Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
With the wealth of information available to college students still searching for their career path to travel and the number of options to consider, the process may become too much to handle.
“Students are encouraged to believe that they can do anything,” says Kristen Renee Lindsay, director of advising and student success at Terra State Community College. “But with so many pathways to consider while narrowing their choices, students and advisers both can get overwhelmed.”
Instead of tackling it head on, many students turn their focus away from the tough career exploration process. Lindsay has effectively used dynamic activities to capture deciding students’ attention, get them thinking about the career-exploration and job-search processes, and engage them in Terra State’s career services.
“For us, it has become less about presenting traditional workshops and more about going to where students are, engaging them, and making that connection so they will follow up with us individually,” she says.
Lindsay takes activities into the classroom or cafeteria—wherever she has a captive audience—to provide information and market the career center’s services. She is particularly fond of the “Career Survivor” activity and has developed the “game” for a host of careers using information from O*Net. (See a sample here.) She also piggybacks off other campus events—with approval of the organizers—to ensure she has an audience. For example, she has used a five-minute “career trivia” activity that she can present before the start of a campus’s regularly scheduled “Trivia Night.”
“By doing this, you get to deliver your information to an audience that’s already there, and meet and interact with students you might otherwise never see,” Lindsay notes. “Spending a few minutes at events that someone else organized can be much more efficient than creating and marketing an hour-long workshop for 10 attendees.”
To be effective, though, an activity doesn’t have to be comprehensive or serious in tone. Another activity Lindsay developed is the “Magic Major Formula,” during which students go through six steps, starting with translating the date of their birthdays into a single total and adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing this by cell phone digits, an individual’s number of pets, and more to get a final “magic” number. That number corresponds to a range in a major key to come up with students’ “perfect” careers which, in reality, is random and most times is not a match at all.
Of course, by the end of this quick exercise, students realize there is no magic formula for determining someone’s perfect career fit. Finding a career match, Lindsay points out, takes research, foresight, and reflection.
“It takes hard work to find a career match,” Lindsay says. “At the end of an activity, students may be more open to the idea of coming to the career services office for help. Doing research about occupations can be arduous. But when I can introduce a topic and make it dynamic, I may hook a student. It’s extremely important to make sure it’s fun and it’s memorable.”
To develop engaging activities, Lindsay recommends career services practitioners keep up with interesting pieces of career and job market information.
“Find things that are catchy and think about the things that engage you,” she suggests. “Ask students what they like. If you have access to student workers, try activities out on them to see if they work.”
Lindsay also advocates for keeping things simple. Avoid overcomplicating things by feeling the need to use the latest technology or cram all the information you can into a workshop.
“A PowerPoint can be beautiful, but does it capture the audience’s attention?” Lindsay asks. “Sometimes quick, simple, and old school is the best way to go. Students need the information we are giving to them, but think of it less as a 40-minute workshop and more as a continuous process. The goal is to plant the seeds so we can create student users who are engaged in the career development process, not a one-time workshop.”