Alumni Connect During CareerQuest Kick-Off

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 7, 2009) – The oldest graduated in 1971 when typewriters and calculators were the tools of the trade for a college student and tweets were something birds did. The most recent had graduated less than a year ago. There were five entrepreneurs looking for a new start and two married couples. Their majors ranged from chemistry, psychology, math and marketing to engineering, accounting, history and education.


While their ages and experiences spanned several decades, what they held in common – searching for a job in a tough marketplace and their loyalty to their alma mater – bridged any generational divides among the alumni attending the kick-off workshop for the USF Career Center’s new Alumni CareerQuest initiative.


Peter Eichler, for example, received a master’s of public health from USF in 2000 and a bachelor’s in finance in 1995. Currently working for the Pinellas County Health Department, his goal is to move back into health care organization and management and work in public health education. Bryan Johnson graduated in December 2008 with a degree in electrical engineering. Just starting to search for his first job and passionate about robotics, he hopes to land a position in engineering design.


On Sept. 25, more than 90 USF alumni gathered in the Alumni Center’s Traditions Hall for the first-of-its-kind workshop. It was a day filled with the nuts and bolts – the practicalities and methodologies – of conducting an effective job search in today’s economy. But just as important, it was an opportunity for USF alumni to network, support and inspire hope in each other.


Recognizing the difficulty of finding employment in the current economy, USF Provost and Senior Vice President Ralph Wilcox developed the idea for the initiative that would provide career and job search assistance services to all USF alumni. A collaborative effort between USF’s Career Center and the USF Alumni Association, CareerQuest services are exclusively for unemployed alumni who have earned a degree from USF and will be provided free of charge throughout the 2009-2010 academic year.


According to Career Center Director Drema Howard, Alumni CareerQuest is not intended to be a job placement or employment program. “However, alumni have access to a wide variety of on-site and virtual resources, professional career coaching, workshops, webinars and state-of-art job search preparation software systems. They are also eligible to participate in recruitment venues that will allow them to network and connect with organizations seeking to hire candidates from USF,” she said.


“The Gift Behind the Challenge”


Titled Job Search Strategies for a Tough Economy, the Alumni CareerQuest kick-off workshop addressed specific strategies job-seekers could employ in today’s difficult marketplace. “In this economy, there is greater competition for few positions, and traditional ways of finding a job are not working as they did in the past,” said Howard. “As a result, the way one does a job search has to change, as well.”


The day began with an official welcome from USF Dean for Undergraduate Studies Bob Sullins. Sharing personal stories of job loss within in his own family with workshop participants, he made it clear to participants that USF is concerned about its alumni and wants to support them during difficult times of unemployment or underemployment.


Next up was invited speaker Ron Klein – the subject of the book, The Grandfather of Possibilities: Inventor, Entrepreneur, Athlete, and the host of a radio show on entrepreneurship and having a can-do attitude – who focused on inspiring participants with his personal journey of challenge and success. Klein told alumni that he is “an ordinary man who has accomplished extraordinary things,” counting among his achievements the invention of the Credit Card Validity Checking System, which includes the magnetic strip on credit cards, as well as bicycling more than 130,000 miles in the last 12 years and being named Florida State’s Senior Olympian.


“Change is inevitable,” Klein said. “We live with challenge. The key is turning negatives into positives and finding the gift behind the challenge.”


Workshops Offer Practical Advice, Strategies


The remainder of the day consisted of sessions conducted by Career Center job search coaches that focused on specific tips, strategies and practical advice for navigating today’s job market, including developing a polished resume, effective interview strategies and virtual networking.


“It is a difficult market,” Howard told participants, “and it can be discouraging. But you have to give it 100 percent. There are people out there getting jobs. There are people being hired. You need to have the mindset that you will get hired. Don’t focus on what you can’t control, such as the economy. Focus on what you can control – the way you conduct your job search.”


Alumni CareerQuest Services


With the official kick-off of Alumni CareerQuest, Howard says that alumni may now take advantage of the services provided through the Career Center. Alumni must register to participate in Alumni CareerQuest to have access to its library, one-on-one job search coaching, job search webinars, on-campus career fairs, e-fairs, numerous job-search tools and resources. Registered alumni may also create an account in Career Connections, the Career Center’s job search management software system that will allow them to upload their resume, view and apply for jobs posted, as well as apply for and schedule on campus interviews where employers have requested to interview alumni.


“I think the alumni who attended our kick-off workshop left with practical tips,” said Howard, “but they also left with encouragement and hope. They know the university cares about them.”


Alumni who would like to learn more about CareerQuest services or register may visit the Career Center website:



The University of South Florida System is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The system offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. It has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.


-- Mary Beth Erskine, University Communications & Marketing