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One of the most important reasons students decide to further their education is to pursue an exciting career. Your school’s career services can help you reach your goals.

(Hidden) Services

According to a recent Student Health 101 survey, only 28 percent of respondents have consulted their career services. More than half of those were looking for help with résumés or cover letters. Sarah S., a graduate student at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, says, “I had very little work experience when I was [looking for] a full-time job. Career services helped me showcase my technical skills on my résumé.”

Trish Shafer, executive director of the Career Development Center at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, explains, “We encourage students to [connect] with a counselor to discuss their goals and outline steps and a timeline to achieve them.”

Here are some other career center perks:

  • Career fairs
  • Mock interviews with individual feedback, in-person or via phone or Skype™
  • Meet-and-greets with hiring employers
  • Internship and employment listings for your school
  • Individual consultations
  • Instructional Webinars
  • Alumni network contacts
  • Industry-specific pointers

Shafer explains that you don’t need to be in the same location as your school to benefit from services. Many schools offer Webinars with experts in certain fields or provide individual coaching over the phone or through Skype™.

Greg Lewis, a career and alumni services specialist at Ashford University, agrees. He says, “We hold Webinars on a variety of topics, such as résumés and cover letters, but also bring in experts from specific fields to provide insight and answer questions.”

Secrets of Career-Planning Success

Steve Hassinger, career services director at Central Penn College in Summerdale, Pennsylvania, shares, “Get to know your career services personnel and the services they provide early in your college career.” If you’re proactive, you’ll be in a stronger position than other job applicants. Sarah, who used career services late in her undergraduate studies, says, “I wish I had contacted career services earlier. I would have had more opportunities.”

Kick-start your career today by following these steps:

  • Educate yourself about your school’s career services.
  • Explore careers that interest you.
  • Look for networking opportunities.
  • Identify transferable skills from previous experiences.

Lisa Carver, a professional career counselor and co-founder of Campus to Career, Inc., says networking is essential. She suggests, “Take advantage of alumni programs. They offer a great opportunity to meet professionals.” Alumni connections can also be made online.

Lewis agrees. “It’s important to leverage whatever network you have. Do informational interviews and job shadow at companies you may be interested in.” Researching your intended field will help you choose a good match. The staff at your career services will have familiarity with many organizations or can connect you with other students and alumni who do.

Doing all of this early will ease some job-search stress as you near completion of your degree.

Even if you are considering many possibilities for work, acquainting yourself with the career services offered through your school is the first step to landing a job you love.

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Amy Baldwin, EdD, is the director of University College at the University of Central Arkansas. She is the author of The Community College Experience, The First-Generation College Experience, and The College Experience, all published by Pearson.