Career Services aims to bolster reach, hire counselors


Oscar Rendon

Orlando Harris, Director of Career Services and Leadership Development, has his portrait taken near Malcolm X Plaza at SF State’s on Sept. 10, 2018. (Oscar Rendon/Golden Gate Xpress)

The office of Career Services and Leadership Development, which provides career counseling for students looking for employment or internships, has only two certified counselors for a campus population of about 29,500 students, according to the 2018 Enrollment Report.

San Jose State Career Counselor Judy Garcia said having only two career counselors is too low.

Because she works at a college with a comparable number of students enrolling each semester, about 32,000, Garcia said even they struggle to reach students with a staff of 11 certified career counselors and a few interns.

“We try to do everything to get students to come to us in the Career Center,” she said. “But we are not in a great location. We are in the Student Administration Building, so we have been focusing on outreach [in classrooms, campus newsletters and using social media].”

SF State CSLD Director Orlando Harris said the University hired two career counselors in 2017 using funding from the Graduation Initiative 2025, which is a statewide initiative to increase graduation rates and narrow achievement gaps.

Orlando Harris, Director of Career Services and Leadership Development, has his portrait taken near Malcolm X Plaza at SF State’s on Sept. 10, 2018. (Oscar Rendon/Golden Gate Xpress)

“The team currently includes a director, associate director, two career counselors and two operational staff members,” he said. “We will post an events coordinator position and one additional career counselor position in January 2019.”

Political science professor Robert Smith said his concern is, despite having a dozen student volunteers at the Career Center at SF State, many students are not taking advantage of this resource because the program is stretched thin.

According to the Career Services and Leadership website, there are only two career counselors and 10 student assistants.

“The question is why has this not been a priority and how does this serve students who need professional guidance and support?” Smith said in an email to the Xpress. “These are essential services that all universities should provide.”

Since the program launched in January 2017, Harris said CSLD’s goal is to assist students on identifying career options and developing plans based on their interests and academic history.

In its first year, the CSLD team met with 256 students in total. At the start of the 2018 fall semester, Harris said a newly implemented online appointment system, Handshake, has increased outreach and counselors have met with 654 students this semester.

Outreach is a challenge that both San Jose State and SF State are working to improve.

“One common challenge we have in career counseling is our students not taking advantage of career resources throughout their college experience,” Harris said. “Too often, we see seniors or alumni in a more frantic state after facing application rejection.”

Garcia said informing students about this resource should be top priority for CSUs statewide because many students often feel lost when searching for a job in a competitive market.

“Many students get a degree and say, ‘I don’t know what to do’… or they are struggling with grades and trying to figure out what to do,” she said. “We try to help them explore other majors they haven’t [considered] and look at other options, but if it’s beyond that, then their academic adviser comes in.”

“[Things like] grades and what they need to do to pass is not our department,” Garcia added.

Harris said the program at SF State has a similar mission and is mainly funded by the University, Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and donations from Eustace-Kwan Family Foundation.