Jump start your career over free coffee

by Valerie Turcios

The smells of fresh coffee and popcorn waft through the halls at Pima Community College’s Desert Vista campus once a month.

The DV campus is home to Career Café, a resource event for PCC students to learn basic tips and information needed for career exploration. Even though Career Café is a DV-specific event, it’s open to all Pima students looking for help to further their métier.

There’s a welcoming presence with the casual café atmosphere, including the chill music.

There are four staple café stations available every month. Students can check out Resume and Writing Tips, Cover Letter Tips, Professional Interviewing and the MyCareerLink station, the one-click stop to several employers.

There are also featured monthly “brews,” which are stations where students can talk to different experts on that month’s career skills. The brew on Oct. 14 was on transferable skills and how to market yourself whether you’re changing career fields or about to transfer from student to workforce.

Career Café will have their next event on Nov. 18. Its hot brew will be Intentional Applications: “Don’t pray and spray.” The main focus for this session is for students to learn how to attentively apply for a job and tailor their resume to a specific job.

In addition to the informative stations, students can enjoy free coffee, snacks and giveaways. There is always something free to give away at Career Café, but the staple will always be coffee, said Renee Forsyth, student services advisor at DV.

Career Café is entirely staffed by faculty and staff volunteers. Each event can take about six to ten volunteers to staff the tables. The volunteers aren’t always from DV, some volunteers have come from Pima’s district office, human resources and the Career Training and Development program.

They’re ready to support the students and share what they’ve learned from their own experience, Forsyth said.

“You’re going to be learning from people who have been there done that and have got the T-shirt,” Forsyth said.

Established in 2013, Career Café was started by Forsyth and Autumn Palmer, program coordinator for CTD. But the idea came from Ann Parker, vice president of Student Development. She asked Forsyth to bring forth some student engagement events or activities to help students get interested in career exploration. Forsyth answered with much excitement, “You got it!” Thus, Career Café was born.

“Renee being the creative person that she is,” Parker said “I knew she could get it started.”

Forsyth didn’t only think of the name “Career Café,” but also their ‘Wizard of Oz’ inspired motto: “Career exploration takes, brains, heart and courage.”

She said the motto derived from her belief that students have what it takes to be successful.

“They just have to discover it and learn it along the way,” she said. “Just like the characters from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”

The budget to fund Career Café is $35 per event. Parker said she is able to fund it from a hospitality budget, which is only used to provide any food for student engagement events. The DV community also came together to help out; from the culinary program that supplied the free coffee to student life that ordered special designed coffee mugs that were given away at the October event.

They’re always happy to receive donations or funding for prizes and giveaways to engage the students, Forsyth said.

Since 2013, the DV campus has served more than 350 students by hosting Career Café. Although they had a slow start with zero attendees for their inaugural event, it escalated to an average of 25 attendees a month for the rest of the year, Forsyth said.

Since the location moved from the Ocotillo Room to the cafeteria, the average number of students that show up has grown. Forty-three students showed up to the first event in September this semester, which is a big jump from zero when Career Café began, Forsyth said.

Past participants said they’ve gained a lot of knowledge and help on their resumes by attending Career Café events.

Janette Thornton, a PCC graduate said that Career Café helped her land a job at the University of Arizona as an administrative associate right after graduation. She said she was helped with her resume and learned how to handle herself during an interview.

“I picked up new tips all along the way,” she said. “That helped me secure a job.”

Current PCC student Kim Cutler is set to graduate this month from the CTD program with a certificate in Medical Billing and Coding. She attended a few Career Café events and says they were very informative regarding Pima’s MyCareerLink and also helped her put a resume together along with a cover letter.

Cutler said that thanks to help form Career Café, she feels more confident going out into the workforce after graduation. If students are looking for help with their resumes or cover letters, Cutler said, she would highly recommend them to check out Career Café.

“The career job hunt process is something that’s always relevant,” Forsyth said. “It’s a skill that can always be sharpened.”

For more information about Career Café follow them on twitter @PCCCareerSvcs and tweet them using the hash tag #DVCareerCafe for career tips or to find out about future events.

Valerie Turcios/Aztec Press Autumn Palmer and Renee Forsyth out on the patio at Pima Community College Desert Vista Campus.

Valerie Turcios/Aztec Press
Autumn Palmer and Renee Forsyth out on the patio at Pima Community College Desert Vista Campus.

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