What Career Centers Offer Students and Recent Graduates

by Sharon Elber

Career Center

Whether you are a freshman, senior, or recent graduate, your university’s career center can help you in your job search. While not every office offers the same services, the following list covers some of the most common programs to help you land your first job after college.

Help Choosing a Career Trajectory

If you are not sure about what future career will best suit your goals, talents, interests, and special aptitudes, the career center at your college is an excellent resource. Using a variety of assessments, questionnaires, and usually an informal interview, a career counselor can help you decide what kinds of work you may be particularly well suited for.

If you are a little further along in your progress towards degree, and are starting to sense that you may be heading in a direction that is not a good fit, a career counselor may also be able to help you make the most of the courses you have already taken to change direction towards a profession that is a better match for your strengths and passions.

Job Search Assistance

Although you can search for jobs using free online tools and websites, not all job opportunities are advertised on public sites. And, sometimes you may not be sure about which search terms will yield the best results. Career centers can help you learn more about where to look for specific jobs in special industries. In addition, they can help you refine your search to find those jobs you will be best qualified for once you earn your degree.

In some cases, the career center may have the inside scoop on jobs that may not even be advertised. For example, sometimes a large employer in your area may have an open call for graduates from your university. If the people at the center know the kinds of work you are looking for, they can keep you in the loop if such opportunities arise.

Finally, if you are looking for work while you are in school, the career center may be able to help by placing you into a job on campus. Although sometimes administered through another office, often career services will place students in work-study positions that are designed with students in mind.

Identify and Apply for Internships or Graduate School

If your next step after your undergraduate degree is to land an internship or apply to graduate school, the career center should make your to-do list. The list of possibilities is endless and can easily become overwhelming. The staff at the career services office can help you find the programs that will best advance your professional goals so that you can make the most of the time you invest in applying.

Although a career counselor can certainly help you gain a better understanding of the application process for internships and grad school, don’t expect them to do the work for you. Ultimately, the responsibility will be yours to follow up on such opportunities. However, you can work with a career counselor to make sure you craft strong application materials to put your best foot forward.

Career Fairs and Other Networking Events

Most career centers organize multiple career fairs each year. If you go to a large university, chances are that these job fairs will include representatives from some of the largest and most coveted employers in the country. It is a great opportunity to get a warm contact at an organization you dream of working for upon graduation.

Job fairs are a great chance to shop out your resume, get to know some of the people working in your industry, and practice your elevator pitch. You will also get a chance to learn more about what employers are looking for, the latest trends in your industry, and, of course, become aware of job opportunities.

In addition, your career center likely hosts a few keynote speakers each year. Generally, these speakers fall into two categories: leaders in a specific field or human resources professionals. Attending these seminars or workshops can give you insights into what kinds of opportunities are available in a specific sector, or give you tips on the latest trends in employment, generally speaking.

Resume and Cover Letter Improvements

Not sure if your resume is up to snuff? The career center can help with that. Since this is your chance to put your best foot forward, it is critical that you have a resume and cover letter that convey your most relevant qualifications, demonstrate your fit for the position, and are organized in the right modern format.

Career counselors can help you make the most of your college experiences whether they include sports, volunteering, student organizations or paid work in addition to your classes. Although you will need to prepare a unique resume and cover letter for every job you apply for, it helps to start with a solid first draft to give you a leg up on the job search.

Preparation for Interviews

Most career centers offer students and alumni help with preparation for interviews. Sometimes offered as workshops or special classes, interview preparation can go a long way to making sure you shine during this stage of the employment process.

In some cases, you may be able to schedule a “mock interview.” This practice interview is a chance to put on your interview attire and go through the process of a formal interview. Afterwards, you will receive some feedback on how to improve. Often mock interviews are conducted workshop style so that you can also learn from your peers.

The more often you get the chance to practice interviewing, the more comfortable you will be with the process when the pressure is on and the stakes are real. If you are new to interviewing, be sure to take advantage of this critical resource provided at your university’s job center.

Connect with Career Mentors and Alumni

When it comes to making connections and building your professional network, the job center on your campus offers important services that could benefit your job search. They often maintain a list of alumni from your school who are actively working in various fields. These are people who are willing to dedicate some of their time to mentor other college graduates interested in a similar career path.

There are several advantages to establishing professional relationships with people who are more established in your sector. First, you can learn more about the profession in terms of what to expect from your first job. Second, you may even develop a long-term contact who may one day be in a position to offer you a job, or let you know about a wonderful opportunity that never even gets advertised.

Finally, building a strong professional network will be an important tool for leveraging your experience at every stage of your career journey. Your career center can help you jumpstart your network so that you will hit the ground running in your job search.

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