College students, grads and alums are often dogging university career centers. I get that. Some of them can be pretty lame.
But there’s a chance your college’s career center might be worth at least one visit or a phone call. What’s wrong with getting some free help? It could actually be helpful, or actually help you land a gig.
By Mikala Jamison
Weeks ago, a text box on my computer screen prompted me to answer the question as to why I was making an appointment with the University of Delaware’s Career Services Center. I wrote, “I’m graduating in January, and need some help figuring out where to start on the job hunt.” I hoped that sounded more professional than the hysteria and self-doubt that was truly occupying my headspace.
Such maddening emotions don’t exactly make me unique at this point in my life. The unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds in America hovered close to 20% in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I’m but one in a sea of frantic college seniors looking to revise my resume into something better than chicken scratch and find a job in a market most aptly suited for living in my parent’s basement.
I realize I have to take steps prepare myself. I turn to my one resource – the career center.
The appointment confirmation email requested that I bring a copy of my resume for review. I was ready. My freshman year, I was made to take a resume-writing class to get credit for an internship, and I had plenty of internships, jobs, and published work to include on my own.
I was in for a bit of a rude awakening.
“This resume doesn’t do you justice, and it looks very unprofessional, like a high school resume,” said my counselor Marianne Greene.
Ouch. I was there to have my resume made professional as possible, but I have to say I was more than a little pissed off at her dismissal of my work. I didn’t think it was so bad. After all, a high school student wouldn’t even have a resume. Right?
With a red pen in hand, Marianne unceremoniously circled and underlined the things she thought I should change, explaining that I had to make the “meat” of my resume my experiences and internships, which she said were hidden in my poor format. My resume was bleeding, and my stomach dropped with the anticipation of all the changes I had to make. My biggest mistake was poor formatting, and Marianne shared with me some other common ones.
Most common student resume mistakes:
1. Poor proofreading: errors in punctuation, spelling, verb tense
2. Lack of consistency: verb forms, abbreviations, font, spacing
3. Missing categories, such as “Skills” or “Leadership”
4. Lacks focus; too general or fails to communicate goals
I had to forgive her for the attack on my resume—Marianne showed me websites that I could use as starting points in my job search. The career center’s own site, Blue Hen Jobs, a great site which lists job opportunities for students and alumni; and a national job resource, CareerShift, which not only lists jobs, but makes available hundreds of contacts at multiple companies that users can call or email for more information.
Without being melodramatic, I can say that these websites have been lifesavers. I have practically been living on CareerShift, scouring the listings for something I’m qualified to do. I’ll get back to you on that.
While many users on college message boards criticize the effectiveness of career centers, they might be more useful than previously believed. NACE’s 2010 Student Survey shows that students who frequently use their college’s career services center are more likely to receive a job offer—in fact, 71 percent of students with job offers had used the centers.
College career centers are reporting that more freshmen in particular are utilizing the services—the University of Hartford has seen a 37 percent increase in freshman career counseling appointments since 2006, according to the Associated Press.
I found my career center experience to be brutal but useful. While not every student might find their center to be worth the trip, it certainly can’t hurt to try it out.
Next up for me: the mock interview, which the career center provides. Better get my suit and handshake ready…