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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

SJVC Career Services Department Prepares Students for Job Search

November 19, 2020

Business, Medical and Technical program students begin degree and certificate-granting programs on SJVC campuses excited for all they are about to learn, while only vaguely aware that there are those whose responsibility it is to support their job search efforts as they get closer to graduation.

“I don’t think students realize that we are the department that connects the students to employers of different industries,” says Kim Soares, Career Services Advisor (CSA) on the Fresno campus who has worked for SJVC for 35-years. “We move students from their career dreams to what they hoped to accomplish and where they want to work.”

Career Services staff approach this outcome in two primary ways. “We start preparing students weeks before they graduate,” says Kim. “We work with students on interview skills, creating a job portfolio and professionalism, while we identify employers looking to hire qualified personnel.”

SJVC’s support is considerable from the beginning to the end of a student’s experience on campus and online. “We have administration, faculty and staff who step up to help students get over any challenge,” says Kim. From a student’s first day until their last – and beyond – the SJVC team is there. Graduates may check back in with Career Services as their career needs change.

Strong working relationships between SJVC Career Services and employers have been forged over the years, as graduates of Medical, Business and Technology programs successfully fill key positions in their businesses and industry. “Our employer data base includes industry-specific businesses for every program we offer,” says Kim.

So much trust has been established between the college and employers that SJVC is often contacted first when companies have an opening. These same employers often tell other businesses about SJVC’s wealth of well-trained students for their own hiring needs.

“Kim Soares goes above and beyond the task at hand,” says Stacy Elenes, Regional Career Services Director for Fresno, Fresno Trades, Hanford and Madera campuses. “She takes initiative, is a great team player, detail oriented and reliable – but, most importantly, always has SJVC student/grad success in mind. In the same manner, Kim has provided guidance and training to all CSAs institution-wide of her daily practices that have made her a successful CSA throughout the years.”

Career Services Advisors work with each student within their level of preparedness, motivation and abilities. Motivation often surpasses any other driver. “I had an Industrial Maintenance Technology student who told me his dad had been a farmworker all his life but couldn’t work anymore, so he had to help provide for their family,” says Kim. “He commuted almost an hour to attend evening classes, then got up early to work a full day before coming back to class the next night.” That level of motivation transferred well to his job search preparation and success.

Many students are in class to change their lives in the most dramatic way. “I worked with a graduate who was without stable housing who either rode the bus or walked to school,” says Kim. “I was assisting her in looking for employment and even if the interview was across town with many bus stops, she would find a way to make it work. Those kinds of stories are the most impactful. And they remind us of the importance of what we do as an institution.”

It is a committed relationship. “We don’t treat our students as just someone we need to locate employment for,” says Kim. “I get to know them. I try to be that individual they know they can count on to reach their employment goal; that’s always important to me. If we keep our focus on our students and we also understand the needs of our employers, our goals are achievable. But it has to be in your heart – you have to want to do it for the students you are helping.”

Kim had the opportunity of working with Shirley Perry who with her husband, Robert, founded the college in 1977. “Shirley told me, ‘We are here for our students and where they start does not determine their future.’ “She saw young women with very few employment opportunities, as she was starting her own career as a Medical Assistant. She wanted to see anyone who wanted an education to have the opportunity to get it. Shirley expected a lot from her employees because she wanted to provide students with that bridge to a better life.”

Kim balances plenty of heart with the practical skills students need for a productive job search that will bring their new career into focus.

She works with them to polish their job search and professional projection, while she also provides tight follow-up. “The best way to identify a problem is to find out how they performed in their interview,” says Kim. “I discuss it with them, and I do outreach with employers with whom they have interviewed to see how they performed. Sometimes they missed an interview because there was something going on in their personal life or they lacked transportations and were embarrassed to call the employer to reschedule. Coaching and intervention can assist in removing many of those barriers.”

The best laid plans toward job success can go awry, but Kim is ready for that. “I tell students that I will keep working for them as long as they are willing to keep working with me. I don’t care how many interviews it requires for them to get to that opportunity. Job search is a process that is different for every individual.”

Kim sees the results of the Career Services Department every day. “I can walk the Fresno campus and see graduates who have filled many key roles. We have people at the front desk, in Admissions, our current Dean of Student Services, Nancy Hale, and so many faculty members who are teaching in the classrooms where they once sat.”

Sometimes it is personal for Kim. Her husband, Mark, is a local dentist who thirty years ago hired his assistant, Gloria, a graduate of SJVC Fresno’s first Dental Assisting program. Kim and Mark’s son, Alex, graduated from the Fresno campus’s Surgical Technology program and worked for six years for a local hospital.

Kim is in the business of helping students and graduates achieve their best career experience. “Dreams sometimes start with the smallest step. That’s how my career began with the college, and it has afforded me the opportunity to work in a capacity that provides challenge, satisfaction and the daily reminder that education matters to the success of everyone.”

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