Helping students navigate the path from college to career: The changing role of college career centers

Most students have a ready answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For college students, those answers are generally expected to have some basis in reality. Many students believe that a session with a career counselor will not only clarify their career path but also guarantee them a job or at least a crucial company contact.

However, there are people who think the role of the college career center should change. Andy Chan, Vice President for Personal and Career Development at Wake Forest University, posits that typical college career centers must shift their focus. Instead of providing job listings and assuming students will “figure it out,” career counselors should first focus on the student’s personal development, then work with the student to discover how those personal characteristics will relate to the student’s career interests. Providing students with the abilities and skills necessary to network effectively is also crucial.

Chan also argues against the common misconception that a liberal arts degree will lead nowhere. In fact, a recent survey indicates that employers want their workers to be innovative, critical thinkers with a wide-ranging base of education. A student’s choice of major may be less important than his being able to demonstrate that he has these types of broad skills, such as leadership, communications, and problem solving.

College career centers should attempt to hone these skills in students, along with providing standard services like aptitude testing, practice interviews, and access to alumni networking events and career fairs.

How should college career centers and career counselors adapt to best serve their clients? Have you benefited from career counseling?

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