The overall purpose of college is to help students find a career path that will lead to a successful, happy future. In other words, a job. It follows, then, that career services is the most important office on campus. Students who use career services can plan student loan borrowing based on future income, explore career opportunities during and after college and learn how to become the best possible marketable job candidates.
Internship and job listings
Colleges have databases of internships and job opportunities. These job banks are vital to a student’s job search prospects. However, I recommend appointments with career counselors at least once per semester to continue looking for internships and receiving guidance on which internships fit your skills at that moment.
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For instance, a student could not qualify for an internship in their sophomore year because they didn’t have the skills developed once they’ve completed coursework for that year. If he or she applied but didn’t talk to a career counselor, he or she would not know to reapply the following year. Beyond databases of interviews, companies will also come to campus to interview students for positions. The slots are filled at career services offices.
Networking is not only what helps most people land after graduation jobs, but it’s also what helps students gain internship and shadow day opportunities. Shadow days are my favorite tool for career exploration.
The other kind of career guidance is when a student really has no idea what they want to do with their lives. This is perfectly normal. That’s why changing majors at least once is common. I did. But a career counselor can help students arrange shadows but also talk about job interests. Sometimes they can recommend courses that will help students cement or redefine career goals.
Seminars on resumes and interview skills
No one is born knowing how to write a resume. Career services offices often have seminars on interviewing, too. Students will learn how to dress professionally, answer questions, and write resumes tailored to individual positions. Knowing these basic career search skills is as important as any class students will take on campus.
Oftentimes career offices also post online resource of sample resumes and interview questions. Show counselors resumes after writing them and definitely participate in practice interview sessions. Answers previously thought to be positive may now be negative. For instance, since working in teams is dominant in today’s corporate environment, it’s more important to be a team player than completely self-reliant.
Entry-level salary calculations
One of the hardest decisions families make when it comes to college is how to pay for it. When it comes to borrowing student loans, it’s impossible to decide how much to borrow unless students have a realistic idea of how much they’ll make when they graduation. Every semester students should go into the career services office and discuss realistic expectations for post-graduation salaries.
Career services tracks salaries of recent graduates. The reason why going in every semester is important is because career ambitions and salary expectations change. For instance, a student may start out wanting to be a journalist and end up as a biologist. These two field vary quite a bit in entry level salaries and thus, what a student could afford to repay. The resulting numbers could mean transferring to a different, more affordable school or going to the financial aid office to look for more scholarship.
Mentorship opportunities from alumni
Networking is not only what helps most people land after graduation jobs, but it’s also what helps students gain internship and shadow day opportunities. Shadow days are my favorite tool for career exploration. A student spends a couple of hours with a professional in their field and asks questions. When the professional is an alumni, the connection can be stronger and result in even more opportunity for internships and mentoring. A mentor can guide you and answer career questions throughout your career.
While not from an alumni, I met my mentor, Margaret Engel, at a conference when I was part of a team who won an investigative reporting award. I signed up for a mentor at the conference. She saw my clips, articles I’d written, and said I have talent. She encouraged me to write. It took me three years of pitching agents, but CliffsNotes Graduation Debt: How to Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life recently came out in its 2nd edition. I would have never written a book without that encouragement. Now, I mentor someone at every conference I attend to pay it forward.
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Forbes.com | April 22, 2014