While there was undoubtedly a collective sigh of relief when we closed the door on 2020, it’s imperative that we not try to dismiss all that the last year brought us – Covid-19, calls for racial equality and unprecedented political involvement – but instead emerge better for it.
For those in the business of higher education, thinking seriously about how the events of 2020 impacted students is incredibly important. What’s even more important is translating those insights to changes that will mutually benefit them and their students.
For example, career preparation has always been top of mind for college-bound teens. But more students now than ever before are beginning to realize the need to plan ahead. A recent survey found that 99 percent of Gen Z recognizes the value of making connections with employers, even when they don’t have jobs currently available.
Covid-19 has shown today’s student the vulnerability of a large swath of job opportunities they may be considering. And considering the ever-increasing costs of college tuition, it’s reasonable to believe that future generations of college students will be looking at the current job market and only investing in a college they’re confident will prepare them for success after graduation.
The best way for colleges to increase students’ confidence in their ability to help them launch stable, successful careers is for colleges to increase their investment in career services. Historically, colleges haven’t felt forced to focus too heavily on that aspect of their offerings, because the economy was promising and students were likely to find employment in some capacity.
A relatively easy and inexpensive way for colleges to better appeal to this increasingly important student priority is to provide students with resources to connect with potential employers. Up until recently, Covid-19 forced most colleges to scale back on their recruitment events and on-campus informational interviews. But now, there are technological platforms that allow students to make introductions, plus facilitate ongoing connections.
Cost savings is an added benefit of colleges using these tools. Rather than dedicate time, space, and money to the resources and materials needed to host in-person career fairs, they can easily do so online, with an even greater success rate for students and participating employers. Having students fill out information about their skills and interests in advance, and having companies do the same, allows for micro-targeting that gets the right students in front of the right recruiters, in much less time than it would usually take with students having to physically wander from booth to booth.
In hosting these virtual events, colleges can go the extra mile and impress students by picking companies they’d be most interested in working for from a diversity and inclusion standpoint. Gen Zers are taking a hard look at company policies on inclusion, diversity, and social issues, and have some pretty clear guiding principles and opinions about employers who are on the wrong side. In fact, nearly 1 of every 3 Gen Zers has decided not to apply for a job because they feared being treated unfairly because of their gender, ethnic, or racial identity.
It’s abundantly clear that more so than ever before, students are looking to colleges to implement concrete measures to guide them towards their next step before they’re willing to invest. And whether that’s graduate school, a career path or one of a million other options, it’s never been more critical for colleges to prepare them to take that leap. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways in which they can do that–without breaking the bank.
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