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Using Your College’s Career Development Center

Don't Wait Until Your Senior Year!

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Your college’s Career Center is a place you will want to visit early on in your college career. The expertise and resources that the Career Center offers students can pave the way to making your journey much easier and more successful than if you wait to visit in your senior year or perhaps you don’t visit them at all.

Preparing for your future career is a process and taking your time to do it right will make it much easier for you during your senior year. By meeting with a career counselor, doing a job shadow and several internships, and getting a professional resume and cover letter prepared you will gain the confidence needed to conduct a successful job search.

1st Year Students

First year students starting college in September will be pretty busy with their coursework and making decisions on the types of co-curricular activities they want to pursue. This is a very busy time for the new college student and the hectic schedule and getting use to being away from home can be a bit overwhelming at first. This is why I suggest that students in their first year of college learn to develop good time management skills to help them to better manage their priorities and meet their short and long term goals.

During your first few days on campus you will probably get a full tour of the college if you haven’t done so already. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you don’t need the college’s Career Center until your senior year because you will be missing out on preparing in advance what you will want to do after college. No one expects you to know what you want to be after college during that first year but the career planning process takes time and using your four years of college to research, explore, gain experience, and network will all work to make your job search easier once you approach senior year and you’re ready to move on to a full-time job or graduate school. Although first semester as a college student can be a bit overwhelming, be sure to make note of the location of your college’s Career Development Center and visit it as soon as possible.

Too many students make the mistake of using that first summer after their first year to take a break or to go back to their previous summer job. Although going back to a previous job is not a bad thing, you might want to also consider getting an internship or job in an area that you are considering as a future career after college. For financial reasons you may also continue working at a summer job but by also completing an internship in a career field of interest you will be gaining the knowledge and skills that employers seek when hiring new graduates right out of college.

Sophomore Year

Sophomore year is a time when you really want to begin utilizing the Career Development Center to be able to make sure that you take advantage of all that they have to offer. Be sure to make note of the programming that’s offered on campus and, if you haven’t done so already, begin working with the Career Development Center to get a professional resume put together. The Career Center can help you build a strong professional resume that is targeted to a particular job or organization. They can also help you build a strong cover letter that will compliment your resume and let the organization learn more about your interests and why your are the perfect candidate for the internship or the job. You may also decide to work with your Career Development Center to put together a job shadow during winter or spring break. Job shadowing is an excellent way to learn about a career of interest without having to commit several months in the process.

While setting up a job shadow you can begin learning more about networking which is considered to be the #1 strategy for finding a job. Although intimidating at first, networking is a valuable skill that can be learned and used throughout your career to your advantage. Many colleges have alumni that volunteer to work with students for career advice, job shadowing, informational interviews, and even internships and/or jobs for the right candidate.

Since sophomore year is also a time when you will be selecting your major, the Career Development Center staff is there to help you evaluate career options by finding ways to explore careers that you may not have considered on your own. Since career planning is a process, don’t expect to go into your Career Development Center the day before meeting with your advisor and expect to know which majors will help you accomplish your career goals. You will need to have all of the information necessary in order to be able to make an informed decision on your interests and how that can play into the career you end up choosing once you graduate from college.

In addition to all of the online resources available for finding internships and jobs, check with your Career Development Center to see if they have subscriptions to specific databases that will help you further in your search. There are many general resources available online but say you’re interested in biological research or public health, your Career Development Center might have online subscriptions that can expand your search even further.

Junior Year

Junior year is a great time to assess what you’ve done so far and begin making some decisions based on academics, networking, co-curricular activities, job shadowing, informational interviews, and the internships and jobs you’ve completed over the past couple of years while still a student in high school or college.

Junior year is also a time to create some options you may want to pursue after college. Are you thinking of going to graduate school right after college? Perhaps you plan on waiting a year until you’ve had some time to engage in additional career exploration and feel ready to commit the time, energy, and money it takes to be successful in graduate school. If thinking of graduate school immediately following graduation, it is recommended that you begin researching programs and prepare yourself to take the standardized tests required. You can take advantage of the summer prior to your senior year to research, study for tests, make a list of faculty and other individuals you will want to use as recommendations, and to check out the nature of the essay question that each program wants you to write about. Advanced planning is key to submitting an application you can be proud of and one that will portray you as a serious student who will be successful in the program.

Senior Year

As a senior you will definitely want to visit the Career Development Center at your college early on during fall semester. Working directly with a career counselor will help you to better understand the ways that the Career Center can help you be successful in your job or graduate school search. Learn about your college’s recruiting program and what you need to do to be able to access jobs posted at your college as well as prepare yourself for any recruiting that goes on both on and off campus.

By working with a career counselor you will ensure that your resume and cover letter are professional and appropriately targeted which will put you and ahead of competitors applying for the same positions. Learn ways in the application process that will help you stand out. Following up on your online applications whenever possible is a good idea as well as being diligent about sending out thank you notes to anyone you interview with or who agree to do an informational interview.

Another way to take advantage of your college’s Career Development Center during your senior year is to schedule a mock interview with a career counselor. The best way to improve on your interviewing skills is to practice, practice, practice and there is no better way to practice for an interview than to do it outloud.

The best advice for seniors who are engaged in the job search process is to be sure to maintain a proactive approach whereby you are consistently networking, searching for jobs, and prospecting in order to keep your name out there. A sluggish economy can be challenging for anyone seeking a job but individuals who keep networking and applying for jobs are usually the ones that are most successful.

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