It’s well reported that students across the UK are increasingly more likely to see themselves as consumers than generations before them. Last year, the Guardian reported on how the UK HE system is following the transactional, students-as-customers trend long established in the US.
As students begin to expect more consumer rights and tangible gains from the university experience, they also expect their degree to better prepare them for their career. Universities must organise a variety of practical events to prepare students for work.
When I interviewed Jean de Villeneuve of Hult International Business School last year, he underlined how important events are in preparing students for the job market.
“Once the programme starts, we hold career workshops, provide case studies and bring guests speakers in. We encourage networking and teach students about the hidden job market, because applying to jobs online is only the tip of the iceberg.”
Here are three events your university can organise to help students prepare to move from study to employment.
Organise an annual careers fair to serve as the centrepiece of your events programme. Depending on the size of your student body, it may make sense to hold a series of individual fairs tailored to a specific field of study or career interest.
When inviting companies to exhibit, focus on relevance and commonalities. Target employers who either have a track record of hiring graduates or are keen to begin doing so.
Invite members of your university’s corporate network to exhibit at the fair. Speak to members of your community alumni: if several work at the same company, that company will likely be keen to meet your current students. Think about location, too: invite companies located in your university’s region or regions where your alumni community tend to settle.
Make sure students are prepared to make the most of the fair. Create some content to help with this, such as a blog post or an infographic detailing what to expect on the day and how to make a great first impression when speaking to employers. As an example, see our blog post how to make the most of a university careers fair.
Design a mock interview experience to allow students to fine-tune their interview skills. Speak to students about their individual career interests and requirements and accordingly send them an advert for a hypothetical vacancy. Ask them to send over their CV and cover letter and provide feedback.
Next, invite them to interview for the post. If possible, enlist an external consultant to conduct the interview: this will replicate what it’s like to meet an employer for the first time. Encourage your students to make all the typical first-time mistakes.
Schedule a time to discuss the interview with the student and consultant. Give the student the opportunity to ask questions about their performance and provide some feedback in writing that the student can reference prior to an interview.
If you’re able to offer students multiple mock interviews, vary the format by holding them in-person, by phone and by Skype to help develop their versatility.
During our interview, Jean de Villeneuve commented that LinkedIn profiles are “almost as important as résumés now.” A well composed LinkedIn profile can benefit every stage of the recruitment process. In fact, the lack of a profile can be a red flag for employers who may begin to doubt the legitimacy of candidates not present on LinkedIn.
Hold workshops for students in small groups to encourage interaction. Show them both good and bad examples of a LinkedIn profile. Explain how to keep copy succinct and relevant and demonstrate what makes a professional profile image. Outline best practices for recommendations and endorsements and ask your corporate contacts and alumni for any advice they can pass on.
What events does your university organise? Let us know by leaving a comment or tweeting us.
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