Putting your best foot forward

Woody Allen once quipped, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” He may not have meant showing up at the GW Career Center, but he would have been right if he had. Allen’s comment sums up the Career Center’s mission fairly well.

Figuring out when and where one should start looking for employment opportunities is one of the greatest challenges college students face, whether they’re freshmen or graduate students. The Career Center’s goal is to help students discover the answer to that question, among others.

“Helping you get to the next level is what university education is all about,” said Marva Gumbs Jennings, the Career Center’s director.

For most students, that next level is a job after graduation. The Career Center serves as a bridge between students and alumni and potential employers by hosting a number of events that can take place as close as J Street or as far away as New York and Philadelphia. Five major events are currently being planned for next semester.

On Feb. 10, the Center is hosting D.C. Networking Night in the Marvin Center Ballroom, which is designed to help bring current students and recent graduates into contact with successful alumni. Feb. 12 marks the beginning of the Summer in the City internship fair, which introduces students to employment opportunities in the District during summer vacation. In addition, there are a number of job search workshops and co-op orientations planned throughout the spring, including a Business Etiquette Dinner, which gives students a chance to polish their dining skills. Every session, from dinners to workshops, is designed to help students find employment or perfect the skills that will serve them well in the future.

“What the Career Center really does is provide a series of connections that will eventually lead to a job you can be happy with,” Jennings explained.

She remembered one case last year when a student who attended one of the information sessions and was offered an interview then a job based simply upon the questions he asked during the information session. But she stressed that this situation is more the exception than the rule, and that persistent job searching will more often lead to success than a one-time meeting.

“It is really important for students to visit and keep an eye out,” Jennings stressed. “Students should be astute enough to periodically check what opportunities are available.”

On the Career Center’s Web site, gwired.gwu.edu/career, a student can browse through the many internships and jobs available to all levels of students with all types of experience and majors. From a few weeks to a whole semester, from childcare to the Brookings Institute, the Career Center Web site is a rich resource for finding part-time employment. At any given time, there are 3,000 positions registered on the site, and that doesn’t include companies with multiple openings.

While the job market has slumped over the last year or two, Jennings said she is beginning to see an upward swing in the demand for student employees. The University’s follow-up survey of the Class of 2002 found that 61 percent of respondents were employed, 32 percent had gone to graduate school, and only 5 percent were still searching for employment.

In addition to its Web site, the Career Center itself is a worthwhile place to visit. Ben Wurcer, a freshman who recently picked up his I-9 employment forms there, was impressed.

“The setup was very user-friendly – well-organized and easily accessible,” he said.

Many students, like Wurcer, have found that the Career Center is a great starting place in achieving their goal of getting real-world job experience.

“Gaining experience – getting your big toe wet – is very important for success in the future,” Jennings said. “It helps you figure out what opportunities are available, as well as aiding in honing abilities that may prove valuable.”

Such valuable experience can also be found right here at GW. The Career Center is the primary coordinator of the Federal Work Study Program, which provides students with on-campus employment opportunities.

“The jobs they offer are either things you want to do and are interested in or things that give you an opportunity to earn decent money,” sophomore Mary Steimer said. “The only problem is that it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of paperwork.”

Not every student will get a job through the Career Center, but anyone can work on his resume there.

“There is so much competition that people don’t approach (resume writing) effectively,” Jennings said.

Students can learn how to create a resume that will make them stand out as ideal candidates for positions in a competitive job market. Programs such as Resume Madness, which is coming up Feb. 19, invite experienced career consultants and employers to critique students’ resumes.

In the end, Jennings stressed that students need to educate themselves on all the opportunities available to them.

“The more you know, the more you can meet with different people,” Jennings said, “and the more you can learn about what individual employers are looking for.” n

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