Career Services 2.0

Changing Needs Are Served by FDU’s Career Development Center

By Rebecca Maxon
Illustrations by Mark Matcho

Career planning is a process, not a one-time endeavor. Donna Robertson, University director of the Career Development Center at FDU, describes it this way: “You assess, gather information, make a decision, execute, review and then assess again.” This circular process is necessary because the modern world of work is an ever-changing landscape of opportunity — and a minefield of job obsolescence brought about by new technologies. How can anyone prepare to start a career when the job they have in mind may no longer exist in five years?

How does anyone know what kind of opportunities are waiting on the horizon, let alone how to plan for them? FDU’s Career Development Center has grown into a resource that helps students and alumni develop successful career paths. Whether advising freshmen on choosing a field or providing networking advice to mid-career professionals, the Career Development Center is ready to help.

The Shifting Horizon

Alumnus Robert Donnelly, MBA’68 (Metro), a prolific author, consultant and educator, notes, “… technology has changed the nature of work substantially. Many of the job descriptions of the past have disappeared.”

Not only that, a variety of jobs with previously unknown titles, such as “data scientist,” “technology evangelist” and “thought leader liaison,” have recently emerged.

FDU’s multicampus Career Development Center continually updates and modifies its services to fit the needs of University students and alumni — not only in finding jobs, but also in developing successful career paths.

To achieve this, Robertson, who came to the center in July 2015, has created a more dynamic office by bringing the University’s career development offices on the Metropolitan, Florham and Vancouver campuses together so the staff can collaborate.

“We are building on a foundation with good teams already in place,” she says. “And we’ve added three additional people across the campuses who have the skills we now need.”

Robertson champions the development of new programs and services, including counselors specializing in specific career fields; smaller, career/industry-specific job fairs and events; and workshops on using the latest technologies in networking and the job search.

A Flying Start

Career success coach Bob Roth, MBA’74 (Metro), says, “A successful senior-year job search starts in the freshman year.” FDU students get an early introduction to — and are encouraged to take advantage of — FDU’s Career Development Center.

A new second-semester freshman core course, Preparing for Professional Life, introduces students to the career development team and teaches them the career development process, while guiding them through the first steps of choosing a field, such as career aptitude and personality testing. This personal assessment can be crucial because, as Donnelly notes, “People who are doing what they do best and enjoy it most have more fulfilling and financially secure careers than those who don’t.”

“To have this career-related element embedded in the core for all majors is very exciting,” says Robertson. “There are so many universities that don’t have anything like this.”

Those seeking new positions, returning to work after a period of absence or even changing fields can also benefit from the planning process that is taught. “Career testing, test interpretation and subsequent counseling can help students and alumni confirm a career choice, explore new possibilities, and clarify their goals,” says Theresa O’Neill, assistant director of career development at the Metropolitan Campus.

The basic steps in career planning and development are available to all through the step-by-step process outlined on the Career Development Center’s webpage. This plan for students is adaptable to all stages of professional life.

One of the most important factors in career development is building relationships with key people in the professional world. A great place to start building your network is with an FDU career development specialist.

Your Helping Hands

From their first consultations with the Career Development Center, those seeking advice are assigned to a specialist based on their areas of interest, their chosen majors and their desired career fields, such as health care, business, hospitality and the liberal arts, along with science, technology and mathematics.

Ryan Stalgatis, director of career development at the Florham Campus, describes these staff members as “extremely friendly, open people who are here to help you every step of the way.” A relationship with an FDU career specialist may indeed be the most fruitful one you can build. Specialists stay with their clients throughout the process — from the first consultation through the successful job search or advancement. Stalgatis says his primary audience is FDU alumni — from 20 years ago through the past five years.

The Career Development Center can help in honing networking skills: from developing an “elevator speech” to representing yourself professionally online. Specialists keep their clients up-to-date on numerous ways to meet and consult with those in their fields, from alumni mentors through those looking to hire and more.

There is more to building a beneficial professional network than simply attending networking events. Roth notes that meeting with people in person is the most effective way to build an effective network because, “People need to get to know you before referring you to others professionally.” Visit faculty during office hours, get to know the people you work with, talk with parents and their friends, and tap into professionals you interact with outside of your company.

The Career Development Center is expanding its outreach to the FDU community — including alumni, faculty and even staff members — to create more networking opportunities. And, the office is always building relationships with corporations and professionals outside of the University as well.

Roth also recommends “just being likable” when meeting new people. Be polite, laugh at a joke, listen well and respond to what is said. Most of all, show appreciation for the time others spend with you and for any help they provide. And, keep in touch with those in your network, checking in from time to time as appropriate, even when not actively seeking new opportunities.

Effective networking isn’t about asking for a job, Roth cautions. He recommends asking those in your network for advice or for the names and contact information of others in their networks who may be of help. He points out, “If there is a position in their firm they think you would be a match for, they’ll let you know.”

Fairs a’ Changing

In addition to the traditional, large career fair held yearly at the Metropolitan Campus and the Tri-Collegiate Career Fair, held by FDU’s Florham Campus, the College of Saint Elizabeth and Drew University, other events are offered throughout the year. Students and alumni can benefit from attending these more focused events, even if they are not yet actively searching for a position.

A Volunteer Fair held early in the academic year offers students a chance to gain experience even before they qualify for internships. These opportunities are a great way to explore a variety of interests early in the college years. And, work done as a volunteer can be used to build an attractive résumé for securing internships and jobs.

Career events in specific fields, such as November’s Tech Career Fair, attended by more than 200 students and representatives of 15 companies, are offered at FDU to provide an opportunity for students to become familiar with what awaits them after graduation. “Students want to know that there is something geared specifically to them,” says Stalgatis. “We’re bringing great companies in specific fields to campus just for select groups.” Participating in such events can help students and alumni build vital professional relationships. Alumni are encouraged to participate as representatives of their companies or industries or to network and look for opportunities themselves. For upcoming career events visit http://view2.fdu.edu/inside-fdu-edu/career/.

Continuing Journey

Career paths continue to meander throughout our lives. Retirees often find that they can still maintain useful and satisfying roles in the career world by mentoring others, sharing their knowledge or advising family members, friends and others in aspects related to their career fields. FDU’s Career Development Center offers many opportunities for them to do so.

Retired alumni and faculty are a valued source of information and advice for FDU students as well as for alumni.

And, those they assist are appreciative of the help they’ve received. So, the circle of career life continues unbroken.

Ed. note: A version of this article first appeared in the Winter/Spring 2017 edition of FDU Magazine.