Go to Your Local Community College for Professional Career Counseling

by Jeff Nardo

Which career is best for you? What job fits your interests and skills? Do you need help with your job search?

Are you feeling a little overwhelmed by the prospect of attending a big college or university or going back to school after being in the work force for 10 years? Do you want to stay in your community while getting a higher education and finding your first professional job?

The best place to look for help is in your own backyard—consider the career services office at your local community college. Did you know that a large number of cutting-edge, 21st-century careers require training that is available primarily at a community or technical college?

Your community college career services office has all the tools and resources to help you with career decision-making, education, and training options. Trained, experienced, and certified professionals on staff can help you in your career development and job search with:

*Career assessment surveys and software programs to help you learn about your interests, skills, values, personality and identify matching careers.
*Tons of information—books, magazines, pamphlets from professional associations—on just about any career, plus referrals to professionals in the local community to talk to in depth about a career field of interest.
*Help with finding part-time jobs that will allow you to explore a career first-hand. You can "try 'em on" before you "buy 'em."
*Assistance in locating other schools that offer the training and education options for careers you are interested in.
*Individual and online counseling to help you put together job-search materials. We'll show you how to write a competitive resume and cover letters.
*Information about local job fairs.
*Information on employers in your hometown. Career services professionals work year round with local employers and over time have developed great relationships with them. Community college career professionals understand local employers' unique hiring needs and employers generally trust the career counselors to refer the right individuals for job openings. A talk with your community college career services professional may give you the "inside track" needed to land a job interview!
*Lists of job openings, particularly those in your hometown—ideal if it is important for you to stay close to home.
*Up-to-date labor market information, including hiring trends, local salary information, and details on new businesses/industries moving into the area.
*Contacts at agencies in your community that provide financial assistance to job seekers.
The key is: your local community college staff knows community members and employers, and as a result can provide you with good, solid advice.

There has to be a catch, right? You're required to sign a contract or pay a large fee up front. Right? Not so!

Most community colleges offer all these services for free. Some may charge for career assessment/testing if you are not a currently enrolled student. Check with your school's career services office for details.

Trained career counselors on the community college staff can help you figure out what career is best for you and how to become qualified for an entry-level job. Your community college career center can help you identify careers that require:

*a few months of training, which is often provided by the school at low cost. This training is great if you are considering enhancing your skills to become more competitive in your current career field. It is also beneficial if you are considering a career change and would like to "sample" training needed for the career field.
*a year of training in a diploma or certificate program often provided by the school.
*a two-year associate in applied science degree, designed to qualify you for entry into a profession upon graduation.
*a two-year college transfer degree designed to get you into the third year of studies toward a bachelor's degree. Many community colleges have agreements with local colleges and universities near your hometown, which make it easier and more convenient for you to transfer into 4-year degree programs.

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