Maximize your career center experience

My colleague, Dan Klamm sparked conversation in his post “Dear Penelope Trunk: You’re wrong”. Dan argued against the statement by Penelope Trunk that “career centers are terrible” by outlining many of the opportunities and services that career centers provide. I wanted to take the conversation a step further and talk about the things that as a student YOU can do to enhance your experience.

I have worked at my career center for six years and I have found that there are many misconceptions or myths that students have about their career centers. One of the ways students can enhance their chances for success is by being aware of a few basic principles. I am going to speak to 3 simple guidelines that I think can help make your career center experience more useful.

Realize that time is your friend

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job seekers are averaging about 27 weeks for successful searches.

I often find that students can feel critical of a career center or counselor if they don’t see immediate success. Whether they don’t get an interview or a call back right away from an employer they may get down on the process.  Understand these two things:

  1. The job or internship search has numerous layers
  2. You will ultimately get out of  the search what you put into it

“It is never too early to start…”

Whether you are seeking to write a resume, prepare for an interview, research companies, or find opportunities that fit your needs- be aware that it can take a considerable amount of time and effort. A 27 week job search is literally more than half a year. Do an honest evaluation of yourself and think about how much time you are spending in active pursuit of your future career aspirations. What did you find?

Some students may have a clear idea of potential career paths while others may not. This is OK, because by nature, students are exploring options and gathering information. However, the common denominator is that it is essential to give yourself the opportunity to learn and apply the different skill sets required for a successful job search.

Find out how YOU can use your career center

Your situation is unique, find out how YOU fit into the career center’s services.

Just like anything in life, there is no “one size fits all” approach to your career development needs.

Your career center may provide various avenues for you to get assistance with your concerns. Some of the services that your career center offers may have different levels of effectiveness related to your specific needs. Factors such as the market, your geographical location, your class standing, and your major are just a few things that can impact which services are the right fit for you. For instance, some students may get discouraged when they review job fair lists and see that there are only a few employers coming that meet their needs.  These students need to be aware that their career centers may also provide information sessions, networking opportunities, online job databases, links to resources by major and more for additional ways to connect with employers.

The main point I want to convey here is that it is important to find out what services and opportunities are available to you. You may find that your career center is great at critiquing resumes, or providing networking opportunities, or ways to connect and educate you on social media. I am willing to bet that yours can and it probably provides you with additional opportunities as well.

Speak up

If you aren’t getting what you need from your career center, ask for it.

One of the struggles that career center’s have is getting feedback from students. At my school, we ask for feedback by polling students about our services, inviting students to give feedback on our one-to-one interactions via evaluation forms, conducting salary surveys, and using student focus groups to help us with our social media. We get some great feedback, but unfortunately we are only able to survey a fraction of the students, as many do not respond for a myriad of reasons.

I often wonder if students realize that we truly value their feedback and we want to know what their concerns are. When we do receive criticism of our services we take it seriously and try to either clear up the misconception, try to find a way to improve, or do both. I can’t speak for every institution, but from my experience most career center staff work to find ways to connect to students so that they can identify their needs.

A few ways to give feedback to your Career Center:

Email or call the office

Speak to a trusted staff member

Give your honest feedback on evaluations or in polls the career center designs

Utilize your career center’s Facebook, Twitter or blog to comment

Remember a portion of your student fees go towards services like the career center. Therefore, you should speak your mind as a customer of these services.


Joe is a career counselor at San Jose State University. His areas of specialization include: experiential education, resume development, interview preparation, job search strategy, and assessment inventories. In his role, he also serves as the community manager for the Career Center’s social media outlets. Connect with Joe on Twitter or follow samplings of his work via the SJSU Career Center Blog and Facebook fan page.

Related posts:

  1. Four Services Your School’s Career Center (Probably) Offers
  2. Help! My College Doesn’t Have a Career Center!
  3. Show Your Skills and Experience Through Stories

4 Responses to “Maximize your career center experience”

  1. avatar Facebook User says:

    Hi Joe, how can I give feedback to my career center without sounding like I am complaining? I am very ambituous about my career and have been using my career center since my freshman year. However, I found that as I progressed through my college career and internships, the help I was getting was less and less relevant. When I asked about careers with consulting firms, my career counselor automatically said that I would need years of real work experience. In reality, you can start as a business analyst but she did not mention any of those possibilities. Also, I am a marketing major but I found that my career center has not been able to provide much guidance in terms of building my career. My career center is more focused on the general services such as resume critique and recruiting for their main partner companies. What kind of constructive feedback can I give them?

  2. avatar Joe Bucher says:

    Hi Jason,
    Thanks for reading and commenting. I understand that it can feel frustrating when you feel that your needs have not been met. One of the challenges that career center’s encounter is trying to meet the needs of the greater good of the student body at whole while also meeting the individual needs of a student.
    From the way you have presented yourself in these comments, I frankly don’t see this as a complaint. I can only speak from my own perspective and I don’t want to speak for others, but I would suggest three things to start with:
    1. Try and see if your career center has someone who specializes in the field of business. If so, they may have more insight for you on the subject matter. If they don’t have someone who specializes in this area raise your concern in a positive manner through some of the channels I have mentioned in this post. The comment that you left in this post would be a great start towards what you could say to your career center. Remember, that if you don’t speak up we don’t always know that there is an issue.
    2. One thing that I want to emphasize is that your career center might not be able to provide you with EVERYTHING. However, they can get you started on building skills for your career. Check-in to see if you can get help with building a resume that speaks to the needs of the employment community, find advice for interviewing, and even check-out what resources they provide to help you get started on an internship. No matter what field you go into, you will need to know how to write a resume and cover letter, interview well, and get an internship to get you started.
    3. If you exhaust these first two steps and you still need more assitance look beyond your career center. Search for student organizations on campus related to marketing as well as look for professional associations to connect you with people and resources related to your field (I am currently working on a post that speaks to how students can use professional associations to their benefit).

    Jason, I hope that this is helpful for you. If I haven’t answered your question, please let me know.

  3. [...] across the board, for various reasons.  Here’s a post on the Personal Branding Blog titled Maximizing your career center experience, written by Joe Bucher, who works at the San Jose State University career center. Print This [...]

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