Career Centers: Your #1 Job Search Resource

Maximizing Your Career Center Relationship

Graduation week always produces an interesting parade of students through the Career Center. Students who have avoided this office during the entirety of their college career suddenly show up, half hoping that a job offer will be handed to them to accompany their new diploma. When the job offer is not magically produced, they sift through the few remaining open job postings, then grunt in dismay at not seeing the ideal job at the ideal company waiting for them to sign on the dotted line. And then they walk out, resigning themselves to the notion that grad school may not be a bad idea after all.

Your school's Career Center is there to serve you and your needs. It is the only place on earth where your personal job search is the number one priority of others. And usually it is free or costs very little and is included as part of your student fees or tuition costs. Yet, far too many students wait to utilize the services until very late in their final year. The resources contained in this office are invaluable to those who wisely invest the needed time well in advance.

Career Center Organization

In order to obtain optimal benefit, you need to understand how your Career Center is organized. There are two distinct career functions which are provided on most college campuses:

  1. Career planning and exploration
  2. Job search assistance

The former involves vocational counseling and assessments to assist you in choosing a potential future career. The latter is designed to assist you in locating your first job after graduation, as well as help you find internships and other work during college. Start with career planning first. As discussed earlier, you need to thoroughly research your career options and know what you want to do before you begin your job search. Always complete the research and personal analysis before you begin looking.

Some colleges divide these two functions into separate offices, with career planning handled by a "Career Services" or "Career Planning" office. This can sometimes be part of Student Services or Counseling Services. The primary emphasis of career planning is to help you better understand your individual aptitudes, personality, interests, and values in relation to potential career options. This evaluation may be done through a series of standardized assessments and computer-based programs, which are then analyzed by an experienced career counselor, who assists you in mapping the results against potential careers. Career planning is best accomplished as early as possible in your college career, but you should never skip the step simply because you "got started late" and need to find a job quickly. Take the time necessary to properly evaluate your background and explore all the opportunities which may be available to you. It will help you immensely in becoming more focused and targeted in your job search. Which will, in turn, assist you in achieving greater happiness in your eventual career.

Job search assistance is usually found on campus at the Career Center (which can go by many different names, including "Career Development" or "Career Services"). In some schools, all career assistance functions are contained within a single office, sometimes even combined with Career Planning. At other schools, job search assistance may be divided by undergraduate and graduate degrees, or may be divided by specific majors. Some schools also maintain an active alumni career office, often as an adjunct to the Alumni Relations office. If this all sounds confusing, it's not intended to be. You simply need to locate the office which is designed specifically for you. And if you happen to wander into the wrong office, just ask and they will be able to point you in the right direction.