By Jill Randolph
May 20, 2010
The following is an interview transcript with Dr. Mary Feduccia, Director of Louisiana State University's Career Services. Dr. Feduccia is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor. She holds an undergraduate degree in Education, a master's degree in Counseling, and a Ph.D. degree in Vocational Education with an emphasis in Career Leadership and Workforce Development. She has been involved in secondary and higher education levels for the past 30 years.
LSU Career Decision Making counselors help students with decisions about majors, career paths and graduate and professional school. One-on-one appointments, online career assessments, a Career Information Center, and a host of Web resources are utilized to assist students gain work experience, learn lifelong job search skills, and connect with employers. The twice-annual LSU Career Expo attracts hundreds of recruiters and the Career Services' on-campus interviewing program conducts more than 5,000 interviews each year. Plans are underway for a state-of-the-art career center which is targeted to open in 2012.
The 650 acre main campus of LSU, a co-ed university established in 1860, sits on the banks of the Mississippi River. LSU has more than 1,000 full-time staff and nearly 30,000 students. The official LSU team, the Fighting Tigers, started playing football in 1893 and is the only team to win two BCS National Championships. Alumni include basketball players Pete Maravich and Shaquille O'Neal, and Democratic Party campaign manager Donna Brazil.
Jill Randolph: What is the one area of the job search process that students struggle with the most?
Mary Feduccia: Networking is the most important aspect of the job-search process, and most students don't really understand or respect this fact. Introverted people struggle more with face-to-face networking, as many students and young people may not feel comfortable selling their skills, as they need to. Introverted or not, students need to work on building their network as early in their lives as possible, because in the future, their network may help them more than anything else.
Also, once a candidate is invited to interview, it is important that they remember to send a 'thank you' note to their interviewer, as this is really appreciated and noticed. If references are asked for, it is also important that the student has asked his or her contacts for permission to use their names before they are listed as a reference.
Jill Randolph: What advice do you give to students regarding networking?
Mary Feduccia: I encourage students to attend networking workshops whenever they are offered at their school. Students often don't realize how many valuable connections they can make with opportunities like these.
Second-degree connections can also be very valuable and if students can understand how to find and leverage these contacts, they usually have more success in their job search process. LSU students can also join the Tiger network through the Career Services office. Through this network, students can reach out to LSU alumni and find many professional connections.
As the old adage says, "it's not what you know, it's who you know". This is true, but students still have to understand that they get and keep their job on their own merit, not only because of their connections.
Jill Randolph: What advice do you give to students who are about to graduate and are still not sure which career path they want to pursue?
Mary Feduccia: The key to avoiding this problem is starting early. By their freshman or sophomore year in college, students should begin assessing the careers for which they are well suited, with personal research, interest surveys and or a personality test. This includes visiting the career center and using the resources we offer, and also by pursing part-time jobs, internships, co-ops, or volunteer opportunities.
However, if students chose to wait until the last minute to begin this process, they should use the same tactics and approach. The key is for them to visit the career services offices, and we can help the students, wherever they are on their path.
Students who use the career center at their schools are much more successful in the job search process. Additionally, 20 percent of LSU students also go on to graduate or professional school. Our Career Services center can help students make their decision and apply to their program of interest.
Jill Randolph: How have LSU or universities in general changed from the past?
Mary Feduccia: LSU has changed dramatically with the increased importance and availability of technology today. This is true for most other colleges and universities as well, as we all have so much knowledge available at our fingertips and the ability to access information almost instantly.
Jill Randolph: What does your office or LSU as a whole do to make its students aware of the services available to them at the career center?
Mary Feduccia: At Freshman and Parent Orientations, we give a presentation introducing all of our available career services. We have individual counselors who work with students of specific colleges about the options available to them. We also offer special programs and opportunities to international students, disabled students, and student athletes.
On LSU's career website, we operate a section called "Careers2Geaux," which is designed to make students aware of the career events, workshops, and other services we offer at the career center. We also have one staff member whose job is dedicated to communicating this information to students through Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging, and blogging.
Jill Randolph: Which career-related books or websites do you recommend to your students?
Mary Feduccia: First and foremost, we recommend that our students take advantage of the various resources we have available here at the career center, including books and free access to online services.
We want students to start identifying career opportunities as early as possible, therefore we recommend O*Net and the Occupational Outlook Handbook as great research tools. Most of these resources help students learn more about job descriptions, projected growth rates and starting salaries for the careers they are considering.
On our website, we have a "Wet Paint" section, which allows students to see all the possible job opportunities for the fields in which they are interested. We also have access to Indeed.com. All of these free services are available to all alumni as well.
Jill Randolph: There are currently many unemployed people applying for jobs, including those for which they may be overqualified. What do you recommend that students highlight about themselves in order to outshine their competition?
Mary Feduccia: If students research the companies to which they are applying before they submit their resume, they will find it much easier to sell their talents throughout the interview process. The more students know about an organization, the position, and the needs of the position, the better understanding they will have about how their skills will fit in with that organization, and in turn, how they can help the organization succeed.
Students can use the organization's needs to help sell their skills, both in their resume and during the interview. Selling one's skills includes highlighting strengths and any attributes that may potentially be considered valuable by the organization or for the particular position.
Jill Randolph: What do you recommend to students about maintaining a work-life balance once they start working full-time?
Mary Feduccia: I recommend that they investigate the culture of an organization before they apply, or at least before they accept a job. The more they know about an organization and the people who for work it, the better idea they will have about the work-life balance they will have once they start working there.
Many employers today are now offering flexible hours and telecommunicating options. A work-life balance is important, and employees should make it a high priority to try to find an organization that offers a good balance. Employees today also need to work smarter and maximize their efficiency and help create their own work-life balance.
Researching an organization and determining one's fluctuating work-life balance are only a couple of the skills that our Career Services team teaches our students and alumni. Students need to take advantage of the multitude of resources we offer to help them on their path, so that they can be successful as possible in their career.