Frustrated by a tireless search for a job to match his new degree in computer information systems, Ryan Tose reached out to the president of Shaw University, his alma mater.
Now, Tose has a plan.
First stop: Shaw’s Experiential Learning and Career Development Center, a haven for students and alumni to explore tools and embrace advice on everything from resumes to interview attire. The goal is to help them land internships, jobs and admission to graduate school.
The center opened in 2009 at Person Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Its focus in recent months has been to practice what it preaches to students and alumni: Market what you offer, then leverage it to those who need it most.
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“We see our students graduating, but they don’t have jobs,” center director Nikesha Rollack said. “We’re saying, ‘We’re still here. Come back and let’s see what we can do.’”
Walk-in hours and workshops zero in on professional etiquette, networking and more. A Career Closet features gently used clothes for job interviews and special events.
Career Educational Officers, or CEOs, are the center’s student ambassadors. A new 141-member chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success boosts leadership training and mentoring. And a #RealBearsGiveBack collaboration with Shaw’s National Alumni Association invites alumni to serve as volunteers.
“Our main goal is to make sure our students graduate prepared for life after Shaw,” Rollack said. “We have our hands and arms around our students.”
‘Total student experience’
Tose’s story is familiar. Each year, college graduates are released into the world armed with a degree, but no blueprint to navigate a challenging transition.
“My parents never wanted me to work (during college), so I could just focus on school,” said Tose, 23. “But when I graduated, it kind of shot me in the foot when it came down to my job experience. I don’t have any.
“I’ll have to really hustle now.”
In 2013, millennials were deemed more stressed than any other generation in a survey by the American Psychological Association.
The class of 2014 faced an unemployment rate of 8.5 percent – 3 percentage points higher than in 2007, before the recession, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Many students, like Tose, work any job they can get, even if it has nothing to do with their degree.
Tashni-Ann Dubroy, president of Shaw, said she wants to “bridge the gap.”
“Getting them from cap and gown and into their field of study is a goal of Shaw University’s employees,” she said. “That’s how you cultivate alumni, which is a goal of mine.”
It’s also key to debunking criticism of historically black colleges and universities for poor customer service and alumni who forget to give back.
“To fix it, we have to think about the total student experience,” Dubroy said. “What more would a student want than to be able to use their degree from Shaw University to gain employment in a competitive field?”
Partnering with businesses
Dubroy sent Tose to the Experiential Learning and Career Development Center, and she also reviewed his resume and forwarded it to a friend at IBM.
That kind of partnering with corporations and businesses will expand the center’s reach. Dubroy employs social media to reach students, too.
This summer, Rollack said, the center led students to internships at Fidelity and the N.C. Department of Transportation. One student interns with the U.S. Air Force and next semester at NASA. Another interns at Shaw’s counseling center, working to implement the school’s new non-smoking policy.
At 45, Princeanna Brooks enrolled at Shaw to fulfill a dream. Since, she’s interned at DOT, graduated from Shaw and earned a master’s degree in social work from Alabama A&M University. She’s considering a doctorate.
“Use the Career Development Center,” Brooks urges Shaw students and alumni. “It is an excellent resource, a connection to outside resources. It teaches know-how to go out and get the job you want.”