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Career Prep

Career Building in College and Beyond — Advice from a College Career Counselor

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By Elissa Spinner with Brittany Naples

After the excitement of touring campuses, choosing a college, finding a roommate and registering for classes, many students (and of course their parents!) find themselves thinking about the bigger picture: what happens after graduation?

Fortunately, most colleges have career centers that can help students find internships, prepare for interviews and more.

To shed some light on how typical campus career services work, I spoke with Brittany Naples, the Assistant Director of the Career Center and Internship Program at Fisher College. Brittany's role includes building relationships with companies and organizations for student internship opportunities, providing career appointments for students, and running career workshops for her college community. She's also a recent grad herself, so she can relate to the student perspective.

Here are Brittany's best insights and tips!

Q: When should students start thinking about post-graduation careers?

A: It's never too early to start thinking about possible careers. I like to think of college as “prep time” for the career that will follow. Freshmen and sophomore years are a great time to pursue interests, passions and settle on a major. Once your student knows their interests, they should start researching related career paths and job opportunities. This can also help with navigating the internship search during the upperclass years.

Q: Can students gain relevant skills through extracurricular activities?

A: Yes, extracurricular activities allow students to gain relevant skills they can use for a lifetime and showcase during their careers! For example, sports help students develop teamwork, leadership and problem-solving skills — all things a potential employer will look for in a job candidate. In the professional world, it will be beneficial to master time management due to hard deadlines or multiple competing projects. Extracurricular activities are a great way for students to hone their time management skills as they balance school life and their hobbies.

Q: How far back should college students go on their resumes? In other words, should they include that lifeguard or camp counselor-in-training job from high school?

A: If a college student is in their first or second year, I suggest including their jobs from high school or any past summer jobs. Anything to showcase skills and work experience is a plus.

Once a student has gained more experience, they'll notice their resume expanding beyond one page. We suggest keeping your resume to one page to please employers. So at this point, older experiences from high school can start to be removed from the resume.

You want your resume to reflect yourself and your experience so the employer will be eager to give you an interview. For example, if a student was a grocery store bagger only to earn a summer income for rent money, but is interested in engineering, the grocery store job is not relevant to showcase when seeking full-time engineering opportunities post-graduation.

Q: What kinds of experiences should students find over the summer if they don’t get an internship?

A: If a student has not secured a summer internship, they should not be discouraged. There are other ways to develop work experience and skill sets. Job shadowing is a great way for students to learn from an experienced employee by seeing them in action. It's also a chance to develop networking skills in their specific field of interest.

Another great way for students to learn more about their fields of interest is to contact employers with questions. Talking to professionals gives students a chance to learn more about their chosen career paths and build valuable employer connections for future internship opportunities.

Students may also seek a part-time or full-time job opportunity that is within their fields of interest. Although the job may not count as internship credit, the student is still gaining work experience that will showcase their skills to future employers or job opportunities. A summer job in any field, even if it’s not in your student’s field of interest, is still valuable experience.

Q: How can parents help their students become career ready without being too overbearing?

A: A parent can be a great leader and encourage their child to set goals and start career planning for their future. As a parent, you will want to help lead the process. For example, plan college tours together, talk with your child about their passions and goals, and help identify college guidance or advisors for college class preparation.

Q: What is the best way for students and families to take advantage of what their school career center has to offer?

A: Start by viewing your college’s career center website. From here, students will have information on who to contact, appointment types (e.g., resume corrections, mock interviews, job or internship search and general career advising), hours of operation, internship guides and information, and any external links.

In addition, they can get involved with the career center by attending career-related events such as Career Fairs.

Q: How can alumni networks help students find careers post-graduation?

A: A college alumni network allows alumni to stay connected with the college community and give them career support after graduation. Many career service offices also allow alumni to book appointments for general career advising and job search assistance. Events such as career panels or fairs can still be beneficial for alumni who are seeking opportunities to connect with employers. Alumni are also great guest speakers to help undergraduates navigate their way into careers post-graduation.

Brittany Naples is the Assistant Director of the Career Services Office at Fisher College where she sets students up for success through helping students find internships, building relationships with prominent employers, and hosting career preparation events. 
Elissa Spinner is the Webmaster and Digital Coordinator at Fisher College. She follows her passions for content creation and higher education through blogging, social media, and creating user-friendly webpages for students and their families. 
Learn more about Fisher College and its focus on both liberal arts education and career preparation here.
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