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The Most Important Building on Campus

When I arrived on the Cornell University campus some 40 years ago, one of my first challenges was to find my way around without getting lost each day. In short order, I found my classrooms, the bookstore, the dining hall and the student center. It was not until late in my Senior year that I found the most important building on campus, the career center. Some things never change.

Career centers today on college campuses are staffed with fully trained career counselors and a complete range of job search resources. These career centers are an island of opportunity in the search for a job post-graduation. The problem is that most college students simply don't spend enough time in these career centers. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges & Employers, 61% of graduating seniors either never went to the career center or visited 2 or fewer times by the senior year. Let's consider that statistic for a moment. We have this unbelievable resource on campus designed to help students find a job, which is the primary reason an individual goes to college. And yet, over 60% of the students barely set foot in the career center by the time they graduate. Why is that?

I believe there are two reasons. First, for most of a student's college life, work and the real world seems a long, long way away. Second, and most importantly, the career center is not a mandatory course. Participation is optional. And young adults, just like the rest of us, don’t do “optional” very well.

The net impact of not leveraging the career center as a job search resource is that 70% of college students are graduating without a job. Even as hot as the job market is today, it is taking college graduates 7 or more months to secure a full-time job after graduation. Equally concerning is that over 40% of these college graduates are ending up underemployed meaning that they are accepting a position that does not require a Bachelor's degree.

Does finding the career center on campus really matter? Yes. The average student loan debt is now approaching $40,000. Loan payments can start as soon as 6 months after graduation. With starting salaries for fully employed college graduates now averaging over $4,000 per month, combined with a 7-month job search, having a plan to secure a job by graduation can have real financial consequences…in a good way. Eliminating, or significantly reducing, the 7-month job search after graduation can effectively pay off the student loan debt. This ever-expanding debt burden can be crushing for recent college graduates. Student loan debt can lead to sub optimal job and career decisions. Underemployment, and accepting a job that does not require a degree, can cost a young adult almost $400,000 in lost income over a 30-year career. College students need to start the job search earlier not later.

Today's incoming college students need to view their post-graduation job search as a four-year process that starts on Day 1 of the Freshman year. I call it the 4 Year Job Search Plan. The plan has specific activities mapped to each year and builds sequentially for each of the four years.

As you can see, the steps you take in each year of college are logical building blocks for the work and activities you will complete in the subsequent phases of your job search. As a Senior, if a college student follows this process, they will be in the best position possible to land the prize…a job offer before they graduate. And it all begins with a visit to that most important building on campus!

Dan Troup is the founder of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a certified career coach can assist you in your job search, please contact AdvantEdge Careers at:


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