Top 5 Questions to Ask a Career Counselor

By Alicia Geigel on May 18, 2018

One of the greatest decisions a student could possibly make while in college is to take advantage of campus offices that assist students in both academics and career choices, such as a student affairs office or a career center. It is the unfortunate reality, however, that a large portion of the college student population does not use these services, whether out of a lack of knowledge of their benefits and services, or out of mere disinterest.

In fact, according to a recent poll from Gallup, “fewer than 20 percent of undergraduate students reach out to their school’s career centers for advice on finding jobs or finding and applying to graduate programs, both of which the recent report identifies as some of a center’s most valuable services.” Though these campus services are highly available and largely beneficial to college students, for many, including myself, making the effort to go and make an appointment can be unappealing. For one, many of us students think that we have everything figured out already, whether that be choosing academic courses, totaling credits/GPA, searching for internships, or considering jobs.

Though we may be fresh to the game, we still have this sense of confidence that we can figure everything out on our own, with no outside help. The reality could not be further away from this, and in fact, we are so much better off with the assistance of student services than without. Sure, you may be able to job search on your own, or meticulously track your academic records, but in the chance that there is error and you are in trouble, you ultimately have to be dependent on something or someone, which is where these student services come in.

A campus career center, in particular, is a great and free service provided to students to help search for jobs/internships, build meaningful networks, boost resumes, and even research grad school programs. Let’s be real, securing a job after graduation is a significant worry for just about all of us college students, so why not take advantage of an organization that specializes in helping you with this? If you’re reading this, you most likely are in the position I was once in, contemplating the help, judging the value of such help, re-thinking your career choices, etc. Though you might have these worries and insecurities, it will be way better for you to bring them to a professional whose job is to work with you through those very problems! Are you curious about your school’s career center? Nervous about what an appointment might entail? Unsure of what to expect and what questions to ask? Check out this short but comprehensive list of the top questions to ask your career center!

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Image via Pixabay

What to Expect

Before even thinking about putting together a list of every possible question that pops into your head for the career center, it’s important to first understand what exactly to expect during an appointment. Doing so can not only possibly answer some of the questions you may have but it can also alleviate some stresses and anxieties you might have about the appointment itself.

Don’t Expect a Job, Rather Expect a Job Hunt. Many students are under the false impression that going to a career center is an automatic guarantee of a job. While reaching out to a career center can help you find a job, it is not a lottery of job offerings with you having the lucky scratch-off ticket.

With that being said, during your appointment with an advisor, expect them to help you narrow down career choices, pull out inner strengths, discover your passions and compliment those with your skills. This personal evaluation will help you figure out what kind of job you want and in a specific field. According to Richard White, the career center director at Rutgers University, “We [the career center] offer on-campus interviews, career days, e-fairs, information sessions, job postings, resume databases, open houses and special events.

Don’t Expect to be Told, Rather Expect to be Shown. It is natural to assume that going to a place like a career center that you will be told what to do, because after all, school advisors and teachers have done that in our past elementary, middle and high school lives. However, the game is different in college, and instead of being told what to do, you will be shown what to do. With this being said, do not expect an advisor to push you in a direction of a major or career path, like a parent would. It’s not their job to do that. Rather, expect them to help you find what might be a good fit for you based on your major, skills, traits and characteristics, etc.

According to Peter Vogt, a Senior Contributor at Monster, “More realistically, your career center will teach you how to explore majors and careers that might be a good fit for you. The professionals at your school’s career center should have both the resources and personal expertise that will help you explore majors and careers thoroughly. The career center should also have data on the jobs landed by past graduates in various majors from your school.”

Remember Staff Limitations and Be Smart with Timing. For many college students, procrastination and waiting until the very last minute to do something is basically apart of our DNA. When considering making an appointment with a career center, be responsible and considerate of your timing, meaning, do not expect to drop in and snag an appointment.

Many times, advisors take walk-in appointments but this causes a disruption for their schedule for the remainder of the day. Just remember that above all, the professionals at the career center want to help you and ultimately respect you, so it is your obligation to respect them in return. Be mindful of their limitations and schedule, be responsible with your timing, and always be one step ahead of where you want to be. Doing so will always ensure you’re never behind.

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Image made via Canva.com

Top 5 Questions to Ask A Career Counselor

Now that you have a reasonable understanding of what to expect from your career center, hopefully now it won’t be as taxing or difficult to formulate a list of questions to help settle any worries or insecurities you may have. The following questions are clear, easy to follow and within the range of your advisor to answer. While there are a plethora of questions that you can ask, some that advisors may or may not be able to answer, in my opinion, these are the top five questions to ask at your career center.

1. What can I do to boost/edit my resume?

One of the most important elements of the job process is your resumè. In order to stand out the best you possibly can to potential employers, be sure to constantly and consistently construct your resume.

Advisors at your campus career center can definitely help you refine, polish and boost your resume to make it attractive to employers. Don’t worry about the formatting being awful, not having a good amount of experience on paper, or the whole thing just being certified ‘trashable’, it is OK if your resume is a work in progress. Advisors don’t expect you to arrive at your appointment with a perfect resume because if you did, they would partially be out of a job!

According to Sarah Yoo of the Muse, “Bring a draft, or even a list of all your experiences and activities—from your internships to being a publicity chair in a volunteer club on-campus to spending your summers as a lifeguard. Counselors can help you craft experience descriptions that draw attention to the skills and personal qualities you have that employers are seeking.”

2. How can I make the most out of my strengths?

Many college students have a hard time figuring out their strengths. According to Raymond Tang of Careermetis.com, “Plenty of graduates, job entrants and job-changers only know what they are functionally good at i.e. being good at coding, filling out balance sheets, writing content, etc. but lack the identification of soft skills that are often overlooked.”

Career center counselors and advisors can help draw out these softer strengths, helping you identify the skills that you naturally possess — skills that will be attractive to potential employers. Not only will advisors help you identify these skills, but they will also help you convey them to employers. Unfortunately, it is not enough just to know you have these strengths, you have to show them.

3. How can I network effectively?

As technology has advanced, so has the increased presence of the job opportunities on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. During your appointment, log into social media accounts with a counselor.

In order to create and build a strong social media platform, your counselor will help you clean up your accounts by suggesting which pictures, posts and comments to remove to help to make you look better in the eyes of an employer. Second, your counselor will help you search for your ideal job by suggesting using keywords on search engines, job sites and social media. You can even look for people with similar interests as you in regards to finding a job!

Doing these two things can definitely help you get on track to networking, but some other advice an advisor might offer is to reach out to your professors, join club organizations, and talk to classmates!

4. What is the best job search strategy for me?

It makes sense that since every one of us is different, that we would all have different approaches and strategies to searching for a job. It can be difficult to figure out this approach by yourself since you may not know what is most beneficial for you, but don’t worry, this is where an advisor comes in!

Some meaningful and helpful questions to ask your counselor, Sarah Yoo notes are, “How should I allocate my search time between networking, informational interviews, and applying for jobs? What strategies have been effective for other people applying for these types of positions?”

5. What are my next steps?

Your first appointment with an advisor at the career center will be full of great tips and advice, but it will most likely need to be followed up with multiple follow-up appointments. Hence, it is important to ask your counselor what your next steps should be both during the waiting period to see them, and what to expect during your next appointment. They may want you to individually polish your resume to review in the future, or perhaps explore some fields that you may be interested in exploring jobs in. Regardless of what your next steps are, it is important to get an understanding with an advisor on the appropriate actions to take for the future!

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Image via Pixabay 

Making the step to reach out into uncharted territories and seek out the help of a career counselor may seem scary and overwhelming at first, but I promise you that in the long run, you will not regret taking advantage of the services they provide for you. How else can you effectively learn how to harness your strengths, boost your resume, and implement a job strategy?

Though it may seem possible that all of that can be accomplished independently and all on your own, it will be way easier and reasonable to seek the advice of someone who is a professional in doing so. The hardest mystery about post-college life is the uncertainty of having a secure job to fall on. Though this reality is daunting, taking a step ahead of the game and considering career options with a counselor will make post-graduation way less shocking and scary because you’ll have a good foundation of how and where to search. Always remember that regardless of who might have a job now, who might have a perfect resume, etc., everyone is a work in progress. As always, good luck!

By Alicia Geigel

Uloop Writer
social justice advocate, avid lover of 90s fashion, the proud mama of a yorkie named "nugget", feminist, body positive, weight trainer in progress, classic rock fanatic, and reality TV addict! if you want to learn more about me, visit my profile and check out my articles!

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