Thursday, May 16, 2013
Career Services as Educational Appetizers
I suspect that the “afterthought” status of career services, on many campuses, is a holdover from the time when it was assumed that college-educated people already had the cultural capital upon arrival to navigate the work world; all they might need would be a few last-minute pointers. But that’s just not true anymore, if it ever was. For students who really don’t know the score upon arrival, waiting until they’re leaving is just too late. Better to get to them early, so they can appreciate what the academic side of the college can offer before it’s gone.
If we aren't passing this on to freshmen, if we aren't letting students know about careers relevant to their majors, telling the stories of alumni who went into different paths, and pointing out ways to prepare (e.g. telling artists to learn about marketing) then we're doing it very wrong.
Most faculty are not able to give this kind of help to students and most students don't know they need the help. But interships are the key to employement in ANY field after graduation. You have to have connections and a network.
Alex is correct that faculty can help, but in my experience, many (most?) students don't do things because they should, they do them for grades and/or requirements. If you really want students to take advantage of career services, career services must be brought into the classroom, and internships (or other experiential opportunities) should be a requirement for graduation, if they aren't part of an academic major as Ivory suggests.
The single most frustrating part of career services work is getting students to follow through (I suspect we share this with our faculty colleagues in great measure). However without the backing of credit/curricular requirement, all we have is carrot and no stick when it comes to student career accountability.
They offer resources, advice, workshops, and consulting (I think they will come to your campus) for the current and future artist community. Or, perhaps you could find something more local?
Focusing on interests and skills translates very well to writing resumes and cover letters for publicly listed jobs with easy to understand titles. But that approach doesn't translate well to finding job openings that aren't listed on the internet, understanding how your skills might fit a job that doesn't have clear content (e.g. "coordinator"), or what it actually means to "network" as a verb.
It's not self-evident at all. For example, I'd never heard of an informational interview until late in graduate school, but it turns out you're supposed to do lots of them to learn what kind of jobs you might look for! For another example, if you're a student attending a "networking event," how do you start conversations and what do you talk about? How do you maintain those ephemeral connections afterward, if at all? If you do an internship at an organization where there are no openings after graduation, how do you find out whether the people you worked for can help you more generally, or does it just count as past work experience?
Probably this is all cultural capital stuff, and people who have it think it's common sense, whereas people who don't wouldn't even imagine it matters. But that might be somewhere colleges can make a difference.
Then I asked him what his goals were, and what came back was probably what I would have said at his age. Four different majors that touch only at about 3 or 4 common pre-reqs! He needs an internship just to find out what the real world is like. Fortunately, we do have a career center that will help him with all of the above.
"A course designed to assist students in developing career and related academic goals and skills relative to professional employment in business administration; to assist students in making sound, informed choices regarding potential career paths and attendant academic options within the business administration degree program; to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the professional realm, the changing nature of work, and those tools and knowledge critical to developing effective career management skills."
The second is "Business Career Planning and Placement," taken near the end:
"Assists students in obtaining positions consistent with career goals. Career planning, organized employment campaign, job-application methods, interview, initial conduct on job. Includes addresses by prominent executives."
The business school has suggested that non-business students might enefit from these courses, but people in other programs (particularly Arts & Sciences) had no interest. If anyone wants more detaill about either of these two courses, you could contact Helen Harmon, who is the School's assistant director for undergraduate programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.