Advice from Career ServicesMay 29th, 2012 by Coyne
Meet Lisa Raap, the new Director of Career Services for the Green Street and Loop campuses. The Coyne Circuit newsletter recently interviewed her. She has some grreat advice for Coyne students and graduates and encourages you to come in and meet the new Career Services team!
Coyne Circuit Newsletter (CC): What elements in your education and/or experience help you to manage an effective Career Services department for Coyne’s schools?
Lisa Raap (LR): I have an extensive background with more than 15 years of experience in sales, recruiting, human resources, operations management, business development and team building. Through this experience, I have developed a clear understanding of the skills needed to shape and develop a talented career services team that delivers proven results in attaining training related jobs for Coyne’s graduates.
CC: Since the economic downturn and recession, what are some of the ways the job search has changed for graduates? What sorts of strategies no longer work?
LR: Networking is now more crucial than it has ever been. The hidden job market represents 70 percent of all jobs available today that do not get advertised. You won’t find them on Monster or CareerBuilder. You will only find these jobs by networking and speaking to people in companies where you would like to work. Many people spend a great deal of time searching the Internet for job listings yet only 2 to 4 percent of all job seekers ever find a job through the web.
CC: Describe your overall concept for a successful Career Services operation.
I believe that an effective Career Services department should be managed and run like a staffing company. The business model that higher education schools have traditionally used in the past is no longer an effective method for getting graduates employed in their field of training. Instead of providing passive resources in which students must do all the research and work themselves, we are taking an aggressive hands-on approach which holds the Career Services team accountable for graduate placement opportunities. This is accomplished by developing ongoing partnerships with employers and providing interview and employment opportunities for our graduates in training related fields. We work one on one with each student and take a proactive approach to matching their skills with the needs of employers. Just as recruiters in a staffing company are held accountable for reaching placement goals, each Career Service Representative is responsible for placing graduates assigned to them in a training related field.
In addition, we offer “Value Added Services” to the employer. There are many benefits to this approach for an employer. We can provide permanent placement staffing services and there is no fee or out of pocket expense to the employer. The employer saves the expense of advertising and the time required to review numerous resumes which may or may not have the skills needed. When employers understand the value, they turn to Career Services first to fill their staffing needs.
CC: What are some of the things a strong Career Services office can do to help students and graduates find employment?
LR: Network like crazy. Building strong partnerships with employers and networking with HR and hiring managers in the industry provides many employment opportunities for our graduates. We also join as many networking groups and professional associations both online and in person to learn about potential openings. Direct recruiting is another excellent placement strategy. Similar to recruiting candidates for specific job openings as staffing companies do, our team focuses on potential companies that would be a good fit for our graduates and then we utilize our networking partnerships with warm and cold calling techniques to connect with the hiring manager or company recruiter. We market our candidates (graduates) to a specific company and apply our placement techniques by promoting the skills and training the grads obtain in school and relating those skills to positions within the company to develop interview opportunities for graduates.
CC: You’ve adopted a very service-oriented approach to employer relationships. What are some of the things you and your staff are doing to deliver value to employers?
LR: Value added services’ is a key component that sets Coyne’s Career Services department apart from others. We provide staffing agency type services to our employers such as pre-screening candidates and eliminating the need for them to review hundreds of resumes. We carefully match employer’s needs with specific skill sets of our graduates. We provide employers with a variety of staffing options based upon their needs such as scheduling interviews, organizing drug test scheduling and other specialized services that save the employers time and money. We provide alternative staffing options for employers such as developing part-time apprenticeship programs. This provides on the job training for students and is a great way for employers to try out a potential employee.
CC: You talk to a lot of employers. What do they consider to be the strong points that Coyne graduates bring to the table? What are some of the areas they think Coyne graduates could improve in?
LR: I have found that Coyne College has an outstanding reputation for providing exceptional technical skills. The technical training at Coyne seems to set our graduates apart from others with similar training and definitely gives our graduates an edge with employers. Soft skills are an ongoing concern for employers. Almost every company that I talk to expresses the need to hire someone with customer service skills and a positive attitude. If a candidate has the technical aptitude, employers can train on their specific technical requirements, but it is difficult to train customer service skills and good work ethic values. That needs to come within the individual. Hiring managers also want to employees who are reliable and on time. The students with excellent attendance while in school, are the ones employers seek out for employment opportunities.
CC: Why should graduates engage Career Services when they are looking for employment?
LR: Graduates need to stay in contact with Career Services because we are constantly networking with employers and many of those employers do not advertise job openings. We need to get to know each and every graduate so that we can present candidates confidently and personally to employers. It is also imperative to meet with Career Services for interview preparation. Just as you practice and train for your career while in school, you also need to practice the interview process.
Working with a Career Services professional and getting feedback on your performance in a mock interview is similar to working with a sports coach to learn how to improve your game. Both will enable you to learn where your strengths lie and where you may need work to improve your performance. Time spent practicing will assist you greatly in either situation. An added bonus to preparing and practicing is the self-confidence you will gain. In today’s competitive world, you must be prepared.
CC: What can a student or graduate do to best prepare to work with Career Services? What can they expect, and what will be expected of them?
LR: There are several things students and graduates can do to prepare. The most important thing is to stay in touch with our office. If you are not working in the field, you should be working very closely with us until you have accepted and started a training related position. When we call or contact you about positions, you need to respond promptly. We are specifically matching candidates with opportunities based on skill set, availability and individual career path interests. If we can’t get a hold of you it makes it very difficult to submit your resume and schedule interviews.
We need to consistently have a current resume and updated contact information for all of our students and alumni so that we can contact you for career opportunities, career fairs, alumni events, etc. Students and grads should contact career services about any hiring opportunities they are aware of. We will call the company directly to begin developing a partnership and to determine best steps for getting Coyne students and grads employment opportunities with the companies.
CC: Even in a strong economy, setbacks and frustration can discourage job seekers. What is your advice to help students and graduates overcome these obstacles?
LR: Know your strengths and have your 30 second commercial memorized. Talk to everyone and let them know how passionate you are about your new career path, why you choose this path and what you would like to do in your career. Network with anyone and everyone and you will find that people know other people that work in companies that may be looking to hire you. Make a list of everyone you know and contact them – friends, family, acquaintances, former colleagues and church members. Remember that 70% of all jobs are never advertised so the best way for you to find out about career opportunities is to network with everyone you know and with strangers you meet for the first time.
Another idea is to research 10 or 20 companies you are interested in working and try to find the name of a hiring manager. If the company’s web site doesn’t list managers, make a cold call to get the person’s name. Draft a letter of introduction describing your desire to work in that department and list in three to five bullet points illustrating why you would be a great hire. Enclose a resume and hand-write the address on a larger 8.5×11 envelope. You’re more likely to find the letter opened than e-mailing it. Within a week, make a call to the manager to ask for an informational interview.
CC: What new initiatives or strategies do you see on the horizon for Career Services?
LR: Career Services will be focused on delivering results to students and graduates at Coyne College. In order for us to be successful in our endeavors, students and graduates will need to make a commitment to us and to themselves to work closely with us so we can prepare them for interviewing, networking and career opportunities.
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