- Faculty are in a unique position to help students prepare for a career before they graduate
- Internships, targeted professional social media, and more can put students front and center when it comes to hiring
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According to the NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) reports, the employment rate for college graduates is high enough: 86 percent find their career path and get employed successfully.
The rest 14 percent can’t assimilate into a new lifestyle after graduation because of high expectations (80 percent of freshmen are confident they’ll get a dream job once they have a diploma in their hands) and lack of preparation for a career (only 34 percent of those 80 percent confident remain so when the time comes to make a career choice).
Lack of preparation is also evident from the results of employer surveys: 80 percent report that graduates can’t fill their need for talent; plus, it’s hard to evaluate them by grades in their diplomas. As a result, employers have to spend resources on eLearning courses or training the newbies could have done while in college.
What can faculty do to help students prepare for a career while they’re still in college? Three tips:
1. Encourage them to find volunteer opportunities and take internships
Given 67 percent of students use AI text-generation tools to craft academic papers, it’s logical to assume that they’d think of addressing these tools for generating cover letters and job experience descriptions in resumes. And while there’s nothing wrong with using AI for assistance, you’ll hardly want to place nonexistent job experience on your resume and start your career journey like that, right?
Volunteering will come in handy here: Many employers pay attention to it when hiring young specialists with no solid professional portfolio.
A volunteering experience signals personal qualities: responsibility, empathy, reliability, etc. Also, a volunteering niche and the tasks students performed there serve as a work experience when applying for a job. Finally, volunteering helps students develop solid networking skills that are essential for their future career:
Working side-by-side with hundreds of people, students can make friends or professional relationships with specialists of different niches and backgrounds, learn from them, and later ask them for job search advice.
So, while in college, tell students they shouldn’t ignore volunteering opportunities that best suit their values and preferences. Students can check websites like VolunteerMatch, explore local communities, or ask university career counselors for volunteering opportunities that will help them grow the skills necessary for their future careers.
Another step to preparing for a career is internships. The benefits are many: a higher chance to get a job (it often happens that employers offer the best-performing interns to stay in the company), an opportunity to practice their skills in a real-life work environment, and (again!) networking with people who may help them with a job after graduation.
2. Consider industry placement programs
Many universities offer industry placement programs for their students. But even if yours doesn’t have any, students can do some research and check if any local companies participate in the program and are ready to invite students to work for them.
What is an industry placement program?
It’s a form of employment for university students, where they work full-time in the industry of their field of study. Such programs can be optional for undergraduates or mandatory for course completion.
Industry placement programs come from governmental and non-governmental institutions introducing career opportunities to students. Students can choose an offer and start working at the company while still studying. The program duration varies: Some invite students to work a few days a week for 3-4 months, and others can invite them for a year.
Please don’t confuse such programs with internships. While the latter often take place during summer months and are aimed at gaining experience in the field, the former is a part of the degree. They are available for students who complete undergraduate degrees at a university.
In most cases, industry placement programs are paid. Once students complete them, they return to the university with new skills and experience. It’s an opportunity to improve employability and achieve better academic results.
Participating in such programs brings obvious benefits: the first job and work experience to add to a student’s resume, their hard and soft skills growth, and an opportunity to become a company’s permanent employer if the student (and the company) find it a win-win collaboration.
3. Build your professional image
Why wait for graduation if students can showcase their knowledge and professional skills right now? Help students as they start building their portfolios for future clients and employers: practice freelancing that matches their skills (design websites, write texts, become a private tutor for schoolers, etc.).
If a student’s niche doesn’t allow them to apply skills while in college (for example, they are a medical student who can’t practice before getting accredited), encourage them to do their best to showcase their knowledge creatively:
Start a blog or niche social media profile where students can write about their profession, participate in discussions, describe professional issues, or give advice related to their future profession. Launch a YouTube channel to grow a loyal audience for future employers to see their value.
And remember LinkedIn: Create a professional profile there to showcase knowledge and achievements, get recommendations, and build a network.
Urge students to see the difference between their professional profiles on social media and their personal ones. Students should keep personal lives and opinions to themselves: Don’t mix these two areas in one profile. When working on a professional image, make sure students know to keep their online presence crystal clear for future employers.
It’s not about hiding the information but understanding the borders and professional ethics.
When communicating with an online network, stay positive and speak constructively. Build a reputation as a reliable expert worth working with.
So, ready to start?
For students willing to build a prosperous career after graduation, it’s critical to understand they should start preparing for it while in college. They should not sit back and expect a dream job will find them immediately after graduation. Instead, faculty can help students spend their college years building their professional image and practicing skills for a more confident first step to a career path.
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