Candace Lamb, career coach, University of Louisville Career Development Center
I often hear complaints from new college graduates that career services didn’t get them a job. Something many students don’t understand is that career development centers are not placement organizations. Career services professionals are there to help provide students with the tools to figure out what they want to do professionally and how to best market themselves for the job search. With that being said, here are the top tips I give students to effectively using the career services.
Keep in mind: career service professionals are not there to give you a job or place you in a job.
Consider this: if you wanted to get married in the next few years, would you really want a dating service to handpick your future spouse, or even give you a half dozen people to choose from? Perhaps that sounds better than going out on dozens of blinds dates, but think it through. Before you can have a successful relationship, you must have a deep understanding of who you are (your likes, dislikes, needs, deal breakers, future goals, etc.) as well as the necessary tools to make a relationship great (trust, open communication, intimacy, etc.).
In the same way, career development offices are here to help you figure out the kinds of careers you’re interested in based on your values, interests, and personality, and how to pursue those careers.
Think about what you’d like to get from your meeting with career services staff before the appointment.
Many times, I’ve had students come in and ask for their resumes to be critiqued. Twenty minutes later, they admit that they’re unsure of their major or feel they need practice interviewing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having several needs, but it will make easier for everyone if you consider what those needs are before heading into your career coaching session. We don’t always realize we have more than one issue and that’s completely fine. If you can, though, consider how you’d like your career adviser to help and what areas you feel need the most attention.
Realize that career development is a process.
I think of our lives as being in a constant state of evolution. Our wants, needs, and goals change based on our experiences and the things we learn about ourselves. The mistake I see so many people (not just students!) make is feeling like a failure for changing their career plans. It is not uncommon to realize you don’t fit in with the culture of a company or professional field. It is not strange to figure out that you don’t have the skills necessary for the job your friends or family are pressuring you to take (an example of this would be an artistic student realizing that they have no skills or interest in the field of medicine). You are not a failure for realizing a career path is wrong for you in your senior year. You are not useless because you don’t know what you want to do with the rest of your life as a college freshman.
Come back for multiple sessions.
In the same way that career development is a process, the job search does not end when you submit your resume. The career path does not stop when you figure out your major. Career services can help you edit your resume, prepare for interviews, understand your personality type, and deal with the stressors that come with choosing a profession. Develop a relationship with a career coach and maintain it through your time in college.
Don’t be afraid to call on alumni career services for help
Most colleges and universities have programs, career advisers, and assistance for alumni. Sometimes these services cost money, but they can help you tailor your resume to the different organizations or career fields you’re pursuing and help you learn to be a proactive professional.
If you meet with a career adviser and don’t feel like they are listening to you, or you don’t feel comfortable speaking openly with them, ask for another career adviser! Every student and every adviser is different–sometimes one person isn’t the right fit for you and that’s okay.
Finding the right career can be one of the most rewarding things you do in life. Many students believe that college is a time to go to class, go to parties, and be involved in student organizations. While these can be great experiences and teach you so much about yourself, don’t forget to plan for your career. We spend so much of our lives at work—it is my opinion that figuring out what you want to do with your life is as important as knowing who you want to marry or the kind of person you want to be. Career advisers help you make the journey from college to career a rewarding one. Take advantage!