Monday, January 26, 2009

Economy downturn perfect time for career assessment

TEMPE – January 26, 2009 – With the economy in dire straits, and with the start of a new year, more and more people are looking to make personal and professional changes to better their lives. For those considering a career change, whether due to choice or economic circumstances, Rio Salado College offers a career exploration class to help people assess professional goals and options.

“Historically, when there is a rise in unemployment, people go back to school,” said Melanie Abts, counseling faculty at Rio Salado College, who teaches the online Career Exploration class. “I have students who are unemployed, who have been laid off, and one who already has three master’s degrees, but they are looking for something new,” she said.

Abts said enrollment in the online class has recently increased, not only for economic reasons, but because of the college’s positive environment. “The advantage is that students don’t have to come in person to work on their career or education searches,” Abts said. In addition to the career exploration class, Rio Salado also offers career and counseling services by chat, email, online and phone.

Student Maiko Zemnick, 36, recently completed the online Career Exploration class and found it beneficial. “It showed me that your values and interests as a person all count in what career is suited for you,” Zemnick said. “Before, I used to think about it only in practical terms, and that resulted in a lot of frustration.”

While she comes from a family of ministers, Zemnick has decided to pursue her interest in teaching music. As a mother to an autistic son, Zemnick is interested in using her skills in taiko (Japanese drums) as a means of music therapy and stress relief to help families dealing with autism.

Components of the “Career Exploration” class include goal-setting, online assessments and planning for the future. Students are assessed for their personal interests, strengths and skills to help design their individual career plan.

The course also examines current occupational trends and outlooks to assist students with career selection and vocational training options.

Abts cites a recent trend in students applying for the teaching program. “If you have a Bachelor’s degree in any field, you can go back to school for a teaching certificate, which is obtainable in 1.5-2 years, and know you’ll have a job when you’re done,” she said.

Rachelle Clarke, Rio Salado’s director of advisement and recruitment services, echoes the trend. “We are working with more students than we have in the past months and year,” Clarke said. “The majority of our students are interested in re-careering. The top 3 fields which students are interested in are teacher education, nursing and business.”

With the current unemployment rate hovering at 6.3% (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), now is the perfect time to reassess your career options. For more information on the Career Exploration class, or other educational options, visit

Rio Salado, founded in 1978, is one of the ten Maricopa Community Colleges in Arizona. The college serves more than 60,000 students annually, more than half online, making it the “college within everyone’s reach.” Rio Salado offers general education courses as well as a variety of degree and certificate programs. For more information visit