EACE contribution by Carol Crosby, Assistant Director in Career Services at Bridgewater State University.
If you read my last blog, you know that Bridgewater State University’s Career Services Office explored one skill set – Social Media Professionalism – for their Student to Professional Project and created opportunities for students to learn how to behave professionally online.
But – you may recall – our office’s newly enhanced mission statement:
Career Services at Bridgewater State University intentionally provides all BSU students with opportunities to learn and practice specific skills essential for their transition from student to professional.
states that our office also provides opportunities to practice professional skills. We needed to find opportunities for students to, preferably in front of our career counselors, practice as well as learn professional skills.
“Now that we have an Alumni Mentor networking group on LinkedIn, I think we need to make sure that we provide practice for in-person meetings with the alumni mentors.” stated one of the career counselors in our office. And with those words, we had our next project – to develop opportunities to practice networking skills.
During our next Student to Professional Project meeting, I asked the staff to name one important networking skill that students could practice during our programs or workshops. They all agreed that students needed to be highly skilled at presenting the Elevator Speech. As you all know, this pitch is an important part of introducing oneself to a professional and can make or break a networking opportunity.
We then brainstormed to find ways to actively incorporate the Elevator Speech as a practice session into our programming. As a result, we now allow a few minutes to practice the Elevator Speech during the following workshops and programs:
Job Search Workshops
How to Work a Job Fair Workshop
Making Connections: Networking Workshop
The semi-annual Networking Mocktail Party
During each of these workshops or programs, we now:
- Explain what an Elevator Speech is and in what setting it can be used
- Give instructions on creating an elevator speech
- Provide two samples of the Elevator Speech – one for a year student with little or no practical experience and no designated career choice yet and one for senior level students with experience relevant to their major or career choice
- We pair up students and ask them to try their Elevator Speeches on each other
- We then provide a few minutes for students to verbally reflect on their experience
- Last but not least we discuss the importance of practicing this skill
This learning and practicing approach, I believe, creates a meaningful experience in skill building; students after this type of exercise have said that they not only understand why an Elevator Speech is important for networking but many have also expressed an interest in continuing to practice this skill after the workshop ends.
So – for any of you who have been following my blog postings to see if this is a feasible project for your office in the near future, the steps you can follow now include:
Developing a Student to Professional Project in your own Career Services Office
- Add the learning and practicing of professional skills to your office’s mission statement;
- Survey employers, faculty and staff in your community to determine these skills;
- Create a list of skills necessary for your students’ professional development;
- Review your office’s materials, on-line presence and programming for missing opportunities for skill development;
- Intentionally create active learning and practicing opportunities for specific skill development.
In my next blog, I will address how to add skill development to your office’s resources.
Carol Crosby is Assistant Director in Career Services at Bridgewater State University. She has also worked in Student Affairs at Wesleyan University, University of Connecticut, and Brandeis University. She received her M.S. in College Student Personnel from University of Rhode Island and her B.A. in English from Wheaton College. You can connect with her through LinkedIn or by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.