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You understand the importance of interacting with your instructors and finding your favorite study space—but what about using your school’s career services? If you’re still in the dark about what they offer, now is the time to find out. There’s likely more going on there than the graduated student job search, and students who use these services a few times a year gain a powerful advantage. “Waiting until close to graduation is often too late,” says Cynthia Dantas, career services director for Tufts University School of Medicine public health and professional degree programs.
Seventy percent of students use their career services for résumé help, according to a 2012 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). More than half of students are making use of career counseling and internship assistance. Here’s how your career services can help:
1. Find opportunities every year of your student career
“I thought that my career services office would only help me find full-time jobs when my four years were up,” says Lexi K. at Stonehill College, Massachusetts, “but they helped me find summer jobs, apply for on-campus opportunities, [get] semester-long internships, etc.”
2. Check out your potential future(s)
The self-assessments offered at career centers are not designed to tell you what to do, but to give you ideas that aren’t already on your radar. The questions touch on your values, motivation, skills, and interests. “They helped me figure out who I am and what I need to do to get my dream career,” says Megan B., a student taking online courses at NorQuest College.
3.Pick your area of study & know what to do with it
Weighing your major, minor, and elective options? Considering their impact on your career opportunities can help set you up for getting employers’ attention.
4. Network with alumni
Your predecessors are often open to requests for informational interviews, and might even connect you with a specific opportunity or strategic contact. “Alumni can be great mentors, internship supervisors, and advocates for fellow students interested in their field,” says Dantas. “They are important contacts in developing your professional network.”
5. Develop your best résumé and cover letter
Selling yourself on paper is not easy. See if your school offers workshops or sessions that assist with selecting content, formatting, organization, grammar, and layout. Not on campus? Many schools offer webinars or Skype™ sessions. “Career services helped me showcase my technical skills,” says Sarah S., a graduate student at Sul Ross State University, Texas.
6. Own that interview
Whether your mock interview occurs over the phone, via Skype™, or in-person, you might be paired with a career counselor, another professional, or a fellow student who has interviewed already. “I didn’t know that such a thing existed or that it would be helpful to practice with a real recruiter and no penalties,” says Kayla G. at Rochester Institute of Technology, New York.
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