7 Best Ways to Use Your Campus Career Services Office

Start early, give yourself time, visit often

Career services
(Image: iStock/Steve Debenport)

In my office, we all agreed that our experiences in our separate campus Career Services offices were pretty dismal. So the question arose, is there a best way to use Career Services? I spoke with Andy Chan to find out.

Chan is vice president for Career Development at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He recently spoke on the Planning to Thrive: Find a Job; Make a Difference panel at the New York Times Higher Ed Leaders Forum in June.

The number one best practice for using your campus’s Career Services office? Recognize that developing post-graduation plans—whether for work or graduate school—takes time. Chan didn’t say it was number one, but to me the idea of giving the process time was eye-opening—and it undergirds all of his recommendations.

We live in an instantaneous, need-it-yesterday culture. But is that the way to approach your first job after college?

“No,” Chan says, “this is not a transactional process, so don’t expect immediate results.”

Here’s more from Chan:

1. “Find a coach whose expertise aligns with your interests.”

“A key first step is finding a coach you hit it off with. Keep trying different coaches if the first one isn’t a fit,” Chan advises. Chan also says a first goal for a freshman could be, “If I could work this summer, can this person help me find work that would help me learn the kind of working environment and function that I might eventually want to pursue professionally?” Because that’s difficult to do on your own, it’s good to visit Career Services in your freshman year.

2.  Meet with your college coach once a month.

“Meet with your coach at least once a month to touch base, stay on track, to get feedback and new ideas, and to make connections—to be both focused and open to new ideas,” says Chan.

3. “Give [the Career Services process] time to get better—it’s not a transactional process.”

Chan says the process “gets exponentially better over time,” and compares it to working with a personal fitness trainer. As with a trainer, results aren’t immediate, but if you set goals and work to meet them—in time, you’ll get where you want to be.

4. Set annual and semester goals and write them down.

“Set an annual goal, which could be getting an interesting internship where you can learn a lot or find a research project on campus with a professor you like. A semester goal might be to put together a great résumé and LinkedIn profile, to meet 25 networking contacts, or apply to 50 jobs.” Chan also advises writing your goals down.

5. “Find out if the internships or jobs you’re interested in are most likely secured through on-campus activities (career fairs and on-campus interviews) or by networking.”

Chan says the vast majority of students get jobs through non-campus activities—such as networking and applying for jobs online.

6. “Develop a plan with your coach to go after companies that interest you.”

Some jobs recruit in May and go into the summer; but recruiters that come on campus are more likely to recruit in the fall or early winter. It’s helpful to understand the recruitment cycle, so you can network to prepare for the companies you’re interested in.

7. “If you want to work in an area of the country that’s far from campus, say New York or San Francisco, be sure to build travel time into your job search action plan.”

Without building time into your schedule—to visit and network in that locale—it will be difficult to get a job there.