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by Bethany Mills

Let’s take it back for a moment. It was Friday, March 13th, the last day of Spring Break for UGA students and the day when our working world completely changed. Looking back, who knew that almost three months later, we would not be back together face-to-face, walking down the hallways, sipping coffee together and catching up on our weekends, or walking across our beautiful campus to connect and collaborate with colleagues. I think it’s important to remember that time. To hold on to those images. Nothing will replace those connections with the world and with people.

Yet, here we are, in this new, virtual world. And here’s the thing, we had and still have a choice about our current reality–we embrace it or we find every reason to avoid or dismiss it.

I’m proud of the Career Center and how we have handled this transition in our office; focusing on keeping up our culture of collaboration and fun while providing career-related services to students with new technology. In a week’s time, we created a process to convert in-person appointments to Zoom, decided which programs and presentations we could continue and what we needed to cancel, pivoted how employers would connect with students in lieu of the College of Education Career Fair, created expectations for our staff in a new remote work environment, and became Microsoft Teams SUPER users. We learned a lot along the way, and I wanted to share a few of those lessons with you today. 

CONTINUING OUR SERVICES TO STUDENTS

As it turns out, not all services can be replicated online, but we tried our best to continue career services for students to help them achieve career success. This continuation proved to be a bit tougher than we anticipated, but we learned a lot along the way. Below you will find a few guiding questions we used to assess our services and the feasibility of moving services online:

  1. What services are critical to the goal of our office and the career development of students? We decided that appointments, drop-ins, career fairs, and most of our Arch Ready programs were critical services for our students. On the flipside, we were not convinced that classroom presentations were a critical service, so we canceled all classroom presentations for the remainder of the semester. It was also very unclear how faculty would adapt instruction during this time, so we focused on services in which we had more control.
  2. Do we have the technology to continue these services, and if so, how will we use it? Appointments and drop-ins could be continued through Zoom Meetings. The Zoom Meeting function also allowed for breakout rooms, which were ideal for drop-in hours to continue that one-on-one, personal feel that we hoped to keep intact. While we believed our remaining career fairs were critical, we did not have the time or resources to find a vendor and convert them to a virtual event in such a short period of time. For Arch Ready Programs, we wanted a clean, professional look, so we used our GoToWebinar account to achieve quality presentations.
  3. Under these new virtual circumstances, is there an opportunity to re-imagine critical services to achieve the same goal? We had two upcoming career fairs in the spring, the College of Education Career Fair and the Summer Job & Internship Fair, which were only a few weeks away. We knew we needed to connect those students with employers, so we re-imagined how to make that happen. With a short timeline, our Employer Relations team created a “College of Education Career Fair” and “Summer Job & Internship Fair” job posting in Handshake, invited students to apply to the job postings and submit their resumes, and sent Resume Books to career fair employers to review via SendFiles. It wasn’t perfect, but we did our best within the short time-frame and still achieved the goal of making those connections.
  4. What is the gap, and where is our opportunity to fill it? Going online meant that students would interact with us much more via social media and through our website. Our amazing Social Media & Marketing team, led by Whitney Prescott, created a consultant Instragram Story Series to give quick tips to students for their job and internship search, as well as general career-related questions. To establish clear communication, we also created a landing page for all of our virtual services and promoted the page to students via social media and to our campus partners via email.  In addition, our career consultant team saw an opportunity to conduct a summer series to help students navigate their career questions during this unprecedented time. Typically, our consultant team is deep in fall planning mode in the summer, but we saw an opportunity to scale services to meet students’ needs now and made it happen. Check out our summer series.

This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but I do hope that it helps to show the thinking that went into these decisions and the importance of going back to your department’s goals and mission. While we feel proud of our work, there are things we learned along the way:

Great services start with an engaged and connected team.

I give our entire staff credit for the upkeep of our culture during this time. Sure, leadership helps to provide a model and some structure, but it’s the qualities and contributions of each team member that helps the office feel connected. From keeping up with others through a fun Microsoft Teams Channel (we call ours the Virtual Keurig to mimic those coffee conversations that occurred around the Keurig machine) to participating in Staff Meeting Themes (Favorite mug, Celebrity Crush, Favorite toy growing up, and more!), it is each individual contribution that helps everyone feel engaged with one another and with the work we do. And in case it is not yet explicit, we have an AMAZING team!

Don’t be afraid to get it wrong and accept feedback.

To make a lot of these decisions, our leadership team met, came up with a solution(s), brought it to the team for feedback, and continued that process until we got it right. It took time, lots of brainstorming, pulling in the right folks who had expertise on the subject, and forging ahead with a plan. To get it right, we knew we needed to be open to feedback and to use that feedback to improve solutions.

There must be clear and consistent communication.

Communication is hard, even in the old days, when we could merely pop into offices to communicate an important update. With new processes and new technology, communication became even more important. We needed to provide clear instructions and training on using new platforms. I believe that good communication requires thinking about the end-user and doing our best to give all of the information to help them be as informed as possible to ensure success.

On another note, I’ve noticed that going virtual has required us to find new ways to communicate. Our general consensus: Email is out; Microsoft Teams is in! (using Teams could be its own blog post!)

Not every in-person service can be replicated in a virtual world.

I believe this is a lesson we are still learning to navigate. Networking events, panel events, and career fairs are likely not an in-person option as we head into the fall semester. It’s still unclear if these events can be successfully replicated online. However, now is the time to think outside of the box! If we cannot connect people face-to-face, is there an even better solution to consider? Perhaps one that might even address student equity issues and employer biases that may come with some of these events. Now is the time to get creative!

Final Thoughts.

In this strange turn of events, I have found myself more energized and inspired in the work we do to serve students. Working alongside my 3-year-old, however, has not been as energizing. Whew!  But, I have watched our staff members shine in ways I have not seen before. It seems that where one is ready to dive into the details, another staff member is ready to think through a new idea to implement for the fall. There are so many diverse strengths and skills being used, and I have truly been inspired by the collective work of our team. While the Career Center’s primary goal is to serve students and employers in their career-related needs, I have noticed more than ever how we profoundly serve those members on our team. It is servant-leadership at its finest.

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by Whitney Prescott

Are you meeting with alumni or donor(s) soon? From engagement and stewardship opportunities to helpful resources, the UGA Career Center has helped enhance your fellow DAR colleagues’ alumni and donor interactions. Let us do the same for you.

Trusted Career Center Liaison

During the summer of 2018, the UGA Career Center created a new position, Associate Director of External Engagement, to serve on our internal Employer Relations Team and be a direct liaison to all DAR division counterparts. Whether you work in Development, Alumni Relations, Corporate Foundation Relations, or another important unit within our division, know that you may refer any UGA Alum, donor, or potential donor interested in learning more about hiring top talent from the University of Georgia to Whitney Prescott, our Associate Director of External Engagement. Once connected, Whitney will set up an in-person or phone meeting with your contact to learn more about their hiring needs and help them develop a customized recruiting strategy at UGA.

In just a little over a year, the UGA Central Development Team referred 24 employers to Whitney from their respective territories. Most of these employers had never recruited at UGA and were eager to create a pipeline of talent to their organization. As a result, our students have had opportunities to work in the heart of the Garment District in New York City, virtually engage with UGA Alumni in the Bay Area, learn from the Managing Director at Deloitte, and much more!

hireUGA Packets

We created hireUGA packets with customized recruitment information to extend our Employer Relations Team bandwidth, easily inform someone how they can get started recruiting top talent from UGA, and ensure a consistent message is being communicated among all division and campus counterparts. From answering ‘why recruit at UGA?’ to providing tips for enhancing an organization’s brand on campus, this packet serves as a helpful resource to help organizations make impactful connections with our students.

Over the past year, we have had many DAR members request hireUGA packets to keep on hand and use as needed during alumni and donor meetings. Reach out to Whitney to make a request.

Engagement and Stewardship Opportunities

Beyond the Sky suite, you can partner with the UGA Career Center to offer opportunities for alumni and donors to engage directly with our talented students. Though powerful partnerships within our division, our students have been able to engage with top executives at Korn Ferry, Mercedes Benz, Coca Cola, and EY, to name a few. Below are opportunities you can keep in mind as you interact with alumni and donors:

  • Presentations– To better prepare students, we offer over 20+ ‘Arch Ready’ programs and panel discussions each semester, averaging 60 students per event. Alumni and employers have an opportunity to present or co-present on a wide variety of career-related topics.
  • Resume Critiques & Mock Interviews– We host special resume critique and mock interview days throughout the year to help students prepare for the recruiting process. During these events, employer volunteers interact one-on-one with students and provide useful feedback.
  • UGA Mentor Program– This relationship-building program provides a meaningful opportunity for alumni to connect with students around life, career and professional experiences.  Consider asking your contacts about the mentors that played a role in their success and encourage them to pay it forward by investing in the next generation of Bulldogs.
  • UGA Employer of the Day– This engagement opportunity allows employers to connect with students in the Tate Student Center, a central location for students, for short one-on-one conversations about employment opportunities in a casual environment.
  • Intern for A Day– Intern for A Day, a voluntary job shadowing experience allows students to spend time observing employees in the Athens or Atlanta area to gain an understanding of the culture, organization, and industry.
  • Social Media– Our office has a strong national reputation for its social media presence, with the highest number of followers on Instagram of any college career center in the country. We offer employers an opportunity to conduct an Instagram Story Takeover in which they showcase a ‘day in the life’ of their company or organization while highlighting UGA alumni and employment opportunities.

Career Outcomes Data

Each year, the UGA Career Center collects career outcomes data for its respective graduating class. This data provides insight into the employment and continuing education status of UGA graduates within an average of 6 months of their graduation date. The data reports detailed employment, salary, and graduate school information. These reports constitute the only centralized employment data collection for The University of Georgia and are used by current students, employers, colleges/schools, departments, and other stakeholders. Data from our survey is published in the UGA Fact Book and reported to various organizations that rank colleges, such as US News and World Report.

Many DAR members have shared that their knowledge of this data and its use during meetings with alumni, donors, and parents of current and prospective students have greatly enhanced their conversations. After all, the career outcomes of our students are very impressive! For the fifth year in a row, the University of Georgia had a career outcomes rate of 95% or above. Learn more about UGA Career Outcomes and college-specific data.

If you haven’t done so already, follow in your colleagues’ footsteps and enhance your future interactions by referring your contact to the UGA Career Center if they are interested in hiring top talent from UGA, sharing their story and advice with our students, or want a detailed picture of what our graduates are doing ‘after the Arch’.

Questions?

Reach out to Whitney Prescott, Associate Director of External Engagement.

 

 

by Bailey Carreker

The University of Georgia Career Center was recognized by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) for its technological achievement for excellence in best practices using technology and/or social media outlets.

NACE represents over 9,100 four-year and two-year college career services and 3,000 human resource professionals at a national level. NACE awarded Whitney Prescott, associate director of external engagement and communications at the UGA Career Center, for its Instagram account based on program needs, relevance and creativity, among others. The Career Center has grown its Instagram followers from 297 to over 11,000 in just three years—the most of any college career center in the country.

“Whitney has done an incredible job connecting with students by producing innovative, captivating and useful content,” said Scott Williams, executive director of the UGA Career Center.

The UGA Career Center creates a two-way communication channel capable of increasing engagement among students, alumni and employers. Its massive 2,365% increase in Instagram followers can be attributed to effective calls-to-action like attending a career fair, story takeovers by employers to give behind-the-scenes look at companies and giveaways for students responding to requests.

“From an employee engagement perspective, the Instagram takeover was a huge hit,” said Kirby Miles, campus lead for talent acquisition for Newell Brands. “Not only did we have great exposure to current students, we were also able to reach future UGA students and even alumni, creating great brand awareness and a potential pipeline of talent to come.”

You can follow along as the Career Center continues to generate award-winning content on Instagram @UGACareerCenter.