By MARY KOPPY/Montana State News

It comes as a surprise to some students that there is more to securing a job than showing up for an interview brandishing a shiny, new degree.

“Having a degree is a baseline criteria,” said Carina Beck, Director of Career, Internship & Student Employment Services at MSU. ”Most jobs after graduation are not advertised. It is all about networking.”

Career Services is located in a large, bright office in the basement of the Student Union Building

The lobby is welcoming, with posters on the large front windows sectioning off the waiting room from the busy commons of the Bobcat Grille. Their waiting room is filled with comfortable chairs in warm earth tones and the office is long and open.

Beyond their comfortable headquarters, the Office of Career Services seeks out ways to make the students of MSU feel as at home as possible in their majors and along their career paths.

Most majors offer at least one class early in student’s careers that includes a short segment on the importance of internships in a college education. Many require an internship for graduation.

However, Career Services has an active hand in more than the basic aspects of student job searches.

Their website, mycatcareers.com, hosts over 29,000 employers and offers its job search services exclusively to MSU students and alums.

The Office of Career Services opened 65 to 70 years ago as a stipulation of the G.I. bill and has been helping students and grads find work ever since. In the years after their founding, Career Services has moved down through the years to educated students long before they would need to begin using these resources.

“Developing a career is a process,” Beck said. “We encourage students to live by the advice ‘better sooner than later.’”

Accordingly, Career Services helps between 700 and 900 freshman each year. They offer career counseling for these students to help them decide which major will be right for them. Students come in for one-on-one counseling and work on a personal plan for their educational and career paths.

These numbers have increased in the last two years, something Beck credits to the uncertain economy students are observing.

“Students want their education to matter,” Beck said of the increase.

Career Services also offers a class for University Studies majors called “Education, the World of Work and You,” intended to help students take a proactive approach to their own education.

The class teaches students to construct a resume, prepare for an interview and then attend an interview with a representative of a field they are interested in.

Beck says that in the spring the class is dovetailed to fit with the Career Fair, so that when the fair arrives, the students have reached a point in the semester where they are ready to interview with prospective employers. By that time they will have covered interviewing in class and constructed a resume.

Those interviews occur during the same week as the annual “Almost” Spring Job Fair, which took place on Thursday, Feb. 23, this year. They meet with representatives from among the employers browsing through the students and recent grads in attendance at the fair.

Beck says that there is no age limit on grads returning to the fair. Often members of the community and alums returning from the working world come to the fair looking for new openings and prospective positions.

“It’s nice for employers to be able to interview a field of student candidates for internships as well as an older, experienced pool of applicants looking for jobs,” Beck said.

She adds that almost all jobs go unadvertised and that the surest way to get a job is by making connections early on. Networking is a key skill Career Services focuses on for students looking to break into the working world.

The stress on networking is one of the reasons the office publicizes the Career Fair so widely. With over a hundred unique businesses present, it offers an opportunity for students to make those connections with local and corporate employers.

Career Services also offers a Student Jobs Fair in the first week of school to showcase local businesses interested in hiring students.

Becks advice to juniors and seniors looking for experience before graduation is to start planning early. She says that businesses often hire spring internships and part-time employees at the fall internship fair in late September, so students looking for internships should start looking a semester ahead of time.

Edited by Sam Brown

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