What Do University Students Need From Career Departments? 4 Ways Universities Are Adapting Amidst the Pandemic  

Valeria Perticucci

10th of November 2020

University career departments aren't what they used to be. Regardless of the pandemic, universities have to deal with a huge number of students, may more than ever before; in 1995, there were around 972,000 full time undergraduate students across the UK but by 2008 it had doubled to 1.8 million. Add the pandemic into the picture and you have universities trying to adapt to a huge number of students, in a rapidly technologically evolving world and advisors can't even meet their students in person. It is the opposite of what it used to be, with career departments in the past being able to sit in an office and expecting students to come to them. Now the roles are reversed: they are ever the more expected (and rightly so!) to engage their students, and help them through their degrees in a hands-on manner.  

Career departments are an important aspect for all disciplines within a university and have had to change their approach in multiple ways. Here is Kibo's rundown of 4 crucial ways that they have had to adapt to these uncertain times.

1. Access to information and support 24/7

Students in 2020 expect everything to be accessible. We, Gen-Zs, are used to efficiency and are the generation of technological advancement, year upon year. How can we be expected to be stuck in the ways of the last century when it comes to career advice? Having information online and more importantly, on our phones is something that means that university Apps are crucial for helping students. Advancements like chatbots in particular, are used in order to connect students directly to their career advisors, giving them a reply within minutes, or even seconds. Being able to connect directly, when they want and need, allows students to stay feeling engaged, particularly when they can't just rock up to the office. Even before the pandemic, over 40% of students didn't pro-actively approach the careers department so this number during the current climate will be even lower so it is more than vital for the careers department to take that explicit responsibility.  

aerial view of city with lights
Photo by viagalactica

2. Remote access to advice and events

Hosting online events and presentations through Zoom means that students can access content and information from wherever they are. Career fairs, panel discussions, whatever the event, students are able to now able to be part of something through remote access. Social media is part of their every day world, so integrating career development into the way they are used to in terms of approaching content, is the right advancement. This also includes networking online through channels like LinkedIn in order to find the right contacts and connect with the right people to help students progress their career development. Some universities offer programs like video interview coaching all remotely, connecting coaches directly - whether they are based on campus or in Shanghai, it doesn't matter because they are able to bridge virtually.  

macbook pro displaying group of people
Photo by Chris Montgomery

3. Focus on employability and return on investment

Keeping students engaged rather than expecting them to show up is a huge change for the overall career-support approach. Through data analyses of their student cohort and gaining continuous feedback, universities are able to ensure that their students have an input into how their career department is run, and can thereby have a direct impact on them. Due to the increased cost of a degree, especially in the US and the UK, students worry about being able to repay their student debt. The investment has to be worth their time, energy, and money so being employable afterwards is definitely at the forefront of a lot of students' minds. In this way, careers services are expected to post job advertisements, implement ways for easy access to employers and facilitate easy networking opportunities. Career Departments also have to stay on the ball when it comes to the global labour market, especially in the current crisis so it is crucial that opportunities are offered whilst taking into account how competitive they may be.  

green plant in clear glass vase
Photo by Micheile Henderson

4. More access to job applications and employers

Students wanting to gain experience during their undergraduate through internships and placements expect their university to help them land these opportunities. It is no longer just the diploma students want at the end of their studies. Experience is ever so important alongside students' academic backgrounds, particularly to employers seeking students with additional interesting skills and backgrounds. Students want insights into career opportunities, contacts that can guide them, and conversations with people that can give them an advancement. In this way, some universities have started offering current students the chance to connect with alumni for mentorships and shadowing opportunities. Being able to network and understand a career direction before graduation is a crucial way for students to have a good chance at landing a job they want.

three women sitting beside table
Photo by Tim Gouw

Adapting and advancing is something that all departments within universities should do however the career department is the one that really adapts with the labour market and has such high demand since the start of the pandemic. More students, more desire for experience alongside their studies, and more technological accessibility is what we have to keep in mind. Check out how Kibo can help by visiting our Instagram or website.

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