I bought myself a liarbird, things got more and more absurd.
February 2, 2011 6:41 AM   Subscribe

(JobFilter): Help me work with a university career center.

I have a BA of 2006 vintage and work for a large public university. I am a research assistant and it's not a job I can or want to hold forever. (Feel free to check out my previous questions for more detail.)

I'm looking into graduate programs. Thanks for informative suggestions from knowledgeable and caring mefites — you've given me a lot to digest.

I'd also like to keep looking into alternatives to graduate school. The university I work for has a thriving career center and I'd like to take advantage of it. The question is, how? What kind of help can I ask from them?

My previous experiences with the career center at my alma mater, no fly-by-night operation itself, are mostly negative. I used their services a number of times as a senior undergraduate and several times again as an unemployed alumnus. The amount of concrete, specific advice they have given me is very small. In brief:
  • They administered the MBTA, which I despise, and a "career values assessment." The latter came out with "university professor," thereby demonstrating its value.
  • I attended a mock interview with them in preparation for a real one I had for an entry-level analyst position. Despite offering to "customize" the mock interview to my prospective employer, they neglected to mention that this employer typically uses "case" interviews. I got very positive feedback from the career counselor, but my eventual interview with the employer did not go well.
  • They suggested formatting and style advice for my resume. I've been on many hiring committees where I work, and from this vantage I note that their resume advice was generally either irrelevant or useless. My opinion of "interview etiquette tips" is very similar.
  • They offered resume forwarding to connect me to interested employers, but only attempted to forward my resume once, in response to a position I was wildly unqualified for. Granted, my degree is in a niche and not very "bankable" discipline.
So, what kind of help can a university career center offer me that doesn't involve generic, time-wasting assessments, received wisdom on the topic of job-hunting, and resume style advice? I'd like some help matching my skills to specific positions, as well as help learning about relevant area employers. I'm afraid a career counselor is — oh, the irony — the wrong person to ask these types of questions.
posted by Nomyte to Work & Money (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In response to your "what kind of help" question: internships and job fairs. These are companies who have open positions and value degrees from your university and have agreed to speak to recent/future graduates in person. That's a huge, huge advantage. You won't be competing against the thousands of applicants from an advertisement, just the dozens/hundreds from your uni. If the pay were similar to what you're making now, would you really care if the job was labeled "entry level"? Your current skills and experience could make you look like a very attractive candidate compared to current undergrads. Maybe you'd end up in a place where they have to train you from the ground up, or you'd get an internship doing rotations through multiple areas to see what department would be the best fit for you. Once you leave the cozy "in" of your university career center, it's much harder to land an interview for these kinds of jobs.
posted by Gable Oak at 7:51 AM on February 2, 2011

This is going to vary so much from school to school that I don't know that we'll be able to give you firm answers. As with many things in life, your best bet is to clearly communicate your questions and requests and expectations and then ask whether your particular university's center can help you with those specific issues.

Go to them with this sentence: I'd like some help matching my skills to specific positions, as well as help learning about relevant area employers.

That sounds like something they should be able to help you with. The onus is partly on you to keep asking questions that will get you to the specific advice you want. If the career counselor is being too general in their response, don't just walk away feeling frustrated. Ask follow up questions to get the specific guidance/information you want.

As for the resume, you need people within your own field to critique your resume. The more eyes you have on it, the better. You don't have to take everyone's advice, but you should collect many opinions about your resume to see what people are responding to. People in your own field will be best since they best understand the conventions of resumes in your field.
posted by BlooPen at 7:56 AM on February 2, 2011

« Older Oh no, not my EVO!   |   direct recording from digital piano to SD memory... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.