Talking to your student about career goals


Your student’s college adventure is just beginning. They’re probably aware of how much time and learning stands between them and the career of their dreams — but did you know that they can start building an amazing resume right now

Whether they already know what their dream job is or not, there are steps your student can take today to gain an advantage when it comes to landing the perfect career.

Begin taking action

It’s common for incoming college students to think they aren’t ready to go searching for a career as a college freshman. After all, they might have just started learning about the field of study they want to enter. Or maybe they’re not 100% sure exactly what they want to pursue as a career for the rest of their life, it’s pretty reasonable for your student to think “I’m not ready yet” or “I’ll figure that out later.” The problem is that this line of thinking might be preventing them from seeing all the incredible opportunities right in front of them.

There are tons of resume-building experiences they can get involved in such as participating in research, completing internships, student employment, working in a startup or with a professor on a professional side project — just to name a few.

They just have to commit to taking action before it feels like they’re ready.

The truth is, your student may never feel ready to do the things that excite them until they start doing them, so encourage them to avoid the trap of thinking they aren’t ready to do great and challenging things just because they haven’t graduated from college yet. They’re probably more ready than they think.

Tell your story

A common roadblock for recent graduates is finding job postings that require years of work experience just to apply, even if the job is supposed to be "entry-level.” Engaging in the right activities while in college is one solution to this paradox.

How your student spends their time in college, both inside and outside the classroom, is the story they'll get to tell potential employers, investors or clients when they leave college. People hire talented people — not degrees and GPAs. In fact, it’s the kind of “experience” employers are looking for.

The good news is that your student won’t have to look far to find outlets for developing their skills and talents, and more often than not, a few outlets will find them. That’s why we recommend pursuing multiple paths of engagement while in school — your student will have a much better story to tell at the end.

Do the gut check

As they start to weigh their options, they should keep these questions in mind to help them determine whether they’re signing up for the right thing:

  • Do I want to do this? Your student should ask whether this new opportunity is something they actually want to do, because it’ll be difficult to maintain their motivation and performance if they don’t.

  • Can I make this work? Logistically, financially, emotionally, all of the above. Adding something new to your student’s life will affect everything else. They might have to drop or shift other commitments to add something new.

  • Will I learn something valuable doing this? Your student should look for opportunities to grow as a person, gain a skill (ideally one that’s in line with the career they want), or meet people with experience or skills that can aid in their growth.

Reach out for help

The next few years are going to be so much more than just academics for your student. Fortunately there are ways they can add valuable experience to their resume while still in school.

With so many choices, university career and professional development services can be especially useful to your student. They can help identify career options that are right for your student, and then help them find opportunities for building the experience they'll need along the way — even if they’re not sure what kind of job they’re looking for.

But your student should keep in mind that if they’re planning on waiting until their junior or senior year to start seriously pursuing a dream career, they might be missing out on valuable experience. Now is really the time to start taking action. Your student is already someone who can overcome challenges as well as someone who can learn — that’s how they got to college, after all.

Your student’s college chapter is an extension of all that, in which they get to keep choosing what they focus their time and abilities on.


Bryan Custer is an assistant director for Career and Professional Development Services at ASU, and holds a Master of Science in higher education

Michelle Duah is a writer and collaborator for ASU