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How to get a jump on turning college into a career

Illinois State student receives help at Career Center

If your student's goal is to use college to best position themselves for post-graduate success, it makes sense to think about what support system a college has in place to help them reach their goals.

For most students, attending college is at least partly an effort to prepare themselves for a successful career. With that in mind, it makes sense it makes sense to consider how well the school will help your student accomplish that goal.

It’s never too early to start utilizing the resources provided by an institution’s career center, so there’s value in understanding what those resources are and how to take advantage of them—even right from the start.

“At Illinois State, we have a class specifically for first-time college students, focusing on skills necessary to make a successful transition to college and the importance of these skills to a future career,” said Mike Minton, associate director of the Career Center at Illinois State.

“It provides opportunities for students to explore career and major options, and requires students to make a resume as part of the class.”

Those are important skills, and a support system at your student’s college of choice should help develop those and others that will serve your student through college and well beyond. Keep reading to learn more about the ways career services can help your student.

Illinois State talks with advisor at Career Center

Career advising can help your student address their specific needs when thinking about the future.

Career advising

Your student may not be quite ready to begin their career, but advising isn’t just about a post-graduate plan—for many students it helps identify where their interests lie and provides a proactive plan to help your student maximize the college experience and get where they want to go.

And if your student is still figuring out what the destination looks like, so are many students.

“It’s completely normal for your student to not know exactly what they want to major in or what they plan to do for a career,” Minton said. “In fact, it’s normal for students to change their minds a couple of times in the first year.”

Career advisors can help students explore academic and career options and create a plan to pursue those interests, including conducting informational interviews, job shadows, and searching for available internships.

Illinois State’s Career Center provided more than 1,000 hours of advising in the last year, and that’s not counting integrated academic advising that helps students explore career options. Learn more about career resources for Redbirds.

Career programs

Taking advantage of career resources can be the difference between locking up a job before your student even graduates and diving blindly into the deep end of the job pool.

Career-oriented programs can assist your student in networking with alumni and potential employers, preparing for career fairs, and building a deeper knowledge of real-world job options. Encourage your student to participate in these programs sooner rather than later to get a leg up on other job applicants.

Illinois State students talks to a professional representative at a career fair

Career fairs offer students opportunities to develop interview skills, get feedback, and work on networking.

Career fairs

Job fairs—be it for internships, full-time, or part-time jobs—are great opportunities for your student to not only explore potential employers and jobs, but also get a taste of how to interact with others in a professional setting. Find out what kind of career fairs your college of choice holds during the year, how many employers your student will have access to, and if they cater to the interests of your student.

Once you’ve identified career fairs, encourage your student to attend. Even if they’re not looking for a full-time job just yet, part-time opportunities while still attending school might provide some income and boost a resume.

Last year, Illinois State career fairs featured nearly 600 unique employers, including 40 Fortune 500 companies. Encourage your student to take advantage of a busy career fair schedule.

And remember, not everything is about immediately securing a job. Career fairs are also an opportunity to develop an elevator pitch, get comfortable with interviewing, and gather resume feedback.

Whether your student is just starting the college search or is well on their way to knowing what they want their future to look like, considering career resources will help make sure your student is positioned for long-term, big-picture success.

Did you know that at Illinois State students are encouraged to participate in informational interviews to gather knowledge from current professionals and help students shape their goals and expectations? Check out the Career Center to learn about the many initiatives and resources in place for Redbirds.

Related Article: How to tell if a college will get your student where they want to go Regardless of your particular list of priorities when deciding on the best college for your student, most agree on one goal—the outcome matters. Here are a few important pieces of information as your college-bound child contemplates the path ahead.

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