She wore a fancy dress and carried a bouquet of flowers wrapped in cellophane.
I work in a career centre. While I do see students occasionally wearing suits for interviews, this particular student’s formal attire (not to mention floral sidekick) was markedly different from the standard fare of yoga pants, Uggs, and sports jerseys I’m used to.
“I need to figure out my life,” she said, looking tearful.
“Okay,” I said. “Have a seat and we can chat.”
Looking slightly agitated, she asked nervously, “How long do you think this will take? I graduate at 2:00 p.m. and my parents are waiting down in the car.”
During first year, you might not be inclined to think about, let alone visit, the career centre on your campus. The word “career” seems to conjure up images of 30-year-olds in cubicles and it doesn’t exactly relate to anything in your life, right?
It’s amazingly easy to end up like the many students who unwittingly land in my office on their graduation day, decked out in their stilettos and silk ties, shaking about the rest of their lives. When they leave our conversation, they invariably say, “I wish I had known about this earlier.” They thrust their bouquet of flowers thankfully into my hands and plead with me to spread the word to junior students to START EARLY.
So, here I am, on behalf of all those students in beautiful dresses and snazzy suits — both the ones who know exactly where they’re going and the ones who aren’t sure at all. Whichever group you fall in, the career centre can help you, right from first year — even if you’re not ready for the cubicle or corner office just yet.
Career centres usually have the following services to choose from:
Employment programs: Career centres post (local, national, and international) part-time, summer, internship/placement, and after-graduate jobs on their website. They also host employers on campus, collect job applications on behalf of companies, and try to recruit more employers to hire students from your school and program. They might also be able to connect you with volunteer opportunities.
Information area/library: Most career centres have books and computers that allow you to find out more about career options, what to do with your interests (e.g. books like, “Careers for Talkative Types”), how to write résumés and succeed in interviews, directories to help you connect with networking and employment opportunities, education/grad school information, and program calendars from other schools. The comfy couches are a bonus.
Events: Whether it’s at a large career fair in an arena or a small information session with one education program, these are great opportunities for first-year students to find out more about areas of interest, learn about post-grad programs, and meet employers in a low-risk, friendly environment. Many career centres will run themed events that tap into students’ interests (e.g. eco-careers) and help you connect with information, alumni, and organizations that work in those fields. There’s also usually food and swag!
You’re paying a lot for your program, and sweating buckets on assignments and exams to boot. Right from first year, career centres help you make your education work for YOU — and they will help you finesse the high school version of yourself into the newly-sophisticated post-secondary you.
So, when you’re thinking, “I need to figure out my life,” drop by your campus career centre. We’re here to help — no fancy dress or flowers required.
Christine Fader works as a career counsellor at Queen’s University and is co-author of the forthcoming book, Teen to Tuition. Visit her website at: www.supportstudentsuccess.ca