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Flipping a grad cap’s tassel from right to left, students initiate themselves into a new job market: a job market where having a degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee a position and there is plenty of competition for dream careers.

Obviously, navigating this job market is not always straightforward.

Students at Las Positas College can get a head start in their careers by going to the Career Center, located in Room 1604 as part of the Career and Transfer Center. Here, Kristi Vanderhoof, the Career Center Coordinator and the author’s previous instructor, helps students and alumni navigate job and internship opportunities in SmartShop Workshops and one-on-one meetings.

Being aware of available resources may be the first step in utilizing the Career Center resources. And a simple email or visit to the Career Center might help change a career trajectory.

Vanderhoof struggled with the job market at the beginning of her career too. After graduating from University of California, Santa Cruz, she returned to a deli job that she’d worked at before earning her degree. As a student, she did not go to her college’s career center. 

“I feel like if I had gone to the Career Center, I might have known, been more prepared and (I) might have done an internship,” Vanderhoof said.

She used her story to encourage students to go to the Las Positas Career Center as early as possible. 

“Your career starts now. And it’s not something that you think about after you graduate,” Vanderhoof said. “It’s something that you are working on right now.” 

Students and alumni have many opportunities to attend the Career Center’s SmartShops, workshops that help improve their résumé writing, interviewing skills and job fair preparedness. 

April Beam, a returning student who attended a SmartShop called “Winning Résumés (Résumé Building),” appreciated the SmartShop’s accommodating schedule. 

“Everything that they have to offer, there’s flexibility to it. They offer it multiple times,” Beam said. “So if you didn’t make it this time, you know there’s going to be another one.” 

In fact, the “Winning Résumés” SmartShop was offered four times throughout the fall 2022 semester. 

Andrei Nicole Sebastian, a student at Las Positas, attended “Interviewing with Confidence” in preparation for a fall 2022 job fair on campus. An employer from the fair later offered her a marketing internship. She credited club involvement and SmartShops for skills that students use at Job Fairs, in a written statement.

For students and alumni who miss SmartShops or would like more career guidance, one-on-one sessions with Vanderhoof can help clarify career goals, reveal career resources, and more.

One of these resources the Career Center promotes is Handshake, an internship and job board. Students and alumni can join almost one thousand students from Chabot College and Las Positas College to access internship and job opportunities from 4,000 employers seeking current and graduated students.

In addition, the Career Center can help students and alumni set up or revise their LinkedIn profiles. LinkedIn is a networking website, partially purposed with connecting employers and potential employees. LinkedIn currently hosts more than 18,000 Las Positas College alumni. 

When students and alumni finally get that interview with their dream employer, they can practice mock interviews with Vanderhoof to prepare for the real thing. With years of experience at the Tri-Valley Career Center, an East Bay-based resource center, Vanderhoof asks industry-relevant questions during the mock interview and offers feedback about how to improve as an interviewee. 

Career Center coordinator Kristi Vanderhoof (left) leads a mock interview with first year student Aarushi Manga (right) in the Career Center office Feb. 2, 2023. Manga is preparing to apply for a student assistant job on campus.

For students who are unsure about what career to pursue, the Career Center encourages students to use Career Coach, a free career assessment on the Las Positas College website, and the Tri-Valley Career Center.

Through the Career Center, Vanderhoof offers resources that can help students and alumni pursue careers and internships: résumé writing, online networking, and more. Whether exploring career paths or preparing for an interview, going to the Career Center is a great way to build your career-readiness early.

“I would advise you to not do what I did, where you’re struggling right up to graduation” Vanderhoof said. “Come to the Career Center early and get prepared so that you’ll be ready to launch when you graduate.”

Jude Strzemp is a freelance writer for Express. Follow them @Jstrzemp. 

(Article edited Feb.7, 2023 and Feb. 4, 2023 for clarity, correction to Kristi Vanderhoof’s title and to include the location of the Las Positas Career Center and hyperlinks to the Career Center, Handshake and the SmartShops Calendar.)

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