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How To Find a Job or Internship Through Your Campus Career Center

You know it’s there. They told you about it before you set foot on campus. Chances are you probably even walked through its doors during your freshman orientation. In high school, you probably envisioned yourself sitting down in that office during your senior year of college, dressed in a pencil skirt and blouse, chatting with a cheery advisor as she scrolled through her computer to find you a job after graduation.

 “Wow, looks like we have about 10 jobs we could place you in,” the advisor would say. “One in Paris, one in New York City—oh, and here’s one in LA.”

“My parents are going to be so proud of me!” you’d say—fantasizing more about how you were about to take on the real world, Devil Wears Prada-style, and start making money!

Unfortunately, this isn’t what actually happens when you visit your university career resource center. It’s possible if you’re reading this and are in college, you’ve never even been to your career center let alone found a job through it.

I’m an example of that student. All the internships I’ve done were a result of my own research and hard work. Maybe I’ve just had this misconception planted in my head that the career resource center was a sales pitch to parents and actually totally useless to students. But after conducting my own investigation, I’ve found that to be at least somewhat untrue.

Here are my tips on how to successfully use your career center in a way that won’t leave you disappointed, unemployed and unprepared.

The Do’s and Don’ts of The Career Center

Do take advantage of resume critiques
Most campus career centers have trained peer advisors whose job is to specifically help you with your cover letter and resume. It’s important to hear what your peers, and potential competition, have to say. And it definitely doesn’t hurt to have a second pair of eyes check your information before it’s sent out.

Do go to a mock interview
It’s a good idea to receive feedback from someone who isn’t a friend or family on how you act during an interview. A mock interview will help build up your confidence and prompt you to think about your answers to possible questions (that you might not have thought of before). 

Do watch out for job postings
Make sure you’re signed up through your university career center to receive alerts on internship and job postings. Many schools, like the University of Iowa, for example, will send out weekly e-mails for specific majors.

Do go to your career fair
You never know, but you could definitely meet a future employer at the career fair. Use your career center to get a gauge on which companies will be visiting so you can plan ahead of time. 

Don’t wait until the last minute
Ifyou are going to use your resource center, job search expert Rick Gillis recommends you go early on in your college career. He said when students wait until the last minute to use their resource center, they end up stressed out and disappointed.
“[Students] are totally overwhelmed when they show up their senior year, they feel like they’re behind the eight ball and everyone is freaking out,” Gillis said.

Don’t just use your career center as the only part of the job search
Gillis emphasized the importance of keeping up with changing technology during your job and internship search. For example, when it comes to resumes, Gillis said a career center doesn’t always teach you how to make sure your resume successfully makes it through an automated database.  
He advises his clients, usually college students, to insert keywords from the job description on to their resumes— at the bottom of the resume in small font— to increase the resume’s chance of making it through the computed database.

Don’t only go once
It’s important to consistently use your career center if you want to achieve the best results.
“One other advantage to utilizing the campus career center both early and often is that the staff will get to know you well and will know your career goals and what kind of job you are seeking,” said Lori Bumgarner, image consultant and College Circuit speaker, who is a former college career adviser.

Don’t have unrealistic expectations
The purpose of a career center is to provide students with the appropriate resources of finding a job. While it’s helpful to use these resources, since your tuition is paying for it, it’s also important that students have realistic expectations.
“If a student goes in with the expectation that it works like a job placement agency and that the career center will find a job for them, then they will be disappointed,” Bumgarner said.

A Career Center Success Story

Chelsea McLeod, a junior at Rhodes College and a Her Campus Campus Correspondent, went to her university center during the middle of her sophomore year and found it to be extremely helpful.

“I’m the number one advocate of the career services office at my school. They completely revamped my resume (I didn’t realize how poorly I had put it together until they revised it), helped me find an internship, and conducted a personality/values test to help me find careers that match them,” Chelsea said. 

Her Campus contributing writer Judith Ohikuare,a senior at Washington University in St. Louis, had a similar story.

Washington University has a program called “road shows,” which takes students on trips to well-known cities for their area of study.

“I applied for the publishing road show in New York, so during winter break, a group of students, career center counselors, and I visited book publishing houses like Penguin and Harper Collins’ Children,” Judith wrote.  “We got the chance to speak to the editors, publishers, and assistants of some of the imprints (and it was just our small WashU group, which was nice), and we received their contact information and sometimes free swag.”

An Unsuccessful Career Center Story

In Bumgarner’s experience as a career center adviser, she once had a sociology major, with no internship experience, come visit her office two weeks before graduation wanting to find a job in advertising in Hawaii.

“My internal response (which I did not say out loud) was, ‘Let me see if I can find my magic wand and a silver platter.’”

Bumgarner said it’s important for students to have a “firm understanding of the job search process,” along with realistic expectations.

The lesson of this story is career resource centers aren’t completely useless if you know how to work them the right way. With the right preparation and expectations, you’ll have the tools to make the most of your on-campus resources. 

Chelsea McLeod, Her Campus Campus Correspondent and student at Rhodes College

Judith Ohikuare, Her Campus Contributing Writer and student at Washington University in St. Louis

Rick Gillis, Job Search Expert, Speaker and Author of Make Me Money or Save Me Money! and The Real Secret to Finding a Job for New & Recent College Graduates, helps college students with their job search everyday.

Lori Bumgarner, Image Consultant & College Circuit Speaker and author of Advance Your Image: Putting Your Best Foot Forward Never Goes Out of Style

Nicole is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and Spanish. A native of the Chicago suburbs, she is an editor for the metro section at the Daily Iowan and writes Monday night recaps of her favorite TV show (and guilty pleasure) 'Gossip Girl' on Hollywoodlife.com. She spent this last summer in New York City interning at Hollywoodlife.com and a New York-based lifestyle and travel magazine, the Resident. She's exclusively interviewed several celebrities such as Bethenny Frankel, Margaret Cho, Joel Madden & Cheryl Burke. After graduation Nicole plans on returning to NYC and pursuing her career in journalism. In her free time she enjoys doing yoga, reading, and spending time with family and friends. 
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