Career Services and the Adult Student: How Your College Can Help You
When you return to school to earn your human services degree online (or enroll in any other online program) you might not think your university’s career services department can help you. For one thing, you might already have a job — and you aren’t looking for another one. Or if you are looking for work, perhaps your school is located in a different region than where you live and you assume that career services won’t have any listings relevant to your search.
Before you dismiss the career services department as something that’s nice for younger or more local students, though, take a closer look at what they have to offer. You might be surprised at the resources available to you. And since access to the department is included in your tuition costs, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of those resources.
- Job Listings. Many students first encounter their college career services departments when they are searching job openings. As a graduate student — even a distance student — you can access those listings, as most career services departments maintain online or electronic databases. Many of the positions will be local to the university, but sometimes large firms, institutions and government agencies list openings at schools offering certain degrees nationwide. You might be able to find public health jobs, for example, with federal agencies, which may not be listed in your local classifieds.
- Counseling Services. Many undergraduate students enter college with only a vague idea of what they want to do after graduation, and career services helps guide them. As a grad student, you probably know what you want to do, but perhaps you have questions about the best way to reach that goal. Even as a distance student, you can request help in this area, either online or over the phone.
- Transition Services. Adult students who are returning to school after a long absence or while working full time and managing family responsibilities, often have difficulties managing the demands of graduate education. Career services can offer transition counseling and access to services that help adult students further their education, from workshops to help with time management to referrals to other services, such as child care, that can help students succeed.
- Materials Preparation. Another popular resource at career services offices is resume and cover letter preparation. Even if you have a resume already, your career services office can help you fine-tune it, offering suggestions on how to best present your education, skills and achievements. Trends in resumes change every few years; the resume that knocked employers’ socks off 10 years ago might seem dated and irrelevant today. Your career services department can help you freshen up your own documents to increase the chance that you’ll land a new position after graduation. They can also offer cover letter critiques and might offer workshops or resources to help you with interviewing.
- Networking. For graduates who are a few years out of school, networking services might be the most useful — and most overlooked — resource of career services offices. Most schools maintain a database of alumni and can put you in touch with other people in your field who are willing to serve as professional contacts or mentors; if you’re looking for a job, learning where others who completed the same program work might help you get leads on open positions.
Of course, once you graduate, you’ll be a part of your school’s, or program’s, networking community, and making yourself available to others can actually help build your resume. For example, you might be asked to serve as a guest lecturer or a presenter in a class, or an undergrad might ask for an informational interview or job shadowing opportunity. These are opportunities to give back and build your professional reputation, courtesy of your school’s career services department.
Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons
After earning a master’s in human services, Tracy Kenary returned to her alma mater to manage the career services department. She hosts monthly networking receptions to connect new grads with experienced professionals in their field.