When you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, the possibilities were endless. Princess, astronaut, or cowboy: salary and abilities didn't once enter the equation. But now, as you embark upon further education, finding your career path for the coming years becomes even more important. Sure, you've figured out the subject you want to study, but for many, the certainty stops there, and some navigational assistance is required. Cue the career counsellorsand their helpful maps.
A career counsellor (or career practitioner – depending on where you live) can help you explore your chosen industry and find the best fit for you. We all have distinct interests, skills, and personalities, but we sometimes need help in identifying these attributes. This is where your school's career centrecan assist by saving you from any future square peg/round job role dilemmas.
Career counsellors work with all students; from undergraduates looking for direction, to postgraduates looking for a wage. That said, making use of the career centreearlier in your studies can help you identify your goals sooner, giving you more time to spend on actually achieving them.
We know that the start of a new school year brings with it a host of must-do chores. Figure out how to use the microwave, scope out the cheapest drinking holes, furnish your room with bargain Ikea goods and, of course, occasionally study. The first few months can be more than a little hectic, but making time to visit your career centreshould be one of your top priorities.
School professors are not always your definitive source of information.
While they may be able to explain Newton's Laws of Motions, or the implications of Habeas Corpus, they can't tell you who's offering work experience, or help polish your resume. Aside from pulling apart that essay you just slaved over teachers are rarely able to act as personal advisors. So, turning our attention to the role of the career counsellor, what can they do for you?
To make successful career decisions, you need quality information, both about yourself and the industry you'd like to enter. Career workshops, as offered by almost all career centres, can help provide this information. Workshops are often one or two hours in length and will answer any of your burning questions, help you connect with other like-minded students, and build lifelong skills.
For more personal and tailored advice, you can also book one-on-one appointments with career counsellors, with home-baked cookies being an optional gift for them. These individual meetings can provide a good opportunity to draft an undergraduate action plan for your coming years, which may include extra-curricular activities or, more importantly, work experience.
Today, work experience really makes all the difference in the open job market, and career counselling can help you identify the right opportunities that are related to your specific career goals. Similarly, career centres can also help arrange job shadowing, which are shorter placements that can give you a sneak peek into the daily grind of your dream job. Your career counsellorwill always steer you in the right direction, giving you advice on the best companies to target, their deadlines and application tips. Meaning that, rather than spending your summers decaying in front of the TV, you can use the free time to fill your resume and network.
Another buzz word: networking.
It may provoke images of suits, power points and canapés, but career centres have now made networking with industry professionals a friendly and meaningful experience. Take York University's TASTE program, the objective of which is to provide an opportunity for students to talk with alumni about their career-related interests over an informal lunch. Many career centresoffer similar schemes, allowing your school's successful alumni to pass on their been-there-done-that experience.
You can really think of your career centreas the connecting link between you and employers. Another big calendar event in strengthening this link will be the career fair, where you can meet a variety of employers in an exhibition-like setting. A fantastic opportunity to compare the offerings of your industry's biggest players and make that all important first impression.
If you're one of the more introverted individuals who dread any kind of meeting or - gasp! - interview, then career counsellors can also assist in honing those people skills. To stop you stumbling over your words, practice interviews with your counsellorcan help with gaining confidence, so that you no longer have to use the old trick of picturing the interviewer in their full naked glory.
Ultimately, your relationship with your career centre, should not be swept aside in the belief that you won't need their help until the dawn of graduation. The potential rapport should be embraced and nurtured as soon as possible; and hey, unlike some relationships, they aren't going to complain about you taking advantage of them just to boost your career.