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When Miguel Venegas graduated in Mechanical Engineering from UTEP in December 2020, he knew he was entering the workforce as the world struggled with a global pandemic. But he was hopeful.
With a revised CV and updated Linkedin profile, Venegas began the process of applying for entry-level jobs and assumed he would land a job three to four months after graduating.
Now, five months after graduating, he still hasn’t found a job and recently received interview callbacks.
“It’s not easy, it’s a lot of trial and error,” Venegas said.
Career guidance services have long been a staple of colleges and universities, although one leading expert has called for a redesign of their approach. The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic disruptions that accompany it have increased the challenges for young graduates seeking employment.
Venegas believed that his degree in mechanical engineering would open the doors to many job opportunities.
“From December to mid-February, I received no response. I was just submitting nominations and not getting any callbacks, ”he said.
During this time, Venegas used the help of UTEP’s Career Center to revise her resume and cover letter. But without any recall of potential employers, Venegas decided to change tack and use an online service to have their CV written.
After paying $ 200 for his new resume, Venegas started getting calls.
“The resume I paid for, I sent it back to the career center for review and they said change it back to the old format I had,” Venegas said.
UTEP declined to discuss the career preparation services it offers to students.
‘Career services must die’
“I don’t want the idea of career bureaus to die, but rather the hallmark of what career services previously stood for,” Chan said in an interview with El Paso Matters.
Chan said career services offices have traditionally been “an office that serves students to give them what they want.”
He said that an expectation is created that “the school is supposed to have it all for me and I step in and you hand it to me on a desk.”
This framing is outdated and incorrect, he says.
“We’re trying to help you become CEO with your own life and it’s a different setting than what a service desk is,” Chan said.
Typically, career guidance services offices help students prepare for their professional careers by helping with internship search, professional development, contact with alumni, and post-graduation job search. graduation. While schools vary in the services they offer, offices can be essential in helping students prepare for life outside of college.
Career services at UTEP
At UTEP, the Career Center said its goal was to “expose UTEP students to options that best suit their individual career needs and aspirations. “ The centre’s website says the office aims to help students find internships, employment, and develop professional skills such as learning to interview.
“They gave me basic advice, but nothing too much out of the box,” Venegas said. “It’s mostly about making sure things look clean, bullet points, action words, stuff like that.”
Venegas said he found the center to be more suited for finding student internships than for post-graduation employment. He said it was a challenge for him as a recent graduate.
Chan, who has transformed the Wake’s Forest Career Center into a national model, believes that a large part of the success of a career office lies in the commitment of the university leadership.
“The president and their top leadership have to say ‘we really want to do this well’,” Chan said.
With senior management determined to succeed, Chan said resources and funding need to be assessed next.
“It has so many positive benefits for the university that I think a lot of people can justify this investment,” Chan said. He said a student’s success after graduation impacts a university’s brand and alumni engagement.
Chan said he recognizes that the pandemic has overwhelmed students and created uncertainty.
“COVID has created uncertainty in everything, so it’s very difficult to plan,” Chan said.
He said employers’ hiring schedules have been turned upside down by the pandemic, creating a “Wild West mentality” for graduates and companies.
His advice: stay on the move.
“Uncertainty leads to indecision, which leads to waiting, which leads to missing out on opportunities,” Chan said.
What the future holds
According to National associations of colleges and employers, employers estimate they will hire 7.2% more college graduates from the class of 2021 than from the class of 2020.
Graduating in December 2020, Venegas hopes to find a job ahead of the 2021 graduates promotion.
“The more time passes, the more of the gap there is on your resume,” Venegas said. “You will have to explain when you get to this interview.”
On Mondays and Tuesdays of each week, Venegas says he spends around six hours applying for jobs and aims to send out 20 applications per day. He believes that employers are not for hiring entry-level candidates.
“A lot of entry level jobs are not entry level jobs. They are really aimed at experienced people from intermediate to senior level, ”said Venegas.
He believes many employers are currently rehiring those they may have lost during the pandemic rather than hiring new candidates.
Chan says he advises students to apply for at least 50 jobs.
“The students recognize that it’s not as bad as they think it is,” Chan said. “It’s a lot of work, but you learn a lot and have choices.”
Venegas is looking to relocate outside of El Paso as he cannot find enough jobs locally.
“I guess our community is not able to get the jobs needed for these high paying jobs,” Venegas said. He said he was disappointed that El Paso was known to have lower paying jobs.
Chan said he recognizes that some students may have to create their own plans to find a job instead of working with their school’s career services center.
He suggested that students turn to peers, mentors, and faculty who may themselves be engaged in the job search process.
“The world is about to bloom again,” Chan said.
This article was originally published at El Paso Matters.
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