Creative and Collaborative Considerations for a College Career Center
By Kristy Magee
In an instantaneous world that uses #hashtags #for #everythingwedo, career services professionals have to capture students’ attention quickly while giving them the tools to be successful with a variety of career-related concerns. In recent years, the Career Development office at Mount Aloysius College has put into practice some creative and collaborative initiatives in order to achieve maximum student engagement. Having limited staff and sustaining budgetary cuts, collaboration and teamwork are key. Below are a few suggestions of successful initiatives that may spark new ideas for your own career center.
Get in the Classrooms and Host Department-Specific Events
We can’t expect every student to independently utilize the career center. Every semester, Mount Aloysius professors allow Career Development team members to step into their classrooms. In these presentations, we discuss résumés and interview questions specific to the majors in that classroom. Professors may require follow-up assignments for classes such as a mock interview, a résumé critique, salary negotiation scenarios, assessments, or career counseling. When we started the initiative in 2014, an astounding 34% of our one-on-one appointments were due to classroom assignments, and last year our classroom attendance increased by 40%. Out of this collaboration came field-specific events based on the needs of the departments. We host a “Nursing Mock Interview Fair” where area hospitals teach interview skills to Nursing majors. We also host the “ASL Etiquette Breakfast” where American Sign Language/Interpreting majors can learn how to interpret while dining. Additionally, we organize a “Careers in Accounting Breakfast” and a “Careers in Criminology” panel that allow employers and students to discuss job and internship opportunities within these industries.
Partner with Student Success and Advising to Reach More Students Early-On
The Career Development office is centrally located with the Office of Student Success and Advising, a partnership that has proven to be successful. It allows us immediate contact with students who are experiencing academic distress and need alternative career and academic options. Our offices also partner to host themed weeks together, most recently offering a “Hot Mess to Success Week.” This week focuses on
how to keep up your energy when studying;
finding an alternative career path when priorities change;
common résumé, cover letter and interview mistakes;
how to set goals to be on the Dean’s list;
tips for salary negotiation.
The Career Development office partners with the Mount Aloysius Academic Preparation Program (MAAPP), a summer pre-entry program for freshman coordinated by an academic advisor, to offer an etiquette dinner. This allows the students in this program to understand professional etiquette that they will be able to utilize throughout college.
Create Interest Through Friendly Competition
Mounties@Work is our online job, internship and volunteer opportunity database. Students are encouraged to sign up in their freshman year. We found that offering a competition for the Resident Assistants (RAs) is a very beneficial way of promoting it. The RA who gets the most new student accounts or résumés uploaded wins a gift basket full of college apparel. This adds 100-200 new accounts each year and allows for further résumé critiques. It also educates RAs on our services and has allowed opportunities for individual residential floor programs.
Make Everything Accessible Online
We created a “Career Development Resources” course within Blackboard in which every student is automatically enrolled. Within this course there are original résumé examples and interview questions for every major on campus, as well as short instructional videos. We conserve a lot of paper and printing costs, as students can download exactly what they need, when they need it.
Use Assessments in Unique Ways
We recently spoke to a class entitled “Shakespeare in Society.” This course took place inside a federal correctional institution and consisted of ten students and ten inmates. It was a collaborative course taught by professors in Criminology and Theatre as part of the re-entry department. Career Development was asked to administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment and discuss it in class by distributing group scenarios. Since the class was in the process of reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we also organized an activity where the students discussed personality types of each of the characters within the play. Not only was it a discussion that exercised critical thinking, but it also allowed students to break barriers and learn about their strengths and weaknesses by relating to others.
Engage with Campus and Community Volunteers
We are fortunate to be surrounded by hospitable campus and community members who volunteer. We host an event entitled “Mountie Makeover Mania” that gives students free haircuts, manicures, makeup lessons, professional attire tips, tie-tying demonstrations, dining etiquette lessons, elevator pitch examples, mock interviews, and more. It is staffed entirely by campus and community volunteers. We have also included a “What Not to Wear” fashion show put on by faculty. The campus store, Threads, gives out coupons to students for free professional attire. Threads is managed by Student Affairs and takes in donations to help students on a tight budget find clothing they may need. This initiative creates a strong bond with the surrounding community and gets outside volunteers excited about helping students to find their professional voice.
As budgets are cut and career center staff is limited, the common goal of helping students to find success remains unchanged. While the challenge of engaging students continues, we can begin to tackle these challenges by working together and thinking outside the box. After all, if we are going to tweet that #collaboration, #communication and #creativity are some of the top skills employers are seeking in 2016, then we have a responsibility to demonstrate the many ways to utilize those skills.
Kristy Magee is the Career Development Director & Coordinator at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson, PA. She also teaches courses in Communication Media for the Business Department. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, and a Master of Arts degree in Communication from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. She volunteers at a federal correctional institution teaching workshops related to employable skills upon re-entry for incarcerated individuals. In her spare time, she performs, directs and designs for theaters within the community. She may be contacted at email@example.com