From Résumé Reviews to Interview Tips, New Program Bolsters Career & Co-op Center

Career Peer Bony Ganugapanta helps Nicole Resendes with her resume Image by Ed Brennen
Career Peer Bony Ganugapanta, right, helps business student Nicole Resendes with her résumé during a drop-in visit to the Career & Co-op Center.

By Ed Brennen

With the Fall Career Fair fast approaching, Nicole Resendes needed to get her résumé in order. So with a printed copy in hand, the sophomore business administration major from Medford dropped by the Career & Co-op Center at University Crossing for an expert critique.

Instead of waiting for an appointment with one of the center’s career counselors, however, Resendes was able to sit down right away with a Career Peer, a fellow student trained to help with résumés, cover letters and interview tips for co-op positions, internships and full-time jobs.

For nearly 20 minutes, Career Peer Bony Ganugapanta, a senior business administration major from Needham, reviewed Resendes’ résumé with her line by line, marking it up with notes on formatting, wording and structure.

“I’d never made a résumé before, so it was a really rough first draft,” Resendes said afterward. “But he helped me a lot with the organization and with what to say and what not to say. It was nice to get feedback like that from another student.”

Launched last year as a pilot program by the Division of Student Affairs, Career Peers help advance UML’s mission of preparing students for the workforce, according to the program’s manager, Asst. Director of Career Services Serwa Addae-Adoo.

“There’s a lot of humble and hard-working students here. ... They have to see that it’s OK to talk about how awesome you are.” -Former Career Peer Carla Lima

“By training Career Peers to be like an intake triage for us during drop-in hours, it frees up time for our counselors to take more appointments and work on other projects,” says Addae-Adoo, who notes that a team of a half-dozen Career Peers — representing a variety of majors — handled more than 500 student visits to Career Services last year.

Career Peers, who typically work 5-10 hours a week, are available for 15-minute sessions on weekdays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Career Services’ fourth-floor office at University Crossing. Addae-Adoo says she would like to eventually expand the program to other locations on campus, including evenings at residence halls.

Career Peers, who must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA, attend a three-day training retreat and take part in four hours of shadowing. Addae-Adoo also has them set learning goals and provides student employee evaluations.

“They don’t know who’s coming in to see them — it could be a freshman or it could be a Ph.D. student — so they have to know their stuff,” says Addae-Adoo, who adds that if a Career Peer encounters a situation that’s beyond their training, they pass that student on to a career counselor.

Ganugapanta and Shaymus Dunn, a senior business administration major from Lowell, are both returning Career Peers this fall. New hires include students majoring in computer science, civil engineering and nursing.

“There’s no doubt that when a student sits with me, they’re probably thinking, ‘Why am I being helped by another student?’” says Ganugapanta, a commuter student with a finance concentration who is juggling his work as a Career Peer with his job at Citizens Bank in Newton. “But being closer in age, I think we’re able to connect with them in ways that adults probably can’t.”

Asst. Director of Career Services Serwa Addae-Adoo sits with Career Peer Shaymus Dunn Image by Ed Brennen
Asst. Director of Career Services Serwa Addae-Adoo meets with senior business administration major Shaymus Dunn, who returns as a Career Peer this fall.

While some students are nervous to have their résumé critiqued, Ganugapanta tries to reassure them that it’s an iterative process for everyone.

“I tell them to correct it and bring it back so we can build off it, because résumés take at least two or three sessions,” says Ganugapanta, who enjoys meeting students through his work as a Career Peer. “A résumé is one of the biggest tools that students use to expand their careers, so it’s really cool to have a helping hand in guiding them with that.”

Dunn, who will graduate in December with a concentration in accounting, plans to continue in the Manning School of Business for his master’s degree. He likes helping others as a Career Peer — while at the same time developing his own professional skills.

“The best thing I’ve found about this program is that students can relate to my experiences. I kind of know the situation they’re in,” says Dunn, who has taken part in the Professional Cooperative Education program, done two internships and worked as an undergraduate research assistant.

Dunn often sees two common mistakes on students’ résumés: They use restricting templates and they don’t market themselves enough by highlighting the skills they’ve gained from past experiences.

“I worked at Market Basket before I had internships, so on my résumé I talked about helping customers, working in an efficient manner and communicating with the team,” Dunn says. “Those are skills that all employers are looking for. It doesn’t really matter where you get them, as long as you have them and put them on your résumé.”

Carla Lima, who worked as a Career Peer last year and is now a graduate intern for Career Services and the Professional Co-op Program, agrees.

“There’s a lot of humble and hard-working students here,” says Lima, who earned her bachelor’s degree in public health last spring and is now pursuing her master’s degree in higher education administration. “They have to learn how to make their experiences show on their résumé. They have to see that it’s OK to talk about how awesome you are.”