Nearly 4 in 10 college students have never visited their university career center or used online career resources. We hosted a roundtable with career education content influencer Justin Nguyen to help bridge the knowledge gap between students' career development needs and the on-campus resources available to support them in accessing vital career prep services before graduation.
When Justin asked the Declassified College community how they feel about career services at their school, most students responded that their resources are confusing or hard to access. This includes difficulty scheduling appointments — especially during the pandemic. Often, career services is booked solid for months in advance.
Here are answers to common questions the roundtable addressed that highlight the problems students encounter when trying to connect with their school's career services departments.
Q: How do you make sure you're getting fresh educational content across social media platforms like TikTok and LinkedIn?
Building a community through podcasting is one tool Justin and his collaborators use to grow student engagement with the educational content they offer. They also explore broad subject areas that align with students and their career needs, such as financial wellness and financial literacy. Much of the content topics and speakers come from within the Declassified communities across all social media channels.
Q: What should the demographic makeup of a good career services department at a modern university look like? What kind of staff composition can serve the most students?
It might sound counterintuitive, but Justin points out you wouldn't want a career services department that consists almost exclusively of 20-something-year-olds, despite how close they may be to the current student body. These individuals have limited career and professional experience in the real world.
Seasoned career service professionals can offer more knowledge and insight due to their experience in the workforce. That said, there should be a healthy mix of career service professionals with perspectives that students can relate to, particularly when it comes to early career search and prep.
The workplace has changed dramatically over the last few decades, so it makes sense to have a well-rounded team that includes people who understand and can relate to students' needs and struggles.
Q: What should career services departments be doing more of to drive student engagement and participation? What is the ideal role?
Start by asking what the students want and need. Many career services departments set big goals, but they don't necessarily take the student into account. Students want interview tips, resume tips and actionable content that helps them actually find a job — preferably in a digestible and interesting package.
They're already sitting in classes and taking seminars over Zoom, so the last thing they want to do is sit through another 40-minute webinar to get resume and interview tips. They don't want long seminars or lectures. They want targeted, accessible content, like short podcasts, TikTok videos or resources like the PDF list of scholarship opportunities Declassified recently shared on social media.
Q: What's the best way for career services departments and colleges to reach out to influencers in the education space?
Justin recommends starting with platforms like Instagram, YouTube and the blogosphere, which are highly searchable and can lead career services professionals right to an influencer's front door. Your school may already have content creators on campus with an engaged and plugged-in audience. Don't be afraid to DM! LinkedIn also offers a platform for on-campus content creation.
Q: What are the benefits of students partnering with professionals in the field versus peers and career services?
Social media platforms are great student-facing tools at the top of funnel to help career services departments and programs engage and get their content to a target audience: their students. But it's also helpful to have professionals give actionable career tips and mentorship advice, combined with the peer element where students can ask questions and get feedback from people they can relate to.
Q: How can career services professionals and administrators successfully use Instagram and other social media platforms to attract and engage students without coming across as "cheesy" or "trying too hard?"
This is where the student voice and point of view can really come into play. You have to listen to what students are saying and understand what they'll most likely respond to. For instance, GameStop recently promoted an internship and played on the current headlines to hook their audience.
The best advice is to be aware of what's going on in the culture at the moment. Offer content students will respond to in order to increase engagement and avoid looking out of touch or like you're trying too hard. Tap into your students for research on what's trending.
Q: Should universities pay student influencers?
Influencers with massive followings will likely be expensive and not the right fit. Most universities have influencers with modest followings, already on campus, that are more affordable and have a targeted reach that fits your students' needs. It doesn't have to involve a monetary payment either. Get creative with incentives and perks.
Q: How should career services reach out to nontraditional students, such as active military or adult learners in non-traditional campus environments?
LinkedIn is a better platform to reach older and nontraditional learners compared to platforms like TikTok. Alumni networks are another good way to engage and perform outreach to students who have full-time jobs and less times to spend on social media.
University of Maryland Global Campus has the definition of a nontraditional student body. More than 80 percent of UMGC students work full-time or part-time, nearly half of UMGC students are parents and more than 60 percent of their worldwide student population are military-affiliated. Their career services teams have been successful by integrating career resources into the classroom. Read the full case study here.
Q: What is Discord?
Here's how the company describes themselves: "Discord is a free voice, video, and text chat app that's used by tens of millions of people ages 13+ to talk and hang out with their communities and friends. People use Discord daily to talk about many things, ranging from art projects and family trips to homework and mental health support. It's a home for communities of any size, but it's most widely used by small and active groups of people who talk regularly."
Justin describes it as a community platform popular with Gen-Z that can be used to learn what type of content is popular with students.
Q: What are the top social media platforms career services departments should focus on?
LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok are probably the best options for the most reach.
Q: How much input should career services departments give to their influencers for content?
Sharing general branding is fine, but ultimately you want influencers to have as much creative freedom as possible, because it's a trust game: Audiences trust their influencers because they're authentic, so promotion is fine, but trust and authenticity are the priority.