I whine a lot about how my undergraduate degree really didn’t do much to prepare me for the job market. I also accept full responsibility for not taking advantage of all of the resources I had available to me at the time.
- Networking Opportunities
- Career Services
When I mention Career Services, I actually did make an appointment with a Career Services Counselor in my third year. I wasn’t really sure what kinds of services they offered prior to my visit. The counselor looked over my resume, made a couple formatting suggestions, and gave me some pamphlets. Overall, the experience there was six different kinds of useless. After this meeting, I still had no idea what Career Services could actually offer me as a student.
I’ve heard some Career Centers complain that they try to offer services for students, but no one takes advantage. They also complain that students don’t bother with the center until their last year, when they are looking for a job. I’ve heard them attribute it to “laziness and apathy”.
My two cents, from the “customer of career centers” point of view: If your entire campus is full of lazy, apathetic students, your view of your “customer” sucks! You might as well just start handing out McDonald’s applications. Or, you can market the services your center offers – and start a positive, word-of-mouth campaign about your value to the students on campus. Here’s how:
Educate the Students on Why They Need Career Services
Someone starting a four year degree program may not be thinking 5 years into the future. Someone starting a four year Liberal Arts degree is definitely not thinking 5 years into the future. Most 18 year olds don’t think they need to start looking at employment opportunities for when they’re 22. From their perspective, entry into the Real World is light years away! This thinking is obviously wrong. So someone needs to help them change their mindsets.
Side Note: Law Students start applying for internships in their first year. This could be due to the fact that they already know their goals and how to achieve them. It could also be because they’re expected to apply – this process is built into the fabric of the school’s culture. This is a cultural phenomenon that should be part of every discipline and major in higher education!
Expand Your Service Offering
You CAN help students with their resumes, but that can’t be all you do. Then you’re just a glorified proof-reader.
Students need to know things like what the hell they’re supposed to do with an English degree, where to find jobs and strategies to set them apart from other applicants. At 18 and 19 years old, they won’t think to ask you these questions – they don’t know what they don’t know.
Students are looking for mentors from your office – not editors.
Until career awareness can be sexually transmitted, it’s not going to spread itself around campus for you. Students need to know what you offer, and how it will benefit them. You need to convince them you know something they don’t. Have you met an 18 year old? It’s not easy. You’re going to need a full on marketing campaign. Here are some insights from a former student:
- Anything YOU say during frosh week will be ignored
- Posters will be ignored
- Anything you say during mid-terms or exams will be ignored
- Your mass emails will be deleted, right after they’re ignored
There are two ways to get students to pay attention to you:
1) Work with the University itself to promote career development across all programs (I realize this is pretty much just a pipe dream, as most traditional universities are not concerned with employment rates as much as they are with the research of their staff; if you wanted to work in an environment where this was possible, you could have chosen to work at a Career Center at a Community College or vocational school)
2) Treat every interaction with a student as a marketing opportunity (When someone comes into your office DO NOT give them a pamphlet. Do you know who gives pamphlets to teenagers? Every adult they come into contact with on campus!
The students that you DO get in your office for appointments need to get the Cadillac of Career Services. In the age of social media, word of your great service and helpful advice will most definitely spread.
If a student walks out of your office with a little more direction and confidence, they will help to promote you. If not, someone will bad-mouth you (maybe in a blog like this one).
Let’s agree on some things!
A student’s career development is their own responsibility. It is not someone’s else’s job – including the career center’s – to find them work.
Most students, however, do not have the foresight to take advantage of everything a Career Center would offer in their first few years of University. A lot of them think their degree will get them a job when they graduate, so they don’t worry about it until they’re close to graduating. This is the type of thinking we need to change.
The question we need to answer is “why aren’t they using your services, and how do we fix it?”
About the Author: Scott Keenan is a twenty something with a uniquely cynical view on everything. Scott specializes in Human Resources and Marketing, and he “shares the awesome with you as often as he can.” Check out Scott’s blog, and connect with him on Twitter!