Making a Positive Impact With a Career Studio

By Kelly Dorner posted 05-22-2018 08:23


It’s hard to believe the end of another academic year is here! I am not sure whether to attribute my disbelief to a snowy Michigan April or the rapid pace of the Fall and Winter semesters. Regardless, as I pause to reflect, it has been an exciting year at Oakland University Career Services. In my last blog post, All Drop-Ins, All the Time: Creating a Career Studio, I shared the story of our efforts to create and launch a career studio.  As promised, I would like to share an update on our progress and some key takeaways. 

So, you may be thinking: Did it work? I am thrilled to say that our first year with a career studio exceeded my expectations. Our studio has had an immediate positive impact on the volume of students we are able to serve, as well as the quality/flexibility of the solutions we provide. The implementation of our career studio model increased our “drop-in” foot traffic by 118 percent. Under our previous model, students were able to drop-in for a quick question. Comparatively, the career studio offers a collaborative, interactive space for students to stay as long as they like. Throughout the year, more than 600 students took advantage of this model. It was great to see a consistent flow of students working in our space! Perhaps even more exciting, is the feedback from our students—98 percent of students visiting the Career Studio rated their experience as valuable. Our peer career ambassadors often shared how tickled our students were to find out they did not need to have an appointment to receive meaningful service.   

Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the immediate results we saw in our first year with a Career Studio.  I thought it might be helpful to share some lessons we learned along the way:    

Ask and Share:

I can’t stress this enough! In my previous post I mentioned the guidance Mary T. Calhoon from University of Nevada Reno (UNR) generously shared. Mary T. and her colleague Joe Nannini continue to be a wonderful resource to share ideas. Beyond the invaluable guidance from UNR, Mary T. also connected me with Marie Whitaker Howell from Brigham Young University (BYU). Marie was in the process of launching a Career Studio at BYU; it was great to compare notes and share experiences with her. Throughout the academic year, Mary T, Joe, Marie, and I continued to meet and compare notes. It was wonderful to have trusted partners across the country to share with. In fact, the four of us found our best practice sharing so valuable that we teamed up to submit a proposal  for the 2018 NACE Conference & Expo, and  we were selected to facilitate a presentation entitled Flip Your Career Center: Three Peer-Led Career Studios.  Our session, an interactive panel discussion about the details of creating and managing a career studio, will be held on Wednesday, June 6 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. We hope to see you there!

Make it Your Own:

When I first learned about the UNR Career Studio, a part of me felt overwhelmed. My head was spinning with questions about whether we had the space, student staff, and office structure to make a studio work. I soon realized that Oakland University could make its own version of a career studio that worked for us. Don’t have the budget to create a state of the art interactive lab to host your studio? Don’t let that stop you!  With a bit of creativity, we shifted our front office to create a collaborative space for interaction that easily met our needs. It was exciting to see how interactive our space had become with only a few small tweaks. 

Not sure if you want to do away with offering 1:1 appointments? That’s okay! Oakland University’s hybrid approach of scheduled 1:1 appointments and studio visits has worked well for us. Our students love that they can drop-in to the Career Studio without a scheduled appointment and work through career-related questions in their moment of need.  They enjoy the flexible approach of working on a social media profile or resume at their leisure as the motivation strikes them. On the other hand, sometimes our students crave 1:1 attention from a member of our professional staff to talk through unique complex topics. This is an important part of our service model that we intend to preserve.     

Don’t Be Afraid of Trial and Error:

I am a competitive person. I had to temper my competitive spirit a bit by admitting I didn’t have all the answers about what would and wouldn’t work for our studio and be comfortable learning from our experiences. For example, our office is open during traditional hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We decided to try keeping our Career Studio open until 8 p.m. a couple times before our Winter Career Fair, although we weren’t sure there would be a demand for this. The first evening was about a week prior to the fair. The idealistic part of me said “our students shouldn’t wait until the last minute to get their resume ready for the career fair. They should visit the Career Studio early and give themselves time to make adjustments.” True as this may be, our turn out was low that evening. We tried it again two evenings before the fair with success. To my delight, our studio was full of students with laptops working on resumes, researching employers, and preparing their elevator pitches. We were thrilled! Next year, we plan to choose two evenings the week of the career fair to host evening hours. This seems to work better for our students. 

Never Stop Tweaking:

With one year under our belt, we have barely scratched the surface on the possibilities for our Career Studio. It is important to keep thinking about next steps, and brainstorm ways to make our Career Studio even better. Further, I would suggest including student staff in the brainstorming process. Our peer career ambassadors offered great feedback on how our career studio concept is working and wonderful suggestions on how to continue promoting the studio to students. It’s exciting to think about what’s to come in the year ahead. On the immediate horizon, we plan to host a Career Studio Open House for academic partners to kick off the new school year. We are also brainstorming a way for employer partners to host a day in the Career Studio. Finally, we plan to continue to heavily promote our Career Studio to the campus community through partnerships with student organizations. 

I hope you have found these tips and tricks for Career Studio creation helpful!  I hope to see many of you at the upcoming NACE Conference and Flip Your Career Center: Three Peer-Led Career Studios, Wednesday, June 6, 3:00-4:30 p.m.