I am relatively new to Career Counseling having previously been an academic advisor. It is a change that took a while to get used to. On the academic side, students must see advisors to get certain things done at a University: change their major, register for classes for the first time, drop a class after a certain point in the semester, and most importantly graduate. That is not the case for career counselors. At my university, and I would guess at many others, seeing a career counselor is not required (though students often lose access to career online systems here if they do not interact at least once with a career counselor). My point is that career counselors are more like consultants than other university employees. Students don’t have to see us, and the ones that do have no requirement to take our advice. Many students seem to believe the exact opposite. I overheard a second year MBA tell a new first year “You don’t need to see a career counselor unless you fail at finding a job on your own.” In fact, as many of you know, what I am finding is that the successful students are the ones that have seen us the most.
One aspect of career counseling really has amazed me though. Networking is absolutely essential to a successful internship and / or job search. There is absolutely no way around it. I have seen very smart and capable students left on the sidelines because they just will not network. The really great part is that networking can be accomplished so easily now via tools like LinkedIn that there is little reason why students can’t do it. Even the most timid wallflowers can build a solid network through their peers. Which is why I am very puzzled when I see students with no LinkedIn profile at all or a profile with almost no contacts.
While I don’t want this to come across as an ad for LinkedIn, students in essence force themselves into a much harder job search process by not using this website to network. For example, I have found that the “hidden job market” that so many people speak of is not as hidden when you have an effective network on LinkedIn. Another example is that overseas jobs are far easier to find via the LinkedIn jobs network than in many other realms; even when compared to job sites that are specifically tailored to that market. This is an extra avenue for a lot of students, especially those that may not get lucky in the lottery that is the H1B Visa process.
I will be the first to admit that the job market isn’t fair, especially for international students. Since that is out of the way, the best way to level the playing field is for the student to get as many people on their team as possible helping with the job search via their network. Simply put, students have a choice: Networking or NOT Working.
MBA Career Development Specialist
Rockwell Career Center, C. T. Bauer College of Business
University of Houston