College career counselors, whose business it is guide you in planning your career and getting a job, offer some terrific advice, both about use of college career offices and about job-hunting in general.
The biggest myth about career services is that we serve only seniors who are business or engineering majors.
— Laura Yu, Career Services, Virginia Tech
The biggest mistake made by students is to use career services only when they “think” they need the services.
— Judy L. Fisher, Director, Career Development Center, Occidental College
As an example of how students can capitalize on alumni contacts through their college career center, I had a student several years back who wanted to be in actuarial services; he was a physics major. He called someone from our Alumni Career Networking System and was offered a paid internship! He’s still with the company; they paid for graduate school and all his qualifying exams to be an actuary. Now, he’s in our system, willing to help others by being an alumni networking contact!
— Marcia Merrill, Assistant Director, Career Development & Placement Center, Loyola College, Maryland
The concept that students least understand about career services: Many students assume that the career services office at their university/college is a placement office and is there to get them a job. Career services professionals facilitate career development through career-planning assistance, mock interviewing, on-campus interviews, and networking receptions. Getting a job is up to the individual.
— Amy Ertel, Career Counselor, Career Development Office, Tulane Law School
Plan to attend all job and internship fairs to gather information and network with recruiters. Don’t rule out any organization until you hear what they have to offer.
— Mariangela Ardino, Senior Associate, Office of Career Services, SUNY College at Brockport
Set yourself apart from others in your cover letters. Of the stacks of resumes and cover letters, what makes you stand out? Find a geographic, field, or social tie and emphasize these connections in your cover letter.
— Whitney McCray, Career Counselor, Career Development Office, Tulane Law School
Be aware of all the services your career office offers. Some of the services offered here at Herkimer County Community College, as well as other colleges and universities, include credential files, which are a great place to stockpile references, letters of recommendation, internship evaluations, student teaching evaluations, awards earned during your college career and any other documentation you may think is helpful to your chances at landing a job. Some people also maintain descriptions of student activities and leadership positions held. For many colleges and universities this service is free and is continuous so long as students/alumni keep their records up to date.
— Peter Fagan, Career Counselor. Herkimer County Community College, Herkimer, NY
My favorite way to research career fields is informational interviewing. Either start off talking with people in the field that you know (professors, family members, etc.), then expand the pool with alumni. Once you get the hang of it, start contacting contacts of those initial contacts. I was offered a job interview just because I did an informational interview with the organization!
— Ellen Russell, Career Consultant, MBNA Career Education Center, Georgetown University
Participation in our annual Social Business Dinner has proven to be most helpful as a life-long learning experience.
— Judy L. Fisher
Career services can help you be in the right place at the right time. I had an MBA student about to graduate who called someone I recommended he contact from our Alumni Career Networking System. He happened to call as the firm got a new contract, and he started work the next week. And now he’s with a consulting firm who was the client he first was assigned.
— Marcia Merrill
The best advice about using career services is to see your advisor early in your college career. Establish a working relationship with that person. Let your career advisor know what you are looking for in a career. Work with him/her throughout your time in college to achieve your career goals.
— Laura Yu
The most important thing to remember when conducting a job search and going on interviews is to sell yourself. You are the product that the employers are interested in buying. Make employers believe that you are the best product on the market. Your job hunting will be much more fruitful if your sales pitch works.
— Amy Ertel
A student job-hunting mistake is to look for jobs only in their hometown; you need to be willing to go somewhere else. Get some diverse experience!
— Laura Yu
Never underestimate the skills and experiences you can gain through being involved in campus activities. Even simply serving as a member of a student organization will provide some helpful skills such as program/event planning, budgeting, how meetings are run, confidence, and so on. As a leader, you may continue to build these and other valuable skills. Additionally you begin networking, which will be extremely helpful to you upon graduation.
— Peter Fagan
Career services is more than a place to learn job-search skills – counselors can provide help developing an integrated life plan.
— Judy L. Fisher
Career services can help you clarify goals and build skills. I had a sophomore who thought she might be interested in marketing. She “shadowed” an alum in marketing and wound up in an internship for next two years! When interviewing, she had great experience to share and the opportunity to show her skills by using concrete examples. She got five offers and decided to go with another marketing firm to get more varied experience than with the marketing department of the company at which she’d interned. She’s still in touch with that alum who became her mentor and advised her that she’d be more marketable with varied experiences.
— Marcia Merrill
The biggest mistake students make when using career services to help them pick a major is to try to identify a major too quickly — in an hour . . . or even half an hour. Researching majors takes time! Don’t limit yourself to an hour! Research early and give yourself plenty of time to decide.
— Laura Yu
Don’t neglect other contacts you may have besides using your career center – church, neighborhood associations, professional organizations/associations, friends, relatives. Be creative! For example, I had an MBA student about to graduate who learned networking skills through our Alumni Networking System and met some very helpful contacts. He then used his newfound networking skills to connect with a friend at church who happened to work for a company in which the MBA student was interested. He’s now working in his “dream job” and also in the Alumni Career Networking System to help out others.
— Marcia Merrill
Resourceful students who use career services pace themselves. There’s a lot of stuff here; you can’t possibly see it all in one day. Give yourself an hour or two then come back. Don’t try to cover everything at once — that is too overwhelming! You’ll get frustrated and never want to come back.
— Laura Yu
What if you’re not a college student, but you’d like to take advantage of all the wonderful services offered by college career-services offices? A number of colleges provide career services to individuals from the community at large. Some offices provide assessment and consultation, including resume development and interview-skill training. In addition, some provide access to resources in the college career center (e.g., library, job listing, career fairs,computer-assisted self-guidance tools, etc.). Still others teach non-credit, short-term classes in which non-students can enroll and which cover assessments. Some schools, particularly public institutions, provide their services without charge to the public as a means of marketing the classes and programs of their college. Others have a set fee per visit with separate charges for testing materials, resume development, interview training,and career guidance classes.
— Richard Paterik, who compiled this information based on responses to a question about non-student career services asked of participants in the Professional JobTalk online discussion group.
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