March 4, 2016

Graduate Students: Make the Most of Career Services


Graduate school is an investment with a high return. It can pay off in career advancement, increased earnings, or even the opportunity to change careers entirely.

However, to really attain these goals, students must take advantage of all the resources their schools have to offer – especially the career services office. The professionals that work in career services are there to help students edit their resumes, practice for interviews, network with alumni, and connect with employers.

However, these career services employees are often busy because they support students from all over the school. So, you may need a little help getting the most out of your school’s career services office. That’s why I’d like to offer a few tips to help you do just that:

1. Compile Your Accomplishments

You’ve been working hard over the past few years, and it may be difficult to remember all that you’ve accomplished. Review your transcripts, internship evaluations, and course syllabi to identify notable presentations, research projects, or programs you participated in.

Once you have a list of accomplishments and experiences, a career services professional can help you condense the list into a series of attention-grabbing bullet points for your resume. That’s the first step in crafting your professional identity.

2. Update Your Resume and Cover Letter

Many career services offices provide sample materials on their websites, and you can use these samples as guides to help you update your resume and/or write a cover letter. Add your most recent internship or job experiences to your resume, make sure your bullets are aligned, and ensure that all dates are correct. Career specialists can then spend more time critiquing the context of your materials instead of making minor formatting adjustments.

If you have a specific position in mind, take a copy of the job description to your appointment so the career specialist can help you target your resume toward that position.

3. Practice Your Interviewing Skills

BudsSchedule mock interviews and take them seriously. The more you practice the entire interview experience, the more natural it will feel. Wear professional attire to your appointment and ask the career specialist to record the interview. You’ll receive feedback on both the content of your interview and your professional appearance. Reviewing the recording of the interview will help you determine your strengths and identify areas you can improve upon.

4. Attend Career Events

Take advantage of career fairs, alumni panels, and other career-related events offered by the career services office. As a student, you have access to resources that professionals in the job market don’t. Attending these events will help you understand what employers are looking for, and you’ll get the chance to explore new fields and industries that you may have never considered before.

5. Stay in Touch

Stay in touch after you graduate. Many career services offices offer a certain number of career appointments to alumni. Look into whether or not your school’s career services office extends this option, and take advantage of the services if it does.

The office may also facilitate networking opportunities between alumni and students, so be sure to share your contact information and let the career specialists know you’d like to participate in any networking opportunities that arise.

Very few students – whether undergrads or graduates – take full advantage of their schools’ career services offices. That’s unfortunate, because there’s really no resource quite like a career services department.

Don’t leave school without getting the most from your career services department. It could be the difference between a rocky start to your career and an exciting leap into a brand new world.

Read more in Career

Tavi Sookhoo is a licensed social worker and career counselor specializing in dropout prevention and job placement. She supports the development of career readiness curriculum and coordinates career services for several training programs. She earned her MSW from Columbia University and currently writes for the [email protected] blog.