A vocational school is a great place to learn the hands-on practical skills for many occupations. While colleges and universities focus on academics, vocational schools are geared toward students looking for a career in fields such as medical assisting, medical office administration, computer network technology, web application design, nursing, x-ray technology, and ultrasound.
When choosing a vocational school, it’s wise to look into whether the school offers career services.
What Are Career Services?
The purpose of career services is to help you learn the skills to get into a career in your field. The advantage of a vocational school with career services is that the focus is on your specific field, not a more general kind of career service.
For example, if you’re interested in medical assisting, you need to learn how to write your résumé or polish interview skills to address the specific wants and needs of a medical assistant recruiter. A medical assistant recruiter will be looking for empathy, attention to detail, and clinical assessment skills.
Some of the standard vocational school career service offerings include résumé writing, mock interviews, coaching on how to dress both for interviews and on the job, externships, networking, career fairs, and alumni support.
Why Career Services Matter
If you are just starting to look for a job, there are many things you need to know. If you are an adult learner, you might have expertise in your previous field. That expertise may supply you with transferable skills. It’s important to learn how to highlight those skills when applying for a job in your new career.
Career Services: Writing Your Résumé
A good résumé is an opportunity to sell yourself to a potential employer. In fact, it may be your only opportunity, as the employer will decide whether to interview you based on your résumé.
A good résumé should cover your education, prior work experience, key skills, and other relevant experience or characteristics. Unfortunately, all résumés usually contain this information.
Your goal is to help yourself stand out from the crowd. A vocational school with career services can help you target the most important aspects of your personal situation so that they are highlighted in your résumé. The career services department can help you polish grammar, punctuation, and content and help to ensure that your résumé results in an interview.
Career Services: Mock Interviews
Once the résumé has helped get your foot in the door, the interview can make or break your job candidacy. You’ll be under a microscope, so knowing what to say and do is vitally important.
A career services advisor can offer coaching in what to wear for an interview, as well as how to dress on the job. If you’re looking for a job in a conservative field, for example, you will want to dress differently than if you have a diploma from a vocational school in medical assisting.
Mock interviews give you a chance to practice well ahead of time. Some organizations conduct team interviews.
It can be daunting to face several people across the table. If you’ve practiced with a team as part of your career services sessions, you can handle multiple interviewers. You can also learn how to sell your special qualities in a low-key but forthright manner, without sounding arrogant.
Many career services departments at vocational schools use videos as a training tool so the student can see what others see and hear. You might not realize your voice is shrill, for example, or that you have habits like cracking your knuckles or twisting your hair.
Your goal is to look and sound professional, relaxed, and competent. Mock interviews with video reviews can be helpful. You should also learn how to write a graceful thank you note to send after the interview.
Career Services: Externships
Externships offer you the chance to put your newly learned skills into practice in a potential workplace. An externship is a training program offered in partnership with a vocational school.
You’ll perform the same kind of duties as you would in a “real” job under the supervision of your teacher or an experienced staff member. If you’ve been a high-performing extern in an organization, your résumé will stand out among those of your competitors.
An externship allows you to practice technical skills, as well as the basics of building relationships and networking, with a career services advisor there to coach you.
Certification and Licensing Exams
Some occupations require that you pass a licensing exam. In many occupations, certification is either required or preferred.
Certification is a demonstration of basic skills and knowledge. This can go a long way to make up for lack of experience in a new field.
Taking certification and licensing exams is a skill like any other. As with mock interviews, the opportunity to practice in a low-stress environment helps when taking the actual exam.
Your career services advisor can offer coaching in reading and interpreting questions or learning how to manage test anxiety. The questions themselves help reinforce what you are learning in your classes. Reviewing the answers after a mock test allows you to see where you went wrong and to learn from your mistakes.
When it comes to getting a job, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. No matter the field, having contacts and connections within the field can make a difference.
Networking opportunities abound in professional and trade organizations, community service organizations, and fraternal orders. If you’re interested in becoming a medical assistant, for example, your career services advisor can help you make contacts and obtain an invitation to activities such as educational events or promotional activities related to the medical field.
Your willingness to learn and support such functions with hands-on work will be noticed. You may even be lucky enough to find a mentor in your field and develop a longstanding relationship that will help you for years to come.
Career and job fairs offer prospective employers a chance to share what their organizations can offer and to assess potential applicants. It also gives students a chance to make comparisons between organizations.
Every organization has a culture. You should consider, for example, whether you will be happier and more productive in a hard-driving culture or one that is more laid-back. Or perhaps you’ll do better in a smaller organization.
Another thing to look for is how the organization supports and teaches new hires. Is there a formal training program? How long does it last? Will you be partnered with an experienced person?
A good career services department at any vocational school will schedule career fairs on a regular basis. Career fairs also offer networking opportunities.
Career Services: Alumni Support
Many vocational schools have lifelong relationships with their alumni. Alumni may be asked to teach classes or speak to students about their job experience.
Another valuable aspect of alumni input is insight into important skills once you get the job. An alumnus can steer you in the direction of additional training and experiences he or she found useful.
Choosing the right vocational school can have a lifelong impact. The quality, depth, and breadth of the educational offerings will affect your career choices, income, chances for promotion, and ability to perform the job for the rest of your working life.
When looking for a vocational school, it’s important to evaluate such characteristics as educational offerings, graduation rate, placement rate, facilities, instructor quality, and tuition. All else being equal, it’s well worth your while to select a vocational school that offers career services.
Ready to Get a Diploma at a Vocational School?
Hunter Business School offers diploma programs in Medical Assistant, Medical Office Administration, Medical Billing and Coding, Radiologic Technology, Practical Nursing, and Diagnostic Medical Sonography.
Some of these diploma programs can be completed in as little as three months or as long as 23 months depending on the program offered. These diploma programs prepare students for entry-level positions in physicians’ offices, hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and other health care facilities that are employing a growing number of medical professionals.
Contact us today to find out more about how to become a medical professional on Long Island.