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In the Spotlight: Back to Basics
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 An Interview with Jim Case
by Heather Jansen


Jim Case, former Career Center Director for Cal State Fullerton, recently retired after 17 years with the university and more than 40 years in education. Keeping with the “Back to Basics” theme for June, in a recent interview with Jim I sought to find out what he has seen over the years. Jim shared his perspective on how the field has changed as well as stayed the same not only with students, but also career centers and employers.


Jim Case attended The John Hopkins University and started his career in the education field two years later. He has worked for Hopkins, The College of Wooster, University of Rochester and Thunderbird School of Global Management, but spent the longest time at Cal State Fullerton. Jim has also been a longstanding MPACE member for 17 years. After that amount of time in education, Jim had a unique opportunity to really observe the trends in the students over the years.


The biggest trend Jim has seen over the last several years is that transferable skills, although always discussed, have become an extremely important topic as of late. “Transferable skills are now a major talking point and students do not always understand this part. It is not all about content for a particular academic area,” said Jim.


Although some basics are the same today, changes have occurred as well. Jim shared, “demands on students have been there, but they are more enhanced today. More students are coming from first generation backgrounds and are more diverse.” Obviously, electronic resumes and cell phones are part of today’s career searches, but the quality of the elevator pitch is still important. At the end of the day, Jim said that employers are “still looking for people with high potential.” 


The theme of our conversation quickly turned toward the idea that this business (education/student/employer) is a “relationship business.”  Whether students are building a relationship with employers, or employers with colleges, or colleges with students, they all go hand in hand. Knowing that my company also operates off value in our relationships and partnerships, I asked Jim what advice he has for employers on connecting with students at colleges. Jim said, “Traditional understanding of the relationship is important” and “local relationships are dictating students’ behavior so that they see the attractiveness of the organization.”  


Employers who are getting back to basics by making the commitment and building consistent relationships are seeing the most results. Jim offered similar advice to career centers looking to create successful programs.  “Understand the strategic value of your career center and ask yourself what you do that no one else does.”


According to Jim, a career center needs to have communication with students and employers alike, along with a good understanding of the distinction between them. Career centers should also engage other departments, developing strong relationships and understanding the “market and connecting reality” says Jim.


Finally, I asked Jim to elaborate on where he thinks the field of education is headed and what “non –negotiables” will still be in place. Jim stated that career activity became a higher priority when the economy shifted, but now that we are seeing a shift again, the focus should not be losing the momentum that has been gained. 


Jim believes that we will see the technology and innovation on how to help students change in the future, as well as employers’ technology changing (for example, on initial screens). However, none of this will replace the transferable skills and relationships needed to be successful as a new set of professionals rise to leadership.


As we ended the conversation I asked Jim if he had any advice to give our MPACE members. He responded, “Listen to the advice you give to your students and apply it to yourself. Take responsibility to manage your own career and you will be a more effective counselor or recruiter.” And lastly, “take advantage of opportunities; get out of your comfort zone!” I thought Jim had some great words of advice to our members, and as we think about getting back to the basics, just remember it is all a “relationship business.”


Jim Case is the former Director of Career Services for Cal State Fullerton and can be reached at jcase@exchange.fullerton.edu.  You can also find him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jimcase1


This Spotlight article was compiled by Heather Jansen, MPACE Communications Committee Member. Heather is a Talent Acquisition Manager for Enterprise Holdings for the state of Arizona, and can be reached at heather.m.jansen@ehi.com or http://www.linkedin.com/in/hevans

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