AN ESSENTIAL COMPONENT
of the business student’s overall university experience is the piece that comes at the very end: landing a job. Career service centers can work with students to help them prepare for internship and employment opportunities throughout their time in college. But if career centers are going to be truly successful, they must find advocates among faculty who will promote the center’s services, events, and resources to students.
As the director of a career services center, I know that sometimes there is a disconnect between faculty and the professional services staff. Faculty have so many other responsibilities that career service professionals sometimes find it difficult to secure their participation. But over time, I’ve found that several strategies make it possible to forge critical relationships between business faculty and professional services—and bridge the gap between career services and students.
1. Make faculty feel included. I have found that most professors want to help—which they can’t do if they don’t know about upcoming activities. In my office, we send a weekly one-page newsletter of upcoming events to a faculty listserv that we created. These emails have become so standard that faculty ask me to put their networking events in the newsletter and inquire if I can track which of their students come to career fairs. Additionally, two or three weeks before the start of each semester, when professors are finalizing their syllabi, we send them a list of large-scale career fairs. This allows them to include fair dates in their syllabi and/or offer extra credit for attendance.
2. Use the R word. If career services activities provide some benefit for faculty research, professors are more likely to respond. My office frequently hosts lunch-and-learn events that create opportunities for corporate reps and faculty to connect and discuss ways to merge academic research and industry needs. We also discuss recruitment and other topics, but research is always at the top of the agenda.
3. Personalize the message. I’ve found that a weekly e-blast that goes out to a 200-person listserv can get lost in the shuffle, but an individual email to a person or a department can help build a relationship. For example, when I’m trying to develop a partnership with an employer who wants five minutes in one of our classrooms to pitch his company’s opportunities, I will email a whole department outlining this request. If I don’t receive a response, I then will send personalized messages to individual faculty members explaining how a classroom visit could benefit their students and their classes. Most times, that individual touch works.
4. Create an event that relies on faculty expertise and input. Large-scale career fairs are great and necessary, but more boutique networking nights and meet-ups can serve a different purpose. An event that is focused on a topic like sports management, fashion, or social services can build common ground between the career services center and a particular department. There’s another benefit to such specialized events. Most faculty are being bombarded with requests from students who want help securing internships or job offers. If I create a networking night tailored to a particular industry, faculty can refer students who might want to meet potential employers in that sector.
5. Attend faculty-related events. Most colleges and academic departments will host external and internal speakers to talk about current topics and research. Career services staff need to be there too if they want to create better connections with faculty. When I attend such events, I sometimes find that the subject matter is over my head. But most often, I find the topics interesting and I learn something new. I also enjoy the experience of mingling with the academics.
6. Find an “inside” faculty member. I’ve found that having a great relationship with one or two faculty members can help me open the door to good relationships with other professors. My “inside” friends can explain the culture of a certain department or give me advice on how to approach their colleagues. When I don’t have that one close relationship, I’ll go straight to the chair of the department. I’ll ask for a meeting and come prepared with agenda items to discuss. A stronger partnership often develops.
Of course, not every faculty member will want to connect with the career services department. I follow the rule that I share with students who are job-hunting: If I’ve followed up twice and they haven’t expressed interest, it’s time to move on. But by remembering these critical steps, I’ve managed to build strong connections between business professors and the career development office—which has ultimately improved the student experience at our school.
This article originally appeared in BizEd's September/October 2017 print issue. If you have comments or feedback on its content, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jill Gugino Panté is the director of the Career Services Center at the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics in Newark.