The Jewel in the Campus Crown
I was once again reminded of the value of the college career center last Wednesday evening when I presented the topic of business dining etiquette at the annual student and alumni Power Dinner, which was co-sponsored by the Manhattanville College Center for Career Development (CCD), the Junior Class and Residence Life. Although the Power Dinner is not new, it speaks volumes about how its importance has grown that it is now co-sponsored by other areas and fully supported by Manhattanville’s president, who attended along with students and alumni. My co-presenter for the evening, a wealth management portfolio officer for a major financial institution, guided the students through an engaging interactive hour of networking techniques to be used at various business occasions. The planning, creativity and sophistication that are the hallmarks of this and other CCD events attest to the top-notch career training that is provided.
In addition, my experience with Pace University in Pleasantville, NY, has also been outstanding, having attended one of its career fairs and successfully recruited Pace students for internships on behalf of a local political campaign.
Events, however, are just the frosting on the cake of college career centers; there are many other layers that offer an array of services designed to prepare students to identify and launch their careers, including:
- Career Assessment, Identification and Advice – Let’s start at the beginning. Before you can pursue your career, you have to figure out what you really want to spend the rest of your life doing. Are you uncertain which major or minor to select? A career counselor can aid you in identifying your interests, skills and values, or help you confirm or change your choice of major and career.
- Resumes and Cover Letters Guidance and Rewrites– Everyone, even high school juniors and seniors, needs a well-crafted resume and a basic cover letter that she or he can modify for specific colleges, internships, summer or part-time jobs as well as for that crucial first full-time permanent position upon graduation. It cannot be emphasized enough how important this is. Yet, I see resumes all the time that are less than stellar – from content and design to layout and length — and wonder why a college student would risk distributing such an important career document without consulting with a career counselor at the campus’s career office! With such a resource and trained professionals at a student’s disposal, why would she pass it up? But, too many students do, at their peril.
- Interview Prep – The Interview is one of the most nerve-wracking, angst-producing experiences for anyone – whether you are a student seeking an internship, young graduate on a job search for that critical first job, or seasoned professional changing jobs or looking for one for the first time in decades! Thus, having a trained, professional career counselor prepare you for those interviews by providing information, guidance and mock interview instruction and role play is vital. Again, why would any student – or anyone – walk into an interview without this valuable preparation?
- Internships / Jobs – Your college career center is dedicated to assisting you in obtaining the internship that might be a critical part of your graduation and degree requirements. Career centers maintain relationships with employers, make available access to job banks and employer information and offer numerous resources to help you in your internship or job search. Your internship coordinator and career counselor can help see you through the entire process, from the internship application up to and including the internship itself. In many cases, an internship cannot be facilitated except through the career center. The career center can also play an integral role in helping you prepare and execute your search to line up a job after graduation, and in many cases continue to be a resource throughout your career as an alumna or alumnus.
- Events to Prepare You for Life After College – Career fairs, recruiting days, power dinners, workshops, backpacks to briefcases, networking sessions and other events are created, initiated, planned and sponsored by career centers to offer a range of occasions in which students can become informed about the transition from college to career, learn workplace readiness skills, connect with others in order to expand their networks and meet with employers.
With all the riches college career centers have to offer, this valuable resource is too often underused and underappreciated by students and in many cases by the colleges themselves. In hard times, they are often among the first to have their resources cut. Yet, they should work hand-in-glove with academic advising – as they both play different but complementary roles in helping you to plan your curriculum and launch your career. Using academic advising but not using the career center is like rowing with one oar, skiing with one ski or flying with one wing; you’re not likely to reach your desired destination by traveling through four years of college in this manner.
Accordingly, consider the following plan:
- While you are checking out colleges in your junior and senior years of high school, include on your list of questions a description of each college’s career center. What does it offer? What kind of events does it sponsor? Are there any statistics on internship and job placements? Does it have an active alumni career network? Determining whether your college has a strong career center should be an important piece to consider in choosing a college.
- When you enter college as a freshman, put on your list of things to do to visit your campus career center and introduce yourself. Make an appointment with a career counselor, and establish a relationship with the entire staff. Include them in your decision-making process in choosing courses, a major and a career path.
- If you are already well into your college experience and have not yet visited your career center, do so without further delay and follow the suggestions in No. 2.
Lyn Nelson, internship coordinator at Manhattanville’s CCD, offers this perspective: “It’s important to remember that your career is not just about the job you get when you graduate. So many decisions go into choosing a career path. Your major, volunteer work, athletics, clubs and internships lay the groundwork. Our most successful students use our services early and often, develop a relationship with our office, and take advantage of everything available to them.”
As someone who teaches workplace etiquette to students and professionals, my view is that a good college career center is the jewel in the campus crown. So my advice is to run, don’t walk, to your campus career center; you’re likely to find riches fit for a king.
Until next time,
Sources: National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE); personal interview