What to Look for in a Campus Career Center

By Jill Wiggins, Director, Drury University Planning & Development

Campus career centers should be helping students develop skills that will last a lifetime.

Resources that should be offered include:

1) Self-Assessment – Students should be given the opportunity to explore their personality, interests, skills/abilities, and values to give them direction in choosing the major(s) and career(s) that are the best fit for them. I feel my personal mission here at Drury is to help students find a career they are passionate about. How awful is it to think about going to work everyday dreading what you do? In the Drury Career Center, we offer two assessments, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory. The results of these assessments are interpreted in a one-on-one career counseling session which includes an exercise focusing on values. Once students have received the results of the assessments we direct them to resources that will allow them to research potential majors and careers. We have found many students prefer to have 24/7 access to research materials, so we provide a web-based career guidance system called Discover.

2) Experiential Education Opportunities – We encourage students to do as much research as possible when considering different majors and careers to make sure they find a good fit with their own personality, interests, skills/abilities and values. The most powerful type of research is experiential learning. This includes part-time jobs, job shadowing, informational interviews, volunteering and internships. Spending time observing or working in different environments is extremely beneficial in the career planning process. Even if a student decides they do not want to pursue a career in a specific field, that is valuable information.

3) Programming – Students can develop skills and gain information through various workshops and in-class presentations focused on career planning and job search techniques. Topics might include self-assessment, dressing for success, etiquette dinners, interviewing, cover letter/resume writing, budgeting, benefits, negotiating, the job search process and the resources offered by the career center.

4) Marketing Tools – Students will need a set of tools to use when marketing themselves to employers. Those tools include cover letters, resumes, references, and portfolios. In Drury's Career Planning & Development, we do not write cover letters and resumes for students, instead we coach them through the writing process. Students need to learn how to construct an effective cover letter and resume targeted to the position and organization. With the average American changing careers more than five times throughout their life, individuals need to know how to successfully navigate the job search process, which includes writing a cover letter and resume.

5) Job Search Assistance – When students are ready to search for a position, whether it is part-time or full-time, job search resources are imperative. These include alumni networking, on-campus recruiting, job fairs, online job/resume databases, mock interviews and general advice about the job search process.

Unfortunately, many students do not take advantage of their campus career center resources. It is sad to think many students spend very little time planning for their future career. If students start working with their campus career center early in their college career, they definitely have an advantage as college graduation approaches.

Check out Drury University Career Planning & Development Services.

What questions students or their parents should ask a career center advisor in terms of resources, contacts, business recruiting, etc.:

1) What resources are offered?

2) What can I gain from visiting the career center?

3) Do you work with prospective students? (We do work with prospective students here at Drury.)

4) When do you recommend first visiting the career center? (Hopefully the answer is as soon as possible - ideally within the first semester.)

5) Is there a charge for any of the resources/services offered? (We do not charge day school students for the resources we provide. We do charge alumni and CGCS students to take the assessments.)

6) Where do students have internships?

7) Where are alumni working?

8) What is the “placement rate” for your graduates? (This is a very touchy area. Most career centers today are not placement/employment agencies. The term “placement rate” is a dated term; however, it is what most students and parents want to know. We use the term “post-baccalaureate statistics” because students are not required to visit our career center AND we do not “place” them in positions. We are very proud of our graduates and the fact that more than 96% of them are employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation. Statistics are taken from our 2004-2005 Annual Report.)

9) If I attend your institution, will I have access to your resources after I graduate? (Here at Drury, alumni have access to Career Planning & Development for life.)

10) Where are you located?

If graduate school is important, ask the following questions:

11) What percentage of your graduates go on to graduate school?

12) Where do your graduates go to graduate school?