Posted August 20, 2013 by

3 ways to best navigate your college career center

Open door to the word Help in red letters

Open door to the word Help in red letters. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Maybe you’ve walked by it, used it once or twice or don’t even know it exists. Whatever the case may be, your college’s career center can be an excellent resource for you to figure out a major, find a job or internship, or simply learn how to craft a resume or cover letter. Even if you’re attending an online college, your school may offer career services as well.

Before you pay a visit to your school’s career center, you should put some thought into how you’ll use its services. Here are three tips to help you navigate your college career center.

1.) Educate yourself and prepare

It helps to know ahead of time what your college career center offers. You may be able to find this information on your school’s website. If not, here are a few things you may be able to do in a career center office, according to College Parents of America:

•    Connect with alumni to discuss career paths
•    Participate in job shadowing
•    Take self-assessment tests
•    Explore majors, careers and internship opportunities
•    Practice interviewing techniques

Before you first walk into that career center to take advantage of these services, you should come prepared, according to Candace Lamb, assistant director of career services at Indiana University Bloomington.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having several needs, but it will make [it] easier for everyone if you consider what those needs are before heading into your career coaching session,” Lamb writes. “If you can, think about how you’d like your career advisor to help and what areas you feel need the most attention.”

2.) Keep coming back

The career center at your college doesn’t have to be a one-and-done deal. In fact, it shouldn’t be, according to Lamb.

“In the same way that career development is a process, your job search does not end when you submit your resume,” writes Lamb. “Career services can help you edit your resume, prepare for interviews, understand your personality type, and deal with the stressors that come with choosing a profession. Develop a relationship with a career coach and maintain it through your time in college.”

Even after college, many college career centers offer alumni help (sometimes at a price). If you start that relationship with the career center during college, it may make things easier on you if you seek its services after college. You’ll know how the process works and will have gotten the preliminary steps out of the way.

Lamb urges readers to not feel bad for going back into the career center office with a new career plan or major. Don’t let that discourage you from returning. Figure out your plans throughout your college years, in the presence of a career advisor.

3.) Show up to every event possible

Sometimes in life, college and the workforce, simply showing up to something can open up more doors than you could have ever imagined. In an article for US News & World Report, University of Kansas student Lindsey Mayfield advises students to take full advantage of college career services.

“Each year career centers offer dozens of events like career fairs, etiquette dinners, and mock interviews,” Mayfield wrote. “…Even if you feel that it’s too early in your college career or that your résumé isn’t strong enough, or you already have a solid job for after college, attending these events is important to your development as a future employee. No matter the excuse, do your very best to be there and be enthusiastic. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn.”

Learn to embrace the “Yes Man” mentality. In that 2008 comedic film, Jim Carrey’s character began saying “yes” to every invitation that came his way. And while that can turn out reckless because nobody should say “yes” to everything, more opportunities did end up coming his way. In regards to taking advantage of your college career center, saying “yes” to as many events as possible that the center puts on may possibly lead to opportunities. You won’t know unless you go.

Even if you can’t make many of the events, why pass up the help of career advisors? They may be able to present career and internship opportunities to you, coach you on your job interview skills, and a whole lot more.

By Jon Fortenbury

About the Author:

Jon Fortenbury is an Austin-based freelance writer who specializes in higher education. He contributes to several education websites, including He blogs at

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