Like many parents, my husband and I are not only concerned that our kids have a rewarding college experience, but also become gainfully employed after college. On our initial college visits, the need for Lindsey to take advantage of the career center at her school seemed far in the future. But the college years go more quickly than parents expect, and that time is now. Here are some things we've learned about how to make the best use of a school's career services.
1. Educate yourself about all available resources: Most students are probably vaguely aware that their college or university offers career assistance, but it pays to research exactly what resources are available. For instance, most—if not all—colleges will have a career resource center, and many individual schools within a university will offer major-specific career resources as well. At Lindsey's school, the University of Kansas, there is a University Career Center and individual career centers for the schools of engineering, business, music, and journalism.
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2. Keep track of career fairs: Potential employers will be on campus to meet with students who are a good fit for their organizations and the kinds of employees they need. Your college's career center can provide you with the dates and places so that you can plan to take advantage of job fairs.
3. Learn how to get hired: It's not enough to simply know which jobs are out there. Students must also learn how to position themselves to get those jobs. That includes creating a résumé, crafting a cover letter, and learning how to interview, all of which a good career center can assist with.
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I feel lucky that I have been able to take advantage of many of the resources at my school's career center during my time in college. Unfortunately, many of my friends don't know about all that the career services department has to offer, and if they do, they don't necessarily take advantage of it. I maintain that the career center is one of the best resources at my school, and I have some tips for how to best use it.
1. Join a career-building organization or honor society: One of the best ways to stay up to date on career center goings-on is to join them! Many career centers sponsor clubs for career development; a weekly meeting can be the best way to stay involved, and you can even apply for leadership positions within that group as a résumé-builder within a résumé-builder. In addition, these groups often get the most in-depth information your career center has to offer on topics like etiquette, interviews, networking, and job applications.
[Find out how to network while still a student.]
2. Apply for on-campus jobs: I say "apply" for campus jobs rather than "get" campus jobs because I found that being hired for a campus job was much more difficult than I had expected. Nevertheless, I gained experience with applications, cover letters, and interviews even before I got my on-campus job, and the career center can help put you in touch with important on-campus employers. My mom and I believe in campus jobs because they work with your class schedule and look great on a résumé.
3. Simply show up: Each year career centers offer dozens of events like career fairs, etiquette dinners, and mock interviews. I hear about these all the time and always have good intentions about going, but don't always follow through. Even if you feel that it's too early in your college career or that your résumé isn't strong enough, or you already have a solid job for after college, attending these events is important to your development as a future employee. No matter the excuse, do your very best to be there and be enthusiastic. You never know who you'll meet or what you'll learn.