CDPA guides students to find ideal jobs, internships

By Gwenn Barney

For many of its entrants, college is the bridge between school and a career, but figuring out…For many of its entrants, college is the bridge between school and a career, but figuring out exactly what’s on the other side of that bridge or how to get there can be a challenge.

That’s where Pitt’s Career Development and Placement Assistance office comes into the picture. The CDPA, located on the second floor of the William Pitt Union, provides students with guidance and resources in the search for jobs and internships.

“We work with students from freshman through senior year and beyond graduation, so we encourage Pitt students to visit the office, regardless of where they are in their career process,” Karin Asher, associate director for Career Development and Placement Assistance, said in an email.

Asher added a glimpse of the various free services CDPA can provide for students year-by-year.

“For first-year students, we can help with those who are deciding on a major and exploring different career paths. Sophomores and juniors may be focusing on an internship search and gaining experience. Seniors come to us looking for assistance with their job searches and interviews,” Asher said. “We’re here to help from start to finish.”

Junior Jessica Balliett is one student who has received this start-to-finish treatment. As a senior, Balliett, an actuarial math and statistics double major, sought advice from the CDPA staff in choosing her course of study.

“I knew I wanted to do math, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it,” Baillett said. “They kind of helped me figure out where I was going and helped put things in perspective.”

Since then, she has returned to the office for help with composing and revising her resumé.

“They go through [your resumé] with you to make sure it’s what recruiters are looking for,” Balliett said.

Last month, the CDPA received national recognition for their work, earning a distinction from the Princeton Review as one of the top 20 college career services departments in the country.

At the time of the honor, Cheryl Finlay, director of the CDPA, attributed the honor to her strong staff. Asher echoed the strength of the staff.

“We pride ourselves in our accessibility to students — from working with students in the residence halls for evening programs to visiting student organization meetings to helping students on a walk-in basis,” Asher said. “Our staff members are passionate about helping Pitt students find their career match and become the strongest possible candidates for those opportunities, and we are always coming up with new ways to help.”

Senior Richard Shew, a mathematics and economics double major, noted, that success in using the CDPA is just as dependent on the students as it is the staff.

“They point you in the right direction,” Shew said. “If you expect career services to not only help you but do the work for you, then you’ll be disappointed. You only get out of it as much as you put into it.”

CDPA’s most visible work on campus manifests in their seasonal career fairs. On Sept. 25, the office will put on its large fall Career Fair with more than 200 employers planning to attend the event. CDPA will host a Graduate and Law School Fair on Sept. 27 with representatives from 45 schools expected to attend. The office also plans another Career Fair in the spring.

“Career fairs are our most significant events on campus,” Asher said.

For students who prefer one-on-one assistance from the office, the first step is to meet with a career counselor. Each career counselor in the office specializes in working with students from specific majors. The career counselors often possess connections with employers related to the field of study a student is undertaking, or the career a student is interested in pursuing. Students can visit the CDPA office in person or call to make an appointment. Walk-in appointments are also available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Asher described the walk-in hours as one of the career center’s most frequently used services.

It’s not always about the long haul, though. The CDPA also helps students find jobs to complement their class schedule or for the summer months. Career consultants work with students on perfecting their cover letters and resumés, and finding which job matches their interests.

For students who don’t want to venture outside their dorm room while working on their job search, the CDPA offers FutureLinks, an online job search website with job listings exclusive to Pitt students. Employment-seekers can scroll through hundreds of jobs and upload their resumé to the website to send out to employers. FutureLinks can be found on the sidebar of students’ my.pitt homepages.

Students more interested in gaining experience than paychecks can also meet with a career consultant to learn about internship opportunities around Pittsburgh. This year, the office introduced a new program guaranteeing students who complete it an internship. After completing a six-session Internship Preparation Program that involves learning the art of resumé writing and interviewing, among other skills, students are guaranteed an internship by CDPA.

The office also provides students with networking opportunities. Two programs compose the bulk of CDPA’s networking services. The Panther Shadow Program gives students the chance to spend a day tailing a professional in a career the student is interested in pursuing. The Pitt Career Network presents students with access to an online directory of Pitt alumni who volunteer to share knowledge of their careers with current students.

CDPA hosts spot networking programs throughout the year, as well, including dinners and other activities where students can mingle with alumni.

This year, in addition to the Internship Preparation Program, the office is introducing a Senior Boot Camp to prepare those nearing graduation for the post-college job search.