Beyond the action of hosting a booth at a career fair, guest speaking invitations or hiring students for work placements, employers can play a much larger role in actively educating and preparing students for their future careers. When we invite employers to participate in our career education and development efforts, not only do our students benefit, but the employer often gains a unique advantage over their competitors in their future workforce recruitment and retention efforts.
This is the third blog in a four-part series by Liana Thompson, Gena Hamilton and Dr. Candy Ho that examines the role of different stakeholder groups in promoting career education and development in post-secondary institutions. In the second article, we discussed how career influencers (e.g academic advisors, faculty, staff) can help us advance our mission to promote student career development and success.
Expanding employer’s views and expectations of jobseekers
Recently, employers have been desperate to find and hire workers. Traditional recruitment strategies (e.g. job board, hiring fairs) are no longer working to attract students to employment opportunities. In the first article in this series, we discussed widening jobseekers’ view of education-to-career pathways to help them identify opportunities that lie outside of their subject of study. It is also advisable to expand employers’ view and expectations of the jobseekers they deem qualified.
For example, an employer reached out to us for help in recruiting a records manager after experiencing two failed searches. After reviewing the qualifications on the job posting and the applicant files, we identified two areas that might increase the employer’s search success. Firstly, we advised the employer to adjust qualifications on the job posting to be more approachable. The qualifications in the job posting included: “diploma in Records Management is required”; “superior track record in project management”; and “extensive experience in using electronic document management systems.” Clearly the employer was seeking a records manager unicorn! Employers who narrow the education qualifications and/or use extreme adjectives to describe required skills unknowingly reduce the applicant pool.
“When we invite employers to participate in our career education and development efforts, not only do our students benefit, but the employer often gains a unique advantage over their competitors …”
Education outcomes in arts, science, health and business programs build skills in critical thinking, organization, project management and systems thinking – all critical skills for records managers. And adjectives like “superior” and “extensive” often intimidate jobseekers, especially women, who are less likely to apply for jobs where they do not feel they adequately meet the qualifications (Mohr, 2014; Linkedin, 2019). Listing a range of education programs and communicating approachable qualifications (e.g. “some experience with”) will yield a larger applicant pool.
Secondly, after reviewing the applicant files we noticed a number of candidates that appeared promising with related experience including: library technology, paralegal, health and safety, insurance, policy analysts, real estate and claims adjuster. By drawing attention to the transferrable skills that these professionals could bring to a records management role, the employer was able to see the missed opportunity in the previous failed searches.
After another search with a revised job posting and an expanded mindset, the number of promising applicants tripled and the employer hired a candidate that had previously been overlooked in a past search. As career practitioners, we increase recruitment and employment success by helping both our jobseekers and employers expand their view of education to career pathways and transferrable skills.
Shifting the employer mindset from ‘hiring’ to ‘helping’
Students and employers alike often share with us their worry about not finding the right fit. When the fit is not right, the employer is left with a costly recruitment and the student is left with lowered confidence and periods of unemployment as they restart their search.
The disruption over the last two years has offered many the opportunity to reflect and re-evaluate their lives. Students now seem to have a clearer view of what they want their future to look like. Many are looking for a career that offers more than just an attractive salary and benefits package. Jobseekers are looking for careers with work-life balance, meaning, shared values and inclusion (Baker, 2020; Morel, 2021). They expect to see employer authenticity and action and will look beyond the words on the job advertisement for evidence of the career qualities they are seeking.
As career practitioners, when we can initiate an early awareness and connection between a jobseeker and employer, it offers them time to check each other out without the pressure to commit. Employers may not see the immediate value in engaging with students before they are ready to hire; however, those who shift from a “hiring” mindset to a “helping” mindset will reap long-term gains. Jobseekers are more likely to pursue or refer a job opportunity with an employer they are familiar with.
Post-secondary institutions are already connecting their students with employers through guest speaking invitations, networking events and work placements. Here are some examples of strategies that University of the Fraser Valley is using to amplify early connections:
- Faculty designing problem-based challenges where students act as consultants for an assigned organization. CityStudio is a partnership between the City of Abbotsford and the University of the Fraser Valley. The City of Abbotsford has adopted a “helper” mindset with UFV students and tell us that “[their] engagement with students who are mid-degree has offered us a significant advantage in attracting these students to [their] organization post-graduation.”
- Employers participating in student-initiated philanthropic and social justice activities. The Black Lives Matter Social Justice Art Project was a student-led action. A number of local employers stepped forward to provide financial and in-kind support and our students are noticing their authenticity and action.
- Pairing alumni with students to connect on shared interests. UFV’s Alumni Association launched an Online Book Club for students, alumni, faculty and staff to connect. A student member met their current employer through this connection: “The book club offered us all a chance to really get to know one another. When I learned about what this business is doing for our community, I immediately knew this was a place I wanted to work.”
Creating new opportunities
Employers are a key part of the equation in educating and preparing students for their future careers. As career professionals, when we help employers expand their view of potential job applicants, we open up the opportunity for non-linear path jobseekers to be noticed. When we guide employers to write job qualifications and advertisements that are more approachable and inclusive, more jobseekers, especially women, are included. Curating opportunities for jobseekers and employers to connect early gives employers the opportunity to demonstrate what they have to offer to their future workforce. These efforts yield positive results in preparing students for their future careers.
In the next, and final, part of this blog series, we will discuss how alumni are helping our students prepare for their future careers.