Making the decision to attend college is easy compared to deciding what major to study while there.
Choosing a professional field to go into after graduation can be even more difficult.
Luckily, Jacksonville State University’s Office of Career Services is here to assist students make the most of their college careers.
Lola Johnston, a Career Specialist and Cooperative Education Coordinator, calls the Office of Career Services the “best-kept secret on campus.”
Johnston administers career assessments—free three-step programs that evaluate a student’s interests and predict what field of study they’d like to pursue during their time at JSU.
First, a student takes three assessments gauging his interests and personality type. During a second appointment, Johnston or the Director of Career Services, Rebecca Turner, interpret the student’s results.
The results are printed out and bound as a 40-50 page booklet.
The third appointment is a follow-up, and Turner says that by this time, “The student has a better understanding of what he or she wants to study.”
Turner says that career assessments are one of the most popular services that her office offers to students, but they aren’t the only thing Career Services assists with.
“We try to help the students from the time they get into JSU through their college career and after they graduate,” says Turner.
Her office posts links to information about internships, cooperative education programs and jobs to JSU’s website, allowing students to search and apply for them at any time.
“We help students search for those opportunities. We don’t place or appoint them to those positions, but we let them know, ‘Hey, this is what’s available and this is what you qualify for,’” says Turner.
Career Services’ website says that an internship is “typically one-time work or service experiences related to a student’s major or career goal.”
It involves the student working under the supervision of professionals already in their field, and may or may not be paid.
Cooperative education programs, or co-ops, allow a student to gain on-the-job experience by alternating between going to class and working in their field.
According to Turner, students need to consider internships and co-ops at least by their third semester in college.
“The truth is, employers want people with experience, and I’m a big believer in working while you’re in school.”
Career Services also organizes career fairs for the fall and spring semesters. Employers are invited to JSU to set up booths and recruit students, who bring their resumes and collect business cards.
Honda Manufacturing, Walmart and Enterprise Rent-a-Car are just a few of the businesses that routinely hire JSU students with majors in Technology, Engineering and Business.
JSU’s College of Education has a reputation as “a very strong program”; local school systems are “aware that we are a teacher college,” says Turner.
Last spring, Career Services held its first reverse education fair, an opportunity for education majors to showcase their teaching abilities to school systems and educators in the region.
The future teachers JSU educates built booths to demonstrate their skills—one Elementary Education major decorated hers with alphabet building blocks.
A Recreational Leadership major brought his kayak and set up a tent to make his area look like the outdoors.
“We’ve always had an education fair in the spring,” says Turner, “but the reverse education fair was new and we’re going to stick with it. It was a success.”
Success is the Office of Career Services’ goal for JSU students, and a new mentor program that connects current students with alumni furthers that goal.
While the program has been “under-marketed” by her office, Turner hopes that new students will take advantage of the opportunity to learn from someone who has been in their situation.
“They are willing to give back,” she says, “especially when it comes to guidance.”
Above all, she stresses that it’s important for students to get involved with her office early.
“There’s nothing worse than a senior coming into your office, saying that they want to work on their resume and they have nothing to put on it except for their education and what they did in high school,” she said.