College career centers and local libraries can provide job seekers with a variety of information and services. College career centers usually serve only current students and recent graduates of that institution. Local public libraries provide support to the general public and are vital for job seekers who need Internet access in order to take advantage of online resources. According to the American Library Association, 92 percent of public libraries in the United States provided job seeking support and resources in 2012.
Both career centers and libraries can help the job seeker with everything from job listings and job fairs to information about companies, recruiters, careers, and job training. College career centers often sponsor events such as résumé -writing workshops and interview practice sessions. Personnel at both facilities are specially trained to provide assistance, support, and guidance in many other job research-related areas as well.
Since the first public library was founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia, they have been lending books and providing information to the general public free of charge. By the late twentieth century, libraries were expanding beyond their traditional book-lending services to include more community-support programs, such as homework help for students, English language instruction for non-English speakers, computer and Internet access, and job-hunting resources. During the worldwide recession that began in 2008, which resulted in the loss of millions of jobs, libraries saw an influx of patrons requiring job search support. As a result many libraries began expanding their career-related services, computer literacy and research skill classes, and other offerings. The approximately 16,000 U.S. public libraries continued this mission in subsequent years.
College career centers offer a wealth of support and guidance. Their goal is to help current students and recent graduates gain and hone the skills needed to conduct a job search that leads to the type of employment they want. These centers are staffed with trained career counselors, and their services are usually covered by tuition or campus fees. However, some career center seminars and online information can be accessed by anyone, sometimes for free.
For many student job seekers using college career centers, a starting point is taking assessment and aptitude tests, which help them better understand their interests and skills so they can make better career decisions. College career centers also offer seminars, classes, videos, and podcasts on many job search-related topics, such as practical job skills, résumé development, interviewing skills, and how to create a brand on social media. Most college career centers focus on internships, parttime, temporary, and summer jobs for students, and full-time entry level positions for students and recent graduates. These jobs may be with
businesses, various government entities, or nonprofit organizations. A college career center is probably not the best resource for someone who is making a midcareer transition or who has extensive experience in his or her field.
The counselors at college career centers develop relationships with local employers and recruiters to better serve their job-seeking clients. When recruiters and employers make campus visits, college career centers arrange and publicize information sessions and other events to attract job seekers. College career centers also offer job fairs, both physical and virtual, to facilitate networking. The centers play an active role in organizing these events, inviting many organizations who are interested in hiring entry-level employees or interns. Sometimes these job fairs are open to people who are not affiliated with the college or university, especially if they take place at a community college.
As social media and technology evolved in the early twenty-first century, so did college career centers. Job postings are often available on social media in addition to databases and job banks, and there is an ever increasing emphasis on interview training via Skype, since this type of virtual interviewing is becoming more common. College career centers also include more information on their websites, such as how to dress for interviews, submit résumés and apply online, and how to write an effective profile on the business networking website LinkedIn. Virtual mentoring relationships with alumni are also becoming more common and are sometimes fostered by using LinkedIn as a means of communication.
The mission of local public libraries is to serve their communities, and many libraries are increasingly focused on assisting job seekers. For example, in 2009 the State Library of North Carolina trained hundreds of librarians at its nine locations in job search-related functions so they could better connect library patrons with employers. Such libraries focus on offering job seekers access to online job databases and resources, related technology training, and help applying for jobs online.
One of the library's most important functions is to provide Internet access for job seekers who do not have it at home so they can improve their computer skills, access job listings, and correspond with employers via e-mail and social media. An American Library Association study published in American Libraries found that, between 2011 and 2012, the public demand for digital training and technology classes grew by 36 percent. The same study showed that the demand for online access at libraries grew by 60 percent. For many job seekers, libraries are the only free Internet access they have.
Like college career centers, local libraries may also offer job seekers classes, seminars, and programs on résumé and cover-letter writing, interviewing, networking, and other job search skills. Some provide continuing-education classes to improve a job seeker's marketable skills. Additionally, libraries host job-search workshops, sometimes monthly or quarterly, which offer one-on-one assistance with a job seeker's specific job search-related issues. Job clubs can also be found at local libraries to provide job seekers with support, assistance, and advice regarding their job search. Many libraries partner with local workforce-development organizations to offer such programs.
College career centers offer many resources and the assistance of professional career counselors. These counselors are trained personnel who can help job seekers assess their own strengths and weaknesses, evaluate their goals and values, and determine what they want in a career. Because the amount of information available to job seekers can be overwhelming, these professionals can assist students with information overload and help them narrow their search. College career centers are designed to serve as a connection between student job seekers and employers, and they often have the benefit of a strong relationship with local employers.
However, there are several drawbacks to using a college career center. Access is usually limited to current students or recent graduates. After graduation, the time in which the physical center can be used is limited, though some online resources might be open to the general public. Also, the jobs advertised at college career centers focus on entry-level positions. Therefore, the jobs are often of limited interest to a job seeker doing a mid-career job search, which may include graduate students at the institution or others returning to school after a long absence.
Public libraries are dedicated to helping job seekers in many ways, and librarians are trained to help patrons effectively research jobs and careers. Most job-related services at public libraries are free of cost to the job seeker.
However, local libraries also have many other functions and commitments to other patrons and the wider community. This means that personnel are not always available to provide personalized assistance. Also, libraries vary in the extent of their resources for job seekers; libraries in smaller communities will likely have fewer resources than those in larger towns and cities. Proof of residency is often required to access services, so job seekers may be restricted to the library in their town. Additionally, patrons should be aware that computer time can be limited to two or three hours per day due to high demand. This time limit can be more than what is available at a workforce center, however, and most libraries do offer free Wi-Fi for those with their own laptops, smart-phones, or tablets.
Once you have gathered research and leads at a college career center or the local library, you are ready to organize and conduct your job search. Any skills you have obtained through classes and seminars are now put to work as you approach companies, recruiters, employment agencies, and job fairs with confidence. The first steps toward building networking relationships may also have been facilitated through your experience at college career centers and local libraries.
In addition to writing a résumé, composing cover letters, and obtaining references, you should also be ready to fill out online job applications. You should be prepared to regularly check e-mails and phone messages and respond to requests for further information or interviews as quickly as possible. If you are using a local library for your job search, this means accessing the Internet there daily or every other day. Practice sessions and videos available at both college career centers and local libraries can help you prepare for interviews that come as a result of the job applications.