Should A Visit to My Career Services Advisor Empower Me or Humiliate Me?
You've been preselected to apply for a special summer internship program..."
The words jumped off the page and my heart skipped a beat. As a sophomore in college, I knew it was high time for me to figure out summer opportunities. When I received the good news, I started prepping my resume and cover letter and planning my professional outfit.
The day of my interview came and went, and I nailed it. At least, I thought I did. Weeks went by with no word until I realized I was not selected to advance to the next level of interviews. Thanks to some other exciting internships that came my way, I was not that upset. At the same time, I felt prompted to follow up and receive feedback on my resume and interview, in order to improve upon my marketability in the future.
1. Constructive Criticism vs. Meanness
The Career Services professional who met with me made me feel like @#$*
I am a writer and therefore understand the process of editing and revisions. I appreciate that things need to be fixed, tweaked, and re-done. However, there is a fine line between constructive criticism and plain old meanness. The way in which my critiques were explained to me were very unkind. I was told that "I bombed" the interview without good reason. I was also told that I was not dressed well for that "feedback day" (I was unaware that I was expected to be in professional attire for the casually-scheduled "feedback day"). What is "professional attire" anyway? And does it not depend on the kind of job environment for which one is looking?
When I explained that I was mulling exciting summer offers from two fashion magazines, this person said it was "very surprising" that I would have received any offers, given the format of my resume — I had committed the crime of putting my name in the upper-left hand corner of the page instead of the center. Furthermore, I was told that the content of my resume was "completely unnecessary and irrelevant" in areas. You see, I trained in pre-professional ballet programs for most of my life and it's an important element in my education, experience, and identity. I believe my dance background is, in part, what makes me unique. This person felt that the dance element was completely "useless," another word used over and over during our encounter.
I realize that Career Services helps students prepare for "the harsh, real world" but at what cost to the confidence of the student? Does the center not exist to encourage students and help each find their strengths and a future career that plays to those strengths? It is in the interest of the university to have Career Services help ALL students do well, not just the cookie-cutter ones grooming themselves for a career in business or finance.
2. Useful Tips Learned - Body Language and Customization of Resume
I did learn that my body language was off-putting. I was given blunt, but useful critiques on my sitting posture. Apparently, my crossed legs gave off the impression that I was closed off to this advisor. Additionally, my eye-contact was poor, making me appear "distracted." In my defense, I was looking down taking notes on everything the person was saying, but this individual still used it to critique me. No slack allowed. The advisor told me to "just forget it" when I explained that I am usually very good about eye-contact. People who know me describe me as "kind and considerate." This person continued to brush ME off as rude, when I felt that the advisor was the rude one.
I also did learn that I could tailor my resume more accurately to EACH potential employer. Concretely, I received helpful tips on the use of bullet points under each example of my "work experience" on my resume.
3. Conclusion - I am the Architect of My Future Career
I sought out my University's Career Services in order to enlist support and make use of talent and resources available to me. Instead, what I found was a very narrow-minded approach to what makes a student seem ready for the "professional" world. On my own, I garnered two great offers for the upcoming season and both prospective employers described me as seemingly "determined, well-organized, and a hard worker" in their acceptance correspondence.
So, if Career Services does its job and helps you land the job of your dreams or even just builds your confidence, I applaud them and you. However, if you ever have a not-so-great meeting and leave feeling despondent and slashed at the ankles, do not give up. Hold your head high and follow your gut. We do not all fit the same mold for the same type of job. Shame on anyone in an advising capacity who is so parochial and conventional that they cannot see the evolving job-scape.