How to Bring Students Back to the Career Center

Since the pandemic hit in 2020, there seems to be one thing we can all agree on: life will never be quite the same as it was before COVID-19. Although the world is beginning to re-open, we’ve all learned to work, study, and live in new ways.

Students, in particular, have become accustomed to remote ways of learning–whether remote learning has worked well for them or not. The new challenge for educators and career development professionals: How do we provide meaningful career discernment and development when we are seeing less and less of our students?

Today’s college students need personalized and meaningful #CareerDevelopment more than ever.Click to Tweet

Where are the students?

Talking with colleagues across student affairs, academics, and career development, one common theme has emerged over the last year: We’re holding in-person events again, but the students have stopped showing up.

The COVID pandemic forced higher ed to create new ways for students to interact with professors and administrators without the need to physically come to the classroom or an office. And now that those pathways for remote interaction exist, students expect them to continue as an option in one way or another.

On-campus events and workshops aren’t the only casualties. Students across the country are protesting classroom attendance policies, making the argument that these policies are inherently ableist. If we made exceptions for COVID, why are we not making exceptions for other illnesses and abilities?

Like the employees who are driving the Great Resignation, students have realized — thanks to the pandemic — that there are other ways to work and learn, and they’re demanding that educators and administrators accommodate their preferences and needs. There’s no going back to the way things were–but how do we provide the same level of personal career coaching and development when many students simply won’t come into the office?

To complicate the issue, some of these very students who are skipping out on office hours are also the ones who would most benefit from personalized interaction with a career coach or mentor. The pandemic has had a lasting toll on this generation of college students; they’re overwhelmed and stressed, and the very thought of making a life-defining decision like choosing a career path can feel paralyzing.

For #CareerCenters, it’s imperative to offer services that students can access #Remotely.Click to Tweet

Students are looking for meaning and purpose.

Today’s college students need personalized and meaningful career development more than ever. As career development professionals, it’s our job to meet these students where they are and help them take the first step on the path to finding purpose.

“Meeting them where they are” has two dimensions. First, it’s imperative to offer services that they can access remotely, from the comfort of home or the dorm room. This takes away the pressure and commitment of setting up an appointment or having to interact immediately with a real person–things that many students find anxiety-inducing, especially as COVID cases rise and fall around the country.

Second, career centers must meet students where they are in their career development process. The pandemic forced many of us to reassess what we find important in life and how we define career satisfaction. These “big picture” questions are at the forefront of students’ minds–and without much actual work experience, they’re left wondering how to even begin answering them.

Online tools can be a gateway to personal interaction.

The obvious way to meet students where they are right now is to provide online access to career development tools focused on meaning and purpose. PathwayU can provide exactly that. Using predictive science, PathwayU offers assessment tools that are easy to use and, more importantly, offer students direct insight into the big questions that are on their minds.

The barrier to entry is low: your students can access the platform from anywhere, without having to make an appointment. Once they’ve begun the process of self-discovery through the platform, you have the option to review their results and reach out to begin a more personalized conversation.

The answer to bringing students back to the career center isn’t more poorly-attended workshops or ignored email blasts. The answer is to provide real value to the student and to deliver it in a way that works for them at this moment. By allowing students to begin the process of self-discovery from the comfort of anywhere, we also help them realize the benefit of engaging with the career center as they design a purposeful life and career.

Jen Gose has worked in higher education for eight years, including in career education at a small liberal arts college for over five years.

Guide Your Learners to Their Purpose with PathwayU from Jobzology