The first thing to know about CMU's Career Services is that students should head there sooner than they think.
"We start communicating with students as soon as they're accepted," says Julia Sherlock, director of Career Services. "There's a lot we offer. They might need help making sense of it all."
But first things first, Sherlock says.
"The most valuable thing for students is to know who they are," she says. "Take some self-assessment tests, discover your interests. This early work is the most valuable thing of all."
Assessments can help students zone in on their interests — Teaching? Helping? Business? — and match that to one of the 150 majors CMU offers. A variety of career assessment tests can help clarify interests, abilities and values.
"Job fairs are wonderful," Sherlock says, "but the problem is, students get there and they can't articulate their own value to these potential employers."
Career Services can help.
Career Services helps students with everything from practicing their elevator pitches to exercising proper dining etiquette and refining their job interview skills.
"You develop competency by practicing," Sherlock says. "And there's lots of opportunity here. It's a safe learning environment to develop your skills."
Career Services also is a first stop for students pursuing internships. CMU offers a host of help for students interested in internships. Sometimes a student's academic program requires an internship. In that case, program advisors can help find placements.
"An internship helps a student affirm what they want to go into — or helps them realize they don't want to pursue that as a career," Sherlock says. "Better to find that out sooner than later."
Career Services uses a system called Handshake to post all available internships, as well as job opportunities and job fairs on campus. Students receive a Handshake account as soon as they're accepted to CMU, so they can start their career development on day one.
"An internship helps you understand the language of the profession, how your skills are marketable, how skills and salary work together," Sherlock says. "A lot of networking goes on, both formally and informally."
Career Services doesn't end with graduation. Alumni are welcome, too.
"Our relationship continues throughout your life," Sherlock says. "That's the commitment Central makes. Even though you've been out in the workforce for 10 years, you might need to come back for some self clarity or to re-tool."
Parents should encourage students to visit Career Services sooner rather than later, Sherlock says.
"Have a conversation with your student," she says. "Encourage them to explore."