Career Services – Gaining Value for FREE (Part 2)

26 10 2010

Last week, we covered the value of Career Services from the perspective of corporate recruiters and career center staff.  To recap, the response to the question of “Why would you use Career Services as a student?” was unanimously this: Why not??  Why wouldn’t you want to take full advantage of the FREE resources and services your campus career center offers? 

Another topic of agreement was that students should take full advantage EARLY in their college years.  Just because you’re a freshman doesn’t mean there’s not value to be found.  It’s never too early to research prospective future employers, get your résumé started, and begin preparing for the interview.  Those that do utilize their career centers have been statistically proven to be more likely to find a job right out of college (Research from National Association of Colleges & Employers.  Click here for the full report.)  So, the main question I posed to current students and recent graduates was:

“Why do (or don’t) you use your career center?”

Here are some of the answers I received:

Do/did use

As a recent graduate, I went to a few on-campus lectures on résumé writing and interviewing.  They were a good resource to have. 

Career Services office has direct personal connections with employers.  They can make introductions and provide services like mock interviews.   My job was a direct result of working with my career center!

Career Services professionals are most knowledgeable in business and can help job seekers navigate across functions and through the different industries.

Don’t/didn’t use

Career Services seems to be unapproachable and doesn’t relate to current students (out of date materials, no engagement with social media, etc.)

I had no idea of the great things my school’s career center offered until I was told about it by a classmate.

To be honest, I had no idea what my career center offered until I graduated. 

My career center is very intimidating and has an unwelcoming atmosphere for students who don’t know what they want to do when they graduate. (Isn’t this the whole reason why career centers exist?  They should be helping students prepare for the business world and land that great first job out of college!)

Just like the last post focusing on career services professionals and corporate recruiters, I see two common themes when speaking to students and alumni:

  • Students simply don’t know what their career centers offer and the value it can provide in their job search and overall preparation.  If their friends aren’t using it, why would they?
  • Career centers are largely missing their target audience: students.  Outdated material, out-of-touch professionals (those that haven’t been out in the “real world”), and lack of engagement in social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook keeps Career Services unknown to the general student population.

Let’s face it.  This doesn’t apply to ALL career centers.  Some are doing it right, communicating effectively with students with relevant material and services that are valued in the eyes of undergraduates.  If this is your career center (or was when you went to school), please feel free to share that with everyone!  Everyone talks about the bad – one or two people talk about the good. 

What can Career Services do better?  It’s all about communication.  Don’t just post announcements on your website and call it good.  Stay top of mind with your audience, offering relevant information such as interview preparation (you can make it fun, too!) or something more unique like business etiquette for a lunch meeting.  Activate your employers to engage with students year-round, not just during “career fair season”.  You could host industry spotlight sessions, interactive networking functions, and mock interviews to help students prepare themselves for the business world.  Invest in your most valuable asset – your students!

What can students do better?  Step outside of your comfort zone and do this for your personal and professional growth.  It may not seem “cool” to go to an etiquette lecture, but how stupid will your friends look when they tuck their napkin into their shirt at a lunch interview?  You’ll know better.  Plus, you’ll be better connected with employers and have a better sense of business when you graduate so you can hit the ground running (and most likely WITH A JOB)! 

What did I miss?  It’s all about collaboration for the greater good.  Feel free to leave your comments below, email me at, or send me a tweet.  I’d love to hear from you.  Let’s make this a win-win for everyone!

Now, go get ‘em!


Career Services – Gaining Value for FREE (Part 1)

19 10 2010

Career Services: those are two words that are familiar with thousands of college students across the globe. Everyone knows of Career Services, but very few have actually utilized the resources available to them. Those students that have worked with their Career Services office on campus have actually been shown to be more likely to find a job right out of college, according to NACE (National Association of Colleges & Employers). Click here for the full report.

Here’s the best part about Career Services: the resources are FREE!! As a student, all the fees and services are included in your tuition, so why not take full advantage of the wide array of career development tools like expert career advice, career fair information, employer information sessions, full-time, internship and co-op opportunities, and résumé/cover letter writing assistance??

I used the opportunity to crowd-source some of the information used in this post, reaching out to university Career Services professionals, corporate recruiters, students and alumni. There are two approaches that I’m going to take with this subject. We’ll start with the feedback received from recruiters and Career Services. The second part of this series will be posted next week. There were two common themes in my conversations with recruiters and Career Services:

• Career Services is most beneficial for the value they provide in the areas above (paragraph 2). Additionally, the connection that Career Services has with corporate recruiters and industries is of great value – one-off networking alone can still achieve this, but it is harder to do.

• Students should start utilizing their Career Services office beginning with their freshman year, not waiting until two months before graduation to solicit résumé assistance or interview preparation.

When I talked with Christian Garcia, Director of the Toppel Career Center at University of Miami about why students should use career centers, he gave the simple answer that rings true:

Why not? It certainly won’t hurt and can help provide much-needed career direction and assistance. Career centers are designed to help. Once you’re out in the real world, where are you going to find this help for FREE?”

Other notable comments came from Michael Hernandez, Regional Campus Recruiter, JC Penney, who said,

As they (students) progress through their academic program, career services should be used to network with potential employers. They (students) often wait until the final two years of school to do this. Students can stand out from the crowd by already demonstrating successful résumé writing, interviewing, networking, etc.”

So, why wouldn’t you want to set yourself apart and utilize the free services available to you?

Special thanks to:

Cindy Billington – Assistant Director, Graduate Business Career Services – Texas A & M University (@CindyBillington)

Mallory Bower – Assistant Director, Career Services, University of N. Carolina –Pembroke (@MalloryBower)

Judith Clare – Director, Career Services, Bryant University (via @BryantUniv)

Tom Fitch – Assistant Dean, Career Services, McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia (@tomfUVA)

Christian Garcia – Director, Toppel Career Center, University of Miami (@christiangarcia)

Michael Hernandez – Regional Campus Recruiter, JC Penney  (@MrCareerGuy)

Jennifer Rutt – Director of Strategic Alliances, NACE (National Association of Colleges & Employers)  (@NACEJenRutt)

Next week, I’ll be covering some of the student and alumni I was able to gather around the topic of using their career center. My question to them was “Why do (or don’t) you use your career center?” So far, I’ve gotten some great comments! Do you have something to add? Please feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at, if you’d prefer to remain anonymous on the blog. As always, thanks for reading!

Co-Op vs. Internship: What’s the Difference?

5 10 2010

Everyone’s familiar with internships, right?  They’re pretty straightforward, typically available for college students (traditionally rising juniors or seniors) and give a person an inside look into a company.  Gone are the days of the interns serving as the company “go-for”, getting coffee all summer, and picking up the boss’ dry-cleaning.  Today, internships are much more.  As an intern, a person may have the opportunity to work as part of a team, providing value to the overall organization as they’re included in the creative process.  Some interns may even be mentored by executives and have the opportunity to present to a group of their peers or senior-level individuals on the outcomes of their special projects. 

But, what’s the difference between an internship and a co-op opportunity?  Why should job seekers consider both?  I get this question a lot, so I thought I would share with you some of the key differentials between the two.  Each provides a unique perspective – if you have the chance to do both, go for it!


  • Usually a one-time work (10-12 week) assignment, often in the summer
  • Typically doesn’t interfere with college classes due to timing, but less training is given because of this
  • Can be full- or part-time, paid or unpaid, depending on the employer and the career field
  • Undergraduate students (rising Junior/Senior) are eligible in most cases.  It’s rare to find internships available at larger companies for freshmen and graduating seniors
  • You don’t have to miss a semester or two to complete an internship
  • You’ll have an edge over students who don’t have experiential education gained through an internship
  • Internships are usually limited to one area of responsibility (marketing, human resources, IT, etc.)
  • Average GPA sought is 3.0, with 3.5 in some cases


  • Co-ops are a joint venture between the university, a selected employer, and you
  • Traditionally at least three work terms alternated with school terms, resulting in a 5-year degree program (it’s going to take longer to graduate, but you’ll have some good experience)
  • Co-Ops are full-time, paid positions
  • More training is offered through a Co-Op
  • Some Co-Ops are rotational, offering opportunities across functions
  • Graduate students are eligible in most cases for Co-Ops
  • Students frequently start at higher salaries and higher levels of responsibility than interns

NOTE: Not all employers use these terms separately.  Some may see an internship or co-op as interchangeable language.  Make sure you ask what program they’re referring to when you talk to recruiters!

At the end of the day, the result you’re seeking is to land a full-time with the employer of choice.  Through your internship and/or co-op, you’ll have a leg up in learning about the company, understanding the corporate culture, processes, and procedures and may even have some great mentors to help guide you to your success. 

Did I miss something?  Have something to add?  Please leave a comment below!  I welcome your feedback.  You can find all my contact information here.  As always, thanks for reading!