Deciding on a college, choosing a major and then finding a job; the magnitude of our decisions seems to grow with our age and perhaps that’s why, as students, we are supposedly becoming more and more responsible. As mere teenagers we enter college with limited experience in the real world and begin to explore our budding interests in order to hopefully develop some direction in life.
UCLA is a difficult world to navigate in itself; we must be self-motivated and proactive to achieve much. When it comes to the job search at UCLA, this self-starter prerequisite is no different. Fourth-year economics student Jared Spring said, “We can’t expect the personal attention that students at private schools receive; but, if we take the initiative, we will find great resources and counselors provided by the Career Center.”
Though the UCLA Career Center offers counseling on-site and provides job listings through BruinView, greater synergy between the Career Center and the James West Alumni Center would help students understand what types of jobs relate to particular academic interests.
Both centers individually provide a lot of resources, but in many cases these are only useful during a job search if the student already knows the type of career he or she wants to pursue. Sometimes, job listings are not enough. Increasing events that sponsor career panels or alumni-student mixers would give students a broader understanding of what exists in their respective fields.
The Entertainment Networking Night, hosted by the Student Alumni Association, is one such event that already exists. Majors unlike communications or film, which have clear direction, would benefit from more networking events. English students may feel that becoming a teacher or working in publishing are their only options. If they were to connect with UCLA graduates who also studied English, they may see greater opportunities in journalism, public relations or advertising.
Though the Career Center, as well as the Alumni Center, have other priorities at hand ““ such as coordinating on-campus recruiting or planning alumni vacations ““ they should place more emphasis on the transition from academics to careers. It is difficult for students to independently job search if they have no idea where to start.
Students find advice on careers elsewhere. Maurice Diesendruck, a fourth-year economics student, said that he has been able to get into green business through reaching out to people in the industry, asking questions and talking with his parents and their friends.
In many cases, students look to others in their lives, such as parents, siblings or even upperclassmen, to better understand how their studies will lead to a desirable job. Unfortunately, not all students have mentors in similar fields; this is where the Career Center and SAA should step in.
Though more interaction should be facilitated to understand the job market, students are under-using the resources that are provided. SAA estimates that only eight percent of the student body attends their events to seek career advice, and only 40 percent of the student body access Career Center resources in a given academic year . Clearly, students are looking elsewhere for career advice or are not interested in the job pursuit at all. Students need to take responsibility and show their departments, the Career Center and the alumni associations that they are interested in greater career-mentor opportunities.
Some students avoid the Career Center altogether because they are unsure about the career they want to pursue. This should not happen. The assumption that a student should have a direction before they enter the Career Center should not be consensus. Increased information about careers fitting different majors would alleviate much of the stress students experience in facing one of the most formidable decisions of their lives.
One area where the Career Center does excel in is providing alternative options for new graduates. Some options include fellowships, teaching abroad, and the Peace Corps. These options are exciting and are invaluable life experiences, but after completion, students are once again left thinking of possible career options. Hopefully, then they will have drawn some conclusions on their own, since at this point they are distanced from the resources the UCLA community provides. Though these opportunities should be encouraged, they shouldn’t be substituted for helping students figure out career options related to their interests, and information about how to pursue them.
It is difficult to be a self-starter and pursue a career when you don’t know where to start. The Career Center and alumni resources, such as BruinView and the student-alumni network would be better utilized if UCLA provided venues for a dialogue of what the various careers that are listed actually entail. The different departments at UCLA should collaborate to assist students in the daunting transition from academia to the real world.