How to Get the Most From Your College’s Professional Development Services

career advisorWhen you begin evaluating different educational programs, the quality of the school’s career services is likely to be something you consider. After all, you’re earning your degree with the ultimate goal of landing a great job, and it’s always good to have as many resources at your disposal as possible.

However, even the best career or professional development services office isn’t going to be of much use to you if you don’t fully take advantage of the services offered. Many students erroneously believe that the career services office is only useful when you need help with a resume, or when you need to look at job or internship listings.

But your university’s career service office can actually be an important part of your overall career development plan — and play a role in your ultimate success — if you make the most of the services offered. Here are some ways you can do that.

Start Early

One of the most common mistakes that students make is waiting too long to tap into their school’s professional development services. They wait until a few weeks before graduation to start perusing job listings or developing a resume, or until just a few days (or even hours) before an interview to use the interview preparation services.

What most students don’t realize is that professional development starts on the first day of classes. As you plan your studies and map out your career path, if you do so with a specific goal in mind, you’ll be better prepared to make the right choices, in terms of coursework, course tracks, even the professors you study with. If you schedule a consultation with career services, you will learn about resources that can help you better focus your goals, such as aptitude testing, career information sessions, career counseling and more.

Starting early also allows you to more effectively tap into your school’s alumni network. Since the vast majority of jobs are landed by networking, not by responding to job postings, getting to know influential alumni well before you are looking for a job can only help you. Not to mention, even if you don’t land a job, you could score a mentor via the alumni network — or meet people who can provide insight and assistance with your assignments.

Attend Workshops

When you receive notices of workshops or information sessions from career services, what do you do? If you ignore them, you could be ignoring valuable advice and education that could make the difference between landing your dream job and dreaming about landing a job. Yet not all workshops are devoted to writing resumes and dressing for success. Some professional development offices  offer workshops on topics such as professional etiquette, career strategies, networking, entrepreneurship and more. Spending just a few hours learning from an expert — for free — could prove to be one of the best things you can ever do for your career.

Listen to Their Advice

You might believe that you don’t need help from career services, especially if you are returning to school after several years working professionally. You might think you have this career “thing” all figured out; after all, your resume landed you a job once before.resume

Except the job market is different today than it was even just five years ago, and it’s in a constant state of flux. The resume trends that got recruiters’ attention when you first earned your bachelor’s degree may no longer be relevant. And the information that you glean from a career website or resume guide may not be up-to-date either. Professional development experts are generally on top of the latest trends in job hunting and what it takes to land a position — it’s what they are paid to do — and will be able to tell you if your resume lacks the right information or follows a dated format.

A good trainer in professional services can also provide an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and help you identify potential problem areas. For example, a mock interviewing session might reveal that you fidget too much, or have trouble speaking off the cuff. Unlike a mock interview with a friend, though, a professional trainer will offer the right constructive criticism, as well strategies for addressing these issues, thereby improving your chances of success in an interview.

Whether you have defined goals for your career and know where you want to be, or you aren’t quite sure yet, professional development services can make a measurable difference in your ultimate success. Don’t ignore this valuable resource.

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