How to Prepare for Your Career Advising Appointment

School career centers have several career counselors on staff to keep up with the demand of the student body. Often, each counselor specializes in a certain area. For instance, there may be a career counselor assigned to only engineering students. Others may specialize in helping pre-professional students prepare for graduate school applications and interviews. The career office website should give you all of the necessary information you need to make an appointment with the counselor that will be the most helpful for your situation.

Schedule in advance to ensure that you are meeting with the correct counselor at a time that works for you. Beware: appointments can fill up fast. If you need a last-minute appointment, career offices offer walk-in periods (or days) when anyone who needs assistance can see an available career adviser. Scheduling further out, if possible, will likely give you a better experience because you have more time to gather all of your materials, which allows the adviser to provide better, more relevant feedback. Before arriving, there are a few steps to follow:

 

Step 1: Gather all of your materials

What are you going in for? Simply a resume review? Or will you be participating in a mock interview? In either case, bringing along an updated copy of your resume/CV is a must. If you are going over a job listing and discussing the application steps, bring both a resume and a cover letter. Tailoring the cover letter to the opportunity will be very important to your success. If you need help with the format of your resume or cover letter, check out the career office website, which should have examples that can get you started. Google searches and sites such as Resume Builder can be good resources as well.

If you have never written a cover letter before, do not worry. Take a look at some examples. Typically formal, a cover letter is essentially a showcase of you, your skills, and why you are a good fit for a job. Broken down, a cover letter may include an introduction to who you are, the position you are applying for, why/how you align with the job description, reiteration of your interest, and your contact information. At the very least, you can come walk into the interview with an outline of your educational background, skills, and what you would like to emphasize as an asset to the job description. A career adviser will then guide you through the basics of the cover letter and talk you through how to market yourself (and your skills!) effectively.

Putting in some work before stepping into the career office will ensure that you get the best feedback on your materials. After the session, you can make final edits and send off the application with confidence.

Step 2: Preliminary questions

Come prepared to ask any questions you already have, whether it is about the format of a resume or cover letter, the interview process, or other aspects of the application. If you are studying journalism or creative writing, for example, you may have questions about providing samples to potential employers. While you will probably want to ask your professors for advice on what constitutes strong, appropriate samples for the position, your career adviser should be able to answer questions about those, too. Your counselor may remind you that many employers prefer PDF submittals for required samples.

Do not be afraid to ask about how to market yourself! If you would like to know what personal experiences and skills are most valuable to employers in your field, ask your career adviser what you should emphasize. This is especially important if you have switched majors, and perhaps most of the experiences on your resume do not necessarily relate to your current field.

Step 3: Job Listing

One of the simplest ways to get great feedback in a career advising session is to bring the internship or job listing for which you are applying. Any information about the company will be helpful as well. A physical copy can be great because you can mark up the listing; go ahead and underline, circle, and annotate any requirement or task descriptions. This will allow you to have a reference of how you fit into the job description. You can discuss the posting with your adviser. You should come away knowing 1) your goals, 2) why you are applying to the job, and 3) why you would want to work for this company. Conveying this information effectively will make your application stronger. Companies look for candidates that best align with the job description. Sometimes this means using similar phrases and terminology. Finding similarities between the qualities they asked for and the qualities outlined on your own application may convince them that you would be a good candidate.

For a resume or cover letter review, a few materials and a little preparation can go a long way to getting great feedback that will send you on your way to a new position. If you are going in for a mock interview, keep all of the above in mind as you look over all of your (hopefully completed) materials.

For a mock interview, consider an additional step:

Step 4: Compiling Possible Interview Questions

Conduct searches online for common interview questions. Practice ones you think will be relevant to your field. ALWAYS be prepared to answer the prompt: Tell me about yourself. Reflect on your experiences and why you are a good fit for the position. When you can explain (and convince) someone that you have the qualifications, skills, and positive attitude to do the job, you are ready to tackle some of the harder questions.

So what are the most difficult questions to answer well during a job interview? Behavioral questions. Examples? Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult person at work. Tell me about a time when you worked with others in a team. What would you do in this situation?

These are situational questions that, all in one, force you not only to display your critical thinking and communication skills, but also reveal insights into your personality. Employers love them. Honestly, these questions may be the most important portion of the interview. Why? Because your answers to behavioral questions are often what says the most about you. Potential employers analyze your answers as a measure of your self-management skills and how well you communicate under pressure.

 

As scary as it sounds, as long as you prepare, you should make a good impression. Knowing who you are and how you handle situations around you is most of the battle. Your career adviser can give you the advice and practice to work out the kinks. Put in the effort and the results will be even more rewarding.

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How Your College Career Office Can Help You Reach Your Professional Goals

On-campus career development centers are an invaluable tool to help prepare you for the professional interview process. Career centers will give feedback on resumes and covers letters, and conduct mock interviews. They can also assist you in finding internships and jobs. Using this resource is highly recommended. Career advisers focus on helping you put that hard-earned, and often expensive, degree to good use. It is nice to know that as you prepare for the “real world,” you have helpful career counselors and advisers on your side.

Certain university departments may also have specific career or internship offices, as is often the case for business schools. Going through your business college’s internship center is important for disciplines such as accounting or finance professions. Firms love to form partnerships and go through school programs to handpick their interns and future employees. Walk into the office today and start interacting with advisers that will get you on the track to achieve your professional goals. Services career centers offer may include:

 

Career fairs

Colleges often host career fairs, where you can meet with representatives from various companies. This allows you to make a contact at a firm you are interested in and get your foot in the door for internships or even your first job after graduation. Look for area-specific career fairs: media and communication, and design; agricultural, food, and life sciences; STEM; and nonprofit, government, and helping professions are all possibilities. These fairs can be useful for maximizing your time and narrowing down your options to your specific interest.

 

Panels

Look out for those career fairs, but also stay in touch with the news feed to see when panels will be meeting on campus. A panel is typically a moderated, question-style seminar where professionals come in and talk about their paths and experiences. Students may attend these panels and listen to possible career paths, ask questions, and learn more about careers they can pursue with their area of study. For example, a panel for humanities majors could include professionals in media, communication, or teaching fields. This panel could feature professions such as social media manager, marketing account executive, museum educator, copywriter, newspaper reporter, nonprofit fundraiser, and many others. Additionally, after listening to professionals speak about their careers, you can interact with them and perhaps make a connection or two. One-on-one face time can be an amazing opportunity to show your stuff and make a positive, memorable impression.

 

Career center web pages

Many schools provide information pages on the web complete with links to career assessment tests, stories about other graduates’ career paths, and events or employers soon visiting campus. Other resources include job search links, videos on various professional topics, and the school’s involvement on social media. Also check out sites such as Optimal Resume, which provides templates and examples of resumes by field. A resume for an engineer can have a very different structure and objective than a resume for a graphic designer.

 

Graduate/professional school application help

Graduate school program information may be available through your career center as well, including how to apply. If you need help with writing a personal statement, for example, career office advisers can provide information on the format and give great feedback. Applying for graduate school can be a strenuous process, and your career center can help make it a bit easier. Also consult your professors and stop by the writing center for additional feedback.

 

Career center website

Many colleges have a website dedicated to students looking for employment that includes internship and job postings. After you pick out some opportunities you want to apply for, you can schedule a mock interview or a review of your job application materials with a career counselor. Schedule an appointment or visit during the walk-in period. Before your appointment, check out the career office website, as these sites often include cover letter and resume templates that can help get you started as well. Then, when you go in for your review, you can get more out of your session. Sign into your student account and get looking!

How to Reach Out to Volunteer

Reaching out to a volunteer coordinator can be scary if you have never done it before. Many college students get nervous about the idea of contacting a stranger. The good news is that there is a simple solution: planning. Ask yourself: How will you contact this person?, and go from there.

If you connect via a phone call, plan out what you want to say. Getting the basics down on a piece of paper for reference can help with the nervousness. Before calling, check the website to make sure that you are calling the right person, have the correct number, and know their name. Find out exactly who you will be speaking with, as this goes a long way.

If you prefer email, keep it short and state your name, a bit about yourself, and your purpose to make sure you get a response back. You are probably emailing a busy person, so short and purposeful writing is appreciated. If you need help with drafting a professional, business-like email, search the web for example templates. In the subject line, you may want to state your first and last names before a more generic topic, such as “Volunteer Opportunity Inquiry.”

So your subject line instead would read: “John Doe- Volunteer Opportunity Inquiry.”

This is helpful for volunteer coordinators because, at many places, they receive emails from people wanting to volunteer on a daily basis. Identifying yourself in the subject line makes it less likely that your email will get lost or confused with someone else’s similar inquiry.

The hardest part of reaching out is getting the confidence to just do it. If you truly want to get involved, you will take the initiative and make the contact. Remember that organizations are grateful for volunteer involvement and you will be able to breath a little easier as you step out of your routine to reach out to that contact.

How to Find Volunteer Opportunities

What causes matter to you? There are several ways to connect with volunteer opportunities that you value. Find out what interests you in your city and sign up to volunteer and make a difference!

 

Volunteer sites:

Websites like Volunteer Match (volunteermatch.org) allow you to search by cause. Choices include areas such as animals, children & youth, health & medicine, hunger, and seniors. You can also search by city or age group, for date-specific opportunities and end up discovering organizations you never knew existed.

 

University volunteer centers:

College campuses offer volunteer opportunities through student activities or engagement centers. Look around for a school organization promoting volunteerism. This resource could be called the Volunteer Action Center, Volunteer Connection, or something similar. These centers can connect you with local opportunities and introduce you to new organizations.

 

Web search:

Another option: find volunteer opportunities in your area by conducting a Google search. Research non-profit organizations in your area because they are particularly appreciative of willing volunteers. Depending on the organization (especially if it is on the smaller side), you could get a regular volunteer position, forge valuable relationships with the employees, and reap the benefits.

 

Ask friends and family:

Chances are, someone in your circle can point you to some great work in the community. Ask around, and you could just end up with a new passion. Additionally, volunteering with a friend can not only be more fun, but also make putting yourself out there less intimidating.

Use these tips to find causes in your community that align with your values and goals. And then, when you have racked up some service hours…

 

Remember to log those hours!

Not only is tracking volunteer hours a good tool for personal awareness, but also lends credibility when it is time to apply for a job. Employers may want to see proof of your volunteer hours to get an idea of your involvement. Logging your hours through your college volunteer center’s tracking site will help tremendously with proving legitimacy because all entered hours must be approved by the volunteer opportunity’s supervisor or contact. Better yet, these types of systems should automatically alert you when you are eligible for awards such as the Chancellor’s or President’s Volunteer Service Awards, which denote completion of 50 or 100 hours within the past year, respectively. Easy peasy.

The Importance of Volunteering in College

Whether it is reaching out to your community or that do-good feeling, there are multiple benefits to volunteering. As you prepare for your career, volunteering can be a valuable resource for exploring an area of interest, or a good way to step out of your comfort zone.

You have decided that you would like to get involved, but you are not sure how to find service opportunities. Well, you have a few options…

 

Volunteer sites:

Sites like volunteermatch.org compile postings for volunteer opportunities in your area. You can create an account and sign up for opportunities through the site. Colleges often have similar databases where you can not only sign up for volunteer positions, but also log your hours. A print out of your logged hours can come in handy for any situation where you need to prove your level of involvement, particularly if it is a future employer.

 

Web search:

Look around for volunteer opportunities by doing a Google search for your city. Researching nonprofits in your area can also be helpful because nonprofits are always looking for and appreciative of volunteers.

Sometimes, finding the opportunities is easy. The next challenge? Making the most of your time. Here are some other ways that you can make volunteering a learning experience that works for you:

 

Opportunity to explore career options

Use volunteering as a trial period for your career interests. This gives you an idea of what to expect from a potential career area or environment. Investigate a certain type of environment and discover the realities of a job by choosing a service opportunity that follows your interests. Maybe you would find that you were right about your career goals. Or maybe you would end up rethinking your career choice as you see the career from a different angle. For example, someone who wants to become a librarian because they would like a nice, quiet job that requires minimum interaction with people could greatly benefit from volunteering for a public library. They would discover something unexpected: librarians constantly work with people and technology, providing customer service and assistance whenever needed. After talking more with the librarians about the pros and cons of their jobs, they may decide that perhaps becoming a librarian is not for them. Finding this out sooner rather than later could save a lot of time and headaches. Volunteering and exposing yourself to an environment can help you gain self-awareness to make better decisions in the future.

 

Make connections

Reaching out to individuals and organizations in the community is great for building your network. Supervisors that you forge a relationship with and volunteer for can become great references in the future. If you plan on going into the non-profit sector in particular, realize that the organization could become your future workplace after college. Volunteering your time with an organization could turn into a future job if there is an opening at the appropriate moment. If you already have a good relationship, then you could be an easy fit. Additionally, by volunteering for one non-profit, you could look very good to a future employer that is also in the same sector. At the very least, you could meet some new people and make friends.

 

Build some confidence

Reaching out to strangers can be intimidating, especially for shy types. Perhaps making an inquiry and contacting someone you do not know is a new experience for you. Yes, it can be nerve-racking to put yourself out there and ask to volunteer. However, remember that organizations are grateful for help and that your initiative should be greeted with positive enthusiasm.

On another note, working diligently at this service opportunity will increase your comfort level with the type of work you are doing. Hopefully, you can come away with some great skills…

 

Build skills that are valuable

Often, regular volunteer commitments will count as experience. If you are learning new skills during your service, this is particularly valuable, as you can talk about this in an interview.

 

Give yourself a break

Participating in service activities offer a chance to get away from schoolwork and do something new and meaningful. Aside from being beneficial professionally, there are emotional benefits abound, and you could find volunteering therapeutic.

 

And of course, the obvious:

Volunteering builds your resume!

We all know that volunteering in college does the resume good. It can help fill in any gaps on your resume. A volunteer experience can also show others what you care about. Volunteer experiences are great talking points for a future job interview. Employers will be interested in how you spend your time away from school, and where you volunteer can say a lot about your focus and personality. Some employers like to see that you are self-motivated and take your own initiative. Others like to see that you are well rounded and consider volunteer experiences a good indicator. That being said, volunteer experience is always considered an asset to your education and skill development. So get out there and go for it!

Simple Guidelines to Ensure Success in Class

Showing up is only part of college. Yet sometimes you have to take a class that always seems to drag. Luckily, there are some simple ways to become more interested in the subject and getting the most out of every college class, because, hey, you are paying to be there! Get your money’s worth with some of these tips:

 

Read the syllabus

It may go without saying that professors appreciate students who know what is going on in their class. Simply reading the syllabus and writing down assignments can keep you informed.

 

Know and follow the class rules

Some professors have their quirks. If your teacher has a late policy, try your best to honor it. Increasingly, professors are turning to harsher cell phone policies as well; you could be asked to leave class, no negotiation, if your phone goes off during a lecture. Not only would you miss out on that day of notes, but also give your professor something negative to remember you for. It pays off to follow the rules. Imagine if one of your professors waived final exams (i.e. 100%) for students who had perfect attendance and came to class engaged! Abiding by that policy could seriously benefit you.

 

Sit up front

Sit in the first row of the class to keep yourself accountable for your attendance and attention. The professor will notice when you are not there and if you are, whether or not you are engaged with the lecture. This helps you stay alert and take better notes.

If you are not interested in the subject, try leaning forward. Not only do you appear more engaged through body language, but also may actually become interested by pretending to be. Hopefully, your mind will mimic your body and you will be able to get through the lecture gracefully.

 

Ask questions

You have heard it before: If you do not understand, ask. If you want to know more, ask. No need to be embarrassed. Really. And if you need help, please ask for it sooner rather than later. It will save you stress later when you are studying for exams. Added bonus: you will score points with the professor by showing that you have been actively listening to lectures.

 

Interact with your professor

Participate in the classroom conversation, ask questions, visit during office hours, and communicate via email to get to know your professor. You will likely get more out of your education this way. Plus, should you ever need a letter of recommendation, you will have a good option in a professor you made an effort to interact with.

Your Professor as a Professional Resource

Despite the stereotypical image of academics as lofty intellectuals with minimal social abilities, many professors can be vital resources for discovering what is out in the professional world.

Yes, some professors may be immersed solely in their field studies; however, plenty of them have alternate experience and connections. At the very least, their take on their careers and academia could provide a new perspective.

Visiting your professor during office hours could turn into a good relationship. Better yet, you could gain a mentor who could write a reference or put you in touch with a contact. If you are pursuing an English degree, for example, there are alternate career routes to take after graduation. (You do not have to become a teacher, as everyone will likely suggest!) Asking about their job as a college professor is a positive starting point as it brings up a conversation about the actual subject and different angles of applying the degree. Options for an English major could include archival studies, publishing, editing, grant writing, fundraising, and, yes, teaching.

Other degrees, such as engineering or architecture, have straighter career paths. Although there are plenty of exceptions, most who earn a degree in engineering or architecture plan on becoming engineers or architects. It is also likely that an architecture professor would have a working history and alternate experience under their belts, so they could be a vital resource. A student could learn valuable tips about the professional architectural world and best practices in looking for a job (it could vary by firm).

Whatever your major, reaching out to a professor in your area of study is bound to be beneficial. Not only will you increase your chances of success in the classroom, but also gain some knowledge about professions you could pursue.

Also, check out other ways to learn about different occupations here.