Are you contemplating a return to the work force after a career break but unsure how to do it? Do you wonder if you need to take some classes to update your skills? Or maybe you’re thinking about an entirely new career.
These are questions a career coach can help you resolve. But career coaches can be pricey, and you may not want to spend much money at this point. Consider a free or low-cost alternative — the career services center at your local community college. Most community colleges offer career services to the general public — not just enrolled students. Surprised? You’re not alone.
“This is a big difference between two-year and four-year colleges,” says Mary Ghilani, Director of Career Services at Luzerne County Community College in Pennsylvania. “Two-year colleges have a community mission.”
Ghilani, who has a master’s degree in counseling and is a National Certified Counselor, says about 20% of the people she sees are community members. They receive the same services she offers students: career assessments, short and long-term career plan development, resume editing, interview skills assistance, and job searches. And while private career counselors or coaches may charge $60-$100 per hour, Ghilani says her services are free.
Ghilani says that’s the case at most community colleges, though some are beginning to charge a nominal fee of $10-$25 per assessment.
Northern Virginia Community College, the second largest community college in the nation, holds free monthly career workshops to help identify a career path. Each of its six campuses offers career services unique to that campus’s focus. And the career services specialist at each campus can provide the menu of services and any fees.
“We are here to serve the whole community,” says Dr. Julie Leidig, provost of the Loudoun campus of NOVA. ”Anyone can walk through our doors and access our services, see a counselor, see an advisor, or get some advice.”
Norma Kent of the American Association of Community Colleges says this is the norm rather than the exception, as community colleges are frequently the hub of a community, particularly in rural or somewhat remote areas.
“As our name indicates, we’re there to serve the community in many, many ways, and I think it’s up to the individual to investigate what is being offered at their local community college. I think they will find it’s a very rich array of things that will help them to achieve whatever their goal is.”
To find the community college closest to you, visit the Community College Finder on the American Association of Community Colleges website.