NSU Career Services Center helps students find their path


Submitted by Kacy Young

Kacy Young stands next to Rachel Cunningham, assistant director of Counseling and Career Services, at their new career center location on the first floor of the Friedman Student Union Building.

Many students in college struggle with a fear of graduation, simply due to the fact that it is the first time students may feel alone in the big world.

The career services center located on the first floor of the Friedman Student Union building of Northwestern State University of Louisiana is here for students of all classifications and ready to hear all the fears and worries imaginable.

Rachel Cunningham, the Assistant Director and Coordinator of Career Services, tells more about the diverse services the career center works to give students.

“We host career fairs. This semester we are hosting four. We always host a fall and a spring career fair,” Cunningham said.

Career fairs are an event hosted multiple times a semester, where employers are invited to meet students and read resumes all in the hopes of landing a dream job, Cunningham said. These career fairs are hosted solely for the purpose of providing students with the opportunity to present themselves to employers of all kinds and learn not only how to handle interviews and connections, but also for employers to scout potential employees.

More than only regular career fairs, the career services center also hosts part-time job fairs, every fall. “We just started hosting a fall and spring graduate fair, as well as a teacher job fair,” Cunningham said

Using a platform named Handshake, an online recruiting platform that partners with universities to connect employers to students and graduates, the career center enables students to engage before they graduate. “In association with the engineering department, we work to get employers through Handshake to attend their job fair,” Cunningham said.

By working with departments on campus closely, Cunningham explains that they can help students better prepare for the interviewing process for future job employers.

“We try to set up things with departments, to get students more involved,” Cunningham said.

She also explains how Handshake connects students with job availability.

“The university pays for Handshake where students can make appointments with us. We post jobs and employers are on handshake always looking for students,” Cunningham said.

NSU teaches students Handshake during their freshman education course giving students a head start on career searching.

“We teach about Handshake in University 1000…it can be like LinkedIn. If students fill out their profile and put their resumes on Handshake, employers will find them,” she said.

Resumes are an important part of the hiring process. Cunningham stresses the importance of updating your resume often.

“I say it’s a living document, your resume is ongoing, it’s always changing,” she said.

Handshake is useful to students beyond their senior year of college, freshmen should be actively using the platform to connect with employers as well. “You’d be surprised how many employers are interested in younger grade levels for part-time jobs and internships,” she said.

The Career Services Center is not well-known by students, so opportunities to enhance skills with the center are being lost.

“There’s a lot that we do that nobody knows about,” Cunningham said. “Covid really shut us down, but ever since we started back up, employers are coming in wanting to set up events for students.”

Similar to Handshake, there is another program Cunningham said they use. “Big Interview has been huge.” Big Interview is a preparation system designed to teach a student how to best navigate a job interview of all sorts. “You practice interviewing yourself, you record yourself. And all the industries are on Big Interview, so it gives you a list of questions to practice.”

Big Interview has many distinct parts to its course. “There’s a fast track and a master track…Fast track is learning what to do, what are interview skills,” Cunningham said.

At the end of the process, students work directly with the staff at the career center to get feedback on their work.

“Once they’ve learned everything, they record their interview then we grade it and give a review,” she said. “Then they must come back and meet with us for a feedback appointment.”

Depending on your classification, the levels of the program can vary.

“As seniors, you can do the mastery level with panel interviews,” Cunningham said. “Self-reflection can be difficult and uncomfortable, but when it’s all over, they love big interviews. I haven’t heard a person go; I hate this assignment.”

The staff at the career services center are passionate about their connections with students, extending their help to those who have already graduated. “As an alumnus, you can still use and have access to the career center. You can come back to us for resumes without an appointment or coming into the office. You can email it to us and we’ll review and send it back to you,” Cunningham said.

Sarah Burkhalter, the Job Location and Development Officer, mentions how she has helped students directly.

“In my area of job location and development, I help students find off campus part-time employment, but we help with full-time jobs, internship searches, or just putting together a job search plan,” Burkhalter said.

Resumes are important to the process, and Burkhalter reveals how the career services center caters to every student.

“We try to appeal to the different content areas of the university,” Burkhalter said. We try to have a sample of different resumes for students in all the different areas and fields.”

The career services center can aid students even if they already have tried it all.

“We are well-rounded in our services; we truly offer a lot. You can schedule appointments on Handshake, but we also accept walk-in appointments too if we are available,” Burkhalter said.

Cunningham adds that they can serve as guides as students debate their futures.

“Nine times out of ten, they already know the answer to their futures, it’s often just anxiety,” Cunningham said. “It’s just the money. When they start realizing they’re about to make their own money they don’t know how to manage that.”

Cunningham has a process she follows when it comes to helping a student or graduates one on one. “The first question I start to ask is, tell me what you’ve been doing here. What are your plans? Where have you been looking for a job? And you’d be surprised how many of them have it together, they just need some reassurance.”

To stay informed, the career center posts updates on their Instagram page: @nsulacareercenter.