Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
Many career services offices receive feedback from employers that hire graduates and early career professionals about what soft skills need development.
“Career services offices have a unique and important perspective on students’ professional development,” says Mary Kate Hom, internship and student engagement specialist in the RTI University Collaboration Office.
“They are ‘in the trenches,’ so to speak, with the students. They are hearing firsthand what students feel they need to be successful in the workplace.”
Hom says that students are aware that they need to be well-rounded to be competitive in the job market and, subsequently, the work force.
“Internships are attractive to students for many reasons, but specifically because they provide the opportunity to gain exposure to experiences that don’t exist within the walls of a classroom,” she points out.
“In addition to the technical skills interns gain in their day-to-day work, they also need—and want—opportunities to refine their soft skills.”
Career services offices can help employers provide valuable professional development opportunities for interns. For example, Hom suggests working with employers to incorporate the NACE Core Competencies—the eight competencies associated with career readiness—into their interns’ professional development efforts.
“[The competencies] can be helpful in developing and delivering professional development opportunities,” Hom says.
“The NACE Community is also great resource. There are often discussions around professional development for students and trends that are emerging.”
Obtaining information and communicating it are key elements to helping employers develop and deliver professional development opportunities to their interns. Career services offices should solicit and use information from both sides. They should ask employers about the strengths and areas in need of attention for interns from their school. They should also ask their students about the areas in which they feel they are more and less adept and confident. Career services should then share this valuable insight for the benefit of both sides.
“For example,” Hom says, “I have heard from numerous career service professionals who work with students in the STEM field that they feel their students are strong in the ‘digital technology’ competency, but need mentorship in spaces of writing a resume and interviewing for a job—the ‘career management’ competency.”
This information could be vital for employers looking to help their interns develop professional skills.
Because of their work with both employers and students, career services offices are positioned to provide substantive guidance to employers seeking to create professional development opportunities that will be beneficial to their interns.