The “Toast” of the Town
By Jo-Ann Raines, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Director Student and Alumni Career Development
Collaboration is a tool that career services’ offices use frequently. Working with faculty, other staff departments, students, and employers is a means to promote our message and programs beyond the limits of what our own staff can achieve. This year Career Development Services (CDS) entered into a unique partnership with a student group that has proved beneficial to both of us.
Last spring we were approached by our newly-revived student chapter of Toastmasters International. They had an interesting proposal: in exchange for assisting with their membership fees, the members were willing to work with us in a quasi-ambassador role to spread the good news about our programs and services. Toastmasters is an organization whose goals closely match one of ours, which is to help our students develop their oral communication skills in an intentional manner. Employers have long said that speaking clearly with purpose and organization is a skill they desire in their employees, including interns and recent grads. We agreed to the proposal, held training sessions on CDS programs and services for the members, and embarked on initiatives for the fall semester.
The collaboration began with Coffee and Cocoa in the Morning, where the group’s representatives offered free coffee and cocoa to arriving students, staff, and faculty on two mornings in November. They distributed fliers marketing themselves and our office and answered quick questions. Toastmasters’ students helped us staff our weekly CDS at the Campus Center information table where we address student inquiries and review resumes.
Three events in quick succession were particularly effective: the president of the organization acted as a co-host for our yearly Diversity Dining Etiquette event in November. In addition to the introductory remarks, he led the ice breaker and facilitated the employer panel, including Q and A. On another occasion, one of the members performed the introduction for John Decker, an alumnus and NASA engineer emeritus who was visiting campus and making class visits.
The final event was a push by Toastmasters to engage students in a free offering to the student body, the Bloomberg Terminal Certification, which gave students training in trading stocks and bonds, resume exposure, interview preparation, and connections with 300,000+ users. Although already offered through the Martin Tuchman School of Management at NJIT, student usage was not robust. Toastmasters took on the challenge and arranged for three days sponsored by the organization where students could sign up for stations spots and begin their certification process. Marketing materials for Toastmasters and CDS were provided and student representatives were available during the day in the Financial Analysis Lab to answer questions about themselves and CDS. This event boosted student participation in the certification process by more than double from attendance in previous weeks and increased CDS visibility.
We meet with Toastmasters liaisons every other week during the semester and will begin to plan spring activities once the new semester has begun. We are looking forward to more opportunities for mutual benefit with this engaged group of students.
Jo-Ann R. Raines is the Director of Student and Alumni Development in Career Development Services at New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ. She has been with the university for 28 years in progressively responsible positions in career services. She currently manages the quality of career advisement and delivery of experiential learning programs and activities for undergraduate and graduate students. Jo-Ann has a BA from St. John’s University in Social Sciences and an MA in Higher and Adult Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.