Tough times put career counselors to the test

Elaine Helm

When Medill School of Journalism students come to Loraine Hasebe’s office to vent about the frustrations of finding a job or an internship, they find plenty of toys to take their minds off the pain.

“There’s something soothing about a slinky,” Hasebe said. “I have all sorts of toys back there.”

Hasebe’s arsenal of toys includes a “dammit doll” – with instructions to grab its legs and hit it against a hard surface – and a slinky. She also keeps a stash of chocolate, which she said students find particularly soothing.

Most importantly, Hasebe also has an appointment book filled with anxious students who want help perfecting their resumes, finding alumni contacts and locating jobs and internships.

Just a week into the school year, Northwestern’s career counselors already are trying to relieve worries about finding jobs with tools as well as toys.

NU’s annual Career Expo on Monday boasted about 60 employers and several new employers, said Lonnie Dunlap, director of University Career Services.

“We know it’s a very challenging labor market and that’s reality,” she said. “But we are seeing some encouraging signs that that’s changing.”

Although those looking for full-time employment may need to wait, Dunlap said employers have renewed interest in hiring interns.

“There’s a lot of increased attention on internships, and a lot of employers are recruiting permanent hires from their internship pools,” she said.

Hasebe said she can empathize with students especially well because she lost her job as a consultant last year before taking over as director of Medill’s Career Services office in August.

“I went through crying, kicking and screaming as well,” she said. “I have a whole new outlook on the job search in a tough market.”

Coming to Medill after its former Placement Office was reorganized as Career Services, Hasebe said she will place more importance on building skills students can use throughout their careers to find jobs.

“My job is not just to help you with your first job,” she said.

Dunlap said career counselors at schools nationwide are making the shift to developing career services instead of simply placing students or alumni in jobs.

“The idea of placement means there’s an opening, and we suggest an opening to a student,” Dunlap said. “Career development means that you have lifelong skills. It’s much more effective.”

The two career services directors will meet next week to discuss ways to optimize the services provided by their offices and determine how the two can work together, they said.

With many months of career advising ahead of her this year, Hasebe, who previously worked in career counseling at the Kellogg School of Management, called Medill students “a breath of fresh air.”

“I have the greatest product in the industry to market,” she said. “There’s an energy here I haven’t seen in a long time.”

Developing plans to improve Medill’s Career Services, Hasebe said she hopes to provide more one-on-one interview preparation and concentrate on bringing more employers to campus.

Karin Kowalski, a Medill junior who plans to graduate this year, said she feels the “pressure of the real world coming imminently.” But Hasebe, with her stress-less approach to advising, helped her prepare for a recent interview with The Washington Post.

“She was nice to me so I wasn’t as nervous,” Kowalski said. “I’m waiting to see and hopeful of good things to come.”