Parents and families
Your support matters.
We know that as a parent or family member, you often have a huge influence on your student’s career choice. At the same time, we know from talking with parents that you’re not always sure what advice to give or when to give it.
We’re here to help. VCU Career Services offers free career planning services to every VCU student. Your student’s personal career advisor can assist with:
- Choosing a career
- Picking a major
- Finding an internship
- Finding a full-time, part-time or Federal Work-Study job
- Developing resumes, cover letters and personal statements
- Preparing for interviews
- Developing portfolios/personal branding
We encourage you to be supportive, ask questions and offer advice from your own life experience. The National Association of Colleges and Employers offers tips for parents on how to support your student during their career development journey:
- Talk to your student about their plans for life after VCU and offer encouragement and support.
- Offer stories about your own career and the lessons that you learned.
- Encourage your student to get started on career planning by making an appointment with a career advisor.
- Have your student explore Handshake, VCU’s job, internship and career-planning event database.
Resources for families
Through individualized advising, programs and online resources, we strive to help students make informed and intentional career decisions. Our role is to function as an educational entity, rather than as an employment agency. We offer many different services to teach students to reflect on their skills and interests, develop job-search competence and become focused professionals with long-term career goals.
Career advising and assessment
We know that your student’s time at VCU will be one of excitement and personal growth. Our role in that process is to help your student define and achieve their career objectives. Our career advisors serve all undergraduate, graduate and first-professional students through individualized career assessment, planning and education. The School of Business and College of Engineering have specialized career centers available; however, students in those schools may utilize our services, as well. All of our services are free to VCU students.
We utilize an industry-focused model for career advising. Each advisor has expertise in major industry areas, including the arts, design, communications, media, education, human service, health care, government, public service and STEM fields.
Our advisors offer several career assessments to help students connect their strengths and personality to potential career paths. Students should make an appointment with an advisor to discuss taking an assessment.
Help your student find connections between major and career using major maps.
Every VCU student has access to Handshake, the university’s career development portal. With their personal account, students can search and apply for jobs, create a resume, make a career advising appointment or view a list of upcoming career events.
Students log in to their Handshake account using their VCU eID and password.
Programs and career fairs
VCU Career Services hosts more than 100 workshops and programs during each academic year. Programs and workshops offer students the opportunity to develop core career skills and network with employers about internship or career opportunities. A complete list of programs is available through your student’s Handshake account.
VCU hosts multiple career fairs each calendar year. Fairs are open to all students and alumni regardless of major or course of study. We encourage students to attend multiple career fairs as a way to explore potential career paths.
Job and internship search assistance
Our office’s purpose is to provide your student with the knowledge and skills to become effective job seekers and to prepare them for success at every stage of their career. We offer many programs and services to help your student develop smart skills throughout the job search lifecycle. Encourage your student to make a career advising appointment via Handshake.
As career advisors, we strongly encourage your student to get involved in as many experiential and leadership opportunities as are feasible. VCU offers numerous avenues for students to access those opportunities
- CareerTreks: CareerTreks are free career exploration “field trips” open to all VCU students.
- Living-learning communities: VCU offers several housing options that immerse students in leadership, global education, community service or innovation.
- Study abroad: The VCU Global Education Office has information on various VCU-sponsored study abroad programs.
- Internships: Your student’s career advisor can assist with an internship search.
- Volunteering: Connect your student to volunteer opportunities in the Richmond area.
- Research: The VCU Office of Research and Innovation offers many programs to allow your student to engage in research as an undergrad.
- Student organizations: With close to 500 student organizations on campus, there is something for every student's passion or interest. Learn more about student organizations through RamsConnect.
Suit Yourself professional clothing closet
Suit Yourself Closet offers free, gently used professional clothing and styling services to VCU students. In compliance with VCU safety protocols, VCU Career Services is not offering Suit Yourself Closet at this time. Please continue to check back for updates.
Professional headshot photos
In compliance with VCU safety protocols, VCU Career Services will not offer professional headshot photos at this time. See our at-home, step-by-step guide to create professional photographs at home.
A parent's guide to career development
By Thomas J. Denham and altered slightly by the VCU Career Services communications specialist
One of the most valuable things parents can do to help a student with career planning is listen: Be open to ideas, try to help your student find information and be nonjudgmental.
Here are 10 ways you can help:
1. Encourage your student to visit VCU Career Services.
Next time you visit campus, drop into the career services office and pick up a business card from one of the career advisors. When your student is feeling anxious about their future, offer the card and say, "Please call this person. They can help you." Many students use their first semester to "settle into" college life, and so perhaps the spring semester of the freshman year is the optimal time to start using career center services. And, it's a good time for you to prompt that first visit.
Ask your student (in an off-handed way), "Have you visited the career center?" If you hear, "You only go there when you are a senior," then it's time to reassure them that Career Services is not just for seniors, and meeting with a career counselor can take place at any point (and should take place frequently) in their college career. The sooner a student becomes familiar with the staff, resources, and programs, the better prepared they will be to make wise career decisions.
Many centers offer a full range of career development and job-search help that includes:
- Mock interviews
- A network of alumni willing to talk about their jobs and careers
- A library of books on a wide range of careers
- Workshops on writing resumes and cover letters
- A recruiting program
- Individual advising
2. Advise your student to write a resume.
Writing a resume can be a "reality test" and can help a student identify weak areas that require improvement. Suggest that your student get sample resumes from the career center, from books at the public library, or online. You can review resume drafts for grammar, spelling, and content, but recommend that the final product be critiqued by a career center professional.
3. Challenge your student to become "occupationally literate."
Ask: "Do you have any ideas about what you might want to do when you graduate?" If your student seems unsure, you can talk about personal qualities you see as talents and strengths. You can also recommend:
- Taking a "self-assessment inventory," such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Campbell Interest and Skill Survey at the career center
- Talking to favorite faculty members
- Researching a variety of interesting career fields and employers
A career decision should be a process and not a one-time, last-minute event. Discourage putting this decision off until senior year.
4. Allow your student to make the decision.
Even though it is helpful to ask occasionally about career plans, too much prodding can backfire.
- Myth: A student must major in something "practical" or marketable.
- Truth: Students should follow their own interests and passions.
- Myth: Picking your major means picking the career you will have forever.
- Truth: That's not true anymore. "Major" does not necessarily mean "career", and it is not unusual for a student to change majors. Many students change majors after gaining more information about specific fields of study and career fields of interest. Many students end up doing something very different than originally planned, so don't freak out when they come up with an outrageous or impractical career idea. Chances are plans will develop and change. It's okay to change majors—and careers.
It's okay to make suggestions about majors and career fields, but let your student be the ultimate judge of what's best.
Career development can be stressful. Maybe this is the first really big decision that your student has had to make. Be patient, sympathetic and understanding, even if you don't agree with your child's decisions.
5. Emphasize the importance of internships.
The career center will not place" your child in a job at graduation. Colleges grant degrees, but not job guarantees, so having relevant experience in this competitive job market is critical. Your student can sample career options by completing internships and experimenting with summer employment opportunities or volunteer work.
Why an internship?
- Employers are interested in communication, problem-solving, and administrative skills, which can be developed through internships.
- Employers look for experience on a student's resume and often hire from within their own internship programs.
- Having a high GPA is not enough.
- A strong letter of recommendation from an internship supervisor can often tip the scale of an important interview in their favor.
6. Encourage extracurricular involvement.
Part of experiencing college life is to be involved and active outside the classroom. Interpersonal and leadership skills—qualities valued by future employers—are often developed in extracurricular activities.
7. Persuade your student to stay up-to-date on current events.
Employers will expect students to know what is happening around them. Buy your student a subscription to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. When they are home on break, discuss major world and business issues.
8. Expose your student to the world of work.
Most students have a stereotypical view of the workplace. Take your child to your workplace. Explain to your student what you do for a living. Show them how to network by interacting with your own colleagues. Help your student identify potential employers.
9. Teach the value of networking.
Introduce your student to people who have careers/jobs that are of interest. Suggest your student contact people in your personal and professional networks for information on summer jobs. Encourage your student to shadow someone in the workplace to increase awareness of interesting career fields.
10. Help the career center.
Call your campus career center when you have a summer, part-time or full-time job opening. The staff will help you find a hard-working student. If your company hires interns, have the internships listed in the career center. Join the campus career center's career advisory network and use your "real world" experience to advise students of their career options, participate in a career panel or career-related workshop.
Copyright © National Association of Colleges and Employers
If you are in a recruiting role at your organization, we encourage you to partner with us. In addition to sharing your experiences with VCU students, you may be able to help shape their careers. Learn how to get involved as an employer.
When should my student begin to utilize Career Services at VCU?
As soon as possible. It is never too early for your student to take advantage of our services. Our staff can help students at any point of their professional development and career decision-making process, whether it's picking a major, searching for an internship, developing resumes and cover letters, what to do after graduation or finding a part-time job.
What can my student do with a political science/psychology/public relations/etc. major?
A student’s major does not necessarily dictate their career path! The average adult changes their career path three times in their lives. What is important to most employers is that applicants have the skills and experience they seek. Because coursework alone typically does not provide adequate career preparation, students should seek a variety of experiences OUTSIDE of the classroom to help them to develop transferable skills and build their network.
Career Services is a great resource to your student as they make this decision, and we invite you and your student to browse the career and industry pathways to learn more about major and industry-specific career paths.
How are career advisors and academic advisors different?
At VCU, career advisors and academic advisors have very different responsibilities. Your student’s academic advisor is trained in specifics around changing majors, degree requirements, coursework and other academic policies. They have the ability to assist your student with registering for classes and are knowledgeable about degree requirements.
While career advisors can assist your student in deciding what to major in, or what career path to pursue, we are not the experts on degree requirements and other academic policies at VCU. Career advisors and academic advisors at VCU often work in collaboration because academic and career decisions are often very closely intertwined. Your student must meet with both their academic advisor and a career advisor.
What if my student doesn’t like the major they’ve chosen?
It is completely normal for a student to change their major. We use a variety of tools to assist your student in the process of finding a major that aligns with their interests and values. We assist students with career planning and decision-making. We can help your student choose a major and then will refer them to their academic advisor to assist with course requirements and degree planning.
Can I visit and/or meet with a career counselor to discuss my student’s career options?
The Federal Education Rights Privacy Act does not permit the release of student information without that student's consent, therefore we are unable to discuss your student's career development with you individually. We also believe your student needs to advocate for their own career decisions and take the necessary steps to obtain assistance.
As a parent or guardian, you have a profound influence on your student's career decision-making. There are many ways that you can help your student with the career decision-making process. Start by encouraging your student to make an appointment with us, stop by our office in the University Student Commons between noon and 3 p.m. Monday-Friday for a drop-in, or attend one of our many events and programs.
May I attend a career advising appointment with my student?
We hope that students at VCU are empowered to make their own decisions regarding their career and professional development. We are here to help them through a process that is ultimately their own, but it is not our job — or yours — to do the work for them. We hope that you encourage your student to come to Career Services throughout their time at VCU, and ask your student what they are doing to enhance their experience outside of the classroom.
Where can I find information on career events taking place at VCU?
There are many ways to keep up with Career Services at VCU. Your student has access to a complete list of events and programs through their Handshake account. We encourage you to follow our Facebook page to stay abreast of upcoming programs and events.
Does VCU Career Services help students find internships?
Absolutely! We have a variety of resources to help research internship opportunities both nationally and in the Richmond metro region. Your student should access their Handshake account to begin searching for internships. A career advisor can help your student narrow down their search and show them how to make connections to land the best possible experience.
What can my student do to enhance their chances of finding a job?
There are a variety of pathways to success beyond graduation. First, encourage your student to visit us early and often throughout their time at VCU. We can help students decide the best academic program for them so that they are excelling and enjoying their time in the classroom. We can also assist students in exploring the variety of opportunities at VCU and in the Richmond community that will contribute to their development of transferable skills and relevant experience, which will also help them narrow down their interests and capabilities. VCU Career Services can guide your student through the process of the job search, from resume and cover letter writing, to networking, using our extensive knowledge of industries and career resources.
How important is GPA when looking for a job?
An excellent GPA never hurts a student during the job or internship processes. In some competitive fields, there may be GPA requirements to apply for entry-level positions. In other fields, a student's GPA isn't as important as practical experience. Students need to consider this as they move through their degree program as to not eliminate any opportunities for themselves in the future.
However, GPA isn’t always a factor when applying for positions, and more important are the experiences, transferable skills and overall professional and positive attitude that a prospective employee brings to the table.
How can transfer students use Career Services?
VCU Career Services is for ANY currently enrolled VCU student, as well as VCU alumni up to one year after graduation. If your student is transferring to VCU, they are encouraged to visit us in the career center with any questions or concerns they might have regarding their career development journey.
We want all VCU students to know that it is never too late or too early to visit Career Services and we understand that there is no clear and linear path in their career development. We can help your student articulate their transferable experiences, assist in navigating various experiential opportunities that VCU has to offer, and so much more.