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On Dec. 15, National Public Radio (NPR) broadcasted that, “Students who get better career guidance remember college more fondly. This observation was based on a Gallup-Purdue index survey of more than 11,000 students.

Graduates who reported their career services department was “very helpful” were 5.8 times more likely to say the school prepared them for life, 3.4 times more likely to recommend the school, and 2.6 times more likely to donate than those who found their alma mater “not at all helpful.”

Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup’s Education and Workforce Development, commented that these results tell universities that they clearly need to support their student base with career coaching as early in the college process as possible.

The thinking is sound. The time to begin asking yourself where you want to see yourself 2-3 years after graduating is before you even matriculate into the school. Whenever you visit a campus of interest, you should head over to the career services center and talk with people in that office about internships, resume help, career planning and interview preparation. You want to get a sense of what the center offers and how it works with students from all majors within the school.

I’ll take this even a step further: If you don’t know the location of the career services center on campus, ask some students where it is. If they do not know, you are likely not to get the attention you and your career need to make the most of your given talents. Certainly it’s a given that high graduation rates, a reputation for rigorous academics, and strong alumni networks helps, but all these elements need to be orchestrated to your specific advantage, and you need a Career Services office to do the conducting.

You can find lists of the top ten college career services in College Magazine, and Princeton Review. Names on the top 10 include Princeton, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, MIT, Barnard, Purdue, Penn State, Claremont McKenna, Bentley (MA) and Northeastern (MA). In fact, Northeastern is #2 in Princeton Review and #1 in College Magazine: such a performance warrants examination.

Northeastern is located in Boston, a true urban university with a campus feel. The campus has become ever more competitive with outstanding programs in engineering, health sciences, business and a fabulous bachelor of architecture program. What put it truly on the map, however, was its coop program in which students take up to three six-month periods to work in companies closely allied to the student’s major or interest.

What students note upon joining the campus with its 17,000 undergraduates is on the first day the school lets you know that what you do and how you contribute will affect your resume, and that is important to marketing your most valuable asset, yourself. While this might seem a little over the top, obviously Northeastern understands the value of career services, beyond its physical location on campus.

After acquainting yourself with the career development office, you are offered VIPS: value, interests, personality, and skills. Step in or login and learn about majors and careers; writing resumes and cover letters; interviewing for internships, coops, and full time jobs; how to network and negotiate salaries; and, how to connect with employers through career fairs, on-campus recruiting and even employer-in-residence. Unbelievably, this is only a partial list.

What caught my eye and made an indelible impression was this message to all students who enter the Northeastern gates: “Our services are available to you for free throughout your lifetime.” This makes sense when you consider happy, employed alumnae are 2.6 times more likely to donate to the school.

Taking responsibility for and assisting students in making a match with a career that is fulfilling is in all our interests. Having a vibrant, capable career services center to catalyze such matches is an essential element for any campus one might be considering for four years and a lifetime afterwards.

Ralph Becker, founder of Ivy College Prep, LLC (www.ivycollegeprep.net) and a resident of Long Beach, has been counseling students for the last 11 years. A former Yale Alumni interviewer, he holds a certificate in college counseling from UCLA Extension, and has published SAT* Vocab 800. rbecker@ivycollegeprep.net.

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