Prior to 2008, the college career center was an office on campus that you didn't worry much about until your late junior or early senior year. You would apply to a few companies (or graduate schools if you wanted to continue to study), they would hire you, and then spend the next one to two years training you for their your role with their company.
That changed with the market crash of 2008. At that point, companies were looking to cut their costs and expected college graduates to already have many of skills they required. As competition grew to recruit students with more developed skills, companies began to expand their internship programs. This gave students an opportunity to learn and develop new skills. Graduate schools followed suit with similar assumptions, and by 2012, there were increasing expectations from both employers and graduate schools that students should have relevant work experiences and could apply their learning outside the confines of the classroom.
What this Means for Today's Students
Consequently, there is much greater emphasis placed on the specific skills and experiences students bring to the employer or graduate school; simply having the bachelor’s degree is no longer enough! Career centers have responded by creating programs that help students:
- explore careers and network with alumni sooner
- develop and articulate the skills that employers want
- apply the knowledge that they have gained to real-world situations outside the classroom
This means that the earlier students connect with their career center on campus, the more successful they will be transitioning to their first job or graduate school.
Colleges and Career Centers Respond to the Challenge
To meet that new expectations in an organized fashion, college career centers have started to divide their programming and opportunities for each year of the college experience. First and second year programming is centered around career exploration, resume preparation, and networking. Sophomore and junior year programming helps students connect with internships and other real-world learning opportunities relevant to the students area of interest. If graduate school is in a student's future, a beginning exploration of possible schools and their entrance requirements should also be examined at this time.
If these things are done well, the senior year is one in which the student chooses one of several good options that lead them towards an intended career path. In addition to this year by year programming, college career centers are also working much closer with their faculty colleagues to help realign the curriculum to help create positive career outcomes for students.