By Camille Dumont, Director of the Center for Career and Professional Development
Long before the cap and gown, today’s students turn to career centers for guidance and support as they begin to develop their career plans. Whether a student is pursuing a career in healthcare, law enforcement or corporate business, career centers like the Center for Career and Professional Development at my University must provide resources and services that serve the professional career goals of students, both professionally and mentally.
Yet, career centers across the country are woefully behind the times. A recent survey revealed that nearly 40% of college graduates expressed concern over their institution’s ability to help them successfully transition into the workplace. A majority of respondents also admitted to feeling emotionally unprepared to survive the professional work environment.
As classrooms and boardrooms embrace flexible and remote environments, welcome emerging industries and dabble in artificial intelligence, career centers remain largely the same. A victim of their perception as an ad hoc service, career centers have not been given enough attention or funding to keep up with graduate needs. For decades, institutions approached education as a life juncture: support students for four (or more) years and then release them into the world.
Job done. Until now.
Institutions like Post University have pivoted to a holistic, lifelong approach to learning. In this new pedagogy, the career center plays a pivotal and cyclical role in the higher education experience. It took a willingness to change and the creativity of its team to realize true transformation. For a full year, the university worked to adapt and modernize its career center to better align with the evolving needs of students and the dynamic job market. Now, the center welcomes online and in-person students and serves as a bustling nexus between academia and career.
Here is how Post revolutionized its career services:
- Conducted an audit of services and visits. After noticing fewer and fewer students using its services, Post conducted a thorough evaluation of the current services and resources. The results demonstrated a need to restructure the center, from services to systems. Immediately, the university set about reorganizing the programs and identifying opportunities for alignment where possible.
- Retired outdated resources and refreshed strategies. Next, Post ended any resources and programs, such as Awato, that were considered outdated or irrelevant in today’s job market. For the first time, the university onboarded new technologies and courses, including Handshakeand Forage, for today’s digital natives. Post has also integrated career services into its curriculum by offering College to Career (CTC) courses for students to enhance their employability and transition smoothly from college to their profession.
- Welcomed new, energetic staff. Not only did Post introduce new services and programs, but it also expanded its team of career advisors. The new professionals undergo training through Post with the National Career Development Association to ensure they are equipped with the latest industry knowledge and best practices in career advising. The advisors were encouraged to bring fresh ideas to the center and expand the center’s access to industry professionals with local and national contacts who are invested in their professional growth. In fact, career center staff are in the process of completing National Career Development Association (NCDA) training to become licensed career advisors.
- Focused on individual needs. Woven throughout each student’s academic journey is a unique definition of success. By first defining what post-graduation success means on a personal level to them, it then naturally helps to establish professional goals and identify support opportunities. Gathering a strong understanding of personal likes, dislikes, and skills can assist students in discovering their definition of success. Career advisors prioritize one-on-one coaching sessions where students can engage in meaningful conversations. This approach allows the team to gain deeper insight into career aspirations and develop personalized strategies tailored to the student’s unique path. Whether it is a freshman coming in for their first time or an alumni seeking career advancement, the university offers a wide range of career services to support individuals at every stage of their professional journey.
- Launched an engagement strategy focused on flexibility. Paramount to the success of Post students in the professional world are frequent professional development experiences. Through a wide variety of activities – career fairs, professional development events, career coaching and more – students explore potential opportunities. The university also recognized that students’ lives, especially with nontraditional students, may not allow for much time outside the classroom. The career center team developed an array of specialized workshops and events, virtual career fairs and flexible scheduling to support its unique population.
- Remain connected with alumni for the duration of their career lifecycle. The university also recognized some alumni may need continued guidance as they navigate career changes, promotions and new challenges. Post’s career advisors plan to host alumni meetings to understand their needs and develop programs that will serve alumni long after graduation.
By shedding outdated resources and programs, Post’s Center for Career and Professional Development has become a dynamic hub of innovation, where students can access the most current and relevant tools for their career development. Looking forward, our plan is to hone in on industry partnerships and expand our network, not only in Connecticut but nationwide, to create a pipeline of diverse and meaningful internship and job opportunities for students. Post’s goal is to provide its industry partners with a continuous stream of accomplished and prepared students ready to contribute their skills and expertise to the professional world.
As a University with main campus population and a significant number of online learners, Post University will continue to adapt and modernize our career services to empower future students with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to navigate their careers with confidence, upon graduation, from the University.