In my office, we all agreed that our experiences in our separate campus Career Services offices were pretty dismal. So the question arose, is there a best way to use Career Services? I spoke with Andy Chan to find out.
Chan is vice president for Career Development at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. He recently spoke on the Planning to Thrive: Find a Job; Make a Difference panel at the New York Times Higher Ed Leaders Forum in June.
The number one best practice for using your campusâ€™s Career Services office? Recognize that developing post-graduation plansâ€”whether for work or graduate schoolâ€”takes time. Chan didnâ€™t say it was number one, but to me the idea of giving the process timeÂ was eye-opening—and it undergirds all of his recommendations.
We live in an instantaneous, need-it-yesterday culture. But is that the way to approach your first job after college?
â€œNo,â€ Chan says,Â â€œthis is not a transactional process, so donâ€™t expect immediate results.â€
Hereâ€™s more from Chan:
1. â€œFind a coach whose expertise aligns with your interests.â€
â€œA key first step is finding a coach you hit it off with. Keep trying different coaches if the first one isnâ€™t a fit,â€ Chan advises. Chan also says a first goal for a freshman could be, â€œIf I could work this summer, can this person help me find work that would help me learn the kind of working environment and function that I might eventually want to pursue professionally?â€ Because thatâ€™s difficult to do on your own, itâ€™s good to visit Career Services in your freshman year.
2.Â Meet with your college coach once a month.
â€œMeet with your coach at least once a monthÂ to touch base, stay on track, to get feedback and new ideas, and to make connectionsâ€”to be both focused and open to new ideas,â€ says Chan.
3. â€œGive [the Career Services process] time to get betterâ€”itâ€™s not a transactional process.â€
Chan says the process â€œgets exponentially better over time,â€ and compares it to working with a personal fitness trainer. As with a trainer, results arenâ€™t immediate, but if you set goals and work to meetÂ themâ€”in time, youâ€™ll get where you want to be.
4. Set annual and semester goals and write them down.
â€œSet an annual goal, which could be getting an interesting internship where you can learn a lot or find a research project on campus with a professor you like. A semester goal might be toÂ put together a great rÃ©sumÃ© and LinkedIn profile, toÂ meet 25 networking contacts, or apply to 50 jobs.â€ Chan also advises writing your goals down.
5. â€œFind out if the internships or jobs youâ€™re interested in are most likely secured through on-campus activities (career fairs and on-campus interviews) or by networking.â€
Chan says the vast majority of students get jobs through non-campus activitiesâ€”such as networking and applying for jobs online.
6. â€œDevelop a plan with your coach to go after companies that interest you.â€
Some jobs recruit in May and go into the summer; but recruiters that come on campus are more likely to recruit in the fall or early winter. Itâ€™s helpful to understand the recruitment cycle, so you can network to prepare for the companies youâ€™re interested in.
7. â€œIf you want to work in an area of the country thatâ€™s far from campus, say New York or San Francisco, be sure to build travel time into your job search action plan.â€
Without building time into your scheduleâ€”to visit and network in that localeâ€”it will be difficult to get a job there.