SRU adds peer career educators to better serve students’ needs
From left, Gianna Polichena, a peer career educator in the Slippery Rock University Office of Career Education and Development, assists fellow SRU student Trey Douyon, while joined by Jimmi Bustillos, one of the newest peer career educators.
Feb. 19, 2019
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - When John Rindy became director of career education and development at Slippery Rock University seven years ago, he estimates that his office saw about 150 students per semester for services such as resume reviews. Charged with increasing visibility and value, Rindy and his staff have increased their interactions more than tenfold. They scheduled more than 1,900 student appointments in the 2018 fall semester.
Rindy will be the first to tell you that a lot of people and programs contributed to that success. There's no doubt the CED office's new location, on the first floor of the Bailey Library, helped to increase foot traffic. However, the top reason, according to Rindy, is the influx of freshmen and sophomores who are getting a head start on their career development by crafting their resumes early in their college careers.
"If the resume appointments you are scheduling are only seniors, you failed as a career director," said Rindy, who noted that 28 percent of all student appointments are freshmen, an enviable number compared to other school's career offices. "Your seniors should be coming to you for more high-level topics, like bills, budgets, benefits, getting promoted or finding a job in a place where they can bloom best. They should have reflected by the time they are seniors and already know themselves, their knowledge, skills and abilities, and be able to talk about all that. What to put on a resume should be understood very early."
That's where peer career educators can help. Peer career educators are students trained by CED staff to guide fellow students through the resume and cover letter process, either through hour-long sessions where they craft a resume from scratch or shorter, 15- or 30-minute appointments to review existing resumes. Fellow students are sometimes more relatable, especially for first-year students who might be hesitant or not know where to start.
This semester, the CED office increased its peer career educators from one to three to better accommodate the increase in visits to its office. The office has also added additional walk-in hours and increased opportunities for evening appointments.
"A lot of the students are nervous to come in, so having a student that's in the same position as them, someone they see in their classes, makes for a more comfortable conversation," said Gianna Polichena, a junior public health major from Ravenna, Ohio, who has worked in the CED office since February 2018 and is entering her second semester as a peer career educator. "I enjoy doing this because I can help students get a strong understanding of who they are on a piece of paper so they can continue their education or get a job and just get themselves out there in the world."
The two newest peer career educators are Leah Bailey, a junior public health major from New Eagle, and Jimmi Bustillos, a graduate student from Slippery Rock who is pursuing a certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages. Bustillos, Bailey and Polichena all see walk-ins during the day, but Polichena takes scheduled evening appointments from 5-7 p.m., Mondays and Wednesdays. Students can schedule daytime appointments as well, but walk-in hours are noon to 2 p.m., Mondays, and 8-11 a.m. and noon to 2 p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays.
Polichena will eventually be trained to conduct mock interviews and more advanced student appointments, which are typically administered by the CED's staff of five graduate assistants or four full-time staff members.
SRU was recognized in 2018 as one of only 48 colleges and universities in the U.S. to be recognized as a College of Distinction for Career Development.
"We need to serve our students and serve them well," Rindy said. "We experimented with evening hours in the fall and we really filled up. Clearly students want them. This is a good problem to have."
Polichena said her typical advice to students is to keep their resumes simple and clean and to get involved with leadership opportunities such as student organizations.
"You want experiences to make you stand out as an individual and what will make you be different than a typical job candidate," Polichena said. "Anyone can put on a resume that they were a particular major but what did you do or what did you differently (to achieve a goal or become more active) makes you stand out."
To schedule an appointment at the CED office, call 724.738.2028, or visit www.sru.edu/career and click on the "Career Connection" portal. Students can also visit the CED office in Bailey Library during walk-in hours.
MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 | email@example.com