How can university career centers reach and engage students?
For the second year running, Boston University’s Center for Career Development played host to a unique conference designed to help answer this overarching question. There seem to be a lot of unique ways through which attendees are reaching their students and approaching career center marketing, from emails to social media to tabling and handing out fliers. Below are some of the most popular ideas of the conference.
Speak your students’ language:
Mobile messaging, video, and social media are the marketing methods of the future. It’s time to tailor our messaging to students' medium of choice.
- Put yourself on the map. In response to students saying "Where is the career center?" and "How do I get there?", one attendee mentioned creating a time-lapse video that showed how to get to the career center from the center of campus. Here's an example of how the Boston College Career Center uses time-lapse video on Instagram to engage students.
- Steal the spotlight. Reach more students by piggybacking your messages off of larger-scale university social media accounts; e.g., borrow well-known hashtags that are used by your university's main Instagram, Twitter or Facebook accounts, or, better yet, try an "account takeover" in which you post career content directly onto these accounts. (Click here for an in-depth tutorial that might help you make the most out of Instagram marketing in your career center).
- Organize the clutter. Career communities are all the rage, but how do you get started? A nice way to start is through a blog or even through hashtags on social media. Organize news, advice, event promotions and even job promotions by a discrete set of career communities that your students will identify with. Start with five to seven communities. Either majors (Journalism or Finance), industries (data science, education) or company types (start-ups, non profits) are good places to start. Here's an example of how one uConnect client does it.
- A video is worth a million words. One study shows that just using the word "video" in an email subject line boosts open rates by 19 percent and click-through rates by 65 percent. Most of your students (heck, even your colleagues) would rather watch a quick video than read an article. Kevin O'Connell from Carnegie Mellon gave a fantastic presentation about how the Career & Professional Development Center at CMU has tapped into Youtube to drive engagement by converting traditionally text-based content into video. Best part is that they used students to do the work!
Identify and engage on-campus champions
The power of advocacy is not to be underestimated, particularly since one of the most powerful messaging tools we have is word of mouth referrals. Give students and faculty an incentive to spread the word about career services.
- Badge of honor. Remember the "I Voted" stickers that you always see people wearing during election season? So do we. Try passing out stickers or buttons that say something like "I Met With My Career Counselor" or "I Got Served at Career Services" to the students who come visit your office.
- Support Student Clubs. The leaders of student clubs often have a lot of influence with the student body. They also often have career and professional development related agendas for their meetings. Offer them value by offering to speak at a meeting, providing them extra space for bigger meetings, and helping them identify and engage alumni to speak to their members. They will be forever grateful and hopefully will spread the word about your services when you need them.
- Befriend Faculty. Identify faculty members on campus who have shown interest in career services. Ask them how they would like to work with you? How you can add value to them? Perhaps add them to a panel discussion during class selection time? Perhaps ask them to write a guest post on your career center blog? We even heard the idea to create an advisory board of faculty members who can act as guides on how to better connect academic success and career outcomes.
Raise awareness about your career center in a unique way:
Think outside the box. Sometimes breaking out of a long-held mold can be just the thing a career center needs to reach new goals. Think: tried and true plus something new.
- Show me the green. While non-traditional, this suggestion was well received during the event: add perceived value to your career center events (info sessions, workshops, etc.) by charging a nominal amount (say, $1-5 per student). Doing this increased event attendance by 67 percent for one university career center.
- Get some sun. If students won't come to you, bring the career center to them. Bring the career center outside and on campus by setting up meet and greet tables or use similar methods to familiarize students with the faces in their career center.
- Point the spotlight. This year’s conference featured a panel where students were questioned about their interactions, expectations and wishes from their local career center. Your students are probably very unique; ask them what they want in a formal way. Conduct a student panel on your campus. Invite faculty, staff and other students as well. For some great ideas, check out the questions that were asked at the BU student panel.
These are some of the ideas that stuck out in our minds, but what did you find most interesting or useful? Let us know if there's something we missed or should have included.
At uConnect, we've built a platform to help schools solve marketing challenges in their career centers so they can spend less time worrying about engagement and more time working with students and facilitating valuable connections with alumni and employers. Visit our webpage to learn more.
We'd like to thank everyone who took part in organizing this year's conference--it was a huge success.