LaGuardia Community College’s Center for Career and Professional Development is focused on three pillars: career planning, exploration, and professional development and employment services.
According to director Jessica Perez, the center engages with students right away.
“We help students with their career and professional development from the moment they’re accepted at LaGuardia,” she said, “to the point that they’re alumni of the institution.”
Many students come into the school unsure about what they want to choose for their major. Along with academic advisement, the career services team helps students with “self-discovery” and identify skills and values that best match a specific career path.
Perez said they sometimes don’t see students until their “capstone,” a seminar they take before graduation. Some walk into the center a week after graduation to begin their job search, which Perez said is not the best approach.
“We’re trying to avoid that,” she said, “and educate students to be more proactive versus reactive.”
With the professional development pillar, Perez said the center offers resume help, mock interviews and even services to improve a candidate’s LinkedIn or digital profiles.
LaGuardia recently began a “digital badging” program that teach students both soft skills to be more employable and the technical abilities. About 30 students participated in the program in its pilot year, and hope to expand it in the fall.
“The students we had in the program have moved on to get permanently hired here at the college at departments,” Perez said. “They have made large contributions, like recreating the database for inventory for all the computers.”
When students move on to the employment services phase, LaGuardia Community College hosts a job fair every semester, including a virtual job fair this past semester. Through networking and connections, the college even brings recruiters to campus to interview students for jobs.
Onika Richards, an employment relations specialist with the career center, said one challenge students face is matching the exact skills employers are looking for.
“It’s a challenge to acquire those skills right out of school,” Richards said. “Their employability goes down and the become discouraged.”
A potential solution, Richards said, is making sure students develop specific skill sets when they’re in college. The center hosts “career chats and info sessions,” bringing in employers from specific fields to talk about what it’s like to work in the industry and what students should do now to prepare for the field.
Perez estimates that roughly 80 percent of students at LaGuardia transfer to a four-year school to continue their education. A smaller portion apply for jobs right away.
The center, however, keeps working to help students and alumni alike. Between last September and July, Perez said the center has helped 455 students find a full-time or part-time job in their fields.
Richards advised students to start the job search process early. Getting an internship while still in school is also important, she said.
“Either that can become a full-time job, or you can leverage the experience when you’re looking for a full-time job,” she said.
She also said students should network and make connections, not just with professors, but also with staff members from the center.
“A lot of students still don’t know the career center exists, you need those networks,” Richards said. “They’re not going to find it on Monster, those days are long gone.”