Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
May 9, 2012
Over the past five-plus years, the number of military veterans asking for help with their career explorations and/or job searches at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus has nearly doubled.
“We have more need for career counselors and staff who are actively working with our student veterans on career concerns,” explains Liz Hruska, assistant director of career and internship services. “As a whole, the student veteran population tends to be more ‘decided’ academically and career wise, at least when comparing them with a traditionally aged college student, so they usually are more in need of job-search assistance.”
Still, there are challenges associated with helping veterans. The student veterans Hruska has encountered often are busy. Many are active in the National Guard and some have part-time or full-time jobs. Most student veterans don’t live on campus, and many have significant family obligations.
“It can be difficult to get student veterans to attend workshops or other in-person career development activities,” she says. “In addition, student veterans I have talked to told me that in the military, they were trained to ‘get by’ by themselves, so sometimes, seeking out services can be interpreted as a sign of weakness.”
The University of Minnesota has developed different ways to deliver career information specifically to student veterans. Career services brochures are included in the orientation sessions that are attended by all student veterans, and the office has created an online workshop.
“I also have written on career topics for the regular newsletter that goes out to our student veterans,” Hruska adds. “And we have delivered workshops targeting student veterans at the Student Veteran Association club space.”
Several years ago, the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities formed its Veterans Advisory Committee, which includes members who work in admissions, student services, counseling, health services, student affairs, disability services, ROTC, academic advising, and career services. The committee also includes a student member from a student veterans club on campus.
“We meet on a regular basis—about every two months—and share resources and information, discuss concerns, and plan new initiatives,” Hruska says, adding that the committee also plans an annual student veterans’ appreciation day. “This committee has positively impacted the environment on campus for student veterans and for all students.”
The committee has purchased books on military to civilian career transitions so that all of the different career offices on campus could have the same basic resources for counselors and students to access.
In addition, the efforts of the committee have been bolstered from the outside. Two years ago, the committee was awarded a substantial grant from a major retailer, and a sub-committee structured an internship grant program to financially support student veterans who were pursuing internships.
“The internship grant program was met with a lot of student interest—lots of applications and it was a huge success,” Hruska says, noting that the university is exploring options for a credit-bearing transition to college course that would meet liberal education requirements.
“One of the greatest benefits of this committee is the ease of communication and referrals across staff and units at our large institution.”
Some of the resources Hruska and her colleagues find helpful when working with student veterans are listed on the career services website, and the center has developed a new resume writing handout for student veterans.
Another key resource of the career services offices is a peer adviser on staff who is a student veteran. He and Hruska have co-delivered several resume workshops specifically for student veterans.
“It’s extremely helpful to have him on staff as he can speak to the student veteran experience and he has a lot of credibility with other student veterans because he is one of them,” Hruska says. “He has been a great ambassador for career services with the student veteran audience.”
Still, Hruska relishes the opportunity to assist student veterans in need of assistance with the job searches.
“Nothing beats just sitting down with a student veteran and helping him or her work on a resume one to one to get it to a place where they’re feeling confident with it and the military experience is as strong and as accessible as it can be to a civilian audience,” she says.