Connect Your Students to Employers Earlier
One of the central functions of a strong career services center is to connect students and employers. Not only do students want to find employers for internship and post-graduation job opportunities, but local employers want to find students. In many instances, employers are simply looking for talent.
At the national level, there remains a huge disconnect between open positions and what candidates are looking for in a job. Thus, many well-paying jobs requiring a college degree remain unfilled and employers continue looking to local colleges and universities to fill the gap.
What is sometimes under-appreciated by schools is that many employers want to connect to students earlier in their educational paths. A senior might become an employee, a junior might become an intern, but a sophomore might become both of those as well a new customer and brand ambassador for the company and its products and services. Thus, employers are always on the lookout for meaningful ways to get in front of students in their first few years of school.
I’m convinced that another reason is that many executives appreciate the opportunity to tell their story and have an impact on a young person’s life. Try this test – look at who organizations send to career and job fairs. You’ll see mostly young professional recruiters working in HR. Then try one of the suggestions below and see who shows up. Odds are you will see senior executives showing up. Anyone who has reached the top levels of their organization has benefitted from mentors or had a life-changing experience earlier in their life. On-campus visits is a way to pay it forward.
So, what are some proven programs for connecting employers to freshmen and sophomores in meaningful ways? I’ll share some strategies (beyond career fairs) that our College of Business have used successfully and then discuss a few ways in which a career compass program like PathwayU can increase value for both parties.
Programs to Connect Employers to Students
- Classroom Presentations – We used to have standalone events for employers to present, but attendance has been spotty post-pandemic. If faculty understand that class presentations are vital to not only student development but employer relations, they are happy to surrender 15 minutes at the beginning of class. We give a specific assignment to speakers - to talk on the meaning of the 4 C’s in the business world. The 4 C’s are communication, creativity, critical thinking, and emotional control. This allows speakers to “tell their story” while staying on point and maintaining consistency with other messaging through our professional development center.
- Lunch & Learns – Lunch and learns have some of the same benefits as classroom presentations, but the food becomes part of the draw for students. Employers can still present the 4 C’s, but since the event lasts an hour, presenters have more time to answer questions and address topics of interest to them.
- Major-specific Academies – We have had great success putting together major-specific learning opportunities in disciplines like accounting, human resources, and supply chain. The event is billed as an opportunity for students to learn about careers and majors. We sometimes include learning activities that are built into classes to give students a feel for the type of work within a profession. Employers are there to answer questions and share information about current and future hiring needs. Employers love these opportunities because they feel much like they are recruiting and students love these because help them make more better choices about their majors.
How PathwayU Can Support Employer Connections
The PathwayU is a career platform that allows students to practice self-discovery, explore vocational pathways, and find connections to majors, careers, and even employers. Career guidance experts who are well-versed in the platform can strengthen events connecting employers and students in a number of ways. These include:
- Student profiles (occupations) – it is very easy to generate reports showing the primary subject areas matched to students. At a minimum, this information can be shared with employers presenting at events. With a little bit of spreadsheet magic, files can be merged and sorted so that the career interests of students who registered for an event can be shared with employers (e.g., “32% of registered students have their primary or secondary career focus as sales and marketing”).
- Student profiles (workplace preferences) – the same reports can generate profiles of what students registered for a specific event value in a workplace (e.g., “the two most valued characteristics in employers for students attending the event are having a strong set of guiding principles and having opportunities for professional growth”). By having this upfront intel, employers can fine-tune their presentations and answers to questions to positively brand themselves to future job candidates.
- Job profiles (occupations) – Ideally, all students attending these events have completed their PathwayU assessments earlier in their college careers. Students should be encouraged to revisit their career matches and come prepared to ask questions of presenting employers about specific roles in their organization (e.g., “I like the opportunity to start and manage projects. How soon would I have the chance to do that in this role?”.
- Organizational profiles (workplace preferences) – Students also should be encouraged to review their workplace preferences as well as view the company websites for presenting employers. Students should come prepared to ask questions of presenting employers about how their workplace needs would be met by that organization (e.g., “I feel energized in an environment that encourages new ideas; what programs do you have in place to encourage employee innovation?).
Programming that connects employers to students when the latter are in their first few years of college is a win-win. By sharing trends in students’ PathwayU results with employers and encouraging students to review their PathwayU results and be intentional in employer events, career guidance professionals can create big wins for both stakeholders.