The whole reason students go to college is better employment opportunities, making your school's career center vital to its mission to serve students. In addition, a good career center helps your school thrive under the new gainful employment regulations, in which a career college's eligibility for federal student aid depends on how well its students are prepared for "gainful employment" in a recognized occupation. The Department of Education recognizes a program as leading to gainful employment if the estimated annual loan repayments of its graduates do not exceed 20 percent of their discretionary income or 8 percent of total income.1 To help students land a good job after graduation, your career center should offer the following services and resources:
Scheduled Career Counseling Sessions
Urge students to schedule half-hour counseling sessions at the center. Some students will make an appointment on their own, but many will not sign up unless prompted. To ensure that students come in at least once and get familiar with the career center office, build an initial session into student orientation or a student's first semester. As their final semester approaches, remind them by phone and email that career counseling is available. It will encourage them to take advantage of the opportunity.
Drop-in Career Advice Opportunities
Your students may have career questions come up while they are near the career center office, but if they have to wait to schedule an appointment, they may not bother. Encourage drop-in meetings so they can follow up on their impulse to ask questions.
Apply this same strategy online. Feature a live chat area on the career center's section of your website. While students are waiting for online staff members to become available, you can have them select online options that steer them toward FAQ pages and tutorials with answers to their questions.
Career-Specific Advice Programs
A large percentage of students will have career-specific questions about popular professions such as healthcare and business administration. Offering advice in such specific areas can attract more students to seek counseling. Use resources such as your college website, student newspapers and email to let students know about career-specific counseling opportunities.
Job Hunt Help
In addition to helping students explore career options, career centers can also help students with their job hunt. Provide hours where students can come in to get trained in skills such as how to find prospective employers, how to write a cover letter and how to handle interviews. Have staff available to assist students who need help writing resumes. Offer mock interview sessions so students can get past interview anxiety and practice answering questions.
Of course, it's a good idea to offer these kinds of services on an ongoing basis, but you should also consider holding periodic workshops on specific skills such as resume writing. Use these workshops to let students know about additional job hunt resources you offer.
To accelerate student job hunts, offer periodic career fairs attended by prospective employers. You can have a campus-wide fair once a year or once a semester, supplemented by industry-specific fairs spread out over the year. This gives you opportunities to promote your career fairs both to the general student body and to specific student groups. For instance, you can invite students with particular majors, offer career fairs hosted by specific departments or run a fair featuring employers seeking to hire women or minority students.
To reinforce the information they receive at your career center and assist them with implementing it, provide reference materials for students to take home. Send them home with a summary of popular career opportunities or a career aptitude self-quiz. Reference materials can be made available both online and in the form of physical worksheets, brochures and workbooks.
Email List and Newsletter
To follow up with students who seek counseling and remind them of additional opportunities, ask them to register for an email list. You can place the opt-in form on your website as well as keep sign-up forms visible during counseling sessions and at events. Keep them reading your emails by providing a regular newsletter highlighting valuable information from your blog, and send them email reminders to start thinking about their career plans as graduation approaches. You can also follow up with students after graduation to remind them that job seeking help is still available if they need it.
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