For college students, it’s hard to get excited about career services. They’re inundated with classwork, part-time jobs, and their social lives. Taking the time to consider their futures is not always their first priority.
Moreover, the thought of life after college can bring on anxiety for students. It’s scary to have to think about what life will be like after college when the previous 14 years of their lives have been structured around education. It’s not easy for every student to make this transition from academia to the workforce.
This why career services should engage their students early in their education in order to get them excited and engaged in their career paths.
Here are five steps to accomplish that.
1. Create a simple first step to career services
Everyone needs to start their somewhere, and with career services, we want that somewhere to be Freshman year, not Senior year. One way to ensure that students don’t wait until the last minute to get engaged with career services is to create a simple first step to make a connection.
Even a small first step in the first year provides students with context as to what the career services department is and how it can help them reach their career goals.
2. Make the first step frictionless
One of our favorite theories at Awato is proximal goal-setting. Proximal goal-setting is the concept of doing a clear, simple task that is right in front of you instead of concentrating on a big distant goal that is far away from you.
For instance, it’s a lot easier to say, “Let’s go climb that hill outside!” than it is to say, “In the next two years, I am going to train, plan, travel, and then hike Mount Everest.”
What’s hard about the distant goal setting is that your mind begins to race about all the things you’ll have to do: training, saving money, buying the equipment, traveling, and then hiking the mountain. It’s exhausting and a little scary. But, with a proximal goal, you can just walk outside and climb a hill.
This concept can apply to career planning. Sitting a student down and getting them to think about what they want to do for the rest of their lives is like telling them to prepare to climb Everest. It’s huge, distant, and scary. Instead, we want to set proximal goals that are easy and frictionless.
Don’t worry about the future just yet. Do one small thing, then do another small, easy task.
3. Make the first step fun, engaging and rewarding
The best part about climbing a small hill is the satisfaction you feel when you get to the top. The faster you can get a person to a feeling of satisfaction, the more likely they are to perform the next action.
The best thing you can do then is to come up with a simple rewarding activity that someone can do quickly and feel good. Then you can leverage the goodwill to set another proximal goal for them.
Fun and engaging first steps can include activities like Awato’s robust career assessments, workshops, and meet and greets are fun and engaging first steps to career services.
4. Launch your first step
Now that you have the first step, you need to make students aware of it. Nothing motivates a student like a requirement, so it‘s best if you can get your first step ingrained in a class, orientation, or First-Year Experience program.
We’ve found that educators are more than willing to do incorporate career services into their offerings when they know that the inclusion of career services will positively affect their students’ academic performance.
If you can’t make your first step required, you should focus on making it enticing and known. You’ll need to put on your marketing hat for this one. What do your students care about? What gets them out of their dorm rooms?
Simple things like offering food or promotional items could act as a way to get some students in the door. One way or another, you’ll want to make sure people know your first step is available.
5. Re-engage students in career services again and again
Now that you’ve made your first step into career services and launched it, you’ll need to repeat the process over and over again. Ideally, you have a concept of the interaction points you want to have students go through.