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The Counseling and Career Services Center Connects Students and Employers

After working for years as a successful civil and structural engineer, Ken Cook realized the time was right to start a whole new career. Eager to gain direction and support in making the transition, Cook put a call into the Counseling and Career Services Center at Howard Community College (HCC).

“The career center played a pivotal role in helping me explore various careers and figure out which was the best fit for me,” said Cook. “They provided one-on-one counseling, vocational assessments, and a list of resources to assist me in making my decisions. They also encouraged me to volunteer, conduct informational interviews, and connect with people in various online communities to gather more information about the careers that were of interest to me.”  

Through these services, Cook gained the clarity he needed. He will start HCC’s physical therapy assistant (PTA) program in fall 2016. 

 “Developing a career is a process and we have resources available to help at every stage in that process,” said Dave Tirpak, assistant director of career and employment counseling. “Through these resources, you can learn about yourself and gain the experience you need to pursue the career path that is right for you.”

One of the popular tools available through the center is the FOCUS-2, a self-guided online career assessment program that helps people clarify their true interests and skills, and then matches them with potential occupations. 

Another tool that has proven useful for students is Career Coach, which is readily available from the front page of HCC’s website. Career Coach allows students to explore career paths relevant to a particular area of study, providing information on occupations, current wages, projected growth, employers, and open positions in the Columbia, Baltimore, and D.C. areas. Together, these tools are helping to answer some of the biggest questions students have, such as “what should I major in?” and “what careers have the brightest outlook?”

While enrolled in HCC’s construction management program, Mohammed Yamani Sisi turned to the career center for help with developing a cover letter and fine tuning his resume to make it applicable to his intended career path. Sheri Hawes, co-op/internship manager within the career center went the extra mile for Yamani Sisi, introducing him to the president of the Coston Company, which led to his placement as a company intern. Through that internship, he gained the experience he needed to later land his dream job.

“They made a connection that led me to the job I have today, which I love,” said Yamani Sisi, who works in Washington D.C. as an estimator for Miller and Long, a concrete construction company. “Internships are so important because they really give you a chance to gain experience that will stand out on your resume.”

Companies of all sizes, representing a diverse range of industries in Howard County, are familiar with the strength and comprehensive nature of HCC’s academic programs and know that the college is an ideal place to turn for well-trained, well-rounded prospects. Companies that are recruiting are encouraged to post internships and part- and full-time positions on HCC Job Connection, participate in the HCC job fairs, and engage with students through on-campus recruitment opportunities. 

Jessica Ward, who serves as an operations assistant for Howard Tech Advisors, is a fan of HCC’s job fairs; so much that she attends every fall and spring, whether she has job vacancies to fill or not.

“By having job fairs, HCC is giving companies like ours a great opportunity to get out in the community and build relationships,” said Ward, who has an ongoing need to hire information technology engineers for her Elkridge-based corporation. 

“We are serving as a link between students and members of our community who are looking for great opportunities, and the companies who are looking for great people,” Tirpak said. “Some look at what we do and see that we are helping people make career decisions. But really, through providing support, guidance, mentoring, and coaching, we are doing something much bigger and much more personal. We are positively impacting people’s lives.”

A longer version of this story appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Pathways Magazine. Read more here [link to /pathways page].

To get started on your pathway to a new career, consider enrolling in classes, visit the HCC admissions and advising website. For assistance with determining that future career path, visit the Career and Counseling Services Center website. 

Topics: Career Focus
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