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When Plans Change Senior YearSydnei Kaplan
Earlier this spring, I wrote about the process my older daughter (who graduates this weekend!) was going through applying for jobs and considering offers. She's always been very focused on what she wants to do after college, and so although time consuming and challenging, her job search was relatively straightforward.
What if your student is still trying to figure out what kind of work will appeal to them? Learning about possible careers is best started well before senior year. In fact, parents of undergraduates, the first year of college is not too soon! (Take a look at this Career Prep Timeline and you'll see what I mean.)
For many students, the campus career center is the first stop on the path. While every campus offers slightly different services, in general a student can meet with a counselor; access resources on-line or in-person that evaluate strengths, weaknesses and interests; connect with alumni who work in a potential field for informational interviews; and browse a wealth of internship and job listings.
Some offices focus on the particulars of the process. Vanderbilt University’s Career Center offers detailed discussion of topics such as “Etiquette and Professionalism” as well as videos, an increasingly popular format. Clark University’s Career Services Office features a number of on-line guides about topics including “Phone/Skype Interviews” and “Writing a Thank You Note.”
While there is an increasing awareness among students, parents and colleges of the importance of career preparation and on-campus career resources, many campus career offices struggle to meet demand. In a 2014 study by Millennial Branding and InternMatch, a lack of resources in career service offices was well documented. "The average ratio of students to career service professionals is 1,889 to one,” the study found nationally. Although 64 percent of students surveyed found career center staff accessible, “Sixty-one percent say they are either never or rarely effective in helping them land a job” and “Fifty-seven percent of students say their career center is either never or rarely helpful in helping them figure out a career path.”
Because of this situation, many students and families are turning to private career counseling. Anna Bray, a career and executive coach with Jody Michael Associates of Chicago and Atlanta, points out that in contrast to the under-resourced campus centers, “a private career coach can provide one-on-one attention to the client and offer unique support that is tailored to the needs of that individual. The ultimate goal of career coaching is to find the best career fit — a career that matches the student’s unique skills, abilities, interests, and experiences.”
Anna goes on to say that, “in actuality, the process yields much more. Career coaching helps clients develop self-awareness that transcends what they bring to a job. It often helps them recognize blind spots in their ‘operating system’ that manifests in procrastination or other self-sabotaging behaviors. By shining a light into these areas, we can help clients gain self-confidence, develop emotional intelligence, enhance their communication skills and experience greater results.”
Career coaches and counselors, whether private or on campus, can do many things to help students prepare for and conduct an effective job search. They might use evaluation tools to identify a student’s personality type, skills they already have or personal strengths that might translate into career preferences. Reviewing resumés and other communications used to contact potential employers is also high on their list. They may facilitate contact with people employed in a specific profession, either individually or through workshops, and help students consider what they liked or didn’t from jobs or internships already completed.
The earlier a student starts this process the more ready they will be to decide what jobs to apply for and which one, finally, to accept.