Career Services Program Puts Students on the Fast Track to a Career

By: Mike McKissack

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With a bachelor’s degree in in hotel and restaurant management and more than 25 years’ experience in advertising, Solange Pilizota knew she needed to reassess her career. The industry had changed and her job was being phased out. Unsure of her next steps, Pilizota attended a Career Services workshop at College of DuPage.

“I learned that there was help out there to create a plan B,” she said. “With my job going away, it was invaluable to learn what I was ‘made to do.’ My follow up meetings with guidance counselors and Career Services turned my plan B into my new path.”

Pilizota’s story is familiar to Career Services Assistant Manager Krystina LaSorsa, who said the program is designed to provide vital resources to students, alumni and community members at any stage in their education or career. And while resources are available to help individuals with their short- and long-term career goals, Career Services staff also help local businesses find qualified and talented employees.

“What sets the Career Services Center apart is that we meet students exactly where they are at in their career journey,” LaSorsa said. “We provide the support they need to be successful and take the time to understand their needs whether it be starting with a volunteer program, working on networking skills with employers or diving into an internship.”

Following her workshop, Pilizota took a free Myers-Briggs personality test at the College, the results of which indicated a match that led to her enrolling in COD’s Hearing Instrument Dispensary certificate program.

“It was a great fit,” she said. “I wanted to work directly with the public in the health field but I didn’t want to take a long time to earn a credential and start working,” she said.

Now employed at HearUSA as a hearing instrument dispenser, Pilizota said COD provided the opportunity to not only make a second start to her career, but also to have a more positive college experience.

“My four-year degree is from a very busy school in New York City and downtown Brooklyn,” she said. “My experience then was about being a full-time student and working my way through school. I had no time to be involved in my school community. College of DuPage gave me the opportunity to engage in the college community through the Latino Awareness Club and the Living Leadership program. It really gave me a second chance of having a college experience.”

Serving constituents ranging from those such as Pilizota -  professionals who are changing careers - to first-time students unsure of what career to pursue, Career Services Manager Steve Gustis understands well the importance of being able to offer specialized support at each step of the employment process. While Career Services remains committed to providing support to community members, Gustis said the program’s focus has been retooled over the last few years to zero in on the ultimate goal: helping students to become career ready. He said these changes, inspired by input from faculty and program staff, led to improvement in the program overall.

“We asked faculty and program staff what their students needed most and worked with them to develop a rubric for the students that was made into classroom assignments,” he said. “Based on this feedback, we developed specialized training in a number of areas, including resume and portfolio development, conducting mock interviews and strengthening networking skills. We further support job readiness and preparation through additional programs, electronic resources, coaching, training sessions, workshops and a host of outreach events that offer support ranging from career discovery and training to employment.”

In addition to specialized training, Career Services also provides a host of programs and tools designed to provide students with everything they need in order to choose and prepare for their desired careers, including:

  • Career Coach: Geared to students entering the workforce and professionals looking to change their field, this database enables job seekers to explore career options, examining data on employment rates, expected salary wages and expected tasks.
  • Chaps Get Hired: This online career job board enables COD students who are searching for employment and internships to connect with employers who need their skills.
  • Job Shadow program: This new program connects COD students with local employers for single-day learning events, enabling students an inside look into their career interests and requirements while providing employers with the opportunity to meet potential employees and build their brand.
  • Service Learning: Serving to benefit both students and the College’s community partners, this program combines volunteer service with academic instruction. Students develop better understanding of course concepts while gaining experience in a professional field.

Career Services also conducts a wide variety of on- and off-campus activities and events, including annual events such as the Service Learning and Volunteer Fair, the Career and Internship Fair and the Disability Awareness Event, as well as Career Advantage Workshops, monthly workshops that cover topics such as career exploration, job searching, LinkedIn and salary negotiation. In addition, the program provides workshops and training sessions for both students in the classroom and members of the community through outside organizations.

Learn more about Career Services at College of DuPage.