Get ready career services professionals! We are now in the middle from what I like to call the “Senior Rush.” Countless of graduating seniors bombard our offices, innocently insisting that we cram four years of career preparation into a single one-hour session. Being the dedicated career professionals that we are, somehow, we will work our magic and students will depart our office with a professional resume and cover letter, elevator pitch, strategies for an effective job search and interview, and an enhanced understanding about their major/career, all in one session. Impressive…right? However, what if there was a way to gradually eliminate the senior mayhem experienced at career centers towards the end of spring semester?
As we all know, research indicates that students attending college do not actively engage with their career center until their junior or senior year. Approaching the final two years of college, students frantically come to the realization that they have devoted minimum time toward cultivating the essential skills needed to successfully transition into the world of work after graduation. In order to neutralize this knee-jerk approach to career readiness, career counselors at Rowan University created a First-Year Initiative geared toward introducing first-year students to the career development process during their first semester.
During the Fall 2018 semester, the career counselors, in collaboration with the director of academic transition programs, scheduled eight in-class presentations for 175 students enrolled in the Rowan 101 course for First-Year Exploratory Studies students. The one-hour presentation was specifically designed to assist students with career essentials including but not limited to:
- Identify career barriers that impact their major and career decision-making capabilities.
- Use occupational research strategies and resources to further explore various career pathways available within various majors.
- Identify campus engagement opportunities provided on campus to assist with the attainment of professional competencies required for successful transition into the work force.
- Identify essential components needed to establish an action plan to promote career engagement as a first-year student.
Understanding that Gen Z students characteristically have a short attention span, we embedded three interactive activities to keep students attentive and engaged throughout the length of the presentation. A few activities included in the presentation are:
- Career Barriers Activity: Participants review a list of barriers and identify two barriers currently affecting their career decision-making.
- NACE Career Competency Activity: Participants rank each of the NACE competencies in order of strongest to weakness and identify one competency to improve upon and tell why.
- Overall Workshop Survey: Upon completion of each presentation, workshop participants complete a survey to assess their knowledge and/or ability.
While combing through the data from each activity, we did uncover some interesting findings. In particular, students indicated “A lack of confidence in moving toward a specific major and career” was the primary barrier affecting their students in their career decision-making. This speaks to a student’s self-efficacy, which was discussed in detail in the NACE blog that I co-authored with Dr. Alicia Monroe entitled Engaging Gen Z on the College-to-Career Pathway. In addition, “Oral/Written Communication” was the top-rated NACE career competency that students selected as an area they need to improve before entering the workforce. Lastly, the majority of workshop participants rated the overall presentation as extremely effective or very effective.
We also included an optional part two in our initiative, giving instructors the option to send their students to the career office to partake in a one-on-one session with a career counselor for additional assistance. To our surprise, some of the students who participated in part two, took the initiative to schedule additional appointments with career counselors to begin the process of developing their resume, identify on and off-campus employment opportunities available via ProfsJobs, and to research clubs and organizations that could assist them with acquiring the essential skills and competencies for a successful transition to the world of work.
Not yet perfected, this model continues to evolve. And although the dust may never settle, as our student demographic continues to shift, the model meets the needs of the students that we serve. Yes, the approach checks the majority of the boxes for an effective career development model. Nonetheless, what is most meaningful for us is that student appointments with career counselors have increased and student, themselves, have shared their satisfaction with the approach and express their appreciation when they stop us on campus asking thoughtful questions regarding their college to career journey.