How to Use Your Career Counseling Office to Best Effect

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Degrees2Dreams How to Use Career Services Offices CC photo by Northern Ireland Executive

College graduates who haven’t gotten jobs are in real danger of getting too comfortable on the couch watching ESPN or “The Real Housewives.” How do you prevent this from happening?

Chances are you or your parents are making some type of sacrifice to for your college education. With the reality of a poor economy and an equally grim job market, you want to make sure that you aren’t spending that small fortune on just to come home at the end of four years, and exclaim that you are “lost” and don’t know what you want to do with the rest of your life.

We want to help you prevent this from happening.

Given that prospects for post-graduation employment in this economy are challenging, many parents wonder, “What can my student do to capitalize on their college education so they have a job lined up at graduation?” Probably the best resource to answer this question is the college Career Counseling Office.

Students should know where this office is and visit them early and often. If the office is a good one, they will be able to help with every aspect of the job search process – crafting resumes, writing cover letters, preparing for interviews, providing networking opportunities  – the list goes on in other words, GET THERE!

Here are some of the best tools you can utilize at the Career Counseling Office throughout college to avoid the panic attack and  regret of “lost moments” come senior year. While this list is by no means comprehensive, it seeks to offer 4 major points of advice that, if used thoughtfully and effectively – will put a student in a solid position to land a job prior to graduation.

1.) Choose a major and determine the market for it:

A recent survey conducted by The New York Times shows that the number one regret expressed by college graduates is not having given adequate thought to deciding on their major.

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/14/regrets-about-college/

That’s a daunting statistic.

Deciding a major is no easy task and it is a well-known fact that college students change their major an average of 3 times or more. Thus, it is something that should be done very thoughtfully and carefully.

True story: I knew someone who had decided to major in sociology… and cheese…

Let’s not let that happen to you, shall we?

Most Career Counseling Offices have invested in a host of different tools such as access to online databases, career-assessment tests and yearly-published books that you can use collectively, to most accurately determine everything you need to know about a specific major you are considering. These can provide lots of information, insight, and valuable statistics about the job market for various majors and can be really helpful in aiding you to best understand what kind of avenues your choice of major may lead to, and what kind of market exists to serve it.

I mean, I guess if there is a market for cheese, then go for it, right?

Perhaps more critical than these tools, however, are the staff of the Career Counseling Office who offer these services — nothing, arguably, compensates for human input. Depending on the size of the institution, there will be a range of qualified professionals who are (or should be) thoroughly trained on everything related to career decisions.

My career services meeting lasted a total of seven minutes. It was seven minutes in hell, but that was just my career services office, and I should have been more aggressive in demanding better service!

But, let’s stay positive and assume that your school has a great Career Services office!

Colleges recognize that jobs are the end goal of college students and consequently invest thousands of dollars in career counseling services in addition to the human capital required to run them. So, you should have no hesitation visiting and milking them for all the help you can get. If you take advantage of these resources to help make this major decision (pun intended) a little less scary, you will be well on your way to sowing the seeds of future success.

2) Resume guidance: Having carefully selected a major, crafting a resume is the next most important step in planning for job success. Resumes are arguably the most crucial thing potential employers will look at when considering you as a job candidate. Since there is no official, standard template, however, it is tricky for you to make one you can be sure is going to most effectively highlight your skills and experience in order to demonstrate you are indeed capable of performing the requirements of a job.  Career Counseling Offices are a great place to start for this, as they often have or bring in qualified professionals who can edit, check and review your resume to offer advice, feedback and suggestions for improvement so it is perfectly tailored to match the needs of a position you seek to obtain.  And if you really want to stand out, you can create a visual resume:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1VluWdog5gSry61YHA8VpBpgL8pSBedJ6FRwwoRx0LaI/edit

Click here to check out what we mean by a visual resume!

3) Use Career Counseling Office resources to land an internship:

Internships have become almost indispensable to landing a job after graduation. You want to stand out from the crowd as much as possible and racking up internship experience is one proven way to do so. Competition for internships is often fierce, and finding one that matches your capabilities, strengths and interests is an arduous process. Career Counseling Offices are a great resource for this.

Most colleges offer password-protected websites that you can use to search available jobs and internships. Many companies and recruiters will post employment opportunities exclusively – that’s right, exclusively – to these sites, in addition to opportunities posted from within the college alumni network. For all the people using large, public, free sites such as Monster.com or Indeed.com to conduct internship and job searches, you will gain a competitive edge – competing with a small, select, limited pool of applicants.

4.) Mock Interviews:

Most Career Counseling Offices offer this service and it is truly something to be taken advantage of. Because once you have declared your major, crafted your resume, and landed an internship – you’ll be called for interviews that can make or break you as a potential job candidate. Click here to see what we have to say about interviews!

But lets not jump ahead, by participating in a mock interview, you’ll have the opportunity to answer legitimate questions employers might ask and receive a video tape of the event you can then watch at your leisure and target key areas for improvement.

So that awkward twitching, the I’m-trying-to-look-natural-but-I-seem-crazy laugh, and the fidgeting can be corrected.

This way when it comes time to interview, you’ll be fired up and ready to go, confident on how to best showcase your skills without committing popular interview mistakes such as the ones listed here: http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/outside-voices-careers/2010/03/10/50-worst-of-the-worst-job-interview-mistakes

So take advantage of your college Career Counseling Office while you can, and reap all the benefits it has to offer.

If you act on these four critical initiatives with adequate attention and care, it’s likely you’ll be collecting your diploma on graduation day as part of the happy minority secure in the knowledge you have a job lined up, ready to tackle the next era of your lives.

By Alefia Jafferji, Degrees2Dreams Intern

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