Career Counseling 2.0
When students earn their degrees from Baylor, they hope to step immediately into the workplace or pursue post-graduate education (and their parents fervently share this dream). Thanks to the new Baylor University Career Center, finding that perfect job or academic path post-graduation begins during freshman year and is a technology-driven, streamlined process that is proactive and intentional in its approach. During spring 2019, the Hankamer School of Business Department of Career Management and the Office of Career and Professional Development merged to create a unified center on campus. The new Baylor University Career Center is organized to provide every student with the opportunity to achieve their career potential, regardless of classification or major.
“There was a strategic need to provide enhanced career support to our students,” said Ken Buckley, assistant dean of career management in the Career Center. “The consolidation and focus will allow greater attention to be placed on each student’s respective career needs. Our strategy and methods will allow our team of career professionals to ensure every student is given the resources and support to achieve their career dreams.”
Baylor’s previous career development model relied heavily on students to make contact with the office. Now, a team of Career Success Professionals, also known as career coaches, reaches out to students. These staff members are assigned to different majors within Baylor and interact directly with employers to support placement opportunities.
“We are taking a different approach and going out to the students,” said Shelby Cefaratti, marketing communications coordinator for the Career Center. “So if you are a journalism major, you are going to have a Career Success Professional who works with you. You will have someone dedicated to finding jobs for Baylor journalism students, to getting them on the right track, to helping them build out their résumés to bringing employers in for on-campus interviews. That attention goes for every major on campus. It’s a much more robust model.”
Emily Dalak, who earned a BBA from Baylor in December 2018, serves as a Career Success Professional, but she began her journey with the Career Center as a student employee.
“The Career Center is a huge support system for the Baylor student body, and it was also a support system for me,” she said. “Many of the staff members became my mentors and guided me throughout my years as a student. Much of the success I gained in my work experience was because of my mentors’ guidance.”
The Technology Advantage
The Baylor University Career Center is achieving engagement through exciting job resources, much of it technology-driven.
“Technology is quite simply a force multiplier for our office,” Buckley said. “We have some of the top, leading-edge career success platforms on the market. When we talk to our peers at top-ranked universities, they are always envious of our technology capabilities. We have some of the best career discovery, résumé development, interview preparation, alumni networking and career success platforms that we are proud to say provide our students with a significant edge against their peers at other universities.”
The online platform Handshake is one of those tools offered that students can use. Launched in 2014, Handshake is the ultimate career network and recruiting platform for students. Even freshmen can start using Handshake to build their résumés and to network. Other Handshake resources include the ability to schedule appointments within the Career Center and to learn about on-campus interviews and other events. Employers recruit Baylor students for full-time and part-time positions, as well as for internships, through Handshake.
“These employers, which range from Fortune 500 companies to local businesses, want to hire Baylor students specifically,” Cefaratti said. “We vet each employer to determine if they meet with Baylor’s ideals and mission and if they will be a good fit for our students.” There are now more than 18,000 employers and 6,000 jobs and internships posted in Handshake.
“We have received rave reviews over the way we support our employers and recruiters,” Buckley said. “Many on our team held leadership roles in a wide array of industries and, in those capacities, have led, hired and developed talent in highly competitive environments. This knowledge allows us to work at a different level to prepare our students. Simply put, we understand what most employers are looking for and do our best to help prepare our students accordingly.”
The Career Center has other sophisticated job search tools available to students. For example, Jobscan allows students to upload their résumés and cover letters along with the targeted job description, and the technology will provide students with information on how well their documents match that job description.
Exploring the Options
Cefaratti said one of most exciting events that engaged Baylor students was the giant Career Day the Center hosted in September, which attracted hundreds of employers.
“Instead of there being a business career fair or a science career fair, with Career Day we have one day that includes three fairs — one for business and the humanities, one for the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields and one for non-profit/government. This allows students to explore so many opportunities,” Cefaratti said. “For example, if a student has a communication degree, he or she can take that in many different directions. There are interviews available and employers also collect résumés. We encourage students to go to Career Day even just to network. I think it has had a big effect around campus.”
The Career Center is offering more professional development classes, many geared for Arts & Sciences students. These include PRD 2101, a one-hour course that focuses on résumé writing, presenting oneself on paper and in person, and interviewing skills. The Center will work closer with faculty and staff on outreach and hopes to create more partnerships with faculty and staff to reach students.
“Baylor University and its students are known for the quality and integrity of their character,” Buckley said. “Many employers comment on the fact that not only can you tell when you interview a Baylor student compared to other universities, but if you hire them they will normally be the person who steadily moves up the organization and stays with the company.“
But even with the new technology and special events, Cefaratti believes personal touch is the core of the Career Center. She said working directly with students can be better in identifying potential careers than some of the popular personality inventories, and job shadowing and internships can be stronger tools in determining direction.
Dalak’s role as a Career Success Professional showcases the personal attention Baylor students receive.
“Some of my favorite appointments are the mock interviews with students,” she said. “For example, let’s say a student has an interview coming up. That student would send me the job description that they applied to and the résumé that they used for that application. I would review both pieces then create customized questions that they would most likely experience in that interview. Many times, students will come back and tell me that they were asked most of the questions that we went over in our appointment, which is exactly my goal.”
Buckley agreed that student engagement is the Career Center’s top priority.
“You have to go to students and engage them wherever they are,” he said. “And you have to consistently bring value, along with a deep sense of caring and commitment for their career success, as well as a willingness to customize your support to meet them where they are in their career development.”