At uConnect, we’ve been helping colleges and universities launch virtual career centers and amplify their digital presence since 2014.
With the coronavirus pandemic impacting education to its core, there's naturally been a lot of discussion about the urgency to move academic courses online, however we've been shocked by the lack of conversation around moving career and student services online to help students in their time of need.
When students were forced to leave campus in early March, not only were they likely to lose out on experiential learning opportunities, spring weekend, graduation ceremonies and many other experiences they might otherwise carry with them for a lifetime, but many now face increased fear and uncertainty about their post-graduate prospects too.
Students who had plans are seeing their offers being pulled back, and less-prepared students now don’t know where to start. These are unprecedented times with many companies cancelling their internship programs all together, and instituting hiring freezes, not to mention the massive transformation in industries like hospitality and healthcare. To compound the situation, traditional jobs students would take as a stopgap before finding their professional stride, like working in a bar or restaurant, are no longer an option. The stakes are massive.
With job opportunities drying up, students right now need career counseling, professional development and mentorship more than ever, but without ease of access to career services, anxiety about career readiness and future employment is adding to an already stressful situation.
The good news is that schools, from community colleges to the Ivy Leagues, have radically increased the development of services and adoption of new technologies over the past decade to make it easier for students to learn about different industries, build ePortfolios, meet potential employers, connect with alumni mentors and more.
These resources can be transformational for students right now, but improving digital access and simplifying engagement is more important than ever, in a time when in-person guidance is no longer an option. To that end, we've compiled a few tips based on our experiences helping more than 100 schools migrate career and student success resources online:
- Take control of your website: Things are changing by the day. Controlling your website means you can control your brand, your voice and your offerings in real time. When a student thinks about career services, they will google your website and, in that moment, they will make a determination about whether you can help them or not. Period. You have one shot. If it fails to engage, they will immediately go back to Google in search of other options. In recent weeks, many career leaders have told us that their access and control over their website is limited, and getting support from IT is harder than ever. If that’s the case, be proactive. Advocate for access, take voluntary training on how to use your school’s CMS. Petition whoever needs to be petitioned to have control over your office’s pages. If you need tech support and your IT team has no time, get creative. Tap faculty, tech savvy students, hire an outside consultant. Leave no leaf unturned.
- Consider all stakeholders: With most students at home, their world of influencers has changed and, with that, so should your target audiences. When bringing your resources and content online, you must make them accessible to not only students, but to faculty, who are still working with students daily; to parents and guardians, who, in many cases, are back to being the biggest influencers on what your students do; and to alumni and employer contacts, who’s help is needed now more than ever. The ability to engage each of these important stakeholders in one place is critical to sustained relevancy and impact.
- Raise your voice: This is the time to create value-added content for your students and the community. You’re seeing blogs, videos, and resource guides from seemingly every organization. Career and students services should take the time to do the same, to scale their impact beyond advising appointments and walk-ins. Be proactive in creating self-service resources and guides for students to deal with tricky situations. Create timely lists of FAQs your students might be wondering about right now. Share success stories to encourage and motivate students. Post that content on your website or blog, send email communications, post on social media. Multi-channel marketing is critical right now, but even more important is making sure your message and content is valuable. If students find timely and relevant information from your office in this time of need, that will instill confidence that you’re here and ready to help. If they run into a static website and outdated content, you run the risk of losing them forever.
uConnect will be sharing more on the topic over two webinars taking place in April. If the topic is a priority for you and your school, join us for one (or both) of our Virtual Lunch & Learn sessions:
- Wednesday, April 8th, 2020
RSVP: The New Normal: Supporting Students with Virtual Career Services in a Work From Home World
Co-hosts: Monica Clem, Edinboro University; Jim Lowe and Lee Hameroff, University of Connecticut
- Friday April 17th, 2020
RSVP: Bringing Your Career Center Online: A Look Inside uConnect's Implementation Process
Since we can't provide lunch in these virtual sessions, we will be donating $5 to Feeding America for every participant who attends one of the sessions. If you can’t join us at either of the times, feel free to sign up anyway as we’ll be sending the recordings around to all those who register.
If you’re interested in learning about how uConnect can help your office during this time, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here to help and offering discounts and deferred invoicing to help schools serve their students in this time of need.
Be well and stay healthy,
David + Team uConnect