As the first person in my family to attend college, I made a lot of mistakes. One was thinking a college education would automatically lead to a career. I took classes that sounded interesting, longing for the day I would finally be “done” and able to trade my minimum wage jobs for a “career.” I believed getting a degree would open all the doors previously closed to me. Young and naive, I didn’t realize how many other tasks I needed to complete in order to make that career a reality.
Students today are more sophisticated than I was. They have access to a world of information that didn’t exist when I started college. But despite that, many students are still making some of the same career mistakes I made. They focus on getting into a good college, paying for college, getting good grades and graduating. The assumption is that career preparation just happens along the way.
While colleges and universities provide a variety of educational opportunities, a course in career planning is usually not among the required classes. This means career preparation is left up to the student. A challenging prospect, yes, but fortunately there are campus resources available to help.
One of the best is the school’s career services office. Having worked as a career services professional myself as well as with career services staff at universities across the country, I can tell you that these dedicated professionals truly want to see your student succeed. But before they can help, students need to take the initiative and reach out.
A quick visit to the career center reveals a variety of services students can take advantage of, including:
1. Resume and cover letter help
For most students, creating that first resume and/or cover letter can be a challenge. Career services staff can be a valuable resource throughout the process, offering tips on format options, items to include (or not!) and current best practices in resume writing. They can also proofread and offer suggestions for improvements after the initial draft is done.
These dedicated professionals truly want to see your student succeed.
2. Interview skills development / mock interviews
Interviewing is stressful, no matter how experienced you are. For students preparing for their first professional interview, the experience can often feel overwhelming. That’s where career services staff can offer guidance and support. Services vary, but usually include a list of possible interview questions, helpful tips on answering questions, ideas on how to prepare, and — best of all — staff who will do practice interviews with your student and provide constructive feedback.
3. Job search skills / job postings
Not only can career services help your student by offering tips and resources for conducting a successful job search, most offices also maintain an active job postings database accessible only by current students and alumni. These job postings are usually from employers looking specifically for students interested in an internship or upcoming grads seeking a full-time position. One company I worked for, a top automobile manufacturer, used school job postings as the primary means of recruiting students. If a student wanted to work for my company, they needed to be actively searching that job database.
4. On-campus recruiting interviews
Career services staff work hard to develop relationships with businesses, from local employers to global companies. They actively market their students to these companies, many of whom take advantage of the opportunity to hold on-campus interviews. If your student is ready to start the job search process, career services is there to help by offering on-line interview scheduling with employers and interviews conveniently held right on campus.
5. Student referrals
If your student makes an effort to get to know the staff in career services, it can sometimes pay off down the road in the form of a personal referral by the staff to a recruiter. In one company I worked for, we repeatedly had a difficult time finding qualified candidates for a specific internship position. In filling this position, we relied heavily on our contacts in various career services offices to refer candidates to us. These referrals were bright, capable students we would have missed if they hadn’t taken the time to get to know the career services staff and ask for job search help.
Despite all the benefits career services offer, many students go their entire college career without a single visit or call. Encourage your student to make the most of all the opportunities their school provides, and stop in for a visit.