good resource, especially for those looking at a career transition. I'd also recommend a book called First in the Family by Kathleen Cushman, for those that are first generation college students.

CityTownInfo: Do you think that the stimulus package will have an impact on your student's ability to secure jobs?

Darcie Campos: My hopes are that the stimulus package will encourage confidence in the market place, which will prompt prospective employers to feel more secure about eventually hiring more staff. However, I think we are probably looking at 12 to 18 months before the stimulus really starts to come to fruition. Eventually it will help, but I think it's going to take some time, so we have to be patient.

CityTownInfo: What are some creative methods you suggest to your students so they can get their foot in the door at a company?

Darcie Campos: I encourage people to volunteer and even consider an unpaid internship, as a method not only to gain great experience, but also to get a foot in the door. Even conducting informational interviews can help, and I am happy to help arrange this for students if they want to learn more about a specific position or industry. Informational interviewing is another way to build onto your professional "network". If the interviewer is impressed with that student and the student comes across professionally and well educated, the interviewer may refer the student to someone else who is looking for that kind of employee in his or her field. Anything that could get a student looked at or seen in person is a great route to go.

CityTownInfo: What about like different social networking sites? I know you've mentioned LinkedIn a few times?

Darcie Campos: I would say LinkedIn is one of the best out there for professionals and I even know some people who use some of the sites that are more social, for business reasons. One of my friends is a recruiter for a computer consulting firm, and he places a lot of people throughout the year. He uses MySpace and even Facebook to find good fits for his positions. I tell students to look at their MySpace and Facebook pages as a professional extension of themselves and to be conscious of the type of information that they post. Don't put something out there that they wouldn't want an employer to see.

Also, if job seekers are creative and want to use one of these sites as a professional extension of themselves, they can mark their MySpace page as public and use it as an opportunity to blog about their career development or something similar. I know that sounds cheesy, but if an employer is going to be searching, which a lot of employers today are doing as another reference check, job seekers should put as much as they can out there to reflect a positive, professional image.

CityTownInfo: What are the most common errors you think students make during an interview?

Related Article: Job Seekers Looking For New Ways To Find Work

Maryann Haggerty of the Washington Post encourages first-time and inexperienced job seekers to put their passions and interests right in their resumes. And for those who don't have much in the way of experience, she recommends a time-honored strategy - volunteer in your field, and network, network, network.

An emerging method of standing out in a crowded job market is a familiar method that companies have used to sell products and services - a television advertisement. Seattleepi.com reports that job seekers in the Northeast can record 30-second commercials and put them on "The New England Job Show". The idea for the show came from personal experience; it was created by Ken Masson, an unemployed community banker. Another lay-off victim, Kristyn Sikl, formerly of Fidelity Investments, volunteered to direct. But it's not all amateurs who have gotten involved; the show's on-air host used to be a reporter for CNN.

Click here for the full article from CityTownInfo's Career and Education news section.

Darcie Campos: Probably the biggest one is not being prepared. When I say "prepared", it's not just about researching a company, but knowing who one is as person as well and what they have to offer the potential employer. They should also know why they want to work for that company, about the organization itself, and have some questions prepared. It's important to ask a couple of questions to show that there is a sincere interest in the position and that you've thought a lot about the opportunity.

I think if students or alumni are prepared in advance, they are going to find that they are a lot more comfortable during the interview. Sometimes a lack of preparation will cause students to flub up their questions. Students need to be prepared, put their best foot forward, and make a good first impression. I know this sounds like a cliche, but a firm handshake and knowing the correct pronunciation of interviewer's name is important. I always tell students and alumni to dig around for this information, but I am amazed by how many people don't.

Another mistake that students can make in an interview is to think too far in advance. They get ahead of themselves in trying to think about how to answer the next question that they get off-track sometimes. I think it's extremely important to pay attention to the here and now, and to give a concise answer. Students should practice interviewing so that they don't babble for 40 minutes about nothing. Instead, they need to give at least a good two-minute answer with sound information and examples of tasks the student has performed successfully in the past.

I recommend to students prepare responses. For example, they should recall times when they had to be leaders, or when they were put under pressure of time constraints. Being prepared with this information makes the interviewee look more confident. They are not struggling to come up with examples. I explain to students that so much of interviewing today is behavioral-based. Employers want to know about interviewee's past performance, because past performance can be seen as a predictor for future performance. It's also important to send a thank you note, although many people don't. The interviewer gave his or her time, so the interviewee needs to send a thank you note. It's the one thing that an interviewee can do that's not going to break the bank and it's going to set him or her apart from the competition. In the note, the interviewee can continue to make a positive impression by mentioning what s/he learned. Don't send a thank you that can be found on the internet. Put something in there that says "I was really impressed to learn this about your company," shows listening skills, and demonstrates that the interviewee took something away from the interview process.

CityTownInfo: The thank you can also say, "I was really excited to learn about your company and I offer these skills which are the same ones you are looking for."

Darcie Campos: Exactly. Trying to get students to think past the interview is important, because there are still steps that need to be taken after an interviewee walks out that door when the interview is over.

CityTownInfo: What do you think about a hard copy versus an e-thank you?

Darcie Campos: If you know that the employer is making a quick decision, I have no problem with an e-thank you. Simply because a lot of times people might be in a crunch to make a decision, and receiving that e-thank you is better than receiving nothing. If the company is making a decision within 24 to 48 hours, and the interviewee knows that the thank you letter isn't going to get there in time, s/he should send an e-thank you and then follow it up with a hard copy thank you in the mail.


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