Maximize Your Career Center Experience

Careers Next Exit

My colleague, Dan Klamm sparked conversation in his post “Dear Penelope Trunk: You’re wrong.” Dan argued against the statement by Penelope Trunk that “career centers are terrible” by outlining many of the opportunities and services that career centers provide. I wanted to take the conversation a step further and talk about the things that as a student YOU can do to enhance your experience.

I have worked at my career center for six years and I have found that there are many misconceptions or myths that students have about their career centers. One of the ways students can enhance their chances for success is by being aware of a few basic principles. I am going to speak to 3 simple guidelines that I think can help make your career center experience more useful.

Realize that time is your friend

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job seekers are averaging about 27 weeks for successful searches.

I often find that students can feel critical of a career center or counselor if they don’t see immediate success. Whether they don’t get an interview or a call back right away from an employer they may get down on the process.  Understand these two things:

  1. The job or internship search has numerous layers
  2. You will ultimately get out of  the search what you put into it

“It is never too early to start…”

Whether you are seeking to write a resume, prepare for an interview, research companies, or find opportunities that fit your needs- be aware that it can take a considerable amount of time and effort. A 27 week job search is literally more than half a year. Do an honest evaluation of yourself and think about how much time you are spending in active pursuit of your future career aspirations. What did you find?

Some students may have a clear idea of potential career paths while others may not. This is OK, because by nature, students are exploring options and gathering information. However, the common denominator is that it is essential to give yourself the opportunity to learn and apply the different skill sets required for a successful job search.

Find out how YOU can use your career center

Your situation is unique, find out how YOU fit into the career center’s services.

Just like anything in life, there is no “one size fits all” approach to your career development needs.

Your career center may provide various avenues for you to get assistance with your concerns. Some of the services that your career center offers may have different levels of effectiveness related to your specific needs. Factors such as the market, your geographical location, your class standing, and your major are just a few things that can impact which services are the right fit for you. For instance, some students may get discouraged when they review job fair lists and see that there are only a few employers coming that meet their needs.  These students need to be aware that their career centers may also provide information sessions, networking opportunities, online job databases, links to resources by major and more for additional ways to connect with employers.

The main point I want to convey here is that it is important to find out what services and opportunities are available to you. You may find that your career center is great at critiquing resumes, or providing networking opportunities, or ways to connect and educate you on social media. I am willing to bet that yours can and it probably provides you with additional opportunities as well.

Speak up

If you aren’t getting what you need from your career center, ask for it.

One of the struggles that career center’s have is getting feedback from students. At my school, we ask for feedback by polling students about our services, inviting students to give feedback on our one-to-one interactions via evaluation forms, conducting salary surveys, and using student focus groups to help us with our social media. We get some great feedback, but unfortunately we are only able to survey a fraction of the students, as many do not respond for a myriad of reasons.

I often wonder if students realize that we truly value their feedback and we want to know what their concerns are. When we do receive criticism of our services we take it seriously and try to either clear up the misconception, try to find a way to improve, or do both. I can’t speak for every institution, but from my experience most career center staff work to find ways to connect to students so that they can identify their needs.

A few ways to give feedback to your Career Center:

Email or call the office

Speak to a trusted staff member

Give your honest feedback on evaluations or in polls the career center designs

Utilize your career center’s Facebook, Twitter or blog to comment

Remember a portion of your student fees go towards services like the career center. Therefore, you should speak your mind as a customer of these services.

[Note: This post was originally written for Dan Schawbel’s Student Branding Blog.]


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