If you’re a college student, you’re probably aware of your university’s career center — and you’ve probably been putting off going in for a visit. It may not seem worth your time, but don’t disregard what your career center can do for you (especially while you’re paying tuition — use those perks!). Like so many things in life, it often comes down to the simple act of showing up. Here, a career center employee tells us her insider tips for making the most of the one on your campus. If you’re well out of college, keep reading, too; much of this advice could be applied to visiting a recruiter or a corporate career counselor. Read on!
Everyone hears about the career center from seminars and professors. But for many of us, we just don’t know what it’s all about. From my experience as a student Career Coach, I can tell you that it isn’t the mystical enigma it is made out to be. No matter what your grade, major, or background, the Career Center is made with you in mind.
1. Come in with an open mind
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, college students will change their major an average of three times. This isn’t to say that changing majors is necessarily a good or bad thing, but just that the reality is we don’t always know what we want to do for the rest of our lives at age 18. You never know what else lies out there until you look. A big part of career development is focusing on personal growth and learning more about yourself so that you can find fulfilling work. This means taking a personal inventory of your values, skills, and interests, and then exploring your results. Your university’s Career Center can give you suggestions on fields of work, which you can then do research on, volunteer in, or take a class on to learn more.
2. Do a bit of grunt work
One of the easiest ways to have a productive meeting at the Career Center is to investigate their services a bit. It differs a bit from school to school, but many universities have lesser-known resources such as walk-in resume editing, counseling over email or Skype, and access codes to get free career assessment and exploration tools. Check out your school’s Career Center website to make sure you are utilizing everything available. Once you’ve prepared a bit for your session, you will be able to better articulate your goals so you can get more personalized and helpful Career Coaching.
3. Bring us what you’ve got
Sometimes students are afraid to make an appointment because they are too overwhelmed to start. Really, though, Career Coaches have seen it all — they will be happy to meet you where you are. And whether you have no idea about how to draft a resume or you’ve got your personal brand locked down, there is always room for improvement. There is no shame in feeling a bit lost, because everyone has to start somewhere.
4. Make connections
No, I’m not going to tell you to network, because I’m tired of hearing it myself. What I do think is important, though, is to make real connections. Building an established relationship with a university Career Coach can open so many doors. Oftentimes, these are the people who are plugged into the community and can give you great references. View your Career Center as a source to gain a mentor and find tools to best serve you in your professional development.
5. Just show up
Sometimes the hardest part about career development is just admitting that you need help. Remember, though, this is what Career Coaches are trained to do and a service your tuition pays for, so make the most of it! Only a small percentage of students ever make that initial appointment, so any progress you make with the Career Center is putting you a step ahead. The Career Center is designed to help students, but they need you to make that initial effort.
I know coming in to the Career Center can seem confusing or overwhelming, but try to remember that they are there to help you reach your goals. This process is what you make of it, so consider these things to make the most effective use of your school’s Career Center.
Sabel is a senior at Western Kentucky University, where she studies Middle Grades Education. She chose to work at her school’s Career Center because she gets to use her skills to help others on their career development journey.
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