A Recruiter’s Perspective: If I Was Running Career Services

CareerServicesLearning good career management skills and practices is very much like learning good grooming and social habits: Good practices need to be taught and modeled by those who know them; practiced by those who use them; and reinforced by all.

Think of the years spent teaching a child good manners, how to ride a bike, brush their teeth, clean their room. With these in mind, think about this:

Can personal career management be learned in a few short weeks at the end of the senior year?

I can assure you that between all the “bricklayer” assessment tests of the day and clueless guidance counselors (which sadly includes parents), far too many of us were “guided” into making incorrect career choices. Even with all the technology available 24/7, today’s career advisors still rely too heavily on certifications that “give” them the “ability” to systematically assess and counsel under the assumption that old-school tools are valid and reliable.

Cronbach’s Alpha notwithstanding, I strongly believe that teens and young adults actually have a pretty good sense as to the careers that might jazz them – but far too few adults (this includes educators) know what activities and questions are needed to liberate this information from the would-be careerist.

The process below – one that will excite young talent and provide a mentoring platform for those counseling our young talent – isn’t comprised of difficult questions and challenging activities. It is instead, comprised of questions and activities every person needs to ask and answer 100% on their own – and then refine as they progress in their education, self-learning, internships and career.

This Career Services Service Model begins with the “Acceptance Season” – when the first letter to parents from college arrives with the Bill and Deposit notification. The B&D notification would also include a set of 10 questions and activities that must be completed by the incoming student two weeks prior to arriving on campus (and sent to Career Services) for freshmen orientation:

1. Incoming student walks around their house and environment (e.g., school, town, etc.) and makes a list of their most favorite products and services and why they like each. One focus is on identifying specific brands and brand qualities.

2. The personal qualities that the student likes in their best friend, their best sibling, and “favorite” parent or relative. And why.

3. Their favorite TV shows and movies and what they like about them. And why.

4. The person they admire most in the world and why they admire them the most in the world.

5. The first job they ever remember wanting to do. And why.

6. Describe in detail what their parents or guardians do for a living and what they find interesting – and not interesting – about these careers.

7. Research the five most famous Alumni who graduated from the school and why they believe these people became famous.

8. List the major(s) they’re thinking of pursuing. And why.

9. Describe what they would do if they could do anything in the world at all – even if they weren’t being paid to do it. And why.

10. A four-sentence paragraph describing themselves to their freshman roommate so their roommate’s reaction, upon reading is “WOW”.

With this information in hand at the beginning of freshman year, as part of orientation, Career Services personnel then:

  • Introduces each student to LinkedIn – and specifically toward developing a LinkedIn profile; the customized school-branded LinkedIn account is used in connecting new freshman with LinkedIn accounts maintained by current students and alumni.
  • Introduces Twitter as a professional career tool; the customized school-branded Twitter account is used just like LinkedIn in connecting new freshman with Twitter accounts maintained by current students and alumni.
  • Suggests three mentors outside the academic environment to guide the student toward – or from, if the fit isn’t right – their career choices.
  • Recommends specific “professionally focused” student clubs and local professional associations (these student clubs and organizations might have their own orientation) for students to join.
  • Requires each student to create a safe-for-work email address.
  • Shows five highly-regarded online career resources that offers high-quality advice tailored to college students and recent graduates

At the beginning of every subsequent school year, this process would be revisited; first by the student and then by their mentors and career services.

Through the answers, students would track their progress and see how they’re becoming more career self-aware. Since careers change with shifting priorities and personal responsibilities, shuffling social norms and new technologies, it then becomes the work of the career services center to facilitate this “professional” growth and add more tools, techniques and resources so that the students can continue to grow into their careers.

Throughout this process: No assessments; no old-school tools; no stereotyping. Just active research, active listening and mentoring. Sure does add lots of “quality” building material to each student’s career pathway.

We’ve missed out on teaching our children, teens and young adults that “finding” a career requires an incredible amount of introspection – and re-visiting the personal vision many times throughout their lives.

I understand this might be hard to accept but based on the employability of our college graduates, perhaps we have the wrong people, or the right people in the wrong system, providing guidance.

It is time to change that.

It is time for Career Services – as well as mentors, alumni, influencers and industry leaders – to take the lead.

Exhausted? Frustrated? Feel powerless and perhaps victimized? Just think how our students feel.

Now let’s get busy.






Steve_Levy_AuthorAbout the Author: Steve Levy is focused on recruiting, career counseling, social media, and organizational development consulting – and has been referred to as “the recruiting industry’s answer to Tom Peters”. Steve is an incurable blogger (recruitinginferno.com and RecruitingBlogs.com among many others) and social media participant who is passionate about veteran issues. Steve has been a COI with Armed Forces recruiting for many years, a Navy volunteer “fitness consultant”; his family has a storied history of service to our country.

Steve is a Tau Beta Pi engineer from the University of Vermont (there is no such thing as a former Engineer, Marine or Jesuit) with his graduate degree in Industrial / Organizational Psychology from Hofstra University. Follow Steve on Twitter!


Image courtesy of salisbury.edu… thank you!



This entry was posted in College and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.