Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
Indiana University’s College of Arts and Sciences has created a new office to serve the career-related needs of its students through a communities approach to career services.
“This model will enable students to better align their academic interests with their career interests and to connect with College of Arts and Sciences alumni employed in a broad array of fields,” explains Joe Lovejoy, director of career services for the new Walter Center for Career Achievement.
Lovejoy says that the size of the college and the needs of its students prompted the shift in career services delivery.
“The College of Arts and Sciences is huge—with 80 academic departments and 12,000 undergraduate and graduate students—and needed its own career services office,” Lovejoy notes. “Still, our students are interested in entering all fields and with 21 staff members, we are unable to meet their needs in a one-on-one capacity.”
To get a sense of what those involved in the College of Arts and Sciences needed, Lovejoy and his staff spent six months conducting focus groups and interviews with students, academic advisers, faculty members, employers, and others.
“The experience was very valuable,” he says. “We found that we needed to reposition our staff to act as facilitators to share information and make connections. We tell students that the benefit of a liberal arts degree is that you can do whatever you want with it. But, we learned that to a 19-year-old student, that is a terrifying proposition.
“We needed to provide more of a direct connection between these students and the opportunities available to them. It needed to be much more tangible.”
To ramp up the tangibility, the Walter Center’s Arts and Sciences Career Communities actively engage students in career development from the time they declare a major through—and beyond—graduation.
The new model features 10 communities so students can explore how their discipline relates to industry-specific opportunities. Students in the College of Arts and Sciences can join one or more of the following career communities:
- Government, International Affairs, and Public Policy
- Design, Retail, and Apparel
- Finance, Consulting, Management, and Sales
- Journalism, Sports, Entertainment, and Production
- Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations
- Healthcare and Wellness
- Technology, Data, and Analytics
- Education, Nonprofit, and Social Services
- Science and Research
- Visual, Written, and Performing Arts
Each community has its own website, where students can view current full-time job and internship opportunities, read interviews with students and alumni, find out about events and programming, and more. All information is specific to the industries around which the communities are built.
Each community also has two career center staff members assigned to it. One develops community-specific programming and the other is responsible for outreach to alumni and employers in the industries covered by the community.
Lovejoy says the role of alumni in the career communities model is critical.
“Students told us they want custom information and they want to hear it from experts,” he points out. “Alumni are one avenue for providing that expert resource.”
Some of the ways alumni provide support are by having conversations with students interested in a specific industry or employer, by serving as an insider source by letting the career center know about full-time job or internship openings within their organizations, and by providing information about various cities which students may be visiting, doing internships, or relocating for jobs.
The new center also listened when students described its career services events as overly professional and intimidating, and indicated they wanted more introductory-level events. In response, the Walter Center created what is calls “discover” and “connect” events.
“Discover events are for students to explore opportunities to network with alums in an informal and relaxed environment,” Lovejoy says. “Connect events are the more traditional recruiting events, such as career fairs and campus interviewing.”
He says some things to consider if starting a career communities model of engagement include:
- Conducting a systematic evaluation of the needs of the community—It’s important to understand what the individuals and groups within the community want. Do an environmental scan and speak with all the constituents that will be involved. Doing so will allow you to get a feel for the dynamics, nuances, and traditions you will need to account for.
- Being flexible—This is a fluid model affected, for example, by market shifts and student attitudes. Your model must account for the ebbs and flows within your communities. Be open to change and nimble enough to incorporate it.
- Identifying and enlisting champions—Faculty buy-in is critical. Involving them in the process is important because they are invested in creating a system that works for them and their students. For example, at Indiana University, faculty members were instrumental in coming up with the individual communities.
“Because our faculty have been involved in their creation, integrating career development into their classes will be easier,” Lovejoy notes. “Career services is no longer an afterthought. The goal is to make it so seamless that students will experience career services without even knowing it. It will just be part of our fabric.”