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You understand the importance of locating your classes and the best coffeehouse—but where’s your school’s career centre? If you don’t know, go find it. There’s more happening there than the fourth-year job search, and students who stop by a few times a year gain a powerful advantage. “By connecting with the career centre early, [students] can identify ways to develop the skills and experience they need to secure a job,” says Patsy Valenzuela, Supervisor of Career Education and Employment Development at Mount Royal University, Alberta.
Seventy percent of students use their career centre for résumé help, according to a 2012 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). More than half of students are making use of career counselling and internship assistance. Here’s what you can do at your career centre:
1. Find four full years of opportunities
“The student career centre is useful for more than just a student’s last year of school. They helped me build meaningful skills and played a big role in my educational planning and job search throughout my entire time at university,” says Cindy P. at the University of Waterloo, Ontario.
2. Check out your potential future(s)
The self-assessments offered at career centres are not designed to tell you what to do, but to give you ideas that aren’t already on your radar. “[The career centre] focused on my skills and personal interests, instead of pushing me towards careers that make a lot of money,” says Leroy D., a fifth-year student at the University of Windsor, Ontario.
3. Pick your major & know what to do with it
Weighing your major, minor, and elective options? Considering their impact on your career opportunities can help set you up for getting employers’ attention.
4. Network with alumni
Your predecessors are often open to requests for informational interviews, and might even connect you with a specific opportunity or strategic contact. “Alumni can help students build a professional network that they can use during their job search,” says Valenzuela. “It’s about building a network of support, and alumni can be a great part of that network.”
5. Develop your best résumé and cover letter
Selling yourself on paper is not easy. Check out your school’s drop-in sessions or workshops for assistance with selecting content, formatting, organization, grammar, and layout. “They made my resumé appeal to potential employers by helping with the layout and showing me what to keep and what to omit,” says Shelby T., a first-year student at the University of Windsor.
6. Own that interview
In mock interviews, you might be paired with a career counsellor, another professional, or an experienced fellow student. “It helped me experience what an interview can be like, the type of questions asked, the environment, etc., so that I do not go into it completely blind,” says Mariah J., a student at Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario.
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