This past Friday, career center administrators from 15 colleges around Washington state met in the Reid Campus Center ballroom to discuss their work connecting students with professional development opportunities.
"Getting together with your professional colleagues from different schools provides for a wealth of new ideas, support and engagement in trends for career counseling, advising and networking," Assistant Director for Career Development Gayle Townsend '80 said.
The morning consisted of a session addressing key issues for career centers, including living/learning communities, bridge-to-work programs, career trends, conferences and more.
This was followed by a discussion with four students (two from Whitman, two from Walla Walla University), who joined the group to give some insight into how career centers can best engage with students.
Whitman student and economics major Susanna Bowers '15 (pictured above) has worked in Whitman's Student Engagement Center for the past three years. She got a spring internship with the Walla Walla Sweets baseball team and a summer internship with Alaska Airlines.
"I wouldn't have had such a great experience without the SEC," she said. After she graduates, Bowers has a job with Expedia, which she credits to her experiences with her past internships.
"I feel like a lot of my friends don't know what services we offer," she added, suggesting that students should have to produce a resume after their first semester of college just to get them started.
Tyler Sherman, a junior business major from Walla Walla University, agreed, commenting that the key to engaging with students is awareness. This past summer, he interned for the Washington State legislature. To get this job, he relied on the Walla Walla University career center for help.
"I appreciated the help navigating the job search. David [Lindstrom, the director of the career development center,] coached me through the interview, resume and so much more," he said, but wished that he had known about the resources available to him from the start of his college experience.
After the student panel, employers from both sides of the state replaced the students to discuss what employers want from recent college graduates.
Townsend said of the student panel, "[We learned that] it is incredibly important to connect with first-year students right at the beginning. Being accessible and familiar to students will increase their tendency to seek out help from the Student Engagement Center. Also [to] tap into ideas from current interns and office employees working in the SEC to find out what they think is on student's minds and what they are concerned about."
The group moved to Walla Walla University after lunch to discuss the future of college career centers, which they did in small groups until the end of the day.
"Developing professional relationships with career center staffs from schools around the state provides a connection that is invaluable to professional development in our profession," Townsend said.