The Job Steps

From ‘admission to position,’ today’s colleges provide career guidance before graduation and beyond.

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While career services may be thought of as a helpful tool to land a college student his or her first job, more colleges are offering a wide variety of services to help set students up for their entire careers. Savvy colleges encourage students to become aware of their options, especially in post-graduation years when alma mater support can make all the difference for an alum in job transition.

“We assist students in their career development process from admission to position,” says Jessica Bradley, Oklahoma State University’s career services coordinator. “We promote our services to students when they first attend new student orientation.”

Robin Huston, director of the University of Oklahoma’s career services, says: “The biggest thing is to get to them early in their college career and let them know how we can help, including encouraging them to think about post-graduation plans, from the beginning of their college career. If you wait until, say, junior year, you waste opportunities to think about all the experiences in your college career in terms of resume building, especially with internships.”

Communicating with a professional in career services can be an important barometer.

“Sometimes it’s an affirmation that the student is on the right course,” Huston says. “Or, it’s showing them, ‘Hey, I don’t like this path,’ so they can correct their course. It’s just really good to get experience to help make informed decisions both before and after graduation.”

OSU, like most colleges, provides services such as resume and cover letter development; mock interviews; job search strategies and resources (part-time and full-time positions, and internships); and specialized workshops.

“We offer workshops on topics such as salary negotiation, what to do at a career fair, and mock interview day – where they can practice interviewing with an actual employer – just to name a few,” Bradley says. “This fall, we are partnering with J.C. Penney for a professional dress event, where students can purchase business professional dress at a discounted price, as an example.”

In addition to the specialized appointments, workshops and career fairs, OU, OSU and other schools seek out undecided students to assist with tools such as new recruiting platforms, bigger job boards and on-campus interview portals.

“We also offer career assessments [on] personality, interests, work values, and skills,” Bradley says. “This serves as a valuable tool when it comes to knowing yourself and your strengths, and how to relate that to a future career. We also have an employer relations team that specializes in attracting and retaining companies to recruit OSU students and alumni. This team is extremely valuable not only in developing new job opportunities for students, but also in keeping us updated on what employers are really looking for in a candidate, such as marketable skill sets or what is relevant to include on a resume.”

Huston says internet-driven methods are a focus these days.

“We’ve seen that we have to speak to students in the way they want to be spoken to today,” she says. “They want information delivered via social media, which is exemplified by the big trend right now of companies saving money and doing virtual interviews. We offer a dedicated room for such interviews so they have a quiet space with no noise or roommates and all the technologies present. As with any interview, we can do mock interviews in advance to further prepare the student. We have also gotten potential employers to do mock interviews, which is fantastic practice for our students and may lead to opportunities with these companies.”

Career services no longer simply assists students with finding jobs after graduation. Bradley says the field has shifted from placing students to empowering them for their entire careers because “it is becoming more common for individuals to have several different jobs over the course of their career, rather than staying in one career for 30-40 years; thus, we want to teach … students to possess these valuable professional development skills to use throughout their lifetime.”

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