Career services are going to be especially important to your graduate and adult students in 2024. According to Microsoft’s latest Annual Work Trend Index Report, 52% of Gen Z and Millennials are expected to pivot careers in the coming year. With much of the adult population looking for new employment opportunities, some professionals will turn to graduate and non-degree programs to develop skills needed in a new career field or to advance in their current industry. Your institution’s career services can be especially useful in navigating these transitions—and helping your programs stand out to students. Read on for ways to support your adult learners through career services.
For adult learners looking to change careers
1. Develop program-specific experiential learning opportunities
Students interested in changing professions need career exploration advice, ample networking opportunities, and experience in their new field. For the adult learner interested in a career change, enrolling in graduate or non-credit programs with experiential learning opportunities can be especially beneficial, as they provide the hands-on skills needed to become an expert in a new area. Career service teams should consider offering opportunities such as field work and clinical placements in partnership with employers, as well as digital simulations to provide students with exposure in new fields.
And of course, make sure to advertise these experiential learning opportunities prominently. Twenty-two percent of adult learners we surveyed said internships, co-ops, and other active-learning experiences help convey the value of education when they are selecting a graduate or adult-serving programs.
Discover more ways to help your graduate and adult-serving programs stand out.
2. Create career transition guides
Consider developing career transition documents that provide students with an overview of careers, job titles, employers, and advice on getting started in a given field. The University of Texas at Austin advertises career transition guides designed to help graduate and post-doctoral students learn more about potential careers. The University’s guides can be divided and filtered by discipline, industry, and top skills, allowing students to learn about career options easily and in one place.
3. Advertise job search support such as networking opportunities and career exploration courses
Offering virtual networking opportunities with employers can introduce students to new career pathways in a targeted setting. It is also becoming more common for career services to offer for- or non-credit career exploration courses to further assist graduate students in connecting program coursework to career pathways. For example, Towson University advertises a two-credit elective career course designed to help students navigate career and personal choices. Similarly, the University of Texas at Austin advertises a non-credit career exploratory course for graduate students; the course provides overviews of careers in STEM and Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.
For adult learners seeking career advancement
In addition to services intended to support students transitioning careers, institutions should offer resources specific to the large portion of adult learners who seek career advancement. In our new survey of over 3,800 graduate and adult learners, 38% of respondents told us they seek further education as a means of securing a promotion and/or learning new, in-demand skills. Career coaching and specific coursework on in-demand skills can be especially beneficial for these students.
4. Highlight career resources such as training platforms and professional development articles
Career training platforms and professional development articles can benefit students interested in leveraging skills and coursework from their programs into new roles. Syracuse University advertises access to the Beyond Graduate School platform, which provides graduate students with modules to learn how to leverage their education.
5. Match students with career coaches
Career service teams should ensure students work closely with both career and academic advisors to develop educational plans meeting career-specific goals. For example, Indiana University’s graduate career coaching option allows students to meet with field experts and develop a personalized plan that helps students reach their career goals. This career coaching is available both in-person and virtually to accommodate students’ needs.
While developing population-specific career services may not be feasible for all schools, leaders of graduate, online, and adult-serving programs can consider smaller steps towards career support such as adjusting career services office hours to accommodate working adults or using campus and community resources to connect students with additional support services.
Promoting your career services to prospective students
These career services aren’t just a benefit to current students; they can also be a recruitment tool. Given that adult learners are often highly interested in how a program will support their career goals (whether a career pivot or advancement in a current field), promoting these services effectively can help you differentiate your programs. Highlight career support in recruitment emails and on your website. The more you can highlight not only the availability of these services but also the impact they have had on current students and alumni, the better positioned you’ll be at standing out in this crowded market.
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