Apr 29

Personalized Career Pathways Starts with Tracking Engagement

The ultimate goal of your Career Services department is to ensure graduates have jobs after they leave college. Now more than ever, you have a myriad of technological tools to help you achieve this goal.

There are two main keys to get graduates moving towards full-time employment. One is to create personalized career pathways that show graduates what they can expect after they leave school with a degree. The second involves tracking how students go about sticking with a plan, which means you have to keep engaging students.

Personalized Career Pathways

Personalized career pathways recognize that everyone’s professional life is unique. That’s also true of the classes that students take. Think of a personalized career pathway in the same way that you recommend to students what classes to take to earn a degree. You can easily track basic, general ed courses during a freshman and sophomore year, followed by more advanced courses in the third and fourth years of study leading up to graduation.

Once a graduate has an entry-level job after graduation, the personalized career pathway takes over. The new employee generally spends the first few years learning the business. Then, the employee earns a broader set of skills, more experience and professional certifications. Along the way, the graduate earns a higher salary.

The trick to get students to embark on their career path is to show them the possibilities. What can a student who graduates with a biomedical sciences degree in May 2017 do with that degree? It’s up to Career Services and recruiters on campus to help answer that question using available resources. Engaging students means showing what they can achieve with their education, when these professional goals may happen and then maintaining that level of engagement through to their full-time employment.

Remember that for millennials, it’s not just about salary and compensation. Younger workers want work-life balance, flexible work hours, and an overall sense of impact. Showing them that they can earn a certain salary after five years on a certain track is nice, but millennials need to know if they can make a difference with their jobs from Day One.

Tracking Engagement

Engaging students gets high-tech with a ton of tools at your disposal. As universities recognize the value of data and analytics, these tools become indispensable. In 2014, the National Association of Colleges and Employers sent out email surveys, called the First-Destination Survey, to graduates. The idea was to track the progress of these students six months after graduation. The 250 institutions involved in the first survey used the data to analyze how many graduates earned full-time jobs, how many went on to enroll in advanced degree programs and what kinds of salaries these new graduates earned.

The survey was useful, because it offered tips for Career Services staff on ways to stay in touch with students. The sooner you reach out to students, the better to track engagement and feedback. Students need to know they have support as they try to find a job after graduation. This means getting to know them, their professors and their major as soon as they declare one. Empower faculty advisers to share information with Career Services so that they can keep in touch with students once per quarter.

Rather than just stick to emails or surveys, reach out via platforms that engage your students. Twitter and Facebook are two popular social networks, but you can also leverage student engagements platforms that provide an engaging job seeker experience while giving you access to data. Then, you can aggregate this data into a single source that analyzes the information.

Sharing information with all stakeholders in this process is absolutely critical. Faculty and professors can relay information to Career Services, and those staffers, in turn, can share information with recruiters. Don’t forget to tell students why the information you collect is important. Students need to know that their information adds value to their education.

Centralized Source

Put someone in charge of analyzing the data and creating meaningful conclusions. This person becomes familiar with the analytics software the university uses, knows what to do when a red flag appears and determines when to reach out to a student if something seems amiss. Universities should set criteria for engaging students so staffers know when to respond to a student’s actions.

If a student changes his major just ahead of starting his senior year, you need to reach out to let him know what career pathways opened up for him. Data collection becomes useful when students suddenly change their minds, focus on different classes, or reduce their class loads.

UCLA and Notre Dame use the First-Destination Survey data to plan for the future strategically. Tracking engagement fills in any gaps in these universities’ efforts to retain students and find them jobs. The initial investment in any data collection pays off when institutions learn to waste fewer resources on initiatives that don’t work. Tracking engagement determines what worked and what didn’t in terms of graduates seeking employment, and publishing the numbers allows for data sharing with everyone who has a vested interest in the employment outcomes of students.

What Does This Mean?

Tracking engagement along a student’s time at the university lets Career Services develop personalized information tailored to each student’s needs. Creating personalized career pathways shows students that you care about their outcome and their professional lives beyond graduation. This, in turn, makes students more engaged with the process of finding a job.


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