Getting the Most out of Career Services

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Career advising at Colgate offers students individualized guidance and support. Encouraging students to actively develop a relationship with one of our professional career advisers is a great way for parents and family members to support their students. Here’s how career advising works at Colgate and how you can help.

Most students enter Colgate without a clear sense of the range of career paths, how different industries and roles leverage different skills and interests, or even how to investigate the realities of their options. Colgate’s Career Services advisers are excited to help first-year and sophomore students get started on identifying and exploring career interests, researching opportunities, building networks, and preparing application materials such as resumes, cover letters, etc. Advisers can help juniors and seniors to narrow down career interests, identify meaningful networking contacts, find opportunities to gain experience, prepare targeted application materials, prepare for interviews, negotiate acceptances and salaries, and more. 

Winter break is just around the corner — a great time to have conversations about the career exploration process. Here are some suggestions for supporting your student in this journey. 

Start with quick and easy wins

Your student is going to feel better about engaging in this process if they feel like they have some momentum going into it. Here are a few warm-up questions and steps you can start on: 

Does your student know where Benton Hall is located? Have they had a chance to cruise through the building or attend an event there? Even if it is through passive observation, seeing how we engage in the space can be a good start. 

Is your student reading our weekly emails? We know they are used to social media soundbites (they can also follow our Facebook page and Twitter feed); however, we package the comprehensive list of weekly programs, events, employer and alumni-led sessions (all students are encouraged to attend), and internship/job deadlines in a class-year–specific digest. Truthfully, it’s a lot, but even skimming it will make sure they don’t miss important upcoming initiatives and deadlines. Plus, reading your email is a good professional skill to get used to, don’t you think?


If they haven’t already, encourage your student to schedule a one-on-one appointment with one of our career advisers. Career advising is a free resource at Colgate. Any adviser can help any student, but each adviser covers a distinct industry cluster, as well. Every industry has its nuances — for example, what time of year hiring happens, how important skill building is to an applicant’s competitiveness, is recruiting proactive or reactive, or whether graduate school is a necessity — and advisers stay current with industry trends, Colgate alumni in their fields, and our recruiting partners.  

Students can stop by Benton Hall or call the office at 315-228-7380 to schedule with an adviser. We can  even connect with students over the phone or via video call while they are away from campus.

Before meeting with a career adviser, the best thing for students to focus on is what they would like to get out of their appointment. Suggest that they jot down some notes to bring to the meeting, pondering the following questions: 

  • Who are you? What makes you tick, and what aspects of your identity are important to you? (The more we can get to know the student, the more we can help them.)
  • How have you spent your time at Colgate thus far? What subjects do you enjoy studying (or not), and why? First-years will likely reach back to high school experiences, as well.
  • What types of extracurriculars have piqued your interest? Why and how? 
  • Are there career areas that you are curious about? (It is entirely normal for students to answer this with “not yet.”)
  • If you have experienced different work environments during summer jobs, job shadowing, or organizations you have encountered through school clubs, volunteer activities, the arts, athletics, etc., what  was appealing (or not) about the tasks, environment, people, and leaders that you saw?
  • What questions do you have? (Career advisers can help students tackle specific — or general — questions together.) 
  • Do you have some goals in mind that you need help to plan? Especially for younger students, this may be as simple as understanding how to find ways to get involved, becoming more familiar with our resources, or thinking about identifying one to three areas to explore.

How advising works

In one-on-one meetings, our advisers start by getting to know each student and then dive into helping them to explore their interests, develop self-understanding, identify their preferences and goals, and ultimately, to pursue opportunities. Our job is not to tell the student what they will be successful doing professionally. Rather, we can give them some ideas of starting points to explore that can fit their interests, strengths, values, and identities. We help students learn how to think critically and intentionally about their own process so they can make their own informed decisions in a prepared manner. 

This will not be an immediate fix, but a gradual, edifying process. In fact, we build relationships and plans with students throughout their four years, supporting their growth and their pivots. We take things step by step, and keep both industry timelines and students' plans, such as off-campus study, in mind. As you can imagine, the earlier a student starts in this process, the more time and space they will have to work through it. 

Our advisers make sure students leave each appointment with action steps that they can complete before their meeting. This often includes writing reflections and other work they will do independently and then bring back to the adviser for further discussion. The adviser will also help the student understand how quickly they should return for their next appointment.  

The student’s role

Any good outcome takes work to achieve. Finding and pursuing a path of purpose is no different, which is why we highly recommend that students start this process in their first year. That being said, we’ll meet a student where they are at any point in their time at Colgate (or beyond). Students should focus on dedicating adequate time to the work that the adviser will suggest, following their lead on where to focus their energy. It is also completely healthy for a student to admit they are unsure, don’t know where to start, or are stuck in how to move forward. Students can always schedule an appointment or stop in for a 15-minute quick question whenever they need help or feel stuck. 

The parent/family role

Parents and family members know their students far better than we do. You will know where to nudge and where pressure from you might become less productive for them. Follow these tips in conversations with your student.

Remember that you have the benefit of more work and life experience than your student.

Your student has likely not yet had the benefit of gaining the perspective that you might have from being part of multiple work environments, dealing with different bosses, or having to recover from a failure. This is the first time many students are encountering this process, and they need to build their own skills to move forward. 

Be patient with them. Share moments when you were unsure starting off, where you learned something about yourself in your own life, a job search, or another situation with a relatable lesson. Break down concepts you discuss into pieces they can relate to from their previous experience (not yours). And take any opportunity to empower them to build skills and a sense of agency rather than doing the work for them. They will thank you for it in the long run.  

Focus on understanding.

We find that the most productive conversations center on what your student is thinking about rather than focusing on achieving an outcome. Aim to understand where they are coming from, what they are worried about. Help them articulate where and how they are getting stuck. The outcome will happen if they stay the course and work through the process. The more practice a student gets in asking for help and realizing they don’t need to have all the answers, the more productive they will become in advising appointments, and in life. 

Ask open-ended questions.

Sometimes just the simple act of talking about their process helps students internalize what is working, and also brings clarity to what is not working. Ask questions like: What careers have you researched? What are you learning about the areas you are researching? How is it resonating with you? Have you had a chance to talk to people who do the things you are curious about? How did those conversations go? 

The more a student engages with the content of their exploration and verbalizes it, the more they process it. And, the more you will get a sense of whether they are putting time and energy into the necessary research it takes to move themselves forward, or if this a place they might need to dig in further. 

Encourage persistence and grit.

It’s most advantageous for students to connect with us early and often. If your student is not finding something exciting, remind them to come talk to us about that; we can help them through the hard work of pivoting in a new direction. Most Colgate students have been successful in many aspects of their lives. This may be one of the first times they feel lost or that they are not thriving. That is not going to feel great for them. Working through that vulnerability, accessing resources, and admitting they need help is a sign of maturity. In these moments, reminding them of places you see their strengths and potential is a great way to support them.

Our team will be sure your student knows how to use the resources that will be most relevant for their unique search, but we need them to be active partners in the process and use the services and resources offered to them. 

This is their journey.

It may be tempting to try to manage your student’s career exploration process; after all, they are busy with their coursework and extracurriculars. But it's important for their long-term success and ability to develop confidence in  their decision-making that they engage first-hand with this process. They need to absorb the information they are learning both from us and through their experiences. They are developing the skills that will propel them to success as first-time professionals. The best help you can provide is to encourage them to be an active partner in their journey. After all, they are worth it!

To stay up to date on programs and recruiting opportunities — we welcome you to subscribe to the weekly Career Services emails that your student receives.  

Teresa Olsen is assistant vice president and director of career services.