Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
All of Purdue University Global’s career services staff began working from remote locations in January 2020, so, when the coronavirus situation escalated, their operations were not significantly impacted as they were already engaging with students virtually.
“Delivering career services virtually is part of our everyday practices and has been our way for the past 10 years,” says Jennifer Lasater, vice president of employer and career services at the online university.
“I firmly believe that you can deliver a great career services experience online.”
Purdue University Global career services staff customize services by reaching out to students, finding out their particular career goals, and working with them specifically on those needs.
“Our career services staff has the capability to meet with students at night or on the weekends, when our students need us,” Lasater explains.
That flexibility works with the students’ demographics. The average age of Purdue University Global’s students is approximately 34 to 36, with previous work and collegiate experience who also have some personal obligations, such as working full time, serving in the military, or assisting family members.
However, there are challenges with providing career services remotely, such as staff members who may be uncomfortable with using technology as a way to connect with students or cold calling students or employers if they are not used to it. These challenges are easily overcome with training.
Purdue University Global staff connect with students via phone, email, or Hangout, depending on the student's preference. It also has:
- An internal career services site that enables students to ask questions related to career advice for all to read and learn from;
- A job feed that pulls jobs from hundreds of different sites and professional organizations;
- A way for students to submit their resumes, cover letters, and/or LinkedIn profiles for review
- Career assessments; and
- Resources, such as maps illustrating the locations of many of its employer partners to help students find employers in their local areas.
“We also host employers for online information sessions called ‘employer spotlights,’ during which the employer spends an hour with us,” Lasater adds.
“We have them present for the first 30 to 40 minutes on their company, their culture, their open positions, how to apply, and more. We then open it up for questions from the students.”
Lasater says that it is helpful to have a staff member moderate the presentation and then have another team member answer questions in the chat bar.
“We record these with the employer's permission so that students can use them as a research tool for future interviews,” she notes.
“We have found that both students and employers seem to like this approach as it is more time-effective for them.”
Purdue University Global’s career services resources are available 24/7 for students.
Career services offices that are offering their services remotely should explain the “why” behind their strategy as it may be different than “business as usual” and remember that there is nothing wrong with picking up the phone or video chatting with someone instead of getting into a long email back and forth over questions or issues, Lasater advises.
She offers several other best practices for offering career services remotely:
- Do not make assumptions—Do not assume that everyone is going to want to do everything you offer. Do not assume that students are naturally going to come to you unless you demonstrate the value of them working with you.
- Start small—Determine what your students need today and use technology as a tool for your staff to make it happen.
- Check in with your staff on their tech skills—Do they know how to host an online visit? What is their comfort level? How can you help them get more comfortable?
- Use videoconferencing technology—This is recommended for staff meetings, one-on-one meetings with students, and employer or staff presentations. You can catch a lot from people’s non-verbal communication. It helps to see the person “behind the voice” and tends to make people more comfortable.
- Make sure your career services meet your students’ needs—Determine where they want to work, then mine leads and build partnerships with the employers your students want to work for.
- Allow students to support each other— Purdue University Global’s internal career site allows students to ask career-related questions and get responses from other students. It is a great way to build community and support, especially with today's current issues.
- Use technology to collect information from students—Use a tech tool to push out a request for information so that your staff spends more time working with students than chasing paperwork.
- Consider your social media strategy—Use social media to celebrate victories—like student employment—and share all that your office has to offer.
“Also, focus on your staff's well-being. They will impact how your students feel during this stressful time,” Lasater adds.
“We started a fun ‘how to stay entertained while staying in’ shared document and the team has found ways to connect over recommended movies, ‘binge-worthy’ TV shows, family activities, and recipes.”
Purdue University Global career services also offers the opportunity for staff to work a compressed work week once a month to help them balance the needs of their students with their own personal lives.
“We've been doing that for about two or three years now and our staff really enjoys this extra flexibility,” Lasater notes.
“When it comes to the Covid-19 situation, we are also offering our staff to work with us to adjust their work schedule to maintain the balance they may need with additional family members home at this time.”
She points out that career services offices all help their students in different ways.
“Don't get stressed out or too hung up on delivery methods that get in your way of making a difference to a student,” Lasater explains.
“The most important thing we can do now is serve our students the best we can for their specific situations.”