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By Jeff Jenkins, NCA senior assistant director and career counselor, serving students in the School of Communication, Weinberg, Bienen and School of Professional Studies.

JeffYour first year at NU is a time filled with new experiences. Some first time experiences may include: Your first NU football game; your first quarter classes and finals; and your first meeting with an academic advisor to talk about questions you may have about your major. As you settle in on campus, make career planning one of those first experiences.

Why would you come to an office called Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA)? Isn’t NCA just for students far along in their college career? Here are five reasons why you should visit us during your first year on campus.

First, many students come to campus undecided about what major to choose. Even if you have declared something upon admission, once you’ve taken classes, you may wonder if the major is “right” for you. This can be a good time to assess and consider what options are open to you. Meeting with a career counselor will help guide you to better understand your interests, values and skills and help you ask yourself important questions to start your journey.

A second reason to meet with NCA is to help you explore your options. Now that you’ve learned more about yourself, explore by taking different classes in diverse majors and minors. You may discover new academic areas you had not considered. Furthering your exploration may lead to questions about careers. A career counselor may suggest exploring your interests through student organizations, on-campus work or volunteering. Not only will you be exploring interests but you will be gaining new skills. This may lead to another question, what to do this summer?

Through working with an NCA (counselor/adviser) we can help you decide what will be a good first step for your summer. This is the third reason to engage with NCA. Maybe you are exploring options such as research, study abroad, part-time work, or an internship. NCA can help clarify your options and create a plan.

Now that you have created a plan, a fourth reason to engage with NCA is to act on your decision to gain experience.  There is a continuum of experience and most students are familiar with only internships. However, you can gain experience through a variety of opportunities.  Some examples include informational interviewing and job shadowing. Informational interviewing involves locating professionals in an area of career interest and asking questions related to various aspects of their experience. Job shadow experiences (like NEXT), allow you to make arrangements to observe and interact with a professional in a field of interest for a specified amount of time. NCA can provide you with a list of questions to ask, as well as help connect you with alumni.

Finally, a fifth reason to visit NCA, is for guidance on how to convert your H.S. resume to a college resume, as well as to receive feedback regarding your on-line profile(s). Reflect on the classes you’ve taken. Think about involvement in student organizations, volunteering, Dance Marathon, and so forth. All of these activities are examples of what you can include on your resume.

NCA will help you create a plan as you move forward during your time at NU and beyond. We welcome you to make an appointment to meet your career counselor or adviser and get started.