Liberal arts colleges get students career ready over winter break

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Liberal arts colleges get students career ready over winter break

Colleges offer career readiness events over winter break

To ensure liberal arts students are career-ready, some colleges are taking advantage of winter break as an opportunity for career prep, writes Jon Marcus for The Hechinger Report.

“Whenever I talk to prospective students and their parents there are two issues I have to address: college costs and affordability, and the employability of liberal arts graduates,” explains Bill Tsutsui, president of Hendrix College, which just held its second winter career program.

The career readiness programs—which last anywhere from a few days to a full week—aim to deliver practical career advising to students and are generally offered without additional charge. They cover the basics of searching for and landing a job, including resume writing, interview prep, networking, business etiquette, and personal branding.

Some colleges model their programs after professional conferences. For instance, Miami University of Ohio invites students to attend the career prep program in business attire, and the schedule includes a keynote speaker and breakout sessions.

Other colleges use winter break to offer job-shadowing programs and alumni networking events. For example, Lafayette College sends students to major economic hubs across the East Coast and Midwest to visit alumni and businesses, both for networking and professional development.

Most of the programs revolve around group sessions, which are more efficient for limited staff to manage. The median number of professional career services staff members at colleges and universities is just three, according to National Association of Colleges and Employers.

The timing is important too. Winter break presents a golden opportunity to catch students when they’re relatively free from academics and extracurriculars.

“It’s just really hard to wrangle [students]” during the academic year, says Vicki Klopsch, head of the week-long winter break career prep program at Scripps College.

How one college helps liberal arts grads find purpose—and good jobs

The winter break timing also offers students a much-needed respite from questions from family about post-grad plans, writes Marcus. “When students are home is when they get the inquiries over and over and again: ‘What are you thinking about? What are you going to do next summer?'” says Beth Throne, associate vice president for student and post-graduate development at Franklin & Marshall College. Klopsch adds that the “holidays are super stressful for these students, especially for seniors.”

“The question is why haven’t we tapped into this before. For the right student, who is willing to come back early, it seems like a good use of that otherwise down time,” says Jen Franchak, assistant vice president for the Center for Career Exploration & Success at Miami of Ohio.

“Some institutions wait for someone to come through the door for an advising appointment,” says Throne. “It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work.”

In fact, though 85% of first-year students told a national survey conducted by University of California, Los Angeles that they enrolled in college with the goal of getting a good job after graduation, 40% of grads said they never set foot in their campus’s career center, according to a separate Gallup poll. And of those students who did visit their campus’s career center, just 17% told Gallup that the career services office had been very helpful to them.

“People make [career prep] seem much more intimidating than it actually is,” says Margot Mafra Spencer, a Scripps student in the college’s career prep program. “This breaks it down into manageable pieces. All I really needed was the tools,” she adds. “I wish I had done this as a freshman,” says Nicole Greenberg, a senior at Scripps (Marcus, The Hechinger Report, 1/20).

Read more about liberal arts career prep

5 fresh ideas for career prep with liberal arts students

How colleges help fine arts students get good jobs

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