Many families will spend somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 for their children’s college education. Most of those families consider this an investment in their child’s future, and with this investment they have an implicit expectation that their child will graduate from their chosen institution with an education that prepares them to enter the world of work capably and confidently. But will they have the necessary career development skills to make a successful transition to having a meaningful career from being a college student?

When a student applies to college, there are usually numerous qualified applicants for each of the openings available. To secure one of those available spots, prospective students spend a great deal of time and energy preparing for tests, performing community services and writing essays. Acquiring a position of employment that corresponds to your child’s education, qualifications and passions requires at least as much preparation and effort as it does to get into a sought-after college or university. Landing a desirable job doesn’t usually happen by accident. If a student waits until the last term before graduation to begin the process of finding employment, he or she is forfeiting much of the advantage that comes with attending a respected educational institution.

Much like an educational consultant helps a student get into a selective college, a career consultant assists with the process of acquiring desirable employment. A career consultant can not guarantee what job a graduate will obtain, but the consultant can provide the guidance, structure and accountability that will significantly enhance the probability of finding a suitable match. Beginning this process early in a student’s college experience greatly enhances the opportunities that will be available to a collegiate. Working with a career consultant will help students maximize their available resources and explore the world of possibilities that lies before them.

Today’s college graduates face a dramatically different environment than we did. There is no longer an expectation that an individual will work for one company or even in one industry for the duration of his or her career. Today’s college graduates can expect to change employers as often as every four to five years and may have just as many distinct career changes. To succeed in this environment, a person must have a commitment to being a lifelong learner; staying informed about the world around them and acquiring the career development skills necessary to effectively manage their transitions.

I recently heard a college professor say, “A college education should prepare students not for their first career but their last.” The implication being that a quality education gives a student a foundation capable of sustaining a lifetime of growth and change. For many of the young people entering college today, their first careers don’t even exist yet and their last career will likely be based on some technology that now is only a spark in someone’s imagination.

As the parent of a child embarking on that college adventure it is clear that the skills necessary for effectively managing transitions will be essential to her long-term success and satisfaction in both work and life. Acquiring the knowledge and skills to do that is a vital part of the college experience that can be greatly enhanced by working with a career consultant.

— Michelle Brenner has a master’s degree in career counseling and professional development. She lives with her family in Santa Barbara and can be contacted at or 805.689.9685.