Roger Barker first visited the Office of Career Services at the University of Missouri–St. Louis in search of résumé help.
“I wanted to find a job really in the heart of my field,” says the computer science major. “I went to Career Services to fine tune my résumé, and then I learned about the upcoming career fair.”
Barker discovered new ideas for marketing himself to potential employers and soon secured a 10-week summer internship at Edward Jones that allowed the company to become familiar with Barker and his work on a daily basis. He is now a full-time programmer-analyst at Edward Jones.
UMSL Career Services plays a critical role in preparing students for professional success by helping incoming freshmen identify career interests, organizing workshops and job fairs, and assisting graduates in the thick of the job search. They get students to think about the process early, enabling them to be more intentional in their academic program.
“It’s important for students to understand themselves, to understand the job market, and then work at connecting the two together,” says Teresa Balestreri, director of Career Services. “We aim to help students in this process, and our staff is committed to empowering students to tap into all of the services we provide.”
Like Barker, junior Iriah Wilkerson remembers the spring day she first stepped into the Career Services office in the Millennium Student Center. The business administration major and honors student was anxious.
“I was nervous going in, but Lynn [Willits] was so great,” Iriah Wilkerson says. “She gave me great pointers, and I was able to create a really strong résumé for the job fair in September.”
Intent on landing an internship for summer 2015, Iriah Wilkerson left that appointment with helpful ideas and a lot more confidence going into the fall – a crucial time for networking and applying. Her older sister and fellow UMSL student, Tira, encouraged her to explore the Career Services resources.
Tira Wilkerson initially visited the office in search of a new major. She’d chosen biology, but it didn’t seem the best fit as she delved deeper into it. In consultation with a Career Services coordinator, Tira completed an assessment to identify and connect her interests to a career path.
“I didn’t really realize how many different careers there were,” she says. “Taking the assessment really opened my eyes to the different possibilities in each field.”
She decided to major in information systems, which appeals to her because of how it unites people and technology. The sisters each have a year and a half before graduation, but they are making the most of Career Services opportunities to gain work experience, build their portfolios and connect with potential employers.
“We’ve done the research, and we know what we want,” says Iriah. “I’d like to get as many different experiences as possible. I know that once I graduate, having a real job involves a lot of ups and downs.”
“I’m really glad for this time,” her sister says. “It’s going to take a while to develop a strong network and interviewing skills.”
Through Career Services the sisters have found part-time jobs on campus that relate to their fields and offer networking opportunities. They plan to turn those first forays into the job hunt into career-related internships like Barker’s.
When Edward Jones offered Barker a salaried position doing what he loves after completing his internship, he accepted it with enthusiasm. In his new role, he assists with designing company software, coding and providing technical support.
Barker has juggled those responsibilities along with his final semester at UMSL, where he’ll graduate this December – and where he has appeared on behalf of Edward Jones already. At an information session on campus, he shared his experience as an intern with about 40 people. He also joined an Edward Jones recruiter at this fall’s Internship & Job Fair, this time experiencing it from the employer’s side of the table.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s also an opportunity to learn to talk in front of people,” the self-described introvert says. “In a leadership position, you’re expected to do that, and I need to be able to handle that.”
In addition to taking advantage of the many in-person and online resources available through Career Services, Barker’s advice to fellow students is to persevere.
“Look at things that you’re definitely interested in but also things that pique your interest just a little bit,” he says. “And keep applying.”
Career Services: A snapshot
- Nearly 300 representatives from 122 organizations connected with 520 UMSL students and alumni at this fall’s Internship & Job Fair.
- Roughly 3,200 people paid a visit to Career Services during 2013-14.
- More than 3,000 jobs and internships are posted each year in UMSL’s database, UMSLCareerKey, and about 400 employers visit UMSL for career fairs and on-campus interviews.
- The unit’s small staff puts on upwards of 280 workshops, outreach programs and classroom presentations during the school year.
- More than 1,100 career assessments were administered to students in the last year, including 600 “Strong Interest Inventories” infused into UMSL’s first-year experience classes to foster career development early in the academic cycle.