College career centers represent a wealth of opportunity, knowledge, and experience in regards to the job search process. Unfortunately, these offices are also highly underutilized by the college student population. When I was in college, I visited my school’s Career Development Center a grand total of two times during my four years. Now as a staff member in Career Services, I can see how utterly stupid I was to squander such a valuable campus resource.
Think about it: career counselors work with students and employers all day every day. They live and breathe the job search; they know the ins and outs of resume writing, interviewing, negotiating salaries, and finding job opportunities. Many of them have been doing this work all their adult lives. (The most senior member of my office has been in his role for the last 25 years.) Doesn’t it make sense to use the considerable expertise of these folks instead of embarking on the job search alone?
In addition, Career Services staff members have a number of personal and professional connections in a variety of industries. They usually hear about job openings before the general public, and they keep up to date with the latest trends in hiring. These are the people you want on your side during the job search, so that when they hear about that special job opportunity in your niche field, they immediately think of you and drop you an e-mail.
Here are some ways to connect with your campus career center:
Visit Early and Often
First and foremost, visit the office for career counseling early and often in your college career and get acquainted with the full range of services. Don’t wait until the last month of your senior year to run in screaming “HELP! I’m lost!” You want to be a household name so that the counselors know you and can give you pointers all along the way during your four years.
Open Our Emails!
Pay attention to Career Services emails. As the person who sends email blasts to 12,000 students at Syracuse University, I am very disappointed when students tell me they delete my emails without reading them. While not every single message will be life-altering, many of the emails will tip you off to a special career event taking place on campus, a guest speaker, a networking event, or a chance to get some face time with one of your preferred employers. Don’t ignore our emails—we’re trying to help you!
Volunteer at Our Career Fairs
Next, consider volunteering at career fairs. Employers always need help unloading boxes and setting up their tables. This is a great way to make connections with employers when there are not a billion students jockeying for their attention, and also to cultivate goodwill with career center staff.
Come Work With Us
If you’re particularly ambitious, take on a job or internship with your career center. Most offices have student employees who are trained to critique their peers’ resumes. If there is no existing position which fits your needs, show initiative in creating one. I have about 25 marketing-related assignments on my desk at the moment. If a student walked in and said he or she wanted to take on a project, I’d jump at the chance to get some help. This type of work looks good on your resume and puts you in the know with everything that is going on at your career center.
In this economic climate, you need to take advantage of everything available to you in order to get a leg up in the job search. If you are not connecting with your campus career center—you better believe that your competitors are. This leaves you at the back of the pack. Is that really the place you’d like to be?
Dan Klamm is the Outreach & Marketing Coordinator for Career Services at Syracuse University. In this role, he manages the marketing efforts for Career Services and promotes career-related events and happenings on campus. Dan regularly delivers presentations to classes and student organizations. He also meets individually with students to assist in crafting their resumes and preparing for interviews. Dan is a 2008 graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Connect with Dan on Twitter or LinkedIn.