Today’s college students are under a lot of pressure. Not only are they expected to perform academically, but they are also expected to balance their extracurriculars, internships, and work schedules, all in the hopes of finding a career path that will lead to a happy and successful future.
In order for a student to become the most marketable candidate for their prospective job path, university career counseling services may be the most valuable resource for college students.
Career counselors can provide any number of services for students, including helping them plan their student loan borrowing based on their future earning potential, and helping them explore career options that match their interests and passions.
Career Counselors Help Students Find Internships to Advance Their Skillsets
Most colleges have databases of internships and job opportunities that students have access to, which are vital to a student’s job prospects both before and after graduation. Many students meet with their counselors at least once per semester in order to find positions that pique their interests and expand their skillsets.
Career counselors help enhance a student’s academic experience by providing the opportunity to apply classroom learning in a pre-professional work environment. By helping students find these opportunities, students are able to more easily determine if a certain academic major or career path is right for them.
As Forbes contributor Reyna Gobel explains, career services may be the most important office that students can access.
“The overall purpose of college is to help students find a career path that will lead to a successful, happy future,” Gobel writes. “In other words, a job. It follows, then, that career services is the most important office on campus. Students who use career services can plan student loan borrowing based on future income, explore career opportunities during and after college, and learn how to become the best possible marketable job candidates.”1
Career counselors have access to databases of internships and job opportunities that they can recommend to students who seek out their help. Helping students find career opportunities is one of the most important aspects of the career counselor’s job, explains Dr. Katharine Hansen, an educator with background in career preparation. Employers increasingly want to see experience and passion in the new graduates they hire.
“A staggering 95 percent of employers said candidate experience is a factor in hiring decisions, according to an annual survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE),” Hansen writes. “Nearly half of surveyed employers wanted new-grad experience to come from internships or co-op programs.”2
This means students who find lucrative internship opportunities will have a leg up on those who haven’t participated in internship programs. Career counselors work closely with students to uncover meaningful career opportunities and skillsets that they will use for years to come.
Counselors Help Students Find a Meaningful Career Path
Many students enter college without knowing exactly what it is they want to do with their career. In fact, recent studies report that nearly 80 percent of ACT test-takers who graduated in 2013 said they knew which major they would pursue in college, but only 36 percent of those students actually chose majors that aligned with their interests.3
The cause of this, some experts say revolves around students being unaware of their career options to begin with.
“The vast majority of have no idea what they really want to do when they grow up. Even the ones who claim they do,” former regional director of admissions for the University of Pennsylvania, Beth Heaton tells US News.3
Others agree with her, noting that many young students are not receiving the information necessary to make appropriate choices about their future.
“The info that’s out there is not reaching the kids in terms of the career options that are out there for them,” Jack Kosakowski, the president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA tells NBC News, who later noted that students need to receive information early in order to make the most of their college career.4
Career counselors are prepared to help these students navigate these stressful decisions, which may include career discovery, job shadowing, and changing majors. Career counselors can also recommend courses, internships, and volunteer opportunities that may help students cement or redefine their career goals.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, career counselors help students find lucrative careers by using aptitude and achievement assessments to help their students balance their interests, skills, and abilities. From there, they evaluate the student’s background, educational goals, and previous training in order to help them set realistic goals for their future as well as highlight the necessary steps to meet those goals.5
MIT career development specialist Lily Zhang argues that the ultimate goal of the career counselor is to help students find their calling by examining their gifts, passions, and values. From there, they will be able to find a suitable and worthwhile career.
“‘Gifts’ prompts you to consider your strengths,” Zhang writes. “It’s always good to start with what you’re good at. Next, ‘passions’ is essentially asking: What do you care about? Are there issues or communities in the world that resonate with you more than others? And finally, ‘values’ are all about your lifestyle and personality. What is nonnegotiable about the way you work?…Altogether, using your gifts toward something you are invested in and in an environment that suits your values will lead you to your calling.”6
Though each individual student’s session is sure to be different, the ultimate goal of the career counselor is to discover the strongest themes in an individual’s personality, and guide them to a career possibility that is both lucrative, engaging, and meaningful.
Career Counselors Help Students Build Resumes & Prepare for Interviews
The importance of a good resume can not be underestimated. The resume is the first glimpse a potential employer has of its job candidates, which means that graduates will have one chance to capture an employer’s attention.
Statistics show that the average employer spends mere seconds looking at a resume before deciding whether to interview a particular candidate, so it’s imperative that students work diligently to create a compelling resume, especially in a job market that is this saturated with competition.7
Career counselors are the perfect source for resume tips, tweaks, and advice, notes career counselor Sarah Yoo.
“Your counselor knows what makes a resume stand out to employers, so bring a copy of yours to the meeting and enlist [their] feedback,” Yoo writes. “Even if it’s still a work in progress, that’s OK. Bring a draft, or even a list of all your experience and activities–from your internships to being a publicity chair in a volunteer club on-campus to spending your summers as a lifeguard. Counselors can help you craft experience descriptions that draw attention to the skills and personal qualities you have that employers are seeking.”8
Counselors can also help you to craft a narrative that indicates you are a good candidate for a position, even if you don’t have direct experience in the field.
“Talk to your counselor about the specific types of positions you’re after, as well as how you can leverage extracurricular, volunteer, on-campus and academic experience to make the case to a hiring manager that you’re a good fit,” Yoo continues. “Many employers are willing to hire and train the right candidate if she can demonstrate strong communication skills, drive, intelligence, professionalism, and other valuable soft skills–it’s just a matter of positioning.”8
In the same way that a resume offers employers a first impression of the job candidate, job interviews provide a lot of insight as to whether or not a potential employee is a good fit for the available job.
Career counselors can provide students with the appropriate resources and know-how to ace their job interviews. From learning how to dress professionally, to answering the tough questions with grace and personality, counselors can help students ease their nerves in order to impress potential employers.
Career Counselors Help Students Find Mentors
Networking is a huge part of the college experience. In fact, some may argue that networking is just as important as studying while you’re in college.
Recently the career website, Glassdoor, sifted through 440,000 job interview reviews posted to the site over a 6 year period, and found that your chances of getting an accepting offer are a “statistically significant” 2.6 percent to 6.6 percent higher if referred by a current employee of the prospective company than if you weren’t.9
While that number may seem small, it’s proof of the fact that connections do matter in today’s competitive job market.
As Glassdoor’s chief economist Andrew Chamberlain writes, “Boosting the odds of getting a job offer by roughly 5 percent would mean on average that 1 in 20 workers gets a job offer who wouldn’t have otherwise gotten one.”8 If you’re in a large pool of potential candidates, proper networking can make or break your chances of landing an interview, or even the job itself.
Networking is important in college not only for obtaining a job after graduation, but it also helps students land internship opportunities, as well as the chance to shadow people in their desired career field.
Career counselors often keep track of what happens to their alumni after graduation, and can help students meet alumni in their field in order to network, ask questions, and get advice for their future careers. As Gobel writes, when the professional that a student shadows is an alumni, it’s far more likely that they will have positive interactions.
“When the professional is an alumni, the connection can be stronger and result in even more opportunity for internships or mentoring,” she writes. “A mentor can guide you and answer career questions throughout your career.”1
Career counseling is a vital part of the college experience. Not only are career counselors prepared to guide students into their potential future career, but can also help students build their skillsets, find internships and job opportunities, and advise students on the best classes and extracurriculars to put their time into in order to get the most out of their college experience, and as a result have a lucrative career.
For those interested in guiding students through their college years in order to discover their passions, Wake Forest University Online’s Masters of Arts in Counseling is the first step to helping students achieve their dreams.