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8/4/2010
Source: http://www.naceweb.org

Career services practitioners have developed myriad creative ways to get students into the career center.

“We try to use fresh ideas to attract students to our office,” says Lisa Stephan, director of career development at Lakeland College. “Last year, we sent out personalized birthday cards that included a voucher that they had to bring to our office to redeem.”

When the student came in for the gift, career services staff checked to see if the student needed help with an internship, resume review, or assistance with employment.

Kim Dunisch, director of career services at Concordia University, says staff members hold a Career Carnival in their office during the first week of the fall semester so that students can find the office and find out what career services can do to help them.

“We have carnival-style games they can play and win prizes, and we serve cotton candy, snow-cones, popcorn, and root beer floats,” she says. “It creates a lot of buzz around campus—students walking down the hall with cotton candy are good word-of-mouth advertisements to others who want to know where to get the cotton candy! We also have seen this draw in faculty—they can’t resist the smell of popcorn.”

Similarly, during Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday, Dunisch says the office passes out beads with career services stickers attached and small post-card sized flyers listing upcoming events. Again, these items create buzz, because students wanted the beads and found out where to go to get them.

“We also take part in the homecoming decorating contest, for which we have won first place the last two years,” she adds. “Students want to see the decorations that won, so that brings them into our office.”

Rich Grant, director of career services at Thomas College, likes to interact with students outside of career services.

“One strategy is to be visible and active on campus. When I get to know students on a personal level, through a campus event or a pick-up softball game, they are more likely to use our services,” he explains.

Getting the Word Out

Many career services centers send out a flyer, but the office at Bemidji State University went to great lengths to put the flyer in rooms they know students use.

“We print a flyer of all our events each semester and hang them in the bathroom stalls or on the bathroom walls near the urinals in the academic buildings,” says Margie Thomas Glauque, director of career services at Bemidji State University.

“Potty Periodicals have been very effective and many people still mention they found out about our events this way,” she says. “After all, that is one place they need to slow down and are usually not on their cell phones, so they have time to read.”

Debbie J. Edwards, associate director of the center for advising and career development at Washington State University uses a different approach.

“Usually, when we try to hand out flyers, students walk in wide circles to avoid us,” she says. “Instead, we attach labels listing upcoming events to individual bags of microwave popcorn. Students will gladly take free food, and so we get our message out there.”

Of course, the Internet plays a big role in most career services’ marketing efforts.

Susan Nethery, associate director of marketing for career services at Texas Christian University (TCU), focuses on putting videos, podcasts, and online workshops on the web site, www.careers.tcu.edu, to reach students online. They also have students sign up online for any events the office holds.

And, career services practitioners actively use social networking as well as print media.

“We have almost 1,000 fans on our Facebook page” Nethery says. “There, we post jobs and internships that employers post on our jobs data base [FrogJobs] just for TCU students and alumni. Students can quickly and easily skim the list on our Facebook page to see if there are any jobs of interest to them. If so, the job ID number is listed, so they can log onto their FrogJobs account to apply online.”

Nick Morse, manager of marketing and communications for the career center at the University of Washington, says staff there is active on social media every day.

“Daily, we post to Twitter and Facebook, and, although they’re related, we have a separate strategic goal for each,” he says. “For example, on Twitter, we’ve found that most people are looking for short reminders and updates about events and quick headlines with links to more information. Every now and then, we get into a Q&A with our more than 1,300 Twitter followers, but usually it’s a one-way communication. Facebook, on the other hand, has a more conversational and longer-form format. We use it to communicate tips, articles, and recent events in addition to event messaging directly to our 1,200+ followers and their friends.”

Their center also keeps the web site current. “We have also invested a lot of time and effort into our web site, refreshing it every 12 to 18 months, with each iteration being cleaner, more direct, and more user-friendly,” Morse relates. “This concentrated effort has increased our monthly unique visits to our site by more than 300 percent from the original level of the site in place before we began this effort.”

Taking advantage of a newer technological method to reach students, Nethery is working on a TCU career services app for the iPhone. “The career services app will be part of the overall TCU app that is available free of charge,” she explains. “The career services app will cover dining etiquette and social media etiquette, and will have video and events. The interviewing section will include typical interview questions along with advice on how to answer these questions, with actual examples. My plan is for this app to be released by September 1.”

However, speaking directly to students in class is still a great way to increase career services’ visibility, Grant says. “Our professors are very supportive when I need to get the word out about career events or important programs, such as our Guaranteed Job Placement program. When they’re in class, they are a captive audience and are in ‘listening mode.’ ”

Making Programs and Services Attractive Nethery says that TCU career services has had success with on-campus workshops that are open to all students and alumni.

“For these workshops, we bring in outside guest speakers as well as internal experts to discuss topics ranging from networking to LinkedIn. These are quick sessions and we serve pizza afterward,” Nethery says.

Last year, Lakeland College implemented its Passport to Success program for new students, Stephan says. The program features events separated into five categories: commitment to Lakeland College, commitment to academic excellence, personal development, career development, and commitment to service.

“When students attend the program’s events, they can have their passport stamped or signed by the program’s representative in attendance,” she says. “Students must earn the stamps/signatures themselves and must be in good academic standing to be eligible for prizes.”

The individual Passport to Success programs and events at times include prizes awarded to students in attendance. A prize—free books for the first semester of the student’s sophomore year—is awarded to the student who attends the most Passport to Success events throughout the year. In the event of a tie, a drawing determines the winner. Additional prizes will be announced as the program continues, Stephan explains.

Finally, Grant says, “The best way to generate participation is to provide the best service, one student at a time, which leads to word-of-mouth advertising. When students get great jobs or internships through career services, the word gets out.”