You may find it surprising, but many college students know little or nothing about a wonderful career resource that’s right in their backyard: the career center. Most every college or university has a career services office whose sole purpose is helping students like you with career-related issues. But despite the career services offices’ best efforts to market themselves, surprisingly few students take advantage of their expertise. And that’s a shame — because, as many recent (and not-so-recent) college graduates can attest, the career services office could well be the most important resource on your campus when it comes to helping you envision and plan for your future. The Nerd is here to inform you why a visit to your school’s career services office can be so beneficial. Here are seven not-so-obvious reasons.
The career center is staffed by professionals who are specifically trained to assist college students with career-related concerns. Most campus career counselors hold master’s degrees in counseling or a closely related field, and many have additional educational background that focuses specifically on college student development issues. In addition, many campus career counselors have worked in the corporate or nonprofit sector, so they can give you a sense of what to expect in the “real world” of your work life.
The staff members work closely with the employers who will someday hire you. Career services professionals are very well informed on employment trends, in great part because they’re talking with actual employers every day. They also keep up on career-related trends through their professional reading and involvement in professional organizations. “Careers” are their career, and they can pass on some of their considerable knowledge to you.
The career center is the best place on campus to help you figure out what you want to do with your life and how. One of the misconceptions that many campus career services offices must fight every day is the notion that they’re the place to go only when you’re about to start your job hunt. Most career services offices also focus extensively on “career planning” issues — helping you learn more about yourself (e.g., your interests, skills, values, personality), what’s “out there” in the world of work, and even how you might put certain majors to career use (in answer to the common question, “What can I do with a major in ________?”). In other words, career services offices can help you not only with “how will I get there?” questions, but also with “where am I going and why?” questions.
It’s loaded with career-related resources, whether in print or on the computer. Among other things, most career services offices offer job and internship listings, information on careers you might pursue with various majors, information on specific companies and organizations, and even (in some cases) information on the jobs and salaries of past graduates from your school. All of these resources can help you learn more about the employment possibilities that exist and which ones might appeal to you.
The more “known” you are to the career services staff, the better the chance a staffer will refer you to an employer looking to fill a specific position. Let’s be clear here: It is not a campus career counselor’s job to “get you a job.” But picture yourself as a campus career counselor for a moment. If you saw a student in your office once a week learning about the field of, say, marketing, wouldn’t you be more likely to refer that student to a company you know of that’s looking for a marketing intern or full-time employee? Needless to say, it doesn’t hurt for you to be in the back of a campus career counselor’s mind when he or she is working with employers looking to fill positions.
It’s a good place to meet other students who share your worries. Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, you’re not alone in your career concerns. By visiting the career services office, you’ll likely meet other students who are “in your shoes” — and you can then help each other by tossing around career ideas, critiquing each other’s marketing materials (i.e., resumes and cover letters), and perhaps even making each other aware of companies and organizations you know of that might be hiring college students or new grads.
You’re paying for it! Your tuition dollars help to pay for career counselors’ salaries as well as all of the equipment and resources in the career services office. In other words, you help fund the office and everything it has and does – so you ought to gain maximum benefit from it.
Most campus career counselors go into their field because they genuinely want to help people like you who might be wrestling with career issues of some sort. But you won’t benefit from their passion and expertise if they don’t know who you are. So trust the Nerd and give your campus career center a try. You’ve already invested some of your money in this valuable resource; combine that with your investment of time and you’ll be that much more likely to find a career that makes you happy for years to come. The Nerd returns next Thursday with advice on how to become a teacher’s assistant.