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Q&A with a Career Advisor

Q&A with a Career Advisor

By Genevieve StJean
Bicycle By Tower Photo Credit: Michigan State University

Editor’s note: I sat down with Randi Martinez, one of the career advisors in the ComArtSci Career Center. The following are my questions and her answers to career related questions.

To get more career advice on an individual basis, students in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences can sign up for appointments through handshake or visit the career center during their drop-in hours in the Communication Arts and Sciences building room 181.


Q: Who are the career advisors students can utilize?

A: There’s two and a half of us: there is myself, Karin Hanson, who’s the director of employer relations and transitions, and Liz Kubias who is a half-time career advisor, half-time academic advisor. We also have graduate assistants and student interns in the office.

Q: What services does the career center provide to students?

A: We provide services all along the spectrum, from students who aren’t really sure what they should major in or what they can do with their major or minor to people who are trying to explore all their options, to people who we can help with internships or job searches. We always hear about resumes and cover letters, and we can help with that too, but we are really here for anything career related.

Q: When should students seeing a career advisor?

A: Ideally, we would love to see everyone coming in their first year. Advertising and Public Relations are competitive industries and experience is very important, so we are helping to get students plugged into student organizations, volunteer opportunities, and events.

In other words, start as early as possible.

Q: What networking opportunities within the college should students take advantage of?

A: There are plenty of things to go to, and not just in the career center. Every time I look around there’s a talk or the alumni office is bringing alumni back, which are all very important. In terms of what we offer, we always do a studio crawl in the fall for Lansing local agency tours, and we help promote AdCon, which is an advertising conference in Detroit which has a huge number of alumni and industry leaders. In the spring we do ComArtSci Connect, our career fair, and we have a career week leading up to that. We’ve done employer panels and brought internship coordinators. We recommend going to what you can because often they aren’t well attended, and if you can get your face in front somebody, it is just as important as applying.

Q: What’s the best way to connect with alumni in order to build your network more? For example, if an alumnus comes and speaks in a class/club. 

A: Go up to them and introduce themselves and get to know what their interests are or what they are doing. Don’t see it as ‘I’m going to get a job or internship’, but more of an opportunity to learn about organizations, positions and how you can be in their seat in a few years. Talk to them and then follow up. Connect with a message saying something along the lines of: ‘It was great to meet with you. Can you look at my resume?’ or ‘Can I see your space?’.

Q: When are the career fairs that are applicable to AD + PR students?

A: It’s hard to say there are just one or two fairs that are applicable because students want to do so many things. In the fall we have a sales fair for students interested in sales. There is a career week the university puts on with employers that may be interesting in hiring students interested in advertising and public relations and those are late September, early October.

The career fair for the college is February 1st from 1:30 – 4 p.m. It is right here in the college and we will have about 60 employers, and it kicks off hiring and recruiting season for our industries. But it also depends on what students are interested in: there are about 23 fairs, so there are a lot of opportunities across campus.

Q: How do you recommend preparing for a career fair?

A: I would recommend first doing research on the companies that are coming. The number one thing we hear from employers is that students don’t know who they are or what they do. You can find the list of employers on Handshake and do research to find out what they are looking for and what their internships look like.

Have some questions prepared, then come in to see us to look at your resume and make sure you aren’t underselling your skills, because you need to be able to talk about what you have done. The more you can say, ‘Here’s how my job working at Sparty’s taught me these skills’ the better it will be. It’s hard and takes a lot of time to think about how you want to talk about your experiences, but the more you do that, the easier things will be.

Q: Should AD + PR students bring a portfolio into the career fair?

A: It depends on the employer if they have a minute to look at the piece that you brought with you. For ComArtSci Connect, yes, it is nice for creative students or students who have a writing portfolio or work they want to show off to bring some pieces. Sometimes recruiters are surprised when creative students don’t bring anything to the career fair so they can’t evaluate students on anything. More and more people want work samples and to see what you have done in the past.

Q: Is the ComArtSci Connect career fair geared more towards finding summer internships or post-graduation jobs?

A: It’s both. There are probably more people actively recruiting for internship positions. Many of them are there to build their talent pools because something may open up in a week or a month. So even though they may not have anything right now, chances are that something is going to open up.

Q: Should students expect to get connections out of a career fair or jobs and internships?

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A: I would say both. Don’t be depressed if an employer says they don’t have a job right now. For students who are graduating, think of this as a way to build your network and to follow up with somebody so if something does open up, you have made a connection with somebody. For students looking for internships, you will find that there are more interviews and opportunities coming up for that.

Q: What other resources are in place for students to find an internship?

A: The first thing we always talk about is Handshake, which is MSU’s career management system which informs you on jobs, internships, career fairs and employers who are coming to campus. That’s a good first resource. Other than that, we would definitely recommend for students to utilize LinkedIn. If you don’t have one, employers are going to wonder why, so get involved, follow employers, grow your network, and then you will know when jobs get posted. We also recommend developing a list of employers you are interested in and work backwards from that list. You can bookmark their pages, follow them on LinkedIn, and use an alumnus search so you can make connections and be the first to know when something opens up.

Q: Is there a specific time periods that internships open up?

A: It depends on what you are looking for and where you are looking. For big corporations that have more of a typical recruiting structure, those will open up in September and October. You might see some of the larger agencies with big programs opening up their positions in December and January. January, February and March are when you will see it pick up in terms of all sorts of internships in agencies and smaller places starting to look. People will be looking forever, but I would say mid-February or March is when you will see the most opportunities.

Q: What do you recommend to students who don’t necessarily know what they want to do when searching for internships?

A: It’s ok to not know what you want to do, but don’t let that stop you from doing anything. Try to get some experience. Even if you get an internship and you don’t like it, you still have a skillset from that. You can also meet some people and do some informational interviews with different people. Just try one of them out, and if you don’t like it, you can always change.

Q: Once a student has an internship, what should they do to make the most of their experience and potentially get a job offer?

A: To make the most of your internship, show up, be on time, and don’t think of this as something you are checking off on the way to your job. Ask yourself: are you asking for projects? Are you taking initiative? Are you trying to meet other people within your company? Can you get informational interviews? Don’t think of it as whatever they are giving you to work on and that’s it but try to take initiative and follow up with them afterwards.

Q: Can students use the career center after they graduate and are looking for post-graduation jobs?

A: We help students up to two years after graduation.

Martinez became a career advisor to help students reach their goals and find their path, so she always encourages students to come in and talk with her. Make sure to schedule an appointment with the career center and start searching and networking! To learn more about the Career Center at ComArts, click here