The college career center is a magical place on campus that's solely dedicated to assisting students with the pursuit of internships and careers after graduation. While it may vary in title, the college career center typically offers resources, events, job postings and advice during the academic year. In my business, we work with more than 70 career centers throughout the United States. Often, the dedicated staff in these departments see similar trends when students make the transition from college to career.
Here are the things that college career counselors wish every students knew:
1. The career center exists. Statistics vary among campuses, but in general, the majority of college students do not visit the career center nor participate in any of its events during the academic career. This is a shame on so many levels.
First, most students go to college so that they can be employed after graduation. Not checking out the center dedicated to supporting this goal is the same as paying for a class and never actually attending. You may be one of the few people that can ace the test without ever seeing the material, but most of us need at least a little preparation to pass.
Second, there are literally thousands of career options regardless of your major. Your career center is the easiest way to at least gain some exposure to different options.
Finally, employers who specifically target college students for internships and careers usually interact via the center. If you want to know what companies and industries really need your skills, start with the ones who are choosing to recruit on campus.
2. Counselors know you are new at this. When I ask students why they didn't take advantage of an on-campus session about résumé advice, for example, their avoidance often boils down to fear that they will be judged. When you take your first foreign language class, no one expects that you will walk in speaking the language. You are there to learn.
The same is true for many of the programs offered by your career center. The staff -- many of whom are students themselves -- recognize that this process is new to you and are happy to start at the beginning. It's better to try out things with the career center than with an employer the first time you apply for a job or get asked to interview.
3. Professional skills take practice to develop. Most of us are not born knowing how to write a résumé, search for open positions or interview expertly. These skills are different than the ones required to succeed in a classroom and require training and practice. The earlier you start attending "Meet the Firm" events, job fairs and mock interview sessions, the more time you have to build confidence interacting with business professionals.
Again, remember that these are safe-to-learn environments, where a little preparation will go a long way when it is time to really land an internship or career.
4. Students must take responsibility for your professional development. Just like no one can take your classes for you (we hope), no one can sit in an interview for you, either. At the end of the day, you should care the most about your life after college.
When you take responsibility for seeking out opportunities to learn about different job options and how to compete, you have the best chance for success. Of course, your family, teachers and even the career center staff would love to see you do well. However, you have the most on the line and should direct your efforts accordingly.
5. Excellent networking can make the greatest difference in jumping ahead professionally after college. Yes, being a great student can be helpful. And yes, being pleasant and attending every event can give you a huge advantage. But few things can have an impact like developing relationships with employers and learning how to leverage them. This is networking. If you start early in college and get to know employers that come to campus and the companies and businesses you are targeting, you have an outstanding chance of moving to the front of the line when it comes time to interview.
This won't guarantee that you will be hired -- you still have to be an ideal employee. However, moving through the interview process is a critical piece of getting hired. A good network can do wonders when a résumé alone may make you look like just another applicant in the crowd.
Career centers offer a variety of events to help their students make successful transitions from college to career. Some such activities include résumé-writing workshops, panel presentations on careers in a certain industry, job fairs or simply in-person meetings to discuss how to look for a job. The key to remember is that the career center is a safe place to start your professional development.
Sometimes the best first step is the simplest. Take a few minutes to check out what your career center has in store for your campus this year.
Robin Reshwan is the founder of Collegial Services, a consulting/staffing firm that connects college students, recent graduates and the organizations that hire them and a certified Women's Business Enterprise (WBE). She has interviewed, placed and hired thousands of people across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. Her career tips and advice are used by universities, national clubs/associations and businesses. A Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Robin has been honored as a Professional Business Woman of the Year by the American Business Women's Association. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and as a Regents Scholar from University of California, Davis.
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