What Are Career Services? (For Students and New Graduates)

Updated February 3, 2023

Students in a classroom

Whether you're entering the workforce for the first time in your career or you’re pursuing a career shift to a new industry, you may benefit from the help of career services. Most colleges and universities have their own career services department located on campus to assist students as they prepare to start a career. Communities also offer help and job advice to professionals through local career service centers.

In this article, we explain what career services are, review the typical services offered and share how you can use career service centers for your benefit.

What are career services in college?

Career services are the types of help offered by a department of the same name on most college campuses. Career service departments assist students with almost any aspect of their career from reviewing resumes to helping students decide what jobs they will pursue after graduation.

Here's an overview of career services offered by most college campuses:

Career exploration

Getting a degree can prepare students for a job in a specific industry or provide students with skills that can be used in a wide range of career fields. Career services can help guide students to discover specific job positions that match their interests and abilities.

Often, students may not realize the range of careers available based on their degree program and experience. Career services can provide direction and details about a variety of jobs through aptitude tests and advising.

Related: The 6-Step Career-Planning Process

Job recruiting

Career services departments exist to help students find the best jobs suited to their degree background and personal skill set. They make connections and partner with companies to ensure students have opportunities to pursue a career through job fairs and employment search portals.

Career services may even work directly with businesses who request information about potential candidates who keep resumes on file with the department.

Related: Guide: How to Succeed at a Hiring Event or Open Interview

Resume reviews

A career services department will help students prepare and review a resume as they begin a job search. Whether you need to set up a resume to find a summer job or are ready to graduate and enter the workforce in your chosen industry, career services can help you build a marketable resume that will resonate with employers. They can also do the same with a cover letter.

Interview practice and tips

Career services often include practical help for students ready to enter the job market. This includes assistance with developing interviewing skills. A career service staff member may offer assistance through a seminar or a one-on-one session. You can set up a time to practice answering interview questions and responding to an interviewer, practing your verbal tone and nonverbal cues.

Related: 21 Job Interview Tips: How To Make a Great Impression

Internship connections

A career service department is often the best place to seek internship opportunities. Whether you fill a position on a college campus or within a business, career services can help connect you with organizations offering these positions.

Loan and debt counseling

Career services may also include help planning your financial outlook once you graduate. They can offer advice on choosing a career path that may provide you with higher earnings so you can begin paying off student debt.

Related: What Is Career Counseling and Coaching?

Benefits of using career services

Here are some of the ways you can benefit from utilizing career services on your college campus:

Networking opportunities

Career services offer students networking opportunities with industry leaders that can be difficult for students to make on their own. Professional networking allows students to connect with mentors who can offer guidance about a chosen career field.

A professional relationship with someone already employed by a business in your industry may help your chances of getting hired within the same company.

Related: 9 Ways To Build an Effective College Network

Current industry knowledge

You can be sure that information coming from a career services department is aligned with current industry trends. Career advisors can provide definitive answers for changing ideas that reflect what hiring managers look for in a job candidate. Career services collects information from industry professionals to learn the most relevant ideas for students.

Related: 14 Career Advice Tips for College Students

Assistance for free

Career services departments offer their help for free to current students since any related fees are paid as part of the cost of tuition. After graduation, career services like resume reviews typically involve fees. Using these services to your advantage while you are in school can save you money as you prepare to enter the job market.

Some campus career services also offer their assistance to alumni who have graduated but still want help in their career. This can include advice on how to train for a management position, how to ask for a raise or even how to go back to school to pursue a higher degree.

Guidance for first-generation college students

Students who are the first in their direct family to go to college often face different challenges than those who have a history of college-educated family members.

These students may not have the same advice and coaching from family who have already pursued a post-secondary education. Career services can offer support and guidance for these students in a safe and knowledgeable environment.

Related: 24 Best Jobs for College Grads With No Experience

Ways to use college career services

Consider these ideas to help you make the most of the career services department on your campus:

1. Attend events

Career services host regular events on campus to share information with students. These workshops are a great place to start learning job search tips and professional skills from experts.

Guest speakers are often invited to share expertise with students and answer questions. Students who take time to connect with these speakers at the end of a session are often able to network with these professionals as they seek to enter the workforce.

Related: The Best Ways To Find a Job at a Career Fair

2. Schedule individual sessions

For more personalized advice, schedule a time to meet with a career counselor. During an individual session, ask specific questions relating to your degree field and desired career path.

A career counselor can discuss personal finances and even share salary calculations from recent graduates. Career service staff members can connect you with alumni in your chosen field and provide resources for you to continue learning about a particular aspect of your career search.

Related: 12 Career Counseling Questions To Ask Your Career Counselor

3. Use online resources

Career services offer additional resources that are available to students online whenever they need access. These resources can include job boards where you can post resumes and find career positions and internships.

Often, companies reach out directly to campus career service departments to post jobs that may not be available on other large job posting websites.

4. Check in regularly before graduation

It's a good idea to use career services throughout your entire college stay. Many students only visit the department right before graduation, missing out on services that can help you decide on a major and minor, find work-study programs and prepare for career decisions.

Related: How To Find Jobs at a College (Plus Tips)

5. Speak with alumni

Career services acts as a bridge to connect alumni who work in a range of careers and industries to current students who are deciding on the right career choice. Career services collect salary data from alumni to give students a better idea of their financial possibilities before graduation.

Alumni who are successful and experts in their field often act as guest speakers who offer honest and helpful advice about career paths to current students.

Related: 30 Best Pieces of Career Advice No One Ever Told You

Other types of career services

Here are other career services besides those on college campuses that working professionals can use:

American Job Centers

American Job Centers are run by the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA). These facilities, also called One-Stop Centers, offer job services including resume enrichment, job training programs, career counseling and access to employment listings. American Job Centers also offer training workshops on professional topics. These services are free to United States citizens.

Related: Career Tips: How to Conquer Each Stage of Your Career

Private career services

Working professionals can also seek help from a private career service. These businesses provide help on a wide range of topics related to your career. Since they're staffed by individuals who train in job counseling and often hold advanced degrees in professional development, the fees associated with these centers can range from a small cost for resume help to hundreds of dollars for a package that includes many different professional advising services.

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