University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Campus


Fall 2023

Campus Magazine

Career services

Partnering With Local Companies To Help Students Succeed In Their Career Journey

The University of South Florida understands that success starts in the classroom, but what happens after graduation is just as important, which is why we reach out to employers to ensure our students are able to successfully transition to the workplace.

At the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, the Office of Career Services works with businesses, nonprofit organizations and other employers to help students launch their careers and secure valuable internships. Through Career Services, students gain valuable career advice, resume and interviewing skills, even professional training in “soft skills” such as critical thinking to help students transition to exciting new careers.

Helping students land that all-important first job out of college starts with strong employer relationships, says Career Services Coordinator Toni Ripo, who’s been helping students chart successful post-college careers for 15 years. Ripo works with student organizations and department directors to coordinate campus outreach programs.

“We offer multiple ways for employers to build recognition of their companies on campus and to interact directly with students,” Ripo said. “Through industry-specific sessions and professional development workshops, our students are better prepared to meet employer expectations, grow professionally and make informed career decisions.”

At one such session in 2020, students chatted online with local manufacturer Tervis Tumbler about ways employers and employees can remain communicative and productive during COVID-19. Tervis President and CEO Rogan Donelly, who served on the governor’s industry working group task force on post-pandemic re-opening strategies, talked with the students, offering his insights about how his company and others were coping during the pandemic.

Ripo worked with USF Student Ambassadors and Jay Riley, director of business outreach and community engagement at the campus, to organize the session.

“Rogan shared that even though his employees were working remotely they were motivated to work hard and contribute to the company’s success,” Riley said. “The session was very interesting and informative to the students, who were able to ask questions directly of the CEO.”

The hour-long video chat was open to students across USF. However, in other instances Career Services will tailor its efforts to students of a particular major or career interest. During one such effort, the office focused on students who wanted to attend law school.

“It all starts with relationships within the community. Without them, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are in helping students find meaningful internships and start exciting new careers once they graduate.”

Toni Ripo

The program allowed the students to interact directly – in real time and without a filter – with practicing and retired attorneys and the admissions director at Stetson University College of Law. They left the two-day workshop better equipped to enter the legal profession and with a clearer understanding of what law schools are seeking in their applicants.

In another session, Career Services partnered with Enterprise Holdings to share professional development tips to help students prepare for, and hopefully ace, the grueling interview process once they enter the job market.

“They talked about the biggest things employers are looking for right now ... and that includes communication skills, confidence, organizational knowledge and critical thinking, the ability to think on your feet,” Ripo said. “These ‘soft skills’ are not necessarily related to a particular major, but they’re just as important to employers.”

Career Services checks in regularly with employers and students to understand their needs. By having a clear understanding of both, the office can customize its programming to be more effective.

“We also host job fairs and other events, including a reverse career fair, which is held with the other Cross College Alliance schools in the area,” Ripo said. “At our last reverse career fair, 80% of our students found an opportunity – a job or an internship – that they planned to pursue.

“But it all starts with relationships within the community,” she said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are in helping students find meaningful internships and start exciting new careers once they graduate.”

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About Sarasota-Manatee Campus Magazine

Momentum is published by USF Research and Innovation and the Office of University Communications and Marketing on the Sarasota-Manatee campus. The University of South Florida, a member of the Association of American Universities, is a high-impact research university with campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee.