As many seniors in universities across the country will tell you, there’s no shortage of bright and accomplished graduates from top schools, all competing for a shrinking number of opportunities.
In fact, the competition for an entry-level position has never been fiercer. Newsweek recently noted that 2.8 million graduates will enter the workforce in 2016. The scary part is that 40 percent of the total number of unemployed in the U.S. will be made up of 18-to-29-year olds, an unemployment rate of almost 14 percent among that age bracket (almost three times the national figure).
RELATED: What’s Up With College Career Centers? Tell Us YOUR Experience
The not-so-secret weapon for college students to launch a career is a no-cost resource that is included with that tuition check your parents write every year – the Career Planning Center.
Before you slap your head and go “No duh!” the point to be made is that the Career Center is only as good a resource as you make it. Here are six steps to maximize your experience with your school’s Career Center, and optimize your chances of scoring a top-tier opportunity when you graduate.
1. The most important step – and I can’t emphasize this enough – START EARLY.
It was my fifth week on campus and my parents kept encouraging me (i.e., pestering me) to get ahead of the game and be the first freshman on campus to visit Villanova’s career center. Most undergrads don’t think of visiting Career Planning until mid-Junior year. By going to the Career Center so early on, I got a surprisingly simple but critical strategic advantage for me, a running start when it came to meeting professionals at alumni networking events. On my first visit, I arrived with a bare-bones resume and a LinkedIn page
that had not been updated since the day I had created it. That day, I met Kevin, a dynamic and insightful expert from the Center who became both a career coach and a real-world mentor to me.
2. It is self-evident that the most powerful source of career opportunities is the alumni network – the Career Center can open the door for you.
Virtually all universities, no matter what size, have a strong alumni community that aspiring job seekers can tap into. Alums are always eager to help a young and hungry student accomplish their career goals and aspirations. Yet, many students don’t take full advantage of all of the alumni resources schools have to offer. The Career Center can be a vital resource to make this happen. Attend the events they put together, go to the information sessions and resume writing workshops – make an impression! It’s important to put yourself out there and make yourself stand out. Volunteer anytime there is an opportunity to get in front of an alumni dinner, luncheon or fundraiser; especially if there is a career planning angle. That’s how I got an opportunity to intern with the Philadelphia Flyers
– I was hired by a Villanova alumnus!
3. Develop a relationship with someone in career planning and meet with them at least three times a year to discuss trends and strategies.
(Caveat: don’t be obsessive and overextend your welcome by “stalking” them with too many frequent visits ;)!) It’s a good idea to never show up empty handed. Whenever I met with my mentors, I brought him them their favorite latte or iced tea. Also, don’t forget to have an agenda of what you’d like to discuss. He’s offering me the value of his time, expertise and observations. The least I can do is pick up the coffee on the way to his office and be organized about what I’d like to chat about. Be respectful of their time
– request a brief 10 or 15 minute appointment. When the allotted time is close to finishing up, note the time and ask if it’s okay to keep going. Ninety percent of the time, the discussion will continue beyond the time slot of your appointment.
4. Remember, entry-level job postings from top employers go directly to the career planning office first!
Logically, you want to be top-of-mind when a particular posting comes in that you’re well-suited for – another reason to develop a personal relationship with your Career Planning team. Make sure you keep yourself updated on the university’s job posting site. When you graduate, you won’t have the Career Center’s type of exclusive access to some of the best resources available to job hunters – all at no additional cost. (Well, as I said before, it’s included in your tuition costs, but let’s not quibble.)
5. Use the resources of the Career Center to develop your “personal brand.”
Clearly, there’s no shortage of bright and accomplished graduates from top schools, all competing against one another for a shrinking number of job opportunities. The competition for an entry-level position has never been harder than it is now. Developing your personal brand is more than bullet points on a CV
– how do you stand out in the four corners of an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper compared to everyone else’s sheets of paper? You need to leap off the page with something unusual. I worked with the Career Center to develop a LinkedIn Ads campaign that helped me get a paying summer job after my freshman year at Edulence
, a great digital marketing firm in New York City. LinkedIn invited me to write a blog about it. It became a favorable point of conversation in interviews and a What’s Up With College Career Centers? Tell Us YOUR Experience
6. Look at your path to getting a job as a “one-thing-leads-to-another,” multi-year business plan which begins and ends with Career Center.
Start early and visit often. Of course, they can’t guarantee you a job, but they will guide you to a suitable entry-level position if you have the credentials, and they will provide the expertise necessary to raise your personal brand up above the competition.
Of course, your school’s Career Center is not just another bricks-and-mortar building on campus. It is an underutilized and powerful resource staffed with sparklingly-bright, highly-positive people whose job it is to help you get a job. What a win-win situation. And in conclusion, I’d like to give a shout-out to Kevin Grubb, my career coach from Villanova’s Career Center. I’m grateful for all the time and attention you gave me throughout my college career.
This post was originally published at an earlier date.Disclosure: This is a guest post.Photo Credit: Shutterstock