The college career center.
That looming building on the far side of campus. You heard that they offer services that might be helpful, but you just don’t know how they can help you.
I mean, you could just go in and ask, but you don’t want them to think that you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing with your life. No, best to wait until you have some inkling of an idea before you share your deepest aspirations with them.
If you’re a senior in college and you still cycle through the above scenario when you pass by your career services center, I need you to do one thing for me.
Career service professionals are not scary people. In fact, talking to a counselor could be just the thing you need to turn your frustrating job search into a successful application to the job of your choice.
Career service professionals have knowledge on everything from internships to job exploration. Lesley Bonds, Career Counselor and Student Employment Coordinator at Scripps College, emphasizes the importance of visiting the career center for all students. Whether your next step involves more school or adventures abroad, an appointment with a career counselor may be just what you need to find the resources that’ll get you on your way.
The services offered by your career service center may differ depending on where you go to school. Still, there are some traditional services that most centers offer their students no matter where you are. These include but are not limited to:
- Résumé and cover letter feedback
- Career fairs
- Alumni events
- Mock job, internship, and grant program interviews
- Personal branding workshops
- Information about international opportunities
If you’re really lucky, your career center may go above and beyond for its students. At Scripps, I had the pleasure of having access to a staff of career professionals who provided a number of unique opportunities to their students. Some extra special services that your center may provide include:
- Tutorials on how to dress for your industry
- Access to examples of actual student résumés
- Real-world trips to companies in the area (sometimes called “career treks”)
- Funding for unpaid internships
- Travel stipends for students presenting at conferences
You’ll never know what cool things your career center can offer you until you actually go inside! You don’t even need to know exactly what you need help with before you schedule a visit.
Valinda Lee, Associate Director of Career Planning & Resources at Scripps College, says that students don’t need to wait until they know what they’re looking for before seeking help to find it.
“It’s okay to come in and say something like, ‘I feel like I should be looking for internships, but I don’t know where to start.’”
Start by understanding that your career staff is full of little secrets that really aren’t that much of a secret at all. They’re willing to share all of their tips and tricks with you! If you’re still looking for reasons to visit your career services center, start with these:
- They know all the good job portals
We all know about the traditional online resources for finding a job, such as Monster, Indeed, and more recently, craigslist and LinkedIn. But have you ever thought to use job boards specifically catered towards college students and recent grads?
No, I’m not talking about AfterCollege’s Explore, although it is a resource that you should definitely consider checking out.
I’m talking about the unique student job portals that are accessible to you through your school.
“Many career centers, like libraries, subscribe to password-protected online resources that students can use for free, anytime while they are enrolled,” says Valinda.
Check to see if your career center provides online resources such as this one. This is a great way for you to get access to tools that can help you narrow your job search at no cost to you.
- They’re hip to social media
Did you think that your favorite celebrities were the only ones who tweeted?
Chances are that your career center has an account on most major social media sites.
“Follow your career center on Facebook or Twitter,” says Valinda.” It’s a great way to stay up-to-date about events and employers that are coming to campus without doing any extra work (since you’re probably already using both of those websites on a daily basis).”
Who says that spending hours on social media can’t be productive?
- They know about more than just finding you a job or internship
Do you have post-grad plans that involve something other than entering the workforce? Maybe you want to teach abroad or get a Master’s degree.
Your career center can help you with that, too!
“From choosing a major to writing a graduate school personal statement or even helping you nail down a plan for a year of international travel post-graduation, career counselors exist to help students achieve their goals without judgment or pressure to do something more traditional,” says Lesley.
- They know how you feel
Think you’re the only person in the whole world who has no idea what they’re doing after graduation?
“Even though it can sometimes feel like it, everyone else doesn’t have it all figured out. Really,” Valinda says. “The only people talking about their summer and post-graduate plans are the people that have nailed something down; the people who are still struggling to figure it out usually aren’t advertising the fact.”
Homework time! Valinda and Lesley emphasize the importance of speaking to a career counselor as soon as possible, no matter where you are in your search. Set up an appointment to talk with a professional during the first few weeks of school. Even if you don’t have anything to say, it may be a good idea to start with a hello. Introduce yourself so that someone in the office knows your name and face for when you do eventually come for post-graduation planning help.
Remember that you’re not the only student who avoids the career center. Have an honest conversation with your friends and fellow students about what you can get out of a service such as this.
Finally, if your career service office doesn’t offer the type of service that you’re looking for, tell them!
“No two searches look the same, but there are aspects of almost every search that are really hard—everyone struggles,” says Valinda. “Talk with your career center about what your struggle is so we can help you through.”
P.S. Have you already graduated? Your career center is still a great place for you to go for advice. Many offices continue to support their recent alums by offering free or discounted services for the first year after matriculation (and maybe even beyond).
Don’t cut ties too early! Reach out to your career services professionals and see how they can help you in your life after college.