Building Stronger Partnerships Between Career Centers and Employers

BlessVaiBless Vaidian, Director, Career Counseling for Pace Career Services – Westchester, and Founder, Career Transitions Guide

As we begin a new year, it’s a great time to reach out to employers to review 2014. Asking the right questions to see what can be done to improve relationships, meet goals, and place candidates is important to do on an ongoing basis, but especially now. Answers to these questions can then be applied to your 2015 strategy. Career centers can maintain long-lasting employer partnerships by surveying these areas:

How Can I Help Recruiters Meet Their Objectives?

Recruiters collaborate with the career services team for several reasons each semester: sourcing candidates for vacant positions, branding their company, and/or educating students on career-related topics. As career development professionals, we try to make sure the human resource goals are met for our employers when they partner with our office. Before we solicit speakers or attendees, we have to know what the employer’s recruitment goals are for that cycle or even beyond. Asking the right questions at the right time will help employers and the career office make strategic decisions as to whether the event will produce placements, or if the event is to brand and educate…or both. Never assume an employer is hiring. Know ahead of time what the goal is and tap the right student cohort into each program.

What Did the Recruiters Think of the Quality of Students?

Employers gauge the quality of students from a college using many criteria. How students represent themselves in person and in writing matters. Often students are placed in communications and writing programs to develop these needed skills as part of their academic curriculum. Interviews, resumes, and cover letters reflect the university at large. Bad impressions make an employer wonder if the student population is worth hiring from, or if they need to recruit elsewhere. Having employers run career center resume and interview workshops can make some employers feel vested in the student body. Preparing students for career success is a challenge. Not everyone comes into the career center office. Mandating appointments and attendance at career center programs is one way to change that. Webinars and online resources on a variety of career topics help students access resources within their time frames so they can make positive impressions when meeting employers.

What Can I Do to Help an Employer Find the Right Candidates?

An employer’s timeline for recruitment is not always congruent with career center events. Many recruiters have internship programs, rotational programs, and entry-level positions they are looking to fill during every cycle. But hundreds of others simply want a career center to find the right candidate as the need arises. Not being able to offer resumes when a recruiter requests them is bad business, and, if done often enough, it can move schools toward the bottom of lists that capture hiring outcomes. Career centers need contacts within various academic departments, student organizations, and other university offices to collaborate with. Targeted outreach needs to reach the appropriate pool of students. The resume of a student looking for entry-level jobs or internships can be sent out on the student’s behalf as positions are created, until the student is removed from the list of “seeking.” Once an employer-based event is put together it’s essential that the number of attendees that match company needs is high. All departments and organizations on campus (not just career services) should know about the event and encourage participation. There is nothing worse than having an event with an off-campus guest and not having the attendance to make it worthwhile. Student success stories are dependent on making matches happen.

Employers are sourcing candidates on campus earlier than ever and rank universities on quantifiable results. Every college wants successful outcomes for all their graduates, and that starts with collaboration with employers. Many companies have internship programs that they use as a gateway to fill entry-level postings. Employers also host information sessions and networking events to source students. Even if recruiters are on campus to conduct career-related educational workshops, they keep their eyes open for students who can be potential hires. The partnership between employers and career centers is an important one that needs to be nurtured all year long. Now is a great time to assess what worked and what didn’t in the partnerships you rely on.


Helping Students Find “a Good Fit”

dawn shawDawn Shaw, career consultant, MPA Career Services, McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin
Twitter: @Dawn_R_Shaw

I had a student come in the other day and ask me “What is a good fit anyway?”  I thought, that is a good question. Many times living and breathing in career services, I take for granted what this means. Especially to a student who has recently been unsuccessful in the job search. So, how do you know if you’re a good fit for a company or if the company is a good fit for you? Here are a couple of ideas I shared with this student:

  • Culture: Think back to all the encounters you have had with a potential employer. Think about the e-mail correspondence. Think about how you felt at the interview; not how you did, not how your performance was evaluated. Also think about how everyone else was acting during the social events.  Did you like the recruiters’ responses?  Did you feel uncomfortable?  If you judged them on their performance, what grade would they get?  Also, keep in mind that office visits can give you further information if the company is a good fit or not; so we encourage you to go to office visits to help you decide.
  • Priorities: Part of finding the ‘right fit’ is knowing your own priorities.  Often times I will ask students to create a priority list before the recruiting process even begins.  Many times when recruiting is in full speed, others’ opinions can influence in ways that were not anticipated.  Therefore, having a list of your priorities can help keep you focused.   So, write down what matters to you.  Flexible schedule?  Location?  Team Culture?  Open to Ideas?  Future Career Opportunities?  Rank them.  Match the ranking against what you think the job can offer you.  Also, be mindful of what you are doing now that affects your future career transitions.
  • Take an Inventory: A right attitude can be the first step in being part of the ‘good fit’.  Do you have a habit of talking about what irks you to whomever will listen?  If so, this could easily disrupt a team dynamic and distract from the work you do.  Consider what you can give before you judge what you get.
  • Ask Real Questions: You have an opportunity in office visits to get as much information as you can before having to make a decision. Do you care about the management style of your direct supervisor? Do you want to know how work is evaluated in the company? Ask!  Many times your authentic questions show your sincerity and real commitment to the potential employer.  And guess what?  That is what the employer looking for!

Perhaps this is refreshing and encouraging to motivate your students too!

(A student version of this article is available to NACE members from NACEweb’s Grab & Go section.)


Helping Students Navigate Familial Pressure

katie smith at duke university

Katie Smith, assistant director, Duke University Career Center,
Twitter: @ksmith258


“The most important job of the adviser…is to help students understand themselves, to face and take responsibility for their decisions, and to support and to free them to make choices that are at odds with the expectations other have for them. Students look to mentors—figures ‘more attuned to their rising hopes’—to give them what their parents won’t or can’t: the permission to go their own way and the reassurance that their path is valid,” William Deresiewicz quotes Harvard faculty member Harry R. Lewis comments in his recent book, Excellent Sheep.

The quote is one that many career professionals can identify with, as we often pride ourselves in providing a safe space for students to explore and articulate their interests while helping them to identify a career to fitting to their skills, talents, and needs. If only it was that easy!

Most people who work with college students have encountered a student who is torn between what she wants and what her parents or family members want. This is an incredibly challenging situation for students, mentally and emotionally taxing, often without an easy solution.

As college tuition continues to rise, so does the discussion on ROI. Parents are, understandably, especially attuned to this issue. What will my child study, and what will he be able to do with that? Is it a competitive field? Can she get the “right” experience in classes or internships? How much money will he make?

In short, is it worth it?

For some students, there’s a lot at stake in academic and career decision making. This decision could compromise the financial support of their education, narrow options (particularly in the case of international students), or could injure, or even sever, a relationship between student and their parents or other family members. In many cases, it’s also a decision that could affect a student’s success in school, as well as their well-being throughout college and beyond.

In recent weeks, I’ve worked with a student who studied engineering due his parents’ refusal to assist with his tuition if he pursued another major. Additionally, another student passionate about education is receiving pressure to commit to a more lucrative field, as her family is depending on her for financial support. Both of these students are navigating a challenging path balancing familial pressures, both real and perceived, and their own goals and aspirations.

As counselors, coaches, advisers, and mentors, working with these students can be difficult. Generally, we encourage students to follow their interests, and to choose a field that they get excited about. However, when the field they want to choose doesn’t align with others’ expectations, we carefully venture into new territory. “Is it possible to find the best of both worlds?” We might find ourselves asking. Where do fields such as art history and medicine or computer science and philosophy converge? If the student recognizes that his family’s opinion has a major stake in his decision, is it possible for him to pursue both his interests, and theirs?

For some students, this compromise is a possibility, but for others, this may not be the case. As career professionals, it is our role to help students identify their priorities, and to find a path that maximizes opportunity and fit given the present constraints.

As Deresiewicz quotes an observant student commenting on her mother, “she wanted me to have everything instead of wanting me to have what I wanted.”

The question is, where is the line?

Data Collection Toward a 100 Percent Knowledge Rate

BlessVaiBless Vaidian, Director, Career Counseling for Pace Career Services – Westchester, and Founder, Career Transitions Guide

Is a 100 percent knowledge rate possible with a first-destination survey? That’s to be determined each year and with each effort. Due-diligence requires universities to extend maximum effort to try to achieve a 100 percent knowledge rate for all our students. The task of collecting and reporting data is a huge undertaking trusted to many career offices. Whether you are trying to meet the NACE deadline for data collection or your own office deadline, creating a systematic approach and incorporating “best practices” into your labor makes capturing career outcomes more manageable.

Lay the Foundation

Its essential to be able to analyze data with ease, as well as know ahead of time what questions to include in your outreach attempts to students. Follow the suggestions outlined by NACE in your database fields and match it to your first destination surveys. Bring in your school’s technology department to help create the database, as well as the electronic surveys that capture the responses fed into it. Once that’s done, a time line for when, where, and how you will collect data can be drawn out. Cap and Gown surveys, employer surveys, surveys to the campus community, classroom visits, social media searches, follow-up student surveys, calls and e-mails have to be systematically laid out on a timeline. Learn assessment best practices by attending conferences and events to know how others are capturing information. Make sure you use the NACE links on the topic and talk to Ed Koc, NACE’s Director of Research, Public Policy, and Legislative Affairs or his great team if you have questions. Koc is offering a webinar on the first-destination initiative in early January for NACE members. A solid foundation and plan of action will serve you well in the long run.

Designate a Point Person

If the college community knows that career outcome information has to be sent to a designated individual within their school, then more outcomes can be captured. Often university staff members possess career outcome information and never pass it onto career services. The human resources and admissions departments within your school may have first-destination information on numerous students who were hired or went onto graduate school at your institution. The designated point person should monitor the first destination survey numbers, solicit information from university sources consistently, and create a strategy for follow-up with graduates. It takes many people, numerous efforts, and even call-centers to capture data for bigger schools. But designate an expert to manage the whole process, set the timeline, and be the “face” of the initiative in order to drive the results.

It’s Not a Career Services Issue, It’s a University Issue

Helping students find opportunities and creating a path for successful outcomes is not just a career services goal. Higher education is a partnership of many units working collaboratively to ensure retention and capture every student’s career outcome. Long before first-destination surveys go out, building relationships with the campus community is where data collection really starts for career services. Meetings with the university community to build bridges, foster relationships, and outline the process is crucial. Students share career outcome information with professors, academic advisers, financial aid representatives, leaders of student organizations, and college staff. These sources become vital in the collection process and have to be included in the journey.

Keep the Community Vested

It is essential to make survey efforts and progress visible to the campus community. Every dean, faculty member, and university staff  member should know what the career office does. Career outcome and knowledge rate information should be displayed in infographics, charts, and reports on a regular basis with college partners. If others understand what goes on behind the scenes and where the numbers are, then they will be more apt to assist with first-destination information. It also keeps departments interested and looking forward to the next update.

Mandate Attendance 

Universities that promote, encourage, or even mandate attendance at career service events and one-to-one meetings with a career counselor can create more successful outcomes. Students that have worked with career offices feel more comfortable sharing career outcomes, and should be told that post-graduate follow-up will take place after graduation. Career services also helps students find pre-professional experience through internships that build resumes and lead to full-time offers. They offer networking opportunities with employers and alumni that have job leads every semester. Increased student engagement with career centers increases the “knowledge rate,” and also increases “outcomes.” Its a simple formula.

Multiple out-reach efforts to capture information throughout the year are made to graduating seniors, college partners, and employers to track career outcomes. I would love to hear your school’s best practices and ideas to reach that “100 percent knowledge rate.” Wishing each of you success in reaching your university’s goal and capturing outcomes. 

Branding Is Key: An Insider’s Look at First-Destination Surveys

Katrina Zaremba

Katrina Zaremba, Communications Coordinator, University Career Center, University of Kansas
Twitter: @KatrinaZaremba
(Part 2 of 4 on early adoption of the NACE First-Destination Survey Standards.)

With the new NACE First-Destination Survey Standards and Protocols being released this year, I knew that a marketing campaign was in order for our survey. I wanted an image we could use to create a brand around our first-destination survey so people would associate it with the survey itself.

When it comes to branding, consistency is key.

The result was a single, vector-based image with a fun saying that we hoped would relate to students, “What in the world are you doing after graduation?” We used university-approved colors in a vibrant way that would hopefully catch the attention of the graduating senior class. We mixed bold and hand-drawn typefaces to add dimension as well.

What in the world are you doing after graduation? Let us know with this short survey!The campaign launched mid-May, and we used our website, social media platforms, and faculty as main modes of advertising our survey to graduating seniors. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

Our website has a great space for a rotating banner image at the top of our home page. This space is sure to grab the attention of anyone who visits our site. This image has had thousands of impressions and clicks leading directly to the survey.

For social media, Twitter and Facebook were the platforms we used for promotion. We were strategic in choosing certain hashtags that were relevant to our target audience (i.e., #KUGrads, #KUAlumni). We also tagged appropriate accounts to spread the word and inspire engagement such as shares and retweets (i.e., @KUCollege, @KUAlumni, @KUGrads).

Overall, we had over 5,000 impressions with an engagement rate of 2 percent for our social media outreach alone.

Insider Tip: You can pin posts to the top of your Twitter profile to make sure those who are visiting your Twitter profile see your most important message first.This will hopefully help with the number of impressions your tweet receives.

Pin this banner to your profile page.Our associate director met with faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts and Science to let them know we were conducting the first-destination survey, and also to ask them to promote it to their students. In return, we created individualized reports for each major in the college and shared those results with the departments. We will talk more about reports in part 3 of this series. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

I am constantly learning from this experience, so naturally there are some things we would like to do differently next year. Each spring, The University of Kansas has a Graduate Fair where students can purchase regalia, personalized graduation announcements, cap and gown portraits, and class rings. And each year, the University Career Center has a booth at this fair. Next spring we will capitalize on this and bring iPads for students to fill out the survey on the spot, and handouts with our branded image so they can access the survey later if they are short on time at that event.

We would also like to meet with faculty earlier in the semester, perhaps in March, to help us get the word out to students before graduation rolls around.

I’d love to hear how you are marketing your destination survey to students as well. Feel free to share your comments below!

Stay tuned in the coming months for the third installment of the first-destination standards and protocols series. My colleague, Vanessa Newton, and I have more to share!

(On Thursday, Bless Vaidian, director of Career Counseling for Pace Career Services – Westchester, will offer more tips on first-destination surveys.)

Career Exploration Infographic Activity

Ross WadeCareer Infographic – Ross Wade, assistant director, Duke University Career Center
Personal blog:
LinkedIn URL:
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

As career advisers, assessment is an important part of our job—especially when it comes to helping students explore careers and themselves. As a visual person; adviser for students interested in media, arts, and entertainment; and infographic lover; I’ve been tinkering with ways to make assessment more fun and creative.

So I present to all of you….(drum roll please)…the career exploration infographic activity! I’m sure someone else has already thought of this, but the idea occurred to me recently, and I wanted to share with all of you.

The purpose of this activity is for students to assess and rank their values, interests, Career Infographic - Ross Wadestrengths, and identity (personal or professional) in a creative and graphic way. It could be facilitated during a one-on-one session or as a part of a program or workshop on self-exploration. I used PowerPoint to design my infographic (click on the image to make it larger), but anything could be used, including pencil and paper—the point is to get creative. If you decide to use images from the web, I suggest using Creative Commons to find images that can be legally used on the web and without attribution.


  1. Have your student select a picture, symbol, or graphic that represents her/his identity. For example, I’ve worn big, black glasses for a long time, and they’ve become a part of my “look”—they also reflect my love of learning, and my personal culture. Choosing glasses also gave me a clever way of reflecting information visually in pie chart format.
  2. Ask you student to reflect on his/her values, interests, and skills. This could be through a card sort or brainstorm. Once they have their lists completed, have them pick their top three of each. Once their top three are picked, have them rank each one with its own graphic—each graphic will represent 10 percent. For example, creativity, autonomy, and security equal 100 percent of my top values, I used a ladder graphic to represent 10 percent increments, so my values are sorted 50 percent creativity, 30 percent  autonomy, and 20 percent security (equaling 100 percent).
  3. Facilitate a discussion about other things your student would like to have as a part of his/her career—e.g., consider topics such as amount of time with people versus things, time spent in and out of the office. Your student can use his/her personal symbol in creative ways to reflect this information. For example, I used the lenses of my glasses as a very basic pie chart.

What I like about this activity is that it has several applications. It can be used to assess current values, interests, and skills, and bring to light how a student views her/his identity. Doing it multiple times, over four years (or each semester), allows you and your student to see how things have evolved and bring to light great opportunities to discuss why things have changed or what prompted the change. Finally, I think it would be interesting if a parent, friend, or manager/supervisor created an infographic for their students, and then the two—student and other person—compared what they created and discussed. Does the internship supervisor see the same skills and interests as her/his student? Does the on-campus job manager choose an identity symbol close to what their supervisee chose…or are they totally different? Think of all the interesting conversations that could come from this activity about values, skill, interests, self-marketing, and professional identity!

What ideas have you been using with students? Please share them with me and other blog readers in the comments section below.

10 Must-Read Books for Career Professionals

Lakeisha Mathews

Lakeisha M. Mathews, Director, Career and Professional Development Center, University of Baltimore
Twitter: @RightResumes_CC
Blogs from Lakeisha Matthews.

One aspect of the career development field that keeps me excited is the constant need to develop professionally and keep up with changes in the labor market, higher education and career coaching. Over the course of my career I have obtained several certifications, attended conferences and webinars, enrolled in a counseling program, joined and gotten involved with several associations, and read tons of books.

One thing I’ve learned is, there is no single resource that can teach you everything you need to know about being a good career development professional. However, when I am working with professionals new to the industry there are several books that I share with them as essential reads. This includes books that gave me a solid framework of career coaching, career development, and career centers. Below I share my top 10 list of must reads in no particular order for every career professional:

1. The Career Counselor’s Handbook (Richard Bolles)
2. No One is Unemployable (Debra Angel and Elisabeth Harney)
3. What Color is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers (Richard Bolles)
4. The Three Boxes of Life (Richard Bolles)
5. Discover Your Career in Business (Timothy Butler and James Waldroop)
6. The Extraordinary Coach (John Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett)
7. Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads: Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career (Sheila Curran and Suzanne Greenwald)
8. Counseling Adults in Transition: Linking Schlossberg’s Theory with Practice in a Diverse World (Mary Anderson, Jane Goodman, and Nancy Schlossberg)
9. Ten Steps to a Federal Job (Kathryn Troutman)
10. Resume Magic (Susan Whitcomb)

Honorable Mentions:
11. Bring Your “A” Game: The 10 Career Secrets of The High Achiever (Robert McGovern)
12. How to Plan and Develop a Career Center (Donald Schutt Jr.)

Of course the list could go on. There are plenty of additional books that have impacted how I coach students, the types of programs I design, and how I manage the career center at the University of Baltimore. My list is also impacted by the student populations I have spent most of my career working with which includes adult learners, graduate students, and career changers in addition to traditional college students.

I am interested in knowing which books have impacted you as a career development professional and helped you to sharpen your skills. Comment on this blog and share your favorites.