Graduation marks a young adult’s academic achievement and redirects him or her to the exciting outside world. But meanwhile, it may be difficult for a new grad to take on a professional role as quickly. Before I determined my mind to work in marketing communications, I was anxious about two questions: what do I want to do and how can I do it. It was at that moment I first acknowledged the importance of understanding one’s future career path so that he or she could successfully land a full-time job.
Fortunately, I figured them out before long and, since then, I have been committed to cultivating my professionalism by multiple means. Having graduated recently, I am grateful that I began preparing early. Just like me, some students secure internships related to their intended fields during their final year or even junior year to gain real-life experience. However, some are still confused about how to start.
After all, being offered a job or an internship involves a challenging process that is much more than searching for a position, interviewing with the employer, and waiting for the result. Some might not have the required skills or academic competency to be recognized. Some might have an unsatisfactory resume, cover letter, or portfolio that fails to showcase their qualities. Some may be excellent candidates but don’t know how to articulate their accomplishments during the interview. More importantly, some might be unclear about their career aspirations—the foundation of a job search. Therefore, it is crucial for students to get ready in advance, and faculty can play a significant role in propelling their professional development.
In an attempt to know what instructors had done to help juniors and graduating seniors grow in professions, I sent out a quick survey on behalf of UCAT. The top three answers regarding instructors’ actions were:
• Professors have shared information about internships, jobs, interview tips, etc.
• The assignments and projects have provided students insights and hands-on experience in their intended fields
• Students have had in-person conversations or emails with professors regarding professional skills and career aspirations
According to the respondents, these three methods were most effective. Also, 100% of those who said professors were willing to be listed as a reference or write a recommendation letter believed this method helped.
To further explore how professors can best support their students, I had a meaningful conversation with Dr. Christina Rideout, director of Career Counseling and Support Services. In addition to the above-mentioned strategies, she suggested the following ways to make a positive difference to students.
Promote career services in class
Students have various reasons for choosing not to visit career services. Sometimes they think they only have small questions regarding their professional development, so they don’t want to spend time on something that seems to be easy to answer. But those questions, as a matter of fact, can be complex and detailed. For instance, it may take a year for a student to find out if a particular occupation befits him or her. A 30-minute consultation with career services may
Additionally, students may not recognize all the available forms of assistance that career services offers. Or, they may believe online findings are sufficient for addressing their needs. They also tend to talk to professors while having concerns, regardless of the extent to which the latter can help them in a professional manner.
Instead of merely telling students to turn to external resources, professors should inform students of the credibility and importance of career services in facilitating their career preparation. Specifically, professors can:
• Build rapport with career services and ask the staff to come into class to hold small workshops or informational sessions
• Put career services on syllabi to raise students’ awareness
• Ask students to visit career services for further advice when students need resume or portfolio reviews
Give students professional insights in class
Professors can share their own career-seeking experiences as well as professional involvements or associations with students. Professional organizations often provide additional resources and valuable networking opportunities.
Professors can invite alumni, outside professionals, and local employers to the class as guest speakers, who can then share their responsibilities, challenges they have faced, and skills required for a typical work environment so that students can acquire a direct perception of what an occupation is like in real world. Students can also learn how to transition from undergraduate into that particular profession if interested. Potentially, they can gain networking contacts through professors.
Personally, I took ENGL 4150 last year, and my professor invited a couple of guest speakers working in different domains of professional writing to the class. Their presentations inspired me to switch my intended field from corporate communications to marketing communications.
Incorporate career-building assignments into the class
Professors can leverage class assignments and focus more on their ability to enhance students’ career competency and aspirations.
• A well-crafted assignment allows students to grow professionally. Professors should determine what professional skills each assignment or project is building or if it can be optimized to maximize students’ learning.
• A broad range of occupations favor skills that are not particular to certain majors, such as critical thinking and communications skills. Professors can find ways to help students practice these skills in class as well.
• If a project is an asset to students’ professional development, professors can teach students how to translate what they have done into words and how to present it to a potential employer.
• If students are participating in research and other skill-building activities, faculty can help students think about how to synthesize responsibilities and accomplishments into bullet points on resume.
• Professors can encourage students to attend career fairs and networking fairs by offering extra credits for submitting written reflections on their experiences.
o Alumnifire is an online professional networking and mentoring tool for Ohio State alumni, students, and staff to get connected. (osu.alumnifire.com)
o The 2018 Career and Internship Fair will be held from September 18 to 20 at the Ohio Union. (go.osu.edu/osucif)
While career services gives students access to reliable, professional advice on their career options, faculty has multiple ways to create dynamic connections between the class and real-life applications of course content. Not only can graduating seniors benefit from these strategies, students who are eager to get prepared early can also gain actionable insights into the future.
Joy Qiao is 2018 OSU graduate who majored in Strategic Communications and also worked as a Marketing and Public Relations Intern for UCAT.