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My family recently spent an afternoon on the campus of my alma mater, Miami University.  It was a beautiful day, a great opportunity to show the kids where Daddy spent a few years of his life and a chance to check out all the recent changes on campus.  A personal highlight was giving the girls a quick peek inside my freshman dorm room thanks to some lucky timing and the kindness of some campus facilities personnel.

Our visit was just a few days ahead of freshman move-in day which got me thinking about the number of clients we work with who have college-aged children or grandchildren and the packing and moving they had in front of them over the next several weeks.  I hope it has all gone as smoothly as possible for you and your families.

I tell that story because now that your loved one is successfully off to school, it’s only natural to wonder how they’re adjusting, what they’re doing and when they might need a gentle nudges or some friendly advice.  They need room to grow and learn their own lessons, and while we don’t want to smother, sending some occasional wisdom from home is only natural.

If you do feel compelled to call…actually who am I kidding, they probably won’t answer their phones.  But, if you feel compelled to e-mail, text, Facebook or Tweet the college student in your life, skip the typical reminders to study and go to class and go for something that might get their attention.  Offer a suggestion that they start hanging out at a campus facility they may not know exists, but could make this whole college experience really pay off.

It’s not the library.

It’s not the gym.

It’s not the dining hall.

It’s the Career Services building.

It goes by different names at different institutions, but Career Services is often one of the more under-utilized tools on a college campus.  While learning to be a critical thinker, a good citizen and an all around contributing member of society are important pieces of a good college education, most students are ultimately in school to earn a degree in their chosen field that will lead to a career.  With rising tuition and increasing student debt loads, maximizing available assistance with resumé and interviewing skills, internship placement and connections to job leads carry more importance than ever.

Colleges identify the demand for this resource, and a recent Money magazine article indicates they’re putting their money where their mouth is.  The article cites a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) study illustrating a trend in colleges beefing up career services budgets.  And while resources are increasing, heavy workloads still face career services staffers, making it all the more important that they get to know your student as early as possible and begin working with them on understanding where they want to go, what internships might be available, and how they can best set themselves up to attract ideal employers.

Hanging around, asking smart questions and getting to work on your future goals early will lead to career service staff remembering you.  Sometimes being that face or name that a staffer remembers when an opportunity crosses their desks is a key factor in getting a foot in the door.  That foot in the door can be crucial to long term success.  According to the same NACE study, few undergraduates find a job through on-campus recruiting, but roughly a quarter of internships lead directly to full-time job offers.

Wherever your loved ones might be in their educational experience, make sure they’re on a first name basis with whatever career resources are available to them.  Beyond the value of their education and the life lessons that college can provide, these resources can serve as an invaluable bridge between school and life.