At one time or another someone has asked you to fill out a résumé. For some people it’s a fairly simple process. You compile a list of your work and school history, you add in your accomplishments and sprinkle in some traits, experiences, and keywords that will catch the eye of any person who will look at your résumé and decide if you are worth the opportunity of being rewarded an interview. For some though, the process of connecting your past experiences to the job you’re currently pursuing could seem near impossible. Trying to build your résumé, both on paper and in real life, while juggling the responsibilities that comes with being a USM student becomes taxing as the semester wears on. The fact of the matter is, sooner than later you will need a credible résumé. It does not matter what line of work you’re going into. It’s almost a guarantee that the powers that be will ask you to submit a résumé and cover letter before you’re even allowed in the building. Before you just copy and paste your experiences into the template you found on google; it’s important to know that a majority of the time your résumé will be filtered by a computer with an algorithm that looks for acutely specific keywords that align with the job you are looking for. It’s easier for your google templated résumé to get lost in the pile of the other thousands of résumés than it is for your résumé to actually get into the right hands.
If this is something you wish doesn’t happen to you, the Career Hub at USM has started a new program for USM students, and run by USM students that want to help you with your future. The Peer Career Guide Program is run by four USM students who are called Peer Career Guides (PCG’s) and a Career Hub advisor who serves as the program leader.
Montana Kalian, who is currently finishing a B.A. in Social and Behavioral Sciences, has been with the Peer Career Guide team since March of 2022. To go with her work as a PCG, she also works with the program leader on grant writing. Outside of USM, Montana is a human resources recruiter who reviews résumés, cover letters, and interviews candidates. These skills make her a perfect fit to help students figure out the best way to craft the perfect résumé, and to find the best traits and experiences in a job candidate.
Ielaf Khalil joined the Career and Employment Hub in February of 2022, and works as the project assistant for the Peer Career Guide program. She is a very important piece within the marketing side of this program, as she works closely with the program leader to successfully plan and implement marketing projects to introduce the Peer Career Guide Program to the wider USM student body. She has two degrees; a B.S. in Business Administration she completed in 2020; an M.S. in Adult and Higher Education that she completed in 2022, and on top of all of that she is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in leadership. Her abilities stretch from working with her fellow PCG’s in finding the best ways for undergraduate students to make the most out of the program, while working together with other departments to help promote the program to be able to reach and enhance the students’ college experience.
Bianca Arsenico is the graduate assistant for the Career and Employment Hub and for the ESOL Department who has over 15 years experience as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and has worked with elementary students, teenagers, and adults. She has a Master of Science in Education in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) that she completed in 2021, and is currently pursuing a second masters degree in adult and higher education. As she strives to help others achieve their goals, she has additional experience in designing and implementing training programs along with supporting students in creating a résumé and cover letter that best suits their unique self and their needs.
Rebecca Sammon started as an intern at the Career and Employment Hub in January, 2022 and has since worked as PCG to help create and implement the Peer Career Guide rogram. This past year she received her undergraduate degree in leadership and organizational studies, and is on her way to achieving a Masters degree in Clinical Counseling. During her time as a PCG, she has consistently helped students discover their best capabilities, and to find confidence in what their future will hold.
The Peer Career Guide Program Leader position is held by Norrie Crocker, who is a career advisor at the Career and Employment Hub, and also a teacher of global perspectives on adult education, an elective graduate course within the adult and higher education program. Crocker, who for a number of years has been an important thread within USM’s fabric, hase recently, “built some thoughts together, and based on a lot of research from seeing what was happening at other colleges and the importance of having students connect directly with other students,” she states. Seeing this connection, they noticed how this would be very beneficial when it comes to supporting the career development side of the student’s lives.
A meeting with a PCG will not be any ordinary meeting a student has had before. Being a student myself, it feels very routine at times to sit down with an advisor and leave the meeting unfulfilled and uncertain if the next steps I’m taking will be in the right direction. Although Arsenico stressed that they “never want the PCG’s to substitute the advisors”, a meeting with a Peer Career Guide is much different. “It’s their time to sit with the PCG,” Arsenico stated.. “They can get hands-on right away, or at some meetings we basically just talk to the students to understand them. From my perspective, it’s student-centered on both ends.”
Each of the PCG’s I talked to emphasized that there isn’t an agenda or quota that needs to be met at each of the meetings. It is truly student-led, and it all depends on what the student wishes to accomplish. Kalian stated: “It’s all on the student’s timeline. The expectations and general process changes, and adapts to each student that it needs to meet.” Whether the student needs to have a completed résumé and cover letter shortly following their first meeting, or they simply just need help figuring out how to complete a résumé worksheet, the PCG will work on it together with you. “Each student is different, you have to adapt the process towards their unique individual needs each time.” Kalian continued: “You can’t just come out of the gate saying, ‘This is the process we’re gonna plunk you in and hope you get to the end somehow.’”
Even though there are only four PCG’s within this program at the moment, Khalil says, “We always try to work on the quality, not the quantity.” When it comes to starting a new program, and even more importantly in the subject matter this program is situated in, it is more important that the dedication is directed towards the material and the nature of caring towards the student than it is the sheer number of workers under this program’s umbrella. This is even more prevalent when it comes to the task of creating a résumé that is tailored for each and every career field and consists of the right keywords that particular job is looking for.
“If you meet somebody from the nursing department, and they have nursing experience, you’re using the word ‘client’, which is as effective when you’re working with someone from the business department and you’re using the word ‘customer’. They both mean the same thing, just two different terminologies,” Ielaf continued. “We always talk about the wording, the language, and the action verbs that we use on the résumé and cover letter.”
With this being a new program there are still things to tweak and process in order to get where they want to be, which is perfectly natural when introducing a new, novel program. Even though their program has been growing in numbers over the past few weeks, one of their biggest challenges is becoming well known so they can grow, adding more PCG’s and students to their program, and solidifying them in the mix of USM’s vast amount of programs.
This doesn’t mean their dreams and goals are limited. Crocker stated: “My greatest joy is being part of a project becoming, and then letting it fly.” With the new buildings currently under construction on the Portland campus, plans for utilizing the bigger space to help the Career Hub and the Peer Career Guide Program flourish are already a topic of conversation, with the hopes of PCG’s doing all sorts of things. Norrie mentioned that she would like to see someday having the PCG Program connected with employers and allowing the PCG’s to conduct workshops, and bring some employers on-board to talk about speciality needs for different types of majors.
At the end of the day, this is a program that is created for you, the student. Whether you’re a student that feels lost, and is in need of help being pointed in the right direction, or you’re a student who just needs your résumé to be at its fullest potential, the Peer Career Guide program is here to help you.
The Peer Career Guide Program is available to meet with you both in-person and over zoom. Opportunities are available to become a PCG yourself. Their office is located at the Career Hub on the Portland campus in Luther Bonney, room 231, and their website is where you can book an appointment, view their hours, meet or join the team, and take an important step towards the beginning of your career and your own future.