I just came back from the NACE18 conference in New Orleans. NACE is the National Association of Colleges and Employers, and this conference drew thousands of college representatives and employers to the very hot and muggy New Orleans waterfront to share ideas about the best ways to connect students with companies that want to hire them.
It’s an extraordinary thing, if you think about it. Thousands of people fly from all over the country – and some people came from as far as Kuwait and Singapore – and spend almost an entire week gabbing about how to approach the tricky business of preparing students well to connect with companies and then providing as many opportunities as the budget will allow for interactions with employers so that their students can land the jobs of their dreams. The more successful they are, the better their statistics are and the stories they can tell to prospective students and donors. Likewise, companies send their recruiters to share their observations about students, the skills they have or don’t, to learn what colleges want and need, and to network with colleges whose students they want to see in their workforce someday in the future.
What we are all trying to do is to connect humans who need jobs with those who have them. It’s a complicated business!
For students and their parents, the process of getting a job out of college might seem like a daunting task, but just about every college provides similar kinds of opportunities to 1) prepare students for the search, and 2) connect them with actual employers in real life. Unfortunately, many, many students don’t utilize these resources until pretty far down the road to getting a degree. My advice is to engage career services early and often. Here’s how.
- Get the schedule of workshops that focus on resume composition, portfolio review, interview practice, and cover letter creation.
- See if there are opportunities to learn the best ways to network and conduct informational interviews and go to them!
- Once you’ve got the basic skills down, find out what sorts of opportunities the college mounts for actual employer contact. These usually take the form of:
- Career fairs
- On-campus interviews
- Alumni events
There is a belief out there that the so-called “digital natives” are eschewing in-person contact at career fairs in favor of digital connections, say through online application processes, asynchronous video interviews, and digital career fairs. But the research by one extremely impressive researcher, Mary Scott, points to a different conclusion – that today’s students want the human connection as much as the generations before them.
So, my best advice to students is to prepare well and attend as many in-person events as possible. Connect, connect, connect. It turns out there’s just no substitute for the human connection.