What kind of help can college students get from their campus career center?
Functionally, at the heart of any career center are counseling services. The career center is your opportunity to talk to a counselor (an objective and non-judgmental person) about your future, specifically what you plan to do for a career. The three ways most centers connect students and counselors are 1-on-1 counseling sessions that are about an hour long, "drop-in" style appointments which require no advanced sign-up and are usually 10 to 15 minutes, and workshops on almost every career development topic imaginable.
Topically speaking, I tend to think of career centers as providing two main services, each with many subsections. The two categories are
- finding a job
- applying to graduate school.
The first topic, finding a job, is very broad and includes a wide range of information and activities. If you are a freshman or sophomore, it could mean researching majors ("I want to work in publishing. Should I major in English or Communications?") and career fields ("What is a Copy Editor?"). On the other end, if you are a junior or senior, it could mean finding an internship or attending workshops on résumé writing or successful interviewing. Regarding graduate school, the career center can help with every aspect from deciding whether or not grad school is right for you, how to ask for letters of recommendation, and proofreading your personal statement.
What percentage of students actually take advantage of those resources? If the number is low, why do you think that is?
This number varies greatly from school to school but somewhere around 25% (+/- 5%) is a safe bet. Why this is, is the case is a subject of much speculation. I suggest (take it or leave it) two reasons. First, students are simply trying to survive in the present. Freshman year, students are so (legitimately) bogged down with learning how to be away from home, how to study, and even how to do their own laundry, thinking about the next step is not even on the radar. Before you know it, it's senior year and students are skidding around the corner coming in at the last minute. Second, career centers are filled with old-timers (I'm probably a good example…) who are severely out of touch with students and have no idea what is hip or exciting to students. The marketing and advertising is bland, boring, and I believe more detrimental than appealing. Most students I have worked with were very hesitant to come in but thought it was fantastic once they did.
How is helping students find jobs in publishing different than, say, people who want to be engineers?
In my experience, working with students that have very practical and "obvious career path majors" such as engineer more or less just want the basics of job hunting. "Help me with my résumé and tell me what to expect in the interview." Liberal arts careers, which would include publishing, not only have the practical job search concerns but several added stresses. These include but are not limited to, learning to convey how your major has prepared you for the job (since it is not always obvious) and also convincing mom and dad that "writing" is a legitimate career path and that, yes, you will make enough money to survive. Career counseling is a perfect solution for tackling these more theoretical challenges of job searching.
Do you have any tips for finding internships and entry-level jobs in publishing?
There is an old military saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going and when it gets too tough for everyone else, it's just about right for me." I think, in the beginning at least, gaining the privilege of working with words requires this as the kind of mindset and dedication.
Obviously, there are many different careers within the field of publishing (writer, agent, editor, etc., etc.) but I don't think anybody can go too far wrong by writing every chance they get and working or even volunteering in the industry as soon as possible. If you are on a college campus, you better be doing something with the school paper and at least one other publication on campus. They exist and they need help. You have no excuse. Get a portfolio of your best writing samples together, get active, and talk to people in the industry.
You've worked on both coasts (at Berkeley and UCLA, and at MIT and UMass). Which one seems to have more publishing opportunities?
Although I did read that the city where I work, Berkeley, CA, has the most independent book sellers of any city in the nation, I think it's hard to beat the corridor of cities between Boston to D.C. Just New York City alone is rampant with publishing related opportunities. Like Sinatra said, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
Anything else you'd like to add?
If your school's career center offers career guides by Vault, Wetfeet Press or Hoovers, use them. They are phenomenal resources for learning more about careers. O*NET and the Occupational Outlook Handbook are also good resources.