Career Services Prepares Students for Changing Workplace Environment

March 10, 2023

Blending new technologies with time-honored strategies for success, University Career Services (UCS) prepares St. John’s University students for life in an evolving professional world.

Social media training, enhanced internship opportunities, and even an introduction to artificial intelligence (AI) are just some of the tools career advisors employ. UCS resources are available to undergraduate and graduate students, and alumni. Alumni and employers can post internship and job opportunities on Handshake, a recruiting platform that can be accessed by St. John’s students.

“Our employer partners recruit St. John’s students for their solid academic background, work ethic, and professional skills,” said Paulette Gonzalez-Sierchio, Assistant Vice President, University Career Services, on the occasion of the March 7 opening of Career Closet, the University’s first permanent professional attire collection for students.

“The Career Closet is only one element of how we help prepare and empower all students for their career journey and a lifetime of meaningful, professional success,” Ms. Gonzalez-Sierchio added.

Among the more traditional areas of support are résumé writing tips and interviewing strategies.

Students have a number of career assessment tools available, including the Focus 2 appraisal that determines if a student’s personality traits are suitable for a particular industry.

But in a competitive job market increasingly managed by technology, students need more, Ms. Gonzalez-Sierchio said. To that end, University Career Services has introduced students to the skills required to ace AI interviews, where chatbots, rather than executives, are primary points of contact and keyword algorithms determine the candidates who advance. Students are coached to generate keyword-specific answers and to remain professional in an unfamiliar environment.

UCS advisors also instruct students in the drafting of keyword-driven LinkedIn profiles. LinkedIn is the largest professional social network on the internet and home to millions of job opportunities.  

“Students need to understand keyword preparation in résumé writing because so many companies use AI now,” said Ellen Burti, Director of Career and Internship Advising. “A candidate might be screened through AI before a human ever sees their résumé.”

Internship opportunities are evolving as well. While semester- or summer-long internships remain popular, a growing number of companies offer microinternships, where students work on short-term projects, often remotely; the total time commitment can range from five to 40 hours per project. Ms. Burti likened them to the “gig economy for internships,” and students might have several during a school year.

Microinternships are valuable experience builders. “These are new kinds of internships for students,” she said, “but they still simulate work experience.”

During chatbot interviews, it still pays to look the part, Ms. Gonzalez-Sierchio said. In a virtual or in-person setting, it’s essential. Career Closet, located in Chiang Ching-Kuo Hall, helps students dress for success while keeping job search expenses in line.

Career Closet allows students to select new or gently used business attire from donations made to Career Services by alumni, other members of the St. John’s community, and even the general public. Its inventory—free to students—includes men’s and women’s suits, shirts, ties, sweaters, skirts, blazers, shoes, and even briefcases.

A good look, even on camera, is a statement of sincerity from the applicant and a way of standing out from the competition, explained Patricia Ambrose, Assistant, Career Services.

“Career fairs, networking events, and interviews are all about presentation—how you present yourself, your skills, and your talents,” she said. “Career Closet helps students look and feel their best—and make that positive first impression as they enter the professional world.”

Career Closets are becoming increasingly popular on college campuses. Most follow the same model as St. John’s: Students are free to browse the collection and take with them interview necessities as needed. Sizes vary with inventory.

The need to locate a permanent home for Career Closet was driven by the success of two pop-up clothing days Career Services organized with student organizations in 2022. More than 340 students found no-cost clothing suitable for interviews and office environments last year; the permanent space will be able to accommodate more inventory and serve more students.

“It’s quite convenient,” said Mufaddal Kathawala ’20GP, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences. “A graduate student’s schedule can be so hectic that you can’t find a lot of time to go off campus and shop. You are in a lab five or six days a week; what free time you have, you want to spend it for yourself.”

The Career Closet opening featured a blessing from the Rev. Patrick J. Griffin, C.M. ’13HON, Executive Director of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society, who noted, “What we wear does not determine who we are, yet who we are finds expression in how we present ourselves.” 

Contact UCS at 718-990-6375 or [email protected] if you are interested in donating to the Career Closet.