Preparing Students for the Future

University Career Services Assists Students from Choosing a Major to Finding a Job

By Lindsay Harris
Photos by Christina Orozco

When waiting in the offices of University Advising or University Career Services, one has a sense of calm -- a feeling of organization, control and safety. These feelings are appreciated and welcomed by students seeking help from administrators within these offices. When students feel lost or confused in trying to deal with the transitions and changes that play such a large part in college life, these offices guide students through their college experiences and make sense of the confusion and frustration they feel.

Everyone knows the feeling of uncertainty that comes with change. Whether it be a fear of making the wrong decision or just the inability to make a decision at all, uncertainty can be frightening for anyone. For some people, this feeling is brought on when deciding what major to choose in college or emerges when attempting to find a job upon graduating. Texas Tech University offers services to help ease the fear brought on by both of these major transitions. Through the Discovery! Program, which is part of University Advising and University Career Services, students can pick majors aligned with their individual values and receive the tools they need to be successful when searching for a job after they graduate.

“The best predictor when helping people find a best fit major is values. Through Discovery! we help students align their personal values with the values of the majors and career choices that are out there.”
— Elizabeth Teagan

Discovery! is a program that helps students who are undecided, uncertain or undeclared in their majors. “Texas Tech is unique in offering support for those students making that transition from high school to college. Specifically, Tech is unique in offering the TTU Discovery! Program,” shared Elizabeth Teagan, managing director of the Department of University Advising.

By advisers looking at each student’s values, interests, skills and abilities, Discovery! helps students find the right majors for them. “The best predictor when helping people find a best-fit major is values. Through Discovery! we help students align their personal values with the values of the majors and career choices that are out there,” Teagan said.

Teagan shared the story of a student who followed in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother and majored in nursing upon coming to Texas Tech, only to discover that, for her, nursing was not fulfilling and she was not passionate about the field. Together Teagan and the student broke down what she liked and disliked about nursing, and discovered that at the root of all of her confusion and dissatisfaction with nursing as a major was the simple fact that she wanted to help people. They then discussed the wide variety of majors at Texas Tech that lead into careers that help people, such as teaching. This process is an example of what the Discovery! Program does and the methods used to achieve the program’s goals.

The Discovery! Workshop helps students find their niches and what interests them, and helps them learn about thinking and decision-making. “Decision-making is at the core of Discovery!” Teagan said. “Decision-making is at the core of thinking. Every moment that we live, we are making decisions.”

The Discovery! process begins either at orientation when the student signs up to attend one of the Discovery! workshops, or when the student is required to complete the program after being put on academic probation or suspension. First, a small group of students meet and complete various exercises together, such as “What I Wanted to Be When I Grew Up,” where the participants in the workshop fill out their career ambitions at different stages of their lives.

“We also do a thing called the Major Map, and it’s literally about a guided journey as students explore,” Teagan continued. The Major Map is best described as helping students determine their “direction” by examining values, skills, interests and abilities. Students complete various surveys, such as the “Career Decision-Making System Booklet.”

The “Career Decision-Making System Booklet,” is the main tool used during the Discovery! process. This survey allows students to score their interests in six areas: crafts, physical sciences, the arts, the social sciences, business, and office operations. The survey then identifies career options that best match the student’s interests, values and abilities, which align with the core objective of the Discovery! Program.

Upon completion of this initial meeting, the student then sets up a one-on-one interview with an adviser in the University Advising Center and is assigned a short homework list. This involves activities such as a student shadowing different professionals in their work environments and setting up a part-time job in a profession of their interest. After completing all of the steps in this process, the student should be ready to declare a major and should feel comfortable and confident in the decision they make.

The Discovery! process in its entirety is described as a “road trip,” mapping out a student’s life from the freshman year to graduation. Through meetings with academic advisers and various assessments, students find majors that they not only love but also majors that they are best suited for. Once the student has completed their studies in their major, the transition into the workplace and a career begins.

Jay Killough, managing director of University Career Services University Career Services provides a centralized resource for students and alumni who are searching for employers after completing their time at Texas Tech. “University Career Services is a service to all students. We serve every academic college, including alumni, and we also serve employers by hosting on-campus interviews. Basically what we do is facilitate the job internship process,” said Jay Killough, managing director of University Career Services. Although the advisers at Career Services mainly assist students when they are preparing to graduate from Texas Tech and begin their search for a job, Career Services also offers services to help students determine career paths and to pick majors.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve also started helping students choose a major through assessments,” Killough continued. “We saw ourselves as a four-year service, not just something students used their senior year. We wanted students to get involved with us early.”

Career Services offers a four-year career development plan, which is what sets the program apart from the Discovery! Program. “We have a career focus. Our main focus with these major placements is based on jobs. These assessments are based on career-interest inventories. Discovery! is more academically focused on really specifically getting into a major based on interest, not necessarily what you’re going to do after you graduate. Both have validity, and students use both. If you go through Discovery! these assessments will tell you something a little bit different because it’s career-based,” Killough said.

The process begins during the student’s first year of college when he or she meets with a University Career Services liaison. After the initial meeting, the student takes the FOCUS and Strengths Quest assessments to ensure that they are in the correct major and to help them succeed in the classroom and in their professional development. FOCUS is a value-based assessment that helps students find their personal strengths, needs and preferences. FOCUS consists of assessments measuring work-interest, personality, skills, values, and leisure interest. In the work-interest section, measurements are based on questions asking the participant to rate the degree to which they would enjoy various jobs, such as analyzing and evaluating a company’s financial statements or designing graphic art images and illustrations for advertising media. Strengths Quest is a program put on by the Gallup Organization that helps individuals discover their natural talents and gain a better understanding of what they do best. This assessment results in students being given a list of their “strengths,” such as belief, consistency and responsibility.

Texas Tech student Valerie Valdez During the second year, the students once again meet with their college’s liaison, but now they discuss internships and work on updating and editing their resumés. If the student is still unsure of his or her career path, he or she takes the Strong Interest Inventory. This assessment is the most scientific and heavily researched method used by Career Services. The Strong Interest Inventory looks at the student’s pattern of responses and compares the answers to that of people in various occupations, then after interpretation by one of the professionals at Career Services, predicts how likely the student is to be satisfied in a given occupation.

Career Services also offers one other assessment, Type Focus, which seeks to help students answer three questions: Who am I? Where am I going? And, How will I get there? Type Focus does this by identifying a student’s “type” or personality, which then helps the advisers determine the right workplace environment for the student. This is achieved by having students rank their feelings, from strongly agree to strongly disagree, to statements like “I accept full responsibility for my academic success,” and “I have made good friends on campus.”

This process continues into the third year, when the student posts a current version of his or her resumé onto the RaiderJobs website, which is found at http://www.myinterfase.com/ttu/student/.

RaiderJobs is an online job search tool specifically for Texas Tech students and alumni. Through this site, one can upload a resumé, view job and internship postings, and apply for positions. All that is needed to log on is an eRaider user name and password. The student can schedule a mock interview with his or her college’s liaison to prepare for internship interviews. The student also begins applying for internships and attends a career fair to network for recruitment opportunities the following year.

The fourth year is much like the third, but students prepare to interview and apply for actual jobs. The students once again post an updated resumé onto RaiderJobs, and then schedule mock interviews with their college’s liaisons to prepare for job interviews and begin applying for positions.

Although Career Services advisers do offer the four-year career development plan, their services are available whenever a student needs them. The assessments are available online and can be taken at anytime. Students also can meet with a liaison whenever they need assistance, whether that means seeking help during their senior year or fulfilling a requirement for a class, like Jennifer Truitt did. Truitt, who graduated from Texas Tech in December 2008 with a degree in human development and family studies, used Career Services to try to find a job before graduating. “I was required to go for my senior seminar class, but I was going to be graduating in December and wanted to talk to someone about finding a job after graduating,” Truitt said. “I heard the Career Center was helpful, so I decided to give it a whirl.” Truitt spoke to a counselor about finding a job in the non-profit field and was told to keep her options open when looking for jobs.

“We discussed that I was graduating at a really bad time economically, and that it would be hard to find a job in non-profit,” Truitt continued. “The adviser encouraged me to look outside my major and be willing to take any job I was offered.”

Keeping options open is advice that Killough also offers to students just beginning to search for jobs. “Expect the unexpected. Some students have a misconception about salary and jobs. Because they have a college degree, they think they’re going to be highly coveted, which isn’t necessarily true,” he said.

Although Truitt was not able to find a job right after graduation, she said she still would recommend Career Services to others. “The counselors did the best they could with what they had to offer. With the economy how it was, there weren’t many jobs listed, and I’m sure I would’ve had more luck if I’d had a more solid career path in mind.”

Travis Wells, Texas Tech University graduate Killough’s major advice for students is to seek help somewhere when searching and applying for jobs. “The National Association of Colleges and Employers ran a survey that stated that students who use career services are 70 percent more likely to get a job vs. students who don’t use career services,” Killough said. “Right there, just your odds of getting a job when you graduate are going to increase.”

Regardless of a student’s needs, whether he or she is seeking help from Discovery! in picking a major that is right for them or in needing information from University Career Services on how to find a job after graduation, the first step is to ask for help. “Students come in thinking, ‘I’m a total loser because I don’t know what I want to be or what to do,’ but it’s actually the total opposite,” Teagan said. “They’re a step ahead of many of the students who think they know what they want to do because they become engaged in the process.”