Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Making Friends With College Career Services Staff

Last week, I met some amazing people. They're the career services staff for a college or university. They are the "careers expert" for between 1,000 and 6,000 people each. That's daunting. But then you have to remember that they're also the career resource for tens of thousands of alumni. (Not that they provide the same services that they do to currently-enrolled students, but they're a resource all the same). And they're not only in charge of resume and cover letter guidance, but arranging job fairs, advising professors on current job search strategy, and many of them also provide career planning, which encompasses helping students choose majors and select classes to fit their career goals.

For those of us in the "traditional" career services field (that is, private practice careers professionals), it's hard to imagine. You don't get to choose your clients (you must work with all students), and there's no room for specialization -- with dozens of majors, you've got to help them all, from the English major (what do you do with them???) to the computer science grads.

How to helop these folks? Those of us who have approached our local career services professionals and been rebuffed (for whatever reason) might be tempted to let them go it alone. But don't give up on them. They're overwhelmed, and think they can do it all. Offer to be on their Career Services Board (if they have one). Volunteer to help them organize the on-campus job fair, or teach mock interviews. If they don't want to work with you, go to the professors, or the student organizations and work that angle.

For college career office personnel: Use resume writers to your advantage. Bring them in to teach workshops. Interview them for your podcasts. Use them to connect to employers and recruiters. After all, the students you work with today, will be the clients of these careers professionals tomorrow. And those alumni you're getting calls from? Refer them out. After all, you've got 4,000 other people depending on you. You don't have to do it alone.

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