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College 101

Leveraging the Career Planning and Placement Center
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

Yes, this place exists. You (er, your parents/Grammy/The Elks Club Scholarship Fund For Wayward Youth) have paid all this money to go to college. Why not... use it? Would you go to Disneyland and AVOID the Pirates of the Caribbean ride? Not unless you’re deathly afraid of an animatronic Johnny Depp.  

"Don’t be fearful. At least he won’t be reenacting his role of Tonto"


The Career Planning Person in a college or university is vastly different from the counseling lady in your high school. We're not talking about your typical high school college counselors; we mean the orange-haired woman from Glee. That lady. She exists in high schools to deal with The Problem People. Drug addicts. Class cutters. Future occupants of cell block 403. And every now and then some kid who really gives a rip. But other than that, your high school counselor is geared toward the downside. She mollifies big problems so that they are only little problems. 

In college, things are different. The career planning people are there to actually... help you. And they generally know what they are doing. There are no orange-haired ladies dealing with sad-face-day; if you have a class cutting problem in college, well, frankly, nobody really cares. You flunk out. Poor you.

Alumni Connections and Relationships

The nice lady at the university career center probably has relationships with the top 20 employers that extend decades. If you are in school in south Texas, odds are extremely good that dozens of big fat oil companies actively recruit on campus - if you're majoring as a Petroleum Engineer, you'll likely get a free lunch (or 20) from the big guys if your professor tells them that you're good. (That prof is probably a "consultant" to them for a few grand a month... way cheaper than Big Oil hiring headhunters.)

The orange-haired lady knows that Wall Street hedge funds just don't hire people out of your school; she'll be blunt and tell you not to waste your time. How about an accounting degree - become an auditor and really teach those hedge funds a lesson when you're senior enough to have teeth? She'll focus you on what's realistic and what's... not. She is evaluated on quality placement - that is, getting the school's top students placed in prestigious jobs which the university can tout when it holds its hand out for donations from other alum (and then to you when you've made a bundle and wanna give back). 

If you really want a job working in sales for Pfizer (sales is a relatively easy or at least straightforward path to making a lot of money in life), how are you - on your own - going to get that job? Do you know the head of west coast depression drug sales? If so, great. Maybe your daddy is a doctor and he has a pal. But if not, that orange-haired lady is a diamond. Wear her.

"To be fair, not all orange-haired ladies are THIS old."


And then there's the maybe-less-obvious stuff. Like... remember when your parents declared that you go to college to get an education and the nearby founders and CEOs at that dinner party chuckled politely at them? 

Yeah, well the education is important, but it's also highly important that you leverage the people you meet and the resources available to you. After all, that's why you're paying that exorbitant price to go to college. The career center revolves around relationships. And nurturing those relationships is, for most, their ticket out of Mediocrityville. HOW do you nurture relationships with big dark corporate America, which you don’t... know? Well, it all starts with the interview with the on-campus recruiter. 

If he/she likes you, you'll get a second and likely third interview and blam! You already have 3 relationships with Exxon or whoever it is you are interviewing. 

"Just make sure there’s something in your contract about cleaning up spills."


And then there are the alumni.  Think about it. You're now 45 years old, pretty successful as a VP inside of Exxon or whoever, and a kid with a witty email asks for 15 minutes of your time for career advice. He's from your college and - lo and behold - shares an interest in the theremin. Would you really NOT take that phone call? The key for you as a student lies in figuring out WHO to call and/or how to reach them. The Career Center will know. It's their job to know.

On-Campus Recruiting

Whether you're a freshman or sophomore seeking a summer internship or a senior looking for a full-time job, companies will often make an effort to provide on-campus interviews so they can recruit new talent. It might be a working summer internship or a job shadow (be sure you bring lattes and the brownie things when you show up), but sign-up early and be prepared.


Make sure you swing by the center and take a look at their calendar of events and workshops. Since many alumni like to keep in touch with their alma mater and give back, many of the career planning people will organize for different speakers to come in and talk about the industry they're in and opportunities that exist within the industry. Sometimes they'll have career fairs where local businesses or bigger corporations will present their company with hopes of recruiting some fresh talent. These kind of talks and fairs are great for getting exposure to the wealth of opportunities out there.

Often times, the career and planning center have workshops for resume building, mock interviews, and just general tips on how to stand out in the recruiting process. Mark your calendars early and attend these events. Dress snappy. Now is not the time to take your jorts out of retirement.

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