New Cat conference to build career skills

Kate Clark

One hundred NMU students will take part in the first Cat Career Conference, which helps students gain employment skills through various workshops, on Saturday, Nov. 7.

Career Services senior secretary Melissa Sprouse, who is securing presenters and other “behind the scenes” planning for the conference, said it functions to give students the tools they need to be successful after graduation.

Students talk to potential employers at a 2012 job fair, one of the many Career Services-sponsored events for students seeking internship or employment opportunities. (Rebecca Tadych/Communications Dept.)
Students talk to potential employers at a 2012 job fair, one of the many Career Services-sponsored events for students seeking internship or employment opportunities. (Rebecca Tadych/Communications Dept.)

“Our office came up with the idea to create a career readiness event for students,” Sprouse said. “We wanted to make sure they were ready for the world.”

The event, which is being held in the Explorer Rooms of the University Center, has already reached maximum capacity with preregistered students.

“If we find that there is an interest in students that really wanted to attend but were unable to register, there is a possibility we will hold it, or a similar event, next semester,” Sprouse said.

The Cat Career Conference separates students into the “tracks” beginner, beginner plus, jobseeker and jobseeker plus which roughly correlates to their class standing. Overall, there will be 20 sessions, each with a different focus, Sprouse said.

Director of Career Services, Jim Gadzinski, said the tracks allow the conference to be more beneficial to students.

“We want to meet the needs across the whole range,” Gadzinski said. “Because, let’s face it, seniors aren’t the only ones involved in career things.”

He said younger students should develop career skills to help build their resumes, make contact with employers or acquire internships.

Students can pick which sessions they want to attend based on what they believe would benefit them. However, the base session schedules are designed for what a student might need help with at the time.

The beginners track, mostly for freshmen, features presentations on choosing a major, developing a career strategy, beginning a resume and the importance of being involved on campus. Beginners plus offers things on time management and discovering what types of careers are available after graduation.

“We’re really trying to tailor the sessions for each student,” Sprouse said. “Not necessarily by their skill level but from where they are in the career process. We hope that they’ll be able to gain lots of different career-related skills.”

The jobseeker and jobseeker plus options are for students who may need help finding a career in the field they’d like to go into. Sessions offered include job searching, interview skills and an advanced resume workshop.

Other sessions will teach students how to behave in the work environment with meetings on business attire, etiquette in the workplace and interaction skills. There will also be one available for students continuing on to graduate school.

Sprouse said even though NMU offers individual career workshops and skill builders on elements of career readiness, this may be the first time a day-long event on the topic has been offered.

“It was the result of some brainstorming on how we can help students to enter the world after graduation feeling a little more ready, how they can graduate with a job rather than not know what comes next,” Sprouse said.

Gadzinski said there are possible plans to renew the event but it depends on the reception of the first conference.

“We’re looking at two things. Demand, and obviously we had more people than spots this fall, and evaluation, since this is our first time doing it,” said Gadzinski. “If students who attend this Saturday love it and say it’s very useful, obviously it’s something we’re going to need to continue.”

The event started back in July, from a career services employee’s idea, he said. From there they began to seek out presenters and decide on workshop topics.

Gadzinski also explained that if the conference is continued, they would move to a different date.

“The date was based on room availability,” he said. “We wanted to do it before the job fairs but because we started planning late not every weekend was available. In the future, we’d like to hold it before the job fairs.”

If you’d like more information on the Cat Career Conference or the other workshops available by Career Services visit nmu.edu/careerservices.