Students everywhere, at every education level, have questions regarding their careers. However, they often feel powerless to determine the right answers… or to whom they should listen.
Between friends, parents, teachers, professors, advisors, mentors, print materials, and even the Web, they’re getting tons of different advice but have no way to determine what might work best for them.
That’s why it’s particularly important to arm those potential mentors with the proper advice for students when they come seeking help.
No matter what your industry or expertise, here are the best ways to answer the most pressing student career questions:
“When Do I Start My Job Search?”
What you shouldn’t say: Too many of those giving career advice give students unrealistic, strict timelines as to when they should start and end their search. While you should encourage students to start their job search much earlier than the time they’ll need steady pay – like after graduation or when student loan repayments start – giving students a strict timeline will just make them a ball of stress.
What you should say: Encourage your student to start their search slowly by compiling research on companies and industries they’re interested in. It doesn’t matter when they start their search – it’s focusing on the right process that counts, and that always starts with adequate research. Encourage the student to set realistic goals – like making five calls to potential employers a week, or visiting two career fairs a month – to get them going, but never make them feel like they’re in a rat race to be the first person out of their friends who is employed post-graduation.
“How Do I Find an Internship?”
What you shouldn’t say: Don’t just refer a student to the university job board or internship websites. While these can be helpful for gaining leads, your student needs concrete contact information and networking opportunities if they really want to make things happen.
What you should say: Encourage your student to use all the resources they can get their hands on to find internship openings. Inform them to wisely peruse not only social media sites and job boards, but also career sites to learn more about individual companies, and to sign up for e-newsletters that send out internship leads. Remind the student of the importance of forging personal connections at their desired companies by reaching out to HR managers or employees directly, with sites like LinkedIn or over email.
Should I Take an Internship for Credit?
What you shouldn’t say: The answer here isn’t a simple yes or no. Many professionals in career counseling often attempt to make this decision for their students – don’t! Explain to your student that whether or not they should take an internship for credit has pros and cons, and they need to carefully weigh them before making a choice.
What you should say: Let your student know that whether or not they should take an internship for credit depends on their financial situation and the opportunities available in their field or industry. In many professions, paid internships are very, very scarce, and this often forces students to have to dig a bit deeper into their pockets to pay for for-credit internships. But let students know that credit is something some employers–particularly those at smaller companies with more flexibility – may be willing or able to negotiate. Many universities provide scholarship or grant money for students taking unpaid internships, so provide them with these resources as well.
Dispensing career advice can be tricky. It is, however, incredibly important for parents, professors, mentors – and all of those who may be expected to give career advice to students – to arm yourself with the right answers first. Our students’ futures’ depend on it!
About the Author: Val Matta is the Vice President of Business Development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for university career centers that gives students and alumni complete control over their job search. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.