The Place on Campus You’ve Probably Never Visited — But Totally Should

Career services
A host points out the proper way to handle cutlery during an etiquette dinner at the University of Southern California. William Vasta/Courtesy USC Marshall School of Business

There’s a place on your campus you’ve probably heard of — but if you’re like many students, you’ve never ventured inside.

No, I’m not talking about the gym. (Seriously though, you should probably go there at least twice a week to burn off that dining hall food.)

I’m talking about the career services center.

The career services center is probably one of the most underrated buildings on campus. Whether you want to get to know yourself better or need help finding a job (even after graduation), a career services center is a free resource that students should use.

Don’t believe me? Well, considering all the opportunities it offers, you might want to rethink your decision. Here’s why you shouldn’t just keep walking next time you stroll past your college’s career services center.

Things You May Not Know About a Career Services Center

I used to think resume reviews and mock interviews were the only services a career center had to offer.

That’s not the case, though.

According to Julia Ruddock-Elliott, manager of employer development at The Office of Career Services at The University of Tampa, there are many services the office provides to students that can help them at each stage of their professional development.

Here are some awesome and unexpected examples of what career services centers have to offer.

Internship and Job Information

This is probably one of the biggest advantages of going to a career services center: Many of these centers have online portals that list hundreds of openings for internships and jobs.

I found my internship with The Penny Hoarder on HIREUT, UT’s career services web portal; it turned into my first full-time job.

I didn’t have to visit the career services center in person to learn how to access the portal. But your school’s career services portal may work differently.

For example, Jacquelyn Pica, an intern at The Penny Hoarder and a senior at the University of South Florida — St. Petersburg, tells us her school’s career services center has different rules. Students are required to make an appointment with an adviser first before they’re granted access to USF’s portal, Recruit-A-Bull.

If your school requires an in-person visit, don’t let that stop you from accessing potential opportunities. Make the appointment, get in there, and get started on your search!

Self-Assessment Tools

Before you even think about starting a career, don’t you think it’s important to learn more about yourself? Like how you work best and the things you value? Many career services centers offer self-assessment tools that can help you do just that. Examples include personality tests, Life Map (a student’s guide to figuring out what to do to complete their goals) and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Alexa Moubarak, assistant director of career coaching and professional development at UT’s career services center, believes these tools hold high value.

Knowing more about what your values, interests, personality, skills, strengths and passions are is the key to aligning who you are with your career in order to create a fulfilling life,” said Moubarak. “It’s never too late to get started, but the sooner you begin the career exploration and development process, the better!”

Etiquette Dinners

Etiquette dinners are a way to teach students not only how to dine properly during a business dinner, but also how to network in a formal setting.

Lisa Rowan, writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder, attended one during her undergraduate experience and found it to be worthwhile.

“The event I went to was totally free for seniors with advance registration,” said Rowan. “And the event was helpful because the staffer at our table welcomed any sort of career or job search questions and invited us to stay in touch with her by email after the event if we had questions.”

Alumni Support

I never knew this, but you can use your university’s career services center even after you graduate. Career services centers have resources for alumni, including job information and career guidance. A common reason alums go back to them is for help after deciding to change careers.

And yes, even as an alum, the services are free.

Misconceptions About Career Services Centers

While the services college career centers offer may seem pretty straightforward, students often have misconceptions about them. Here are some examples.

Myth: The Office Guarantees Employment After Graduation

SUPER false. “We are NOT a placement facility,” said Moubarak. “However, we can provide you with all the tools, resources, events, opportunities and coaching you would need in order to be best prepared. Ultimately, you get out of it what you put in. It’s up to you in the end.”

So, don’t walk in thinking it will be easy — but also, don’t walk in thinking it will be impossible. As Moubarak said, you get what you give; in this case, it requires effort!

Myth: The Office is Only for Students With Certain Majors

False! Because UT is known for its business school, Ruddock-Elliott believes students might get the false impression that the center caters to only those students. That’s simply not the case.

Career services centers can connect students to professions that match their skills, regardless of their majors — for free!

Myth: They’re Just for Seniors

Brianna Kwasnik, a UT alum who first visited career services as a freshman, thinks that’s a big reason students don’t take advantage.

“I think many students believe that career services is something reserved for seniors who are getting ready to enter the workforce,” said Kwasnik. “Many students tend to overlook all of the other wonderful resources they provide, such as reviewing your resume or cover letter, helping find internships or jobs in the area, or practicing interview skills.”

You can develop these skills at any time — and honestly, it’s a good idea to do so sooner rather than later!

Why Don’t Students Take Advantage of Career Services Centers?

I never visited my career services center, mainly because I didn’t exactly understand why I should. I already had a resume. Why would I need to go?

I’m not the only student who hasn’t stepped foot in the building.

According to Ruddock-Elliott, one survey of 250 students found that only 15% or so actually scheduled an appointment with career services.

What gives?

“It’s really just a lack of awareness,” she said. “It’s also that perhaps someone came in and didn’t get what they wanted, so maybe they don’t come back ever again.”

But for the students who actually make appointments and go in? They rate their visits to be satisfactory at least 85% of the time, according to Ruddock-Elliott.

So, what do you have to lose? Call and make an appointment at your university’s career services center today. It could help you more than you think!

Your Turn: Will you visit your school’s career services center anytime soon? Let us know in the comments below!

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder and a senior at The University of Tampa. She wishes she’d taken advantage of its career services center early in the game — but she definitely will as an alumni!