You’ve heard it before: The early bird catches the worm. It seems everyone around you has a ten-year career goal while you’re stuck figuring out what to do next week. Knowing where to start is often the hardest part, but it doesn’t have to be. There is a solution and it’s called the Career Centre.
“The earlier you can access your Centre the better,” says David Ness, an associate professor and coordinator of career services at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. From learning to write an effective cover letter to decoding the art of networking, the Career Centre offers a wealth of information easily accessible to anyone willing to take a few minutes to browse the bulletin board.
But don’t neglect opportunities right at your fingertips because the resources are there, say Career Centre staff. “Once you start your university career you should start planning for your future immediately,” says Anna Cranston, director of management career services at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. “Develop your career intelligence so by your final year you’re prepared to have a job offer in the summer after graduation.” Students should visit their Career Centres during their first year of studies to “connect and understand what your resources are even if you have made a career decision and have a set goal,” says Ness. He adds students new to the Career Centre can visit the information library or meet with an advisor to get started.
With pressure from parents and friends it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and unsure of the next step, or even the first one. “Students find themselves in the wrong program or are unhappy,” says Angela Neufield, counsellor in student services at Yukon College in Whitehorse. “They may not know what the services are or feel uncomfortable coming.” Some students are hesitant to speak to an advisor for fear of being led down the wrong career path, Neufield notes. But “our objective is to help you understand yourself and what works for you,” she maintains, adding students shouldn’t feel they are limited to one option.
“We want to strongly convey to students that sometimes we don’t realize the value of something until you utilize it,” says Kevin Lin, manager of career services at George Brown College’s Casa Loma campus in Toronto, Ont. “We continue building our career services because many students spend so much time, energy, and money on their program during their post secondary education. Students want a fulfilling career after they graduate,” notes Lin, who explains the intrinsic importance of the Career Centre at George Brown is helping students to see the diversity of what’s out there. “We try very hard to do a lot of things outside of the regular career advising tools,” adds Cranston. “We really focus on opportunities for experiential learning.” Students in the management program at Dalhousie University are offered the opportunity to job shadow and meet senior executives on two-day planned corporate tours to Toronto and Calgary, Cranston says.
Rupa Akula, a graduate of the wireless networking program at George Brown, also works as an ambassador for the college’s Career Services Centre. She says the career advisors and workshops, including mock interview preparations she used as a student exceeded her expectations. Now Akula feels she is ready for any interview. “While working [at George Brown] I have improved a lot on my communication and people skills,” Akula says. “This job has given me more experience in understanding time management and talking with employers.” She credits her improved job skill training to the Centre and believes students should take every opportunity to expand their career search. “It’s always better to come and book an appointment with an advisor because it helps to get information and advice rather than not coming at all.”
Many students are already very Internet-savvy and may not have the time to visit, says Lin, noting George Brown’s services are also moving online to help accommodate students unable to fully engage in workshops or meet with an advisor. “The website is going to be a prime contact platform for employers, faculty and students,” says Lin. “It fits their needs and acts as a one stop shopping tool that utilizes all the career services.”
Ness agrees moving to the web is a great way to help students, but adds it helps to have someone to talk to. “Although online resources are excellent, we do encourage students to come into the Centre because they can’t anticipate questions and pull every theme together in the same way an advisor may be able to,” he says.
Be it online or in person, don’t wait until graduation to find your dream job, agree advisors. Jump-start your search, with a visit to the Career Centre. It’s free, accessible and will help you on your way to finding the career that’s right for you. jp