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College Job Offices Graduate to Career Centers

September 05, 1986|URSULA VILS | Times Staff Writer

The old-fashioned college job office has found itself new work.

No longer is it exclusively an employment agency. Today's campus job office, now likely to be called a "career center," is an educational hub committed to arming students with knowledge about themselves, their skills and the workaday world--probably a rapidly changing one--they will face throughout their employed lifetime.

So the job office has gone into the teaching business.

Today it offers workshops, seminars and classes (some for academic credit) on how to choose a career, what to study to prepare for that career, what interim jobs and internships can be of most value, how to make contact with prospective employers and others who can help, and the nitty-gritty of appointments, interviewing, resumes and cover letters.

Computerized Data

True, the job listings on the placement office wall remain--but are augmented now by computerized data on opportunities in this field or that. Specialized libraries offer information about areas of interest, levels of qualification, companies, geographical location of opportunities, base salaries and prospects for moving into management.

But, the experts agree, the matter of finding a job--whether work that will help pay for college or the specific position that will start a graduate down the Yellow Brick Road to success--still depends less on computer technology than on one time-tested resource: the human being.

That human being is most likely to be the job seeker himself, a person who, taking to heart what the career center teaches, has a goal in life, recognizes the strengths that will carry him there and the weaknesses to be overcome.

Almost unanimously, career center directors spoke of the need for networking, for personal contact between those who can hire or who know of jobs and those who want that specific kind of employment.

That has led job placement offices to reshape their focus, said Chuck Sundberg, director of placement and career planning at UCLA, a 24-year veteran of the field who is spoken of with respect by his counterparts on other Southland campuses.

Resource Centers

"The major change I have seen has to do with the fact that we have become college resource centers and also instructors," Sundberg said.

"That is necessary because a very large, large percentage of positions that people might want are not advertised in any form. A good example is the media, both print and electronic.

"Networking . . . The person who can tell you of a job in a profession that does not advertise, that expects people to come seeking a job. The person who would like that job, say somebody who wants to be a journalist . . . needs to become fully aware of what that work entails, and he needs to become known to those who can either tell him of openings or who can hire.

"Despite the sophistication brought by computer systems, the business of getting a job still operates on a personal level."

Sometimes that kind of personal contact may come through the faculty of the student's academic department. USC's Graduate School of Business Administration is an example; its job office operates separately from the university's Career Development Center.

"Schools and universities are finding that if graduates can't find jobs, students won't come to their institutions," said Kenneth D. Hill, director of placement and career services at USC's graduate business school, an engineer who changed his career direction after earning his master's in business administration.

"It is a competitive environment and we have to provide these services. We have an alumni network, a service that goes beyond what (some schools) can provide."

Negative Results

That kind of networking may have negative results for some graduates; it has operated against women and minorities in the past, especially in certain closely knit fields. Law is one.

"Discrimination is easy (in a law firm) because of the lack of requirements on disclosure," said Joan Profant, assistant dean, placement office, at Southwestern University School of Law, speaking specifically of the problems women lawyers face.

"Women can't go to the 'right' private clubs. Young partners are expected to maintain clients and to bring in new clients." Both are matters often handled on a social basis that can be difficult for women both because of cultural constraints and family obligations, Profant said.

The need for networking between placement office and university departments was stressed by Sue Kiehn, director of the Center for Career Planning and Placement at Cal State L.A., who noted that graduating seniors often find work through their school or department.

"Individual faculty members may work for a student (on a job)," Kiehn said. "A crucial part of this career center is working with faculty and deans. They can help make employers aware of what openings we're looking for and what they're working for that might fit.

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