GradLeaders recently interviewed Jose Muniz, who is the Director of Career Services at Texas State Technical College, Waco. Jose graciously shared how they manage to connect students and employers amid a pandemic, gave valuable advice to students, and shared his experience using the GradLeaders embedded video meeting tools during their virtual career fairs! Here's what he had to say to our intern, Emily Mowry:
Emily: So how long have you worked at Texas State Technical College?
Jose: So, I've worked for TSTC since 2013, so going on 7-8 years in September, I think it'll be about 8 years.
Emily: OK, nice and can you describe your role and your team structure.
Jose: Yeah, definitely. I'm the director of Career services for the Waco location. We have 10 locations across the state and I oversee kind of the Central Texas area. So, you have North Texas, which is the DFW area, Waco which is where I'm at, and then we have an East Williamson County campus which is right outside of Boston, so I will receive those three and I have about 5 employees under me and we just work together and we kind of bridge a gap from students and alumni to our industry partners.
Emily: OK, awesome. And typically, how many students would you say that you work with?
Jose: I would say anywhere from about 2,000 to 3000, just depending on the semester. We're going into the summer semester starting next week and enrollment kind of drops just because traditionally students only go to school in the spring and fall and they usually take the summer off.
Emily: Right, OK. And what would you say is your favorite part of your job?
Jose: So pre-Covid it was graduation because we worked graduation and we got to see those students that we worked with throughout their time at TCC and helped them get ready to jump into the workforce. So that was a great opportunity to see those individuals finally celebrate with their families and kind of end a long journey. But now I think it's just getting emails or phone calls from students saying hey, I got that job with that company that you introduced me to, or my resume looked good, I got some great feedback on it. So any of those things, it's always good to hear that.
Emily: Yeah, just seeing the impact and actually knowing that you were able to help. That's really cool.
Jose: Yeah, exactly.
Emily: So, can you share your educational background and your previous work experiences to kind of let us know how you ended up where you are now?
Jose: Yeah, definitely. So, I graduated in 2014 with my bachelors from the University of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley, down in South Texas, and then right into that I pursued my master's from Charlton, which was a human resource management masters. Then actually my first real job, if you will, has been with TSTC. I'm an alumni of TSTC as well. So I have an associate from there, but I was a student worker in the career services department while I was attending school and it kind of just led into a secretarial position in the department, and I just kind of worked my way through.
Emily: OK, so did you always know that the career services is where you want it to be? Or did that just kind of open up for you along the way?
Jose: It really just opened up. So I was also in the military, I did HR in the military right after high school. I didn't know if college was in the big picture for me, so I was like let's join the military, you know? So I did that. And then when I got out, that's when I attended TSTC and just looked for a part time job there at the school and I was led into their career services and that's where I worked. And talking to the director there she said, “your background in HR would really help you and help us if you were a full-time employee with career services.” So, it just really led itself into that.
Emily: Yeah, that's super cool. So can you talk about a little bit about the process that you go through to connect students and employers? How do you help them build that relationship initially and then how do you know if a student could possibly be a right fit for a specific company?
Jose: So initially we want to make contact with students within their first semester. Just let them know about our department, who we are, what services we have, how we can help them, and that we are a true resource through their educational career at TSTC and even after they leave. So when they become alumni as well, we're still here. They can come back and seek us as a resource if they need to. So we have various events that we like to host. One of those is called an employer spotlight and that allows an industry partner to come on campus and give an informational session, discuss their organization, and give some history about the organization, the background, what they do, and what opportunities they have for our students. So I would say that's the initial connection then and from there it just grows. Students stay in contact with these recruiters through the various industry job fairs we hold on campus. Now with Covid, everything is virtual, but that's been one of the great things about our department is that although we had to shift like everybody else, I would say we had a smoother transition than a lot of other departments that had to make that transition.
Emily: OK, so do you feel like with the virtual environment, you guys still have high engagement rates, or do you think it's still less because of Covid and everything?
Jose: It's not what it was when we were in person, because obviously in person I think it's just so much different cause you have that human interaction. I mean we're interacting now, but it's very different. If we were sitting across a table or in person, versus virtually seeing each other. So our engagement went down a little. But I see it increasing as students get used to it, as our industry partners get used to working virtually, and as even my employees and I get used to working virtually. It just is almost becoming a way of life if you will. So everybody just getting used to it and knowing what to do and things like that and working with these employers, you build those relationships with them and you know what they're looking for in students. Then as we work with students, we don't give preference to one student over another because we have to give the same opportunity to all students. But going back to your question, how do we know if the students are a good fit for a particular company, you see those values in these companies and what they value and then you see those same things in these students. So, telling an employer “Hey, make sure you interview, or if you want a student, you interview that student.”
Emily: Right, just kind of guiding them in the right direction.
Jose: Yes, exactly.
Emily: OK cool, so do you see any common issues that you find most students are struggling with today? And if so, do you have an answer that you think they need to hear to overcome that?
Jose: Yeah, I think the common issue is not using resources. We are a department on campus and many students won't hear about us until their final semester when they're like 2 weeks out from graduation, or maybe a month out from graduation and they're like, “Hey Jose, I'm graduating from so and so program, how can you help me with my resume?” And that's hard to get a resume together within two weeks or even a week because they have to go straight into the workforce. So I think the biggest thing would be to pay attention to new student orientation, whether it's in person or virtually, listen to those speakers that are on campus because we are a huge resource to you and we want to help you while you're on campus or seeking a degree from our institution.
Emily: Right, I completely agree. I think that a lot of students don't realize that it's a longer process than just finding a job at the end of college. It takes time in building those relationships.
Jose: Yeah, and that's the biggest thing is taking time. A lot of students think that when they come to our office, we're just going to open a book, pull a job out, and here's your job. Go for it, you’re good to go. As much as I would love to do that, I mean, that would make my job so much easier but it’s just not the way life is. So we tell the students that all the time, we don’t have a drawer full of jobs where we can just pull out a folder and say “you start tomorrow,” because again, as much as I would love to do that, I think that would be amazing, but it does take time.
Emily: Right. So I know that you wish that students recognized the resources more and utilized you guys more, but is there anything else that you wish students knew about Texas State Technical College in general or about your career services office specifically?
Jose: Yeah, I think the college as a whole is kind of going back to when I was in high school it was always pushed to get a four-year degree, and there's nothing wrong with that. I have a four-year degree and I even have a graduate degree and that’s great. But looking at the technical industry and the technical skills gap, it is huge. And it's a real thing. We have a lot of the baby boomers that are already retiring from those industries in those sectors. Once they walk out and once they leave and retire, we're going to have a huge gap. So, I'm letting individuals know whether they're current students or even somebody who's looking at coming to TSTC, a two-year degree can go very far, but it's hard work. Being a plumber, for example. Being out there in the hot sun, or in the frigid cold working on pipes that busted. We just had a huge freeze in February that broke records here in Texas. And then we’re about to go into summer again and if you’ve never been to Texas, it gets hot in the summer. So if you’re a HV AC Tech, that’s going to be your busiest time because ACs may go out or something wrong with them and things like that.
Emily: OK, that's good to know. Thank you. So if you were to look back at your college self and know everything that you know today, what advice would you give yourself about college or professional development, networking, the job search, anything like that? What do you wish that you would have known?
Jose: I wish I would have known networking. I'm a very shy person when it comes to big groups. I think networking is the biggest thing. The people you know have friends who know friends and things like that. That's going to be the biggest thing. I think my journey was a little easier because I was a student worker in the career services department already, so I moved from here and then just kind of shimmied over to a full-time position, so it was a little easier for me. But I would have to say networking for sure. I think that's the biggest thing that I had in my mind too because I was very shy. I would go to class and just go home, do homework, and go to work. I didn't join any other things, any extracurricular activities, whether it be any clubs or joining communicatively leaks such as volleyball, softball, any of those things. But in all of those, you build networks and things like that, so I think that's the biggest thing that I would fix if I could go back.
Emily: Right, sometimes it's not about what you know, it's who you know. You're getting that college experience and you're getting your education, but you have to build those relationships too.
Emily: So switching over to your relationship with GradLeaders, how would you say that GradLeaders has impacted your recruitment efforts, your hiring events, and just your overall experience working in career development?
Jose: Yeah, GradLeaders is amazing. I cannot speak enough about them. I think we joined them back in 2008 when they were CSO, their main office was in Austin. So, the cool thing about it was they would have a conference every year for new schools or first-time schools that would join their platform and they would have it in Austin. It was a couple of days. I think they had a 5K every morning or something like that. I can't remember but I went, and it was great information, great networking opportunities because you have colleges from all over the US and then even from other countries that use GradLeaders that come specifically to Austin so that you're able to network with them. I think going forward they've just innovated so much with the pandemic, GradLeaders jumped on it and they started just developing so much stuff with the web RTC communication. I mean I think I mentioned it once and they said, “hey we’re already working on that.” I was like amazed. We were thinking that we might have to look for another platform, but GradLeaders rose to the occasion, saying hey, it’s not perfect, but we need partners like you to tell us what to fix or what you’re seeking to make it better. And that's exactly what they've done. I went pre-pandemic I think it was a 19 TSO had a I can't remember exactly what it was, but it was a get together in Columbus, Ohio and I was able to attend that, and it was really nice, and I got to meet Ryan, I think he's a VP of marketing. Very, very nice. I met the CEO's because I think at that time it transitioned into new ownership. Very small and intimate. Got to meet some really good employers, made some really good connections and it's just them being a small company and them knowing who I am, all the way from Texas and them being like, Oh yeah, we know who TSTC is. We know who Jose is, or you know what the college does and what they're about, so I think that's very great and we use the platform for everything, for everything. So it's been really amazing to see them innovate and how they've been able to help us capture students and whatnot.
Emily: Well, that's awesome, I'm glad to hear that. They definitely listen to the problem and they're always working on fixing a solution and they pride themselves off building relationships rather than just sending you a platform and hoping that it helps. They actually want to see it through.
Jose: Yeah, exactly. And again, it's knowing people on a first name basis as you know. It's just great building that relationship, it's almost like networking. Being able to cultivate and then just nourish those relationships and stuff like that.
Emily: Awesome, so have you had the chance to use the GradLeaders embedded video meeting tools yet?
Jose: Yes, we have. So when it first launched, we used it for a virtual career fair in the fall of 2020. We used it that first time. It worked great. We learned some things and we just used it again last semester for our spring one, and it worked amazing. Again, there's some things that we need to work on, on our end. I think we've had just some small kinks in there that we need to work out and then specifically in Waco, we use it for all of our workshops. So anytime we have resume workshops, networking and professionalism workshops, anything like that, that’s where we host them is through that.
Emily: OK, good, so you guys have had a good experience so far. How do you feel like the students are experiencing this? Like do you feel like they're receptive to it? They're using it well, they’re enjoying it?
Jose: Yeah, I think they're receptive to it. I think the other side to it, it makes students engage with the system. You know, a lot of students will wait till the very last semester to engage with higher TSTC, but now as we hold these workshops and put them through higher TSTC, they're engaging more often, they’re logging in more often, and they’re going through the system, so I think it’s very helpful.
Emily: That's awesome, that's exactly what we want to hear, I'm glad to hear it.
Jose: Well it helps too because we see engagement and we say, hey, maybe they're not engaging with us, but at least they're logging onto the platform, they're clicking on job postings, they see our events, they’re applying through GradLeaders and stuff like that, so it’s very nice.
Emily: Well good, I’m happy to hear it. Well, that's pretty much all the questions that I have for you, was there anything else you wanted to add about your position, any advice you have, anything about GradLeaders, anything at all?
Jose: No, just thank you to everybody at GradLeaders. You guys have been amazing. I work closely with Carlina and I believe she's in Austin. She's amazing. If she doesn't have the answers, she'll look for it or she’ll research, and she'll get back to me really quick. Ryan has been really great too. I haven't spoken to him in a while, but I know he's up in Ohio. But everybody, even the IT team, to the Help desk. I mean the company is just great everybody there's awesome and I appreciate them innovating so quickly and jumping up and being able to create this WebRTC software.
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