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Undergrads look for an academic edge

A newly launched program provides insights on career development through a series of workshops

Are you traditional or original? Tough or tender? Scheduled or spontaneous? Critical or accepting?

These were some of the options sophomore Brian Lam, a biochemistry major, contemplated as he completed an online self-assessment questionnaire designed to suggest potential career matches based on personality and interests.

Lam was attending a workshop of the USC Dornsife Edge Program offered through the Office of Advisement. The new series comprising 18 events is designed to promote academic, career and student development. Through the program, undergraduates learn about resources, identify opportunities and receive additional staff support.

During the workshop titled “Assess It: Self-assessment Exercises and Tools” led by Octavio Avila, director for student special services at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, participants discovered numerous tools and resources available to help them learn about their personalities, interests, values and goals.

The program also offers workshops on writing resumes and cover letters; dressing successfully for interviews; nailing an elevator pitch; effective networking; honing interview skills; developing a personal brand; and learning how to obtain internships and opportunities to volunteer and conduct research.

Job strategies

Held on Sept. 3, the “Assess It” session introduced students to CareerBeam, a development portal designed to provide the resources necessary to guide individuals through a strategic job-search process.

During the workshop, Avila asked students to take a 10-minute online self-assessment questionnaire. The tool helped them assess personal interests, values and qualities that honed in on internships, career industries and job possibilities based on personal preferences, leanings and traits.

Octavio Avila and Brian Lam

Octavio Avila helps biochemistry major Brian Lam use an online self-assessment tool designed to suggest potential career matches. (USC Photo/Susan Bell)

Lam said he attended the workshop to try to gain a sense of direction and a clearer idea of future career possibilities. The online questionnaire reinforced the knowledge that he was on the right academic track while also identifying career possibilities he had not previously considered.

“I’m trying to discover what I really want to do with my major,” Lam said. “By taking the workshop, I learned I appreciate a leader and I want to help and serve others through knowledge and practical use.

“The results reinforced my choice of a science major and suggested careers in education and health services, particularly mental health or caring for children and the elderly,” he added. “The program also suggested computer industries or engineering, which I hadn’t thought of before. Those are options I could look into now.”

Avila said he created the workshops to introduce students to career exploration and development.

“We find that often students don’t make the connection between their academic education and potential careers until their senior year or may have a narrow view of what those careers might be,” he said. “This program provides a platform for undergraduates to get started with career exploration by breaking down the larger picture into smaller elements to make it manageable.”

A goal of the “Assess It” workshop was to demystify self-assessment, Avila said.

“That can be as easy as asking yourself, what are you doing with your education? Why are you here at USC? It may be a little challenging for a freshman, but I’d rather they begin the process, or at least become familiar with the concept and application now, than wait until the clock is ticking toward graduation.”

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Undergrads look for an academic edge

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