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How to Get the Most Out of Your Campus Career Center

A SI alumnus recently sent me this link about how to best utilize the resources that are provided by campus career centers. I thought that I would share this with readers, as its always good to hear from others about tips and suggestions that the internal resource provided.

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Campus Career Center
Published by kcuene on April 30th, 2009 in Work

Note: This is a guest post from Kelly Cuene. Kelly is a friend of mine and a Career Advisor at The University of Wisconsin. Most people I knew in college, including me, didn’t take advantage of their career centers until it was too late. That’s unfortunate because your career center really can be a great resource. If you’re in college, I urge you to take Kelly’s advice and get the most out of your career center, before its too late.

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I realize many students have serious concerns about the quality (or lack thereof) of their campus career center. It’s also important to know, however, how to get the most from your career services office. Some basic tips:

Do some work on your own, first

Student services staff are always trying to conveniently deliver information to students (notice the increasing use of videos, blogs, podcasts, websites and social networking sites by campus staff). Seriously, we have committees, surveys and focus groups trying to figure this out. If you look for these first, you’ll have a more productive appointment with a career advisor because you can ask follow-up questions or apply that information to your own situation.

Be prepared for an appointment
Before you visit with an advisor, think about what it is you hope to get out of the appointment. What questions do you have that you need answered? Some students with whom I meet apologize for bringing in a list of questions to ask. No worries - preparing questions in advance is awesome. It ensures all your concerns are discussed and our time is used effectively.

Visit early

Fall career fairs often launch campus recruiting for the year and usually take place just a few weeks after classes begin. This catches students off-guard, who have to scramble to prepare, or worse, miss out on great opportunities entirely. This is especially important for business majors and any students hoping to pursue careers with corporate employers, who conduct the bulk of recruiting in the fall. Plan ahead and hit the ground running once you get back to campus. Bonus points if you visit during the summer when few students are around.

Don’t believe the grand daddy of all career center myths

If nothing else, please do not wait until senior year to visit the career center! Most career centers are not in the business of handing out jobs once May hits. Advisors teach students to conduct a job search and build their brand, developing career management skills to be used long after graduation. Figuring out what to do with your life requires on-going assessment of your values, skills, strengths, interests and priorities. A career advisor will be more valuable to you if they can spend 2-3 years getting to know you and your needs, as they evolve.

In addition, your advisor is part of your network - nurture that relationship over the long-term to gain more from it. Advisors often have valuable contacts, including their own personal connections, and are more likely to share those when they know students will use them responsibly and professionally. Demonstrate, over time, that you are both those things.

Make an effort to attend group advising sessions or career workshops
Students tell me they prefer to skip group sessions because they want one-on-one attention from a career advisor to discuss their unique situation. I’m not sure if this is a millennial thing or what. Chances are, however, the issues are not as unique as students think. Many individuals struggle with the same questions. Group advising or workshops help you learn from others experiencing the similar things.

If your career center sucks, let someone know

Most colleges and universities, regardless of type, have a hierarchal structure. Academic departments and faculty are priority because they carry out the teaching and/or research missions of the institutions in a direct way, on a daily basis. Even a college president or chancellor is nothing without the support of faculty.

This means resources are often allocated other places before they go to undergraduate student services. It’s possible your college career center is lacking the financial or human resources it needs to meet student expectations. Start with the college career center staff if your needs aren’t being met. Most staff want to hear students’ ideas about how to improve services. But, if you feel like what’s going on is an issue beyond the career services office, let your voice be heard. Students can have a huge impact!

Posted by kkowatch at May 5, 2009 11:21 AM

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