Oct 27

What Students REALLY Need From Career Centers

As a career center, it’s your job to serve your students and help them pave a path to their future careers. However, if you’re not offering the resources they need, you risk them looking elsewhere for support.

Have you ever asked your students what they REALLY want from career centers? Sure, resume advice can be helpful, but is it enough? Here are some thoughts from real students and recent graduates on what they think is missing from their school’s career center:

Job Search Courses

Abigael Donahue, 22, a recent graduate of Norwich University in Vermont, the oldest private military school in the U.S., suggested that her school’s career center should add job search courses.

“I did not really know what to expect during the job search,” said Donahue, “and I was not prepared for how time consuming and difficult it was.”

Luckily, Donahue was able to lean on her parents for advice on how to apply for jobs, where to look, and how many hours to devote to the job search. However, she said that students who cannot reach out to family members for guidance may have an easier time if the career center would conduct job searching courses that teach students how to network and search for jobs effectively. These courses would also give students an idea of what to expect as far as job acceptance and rejection.

Guidance On Creating Internships

Kelly Barrios, 21, a student at San Diego State University, a public research university, is required to find and hold an internship prior to graduation. However, she said that landing an opportunity at a company that’s willing to mentor students, teach them real life transferable skills, and be flexible with their full-time class load can be a challenge. In an effort to acquire those valuable internships, she suggested that career centers create a crash course of how to build your own internship and present it to companies.

“While college is a time to figure out your passion and career interest,” she said, “we do not have a wide range of opportunities in all fields. This is where creating an internship could benefit not only the student, but the company as well.”

Barrios explained that these internships would provide companies with fresh perspectives from students. In turn, some companies will hire their student interns because they were able to acquire key skills through their internships.

“I see it as a win, win,” she said.

Access To Off-Campus Career Fairs

Although many schools host on-campus professional events and career fairs, some students would like to expand their networking efforts outside of school. Sarah Lynch, 21 a senior at Lander University, a public university located in South Carolina, said her school has been a great resource to students. However, she said she wished it offered transportation to off-campus job fairs, in addition to its current materials and support, to encourage students to get out and network.

Alumni Introductions

Zac Croteau, 22, a senior at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), a public university with nearly 15,000 students, feels that career centers should put more focus on cultivating relationships between alumni and students.

While he said his school’s career center has helped him tremendously with his job search, Croteau wishes that it leveraged its network of alumni more effectively to help students make connections.

“Many students want to move on from UNH and go to bigger cities such as New York, Boston, or LA,” he said, “but they have a hard time doing this because of a limited network.”

Mentorship Opportunities

A great way to make these alumni introductions is to set up mentorship programs. Several students suggested this as an additional program at their career centers.

“Merely helping students in designing their resumes and cover letters does not cut it,” said Sar Haribhakti, 20, a student at University of Rochester, a private university in New York.

Haribhakti suggested that career centers include group sessions where students can work with professors, entrepreneurial mentors, corporate affiliates, alumni, and other advisors.

Tests To Help Match Students To Jobs

Michael Pollak, 25, is a 2015 graduate from Spring Hill College, a private, Roman Catholic Jesuit liberal arts college in Alabama. Pollak said that while he was happy with his experience with his school’s career center, he wished it functioned a little bit more like a hiring agency when it came to matching students with jobs before graduation.

According to SnagAJob.com, an online job search engine, many staffing agencies require candidates to take a variety of tests to help assess their skills and abilities. Pollak, who is still actively looking for a job, suggested that career centers should consider adopting this technique to help match students to potential positions.

Increased Promotion Of Programs

As it turns out, some of the programs students suggested already existed in their career centers, such as mock interviews and alumni programs, but they had no idea.

“I’m not surprised,” said Krystal Hicks, director of Career Services at UNH. “It’s so rare for students to ask me, ‘Oh hey, do you have this?'”

According to Hicks, the real problem is ineffective promotion to students, but it’s not for lack of trying. She said her career center is always posting on social media and sending out emails. They even revamped their website recently to better organize and promote their services. However, some students still don’t know what services the career center offers.

“They’re social media gurus, yet they don’t go to the website,” said Hicks.

If you don’t think your career center is serving your student body as effectively as it could, or attracting their attention, consider polling students and ask them what they would add to your career center. This could help promote your center and give you targeted feedback from your student population—both key elements to serving students well.

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