By Joanna Craig, Eastern University
Entering my first summer as Assistant Director for Talent and Career Development at Eastern University, I had a head full of ideas and a to-do list a couple pages long. I was looking forward to attending the 2017 EACE Conference in Niagara Falls, an opportunity only available to me thanks to receiving an EACE Professional Development Grant, to network with colleagues and learn strategies to more effectively accomplish my goals. Imagine my surprise when I left EACE having scrapped pretty much that entire to-do list. Instead, the conference was the catalyst for a major shift in the way our office will function, and I left with a whole new set of ambitious, but attainable, objectives and a concrete plan for moving ahead.
My office is small – just two full-time career development staff and an administrative assistant we share with two other departments. We service the entire university, including current students and recent alumni. With limited resources but no shortage of creativity and devotion to our students’ success, my Director Sarah Todd and I are always looking for ways to do more with less. We were thrilled to see a session on the schedule called “Digital Disruption: Designing a Scalable Service Delivery Model” presented by Kevin Monahan, Associate Dean of Student Affairs at Carnegie Mellon University. The description shared that Carnegie Mellon had found itself struggling with “growing demand for services and no additional funding or staffing planned” — sounds familiar!
I grabbed a seat in the Red Jacket room and listened as Kevin described the very same challenges that I was experiencing in my own school. Was it really the best use of my time to discuss resume margin size with each student one-on-one day after day? And in an age where even your banking can be done from an app on your phone 24 hours a day, how do we best provide information to our students in a way they will actually access? Kevin explained how their career office increased its digital presence providing short videos that students could watch at their own convenience (including the middle of the night!) to support the career education provided by their counselors. Requiring students to come to meetings already armed with the basics optimizes counselors’ time with students by advancing the conversations to higher-ordered topics. Hearing how successful this strategy had been for Carnegie Mellon was incredibly motivating, and just a month after EACE, we have already started planning and preparing our own videos!
With a new plan in place to better use technology and increase our digital presence, my Director and I stopped by the exhibitor room to see what products might be in our budget to further our efforts. We already had Symplicity but had heard great things about the relatively new platform, Handshake. We had the opportunity to talk to representatives from Handshake that shared with us ways that we could streamline and improve our employer relations, reaching Fortune 500 companies we would not otherwise be able to reach with such a small staff. The all-in-one system would also simplify our appointment scheduling and first destination survey distribution. And perhaps most importantly, the user-friendly system has been shown to increase student engagement with the job board. After taking another critical look at our budget and a little negotiating, we were able to find a way to allocate funds for Handshake; we signed the contract shortly after returning from EACE.
Thanks to the sharing of ideas and connections I made at EACE, I am confident our office is going to see incredible improvements in efficiency, student engagement and customer satisfaction. I am so incredibly grateful to have received a Professional Development Grant to make the trip possible. I should mention that EACE wasn’t all work, though. I had the opportunity to meet new people, get to know colleagues better, and network with so many interesting people – the EACE crew was so friendly and welcoming! We tried out local restaurants together, watched fireworks over the falls and enjoyed letting loose on the dance floor at the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute. EACE was both incredibly productive and fun and I hope I get the opportunity to attend in 2018!
Joanna Craig was awarded a Professional Development Grant to attend the 2017 EACE Conference in Niagara Falls, NY. She is the Assistant Director for Talent & Career Development at Eastern University.