Supporting Students in the Race for Talent

by Heather Tranen
It’s  no secret among college campuses that recruiters are investing in talent earlier and earlier every year. I half expect the big banks will soon reach out to my two-year-old for a milk chat to discuss his advanced color identification skills. As the arms race for talent becomes more competitive and the talent pools become younger, how do career services professionals support their students?

1) Help them with their FOMO (fear of missing out). Niche industries have the capacity to recruit en mass early in the recruiting season. Many students may feel they should forego valuable life experiences such as studying abroad to avoid fear of missing out at home during on-campus recruitment. I meet with a lot of students reconsidering their decision to study abroad. Once I do some digging, beneath the surface of their fears I find only a lukewarm interest in the fields recruiting during their time away. I explain to them that they can still have informational interviews with alumni, do research on potential career interests and organizations, and even participate in some sort of experiential learning opportunity in between classes and traipsing the globe during their semester abroad. Once they become educated on the recruitment process and discover ways to remain productive in their career development while away they feel much more empowered and confident in their decisions.

2) Provide support resources. As students get recruited earlier in the process, it’s important that we adjust our services to meet their needs and to ensure they are prepared for the professional world. To be competitive, it will be crucial that students develop their interviewing and professional skills. This means tailoring programs earlier in their college experiences to cover these topics, create awareness among students of resources, and shed light on different internship opportunities available to them. Networking with alumni can be a valuable experience so offering venues for students to meet alumni in a less intimidating, non-recruiting environment can give them the insight they need to make good decisions during the recruitment process. Sometimes just hearing another person’s story can put students’ minds at ease.

3) Offer up offer advice. Students are making big decisions about their careers early in their college experiences. This can lead to rash decision making without the necessary strategic thinking. It’s important for us as career services professionals to ensure students are making good decisions for themselves. We want to avoid the dreaded reneging, which harms the reputations of both the individual student and the university at large, and foster mature and thoughtful career decisions. Brainstorming the right questions students can ask to get the most information about the potential internship experience helps them to consider which is the right opportunity for them. Additionally, working collaboratively with recruiters to create fair and firm offer guidelines helps us protect our students and  ensure a positive experience for the employers.

Many of us will venture into uncharted territory as we during campus recruitment next semester (conveniently, I will be on maternity leave so…..let me know how that all goes). As with all the changes we experience in higher education, it’s important to be flexible, open-minded, and share best practices with each other.

Heather Tranen
Heather Tranen,
Associate Director, University of Pennsylvania Career ServicesLinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heathertranen
Twitter: @htranen

Career Services Becomes a Primary Focus for Student Affairs

Heather TranenHeather Tranen, Associate Director, University of Pennsylvania Career Services
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heathertranen

With increasing attention on return on investment in higher education, it’s no wonder that the pressure subsequently increases on career services professionals to deliver. As a result, career services becomes a more central point of discussion within the realm of student affairs.

My former colleague, Leah Lattimore, and I submitted a career services focused workshop for National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) to explore the effective communication strategies that promote lifelong career development.

Luckily, our crawfish dreams were answered and our proposal was New Orleans-bound for NASPA 2015: Navigating Courage.

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We felt excited about presenting on our topic to a different audience. What I did not expect to find was the plethora of other career-related sessions throughout the conference. I was able to learn more about data/assessment, the future of career services, the importance of early engagement, and recruitment trends. Sessions were also well attended by a cross-section of departments (housing, student activities, and alumni relations to name a few).  Undoubtedly, other student affairs professionals are recognizing career development as a high impact area of their field.

A few weeks later, I am now fully able to digest (literally and figuratively), the main takeaways from the conference as they relate to our work as career services practitioners. None of this information is surprising. However, it all provides interesting insight into where the industry is at the moment, and reminds us how to focus our work.

Data, data, data. As you might suspect, data and showcasing ROI through hard numbers was a hot topic. I don’t mean to brag, but Penn collects data and showcases it in a way where it frames a story for its students (e.g. What can I do with my major, or Where are people with my major working geographically?). One question posed and potentially worth considering to include in your placement surveys would be, “Why didn’t students use career services?” I enjoyed learning what offices at John Jay and FSU are doing during these discussions, and think it is worth thinking beyond just our placement statistics to explore how the data creates a story.

Customized, targeted services. Thought leaders from RIT, NYU, Stanford, and George Mason talked about the future of career services. The need for the core services with a targeted approach will only become an increasing pressure on us as career services professionals. Additionally, Georgia State discussed their targeted programming/niche career fairs. This was also a leading theme in our presentation.

Early engagement. Schools like UConn are offering credit-bearing First-Year Experience (FYE) courses. This definitely seems like an interesting way to tie career services to the academic enterprise and to put career services at the forefront of students’ minds from the very beginning of their college experience.

Recruiting trends. Employers pursuing a “soft” recruiting approach by targeting candidates via social media and at career development events vs. the more traditional recruitment events (e.g. career fairs and information sessions) is also a trend schools are seeing.

That career services has become a central focus within higher education came when speaker Trudy Steinfeld addressed a standing-room only group. She said, “I presented at NASPA many years ago. Guess how many people were in my session? Six.”

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Trudy Steinfeld said to a standing room only group, “I presented at NASPA many years ago. Guess how many people were in my session? Six.”

Now it’s up to us as professionals in the field to continue delivering top-tier work, and to innovate ways that connect our students to the placement numbers society seeks and to the careers that lead them to fulfilling work.