Building a Relationship with a New Employer – My Experience
By Ethan Selinger, Northeastern University
A major goal of career services professionals is to create and maintain vital connections with employers. It can be easy to focus on simply building an employer base with the institution. However, when working with employers, it is vital to remember that a match goes beyond just what’s best for the college. Employer relations is a two-way street. There needs to be a benefit to an employer to invest resources, such as time and money, offering positions and hiring students. According to NACE’s Job Outlook Survey (2017), 91% of employers prefer that recent graduates possess relevant work experience, and over half (56%) of employers prefer that graduates work experience come from an internship or co-op1. In other words, these experiential opportunities are important for both institutions and employers. There are a variety of reasons for employers to hire students as pre-graduates for internship/co-op opportunities, including mentorship opportunities and a talent pipeline to entry level positions in the company. However, without the necessary programs and structures in place by an institution, this connection cannot be established.
When working with employers, I always try to keep the fact that a successful partnership is a two-way street in mind. I cannot imagine my pitch to any employer being effective without a major emphasis on the benefit to the company. Before I work with any employer, I take some time to research the company, scanning their website to gain an understanding of services offered, team structures, etc. and articulate specific examples of programs offered by the college and how the skills and concepts being taught could potentially fit the hiring needs of the employer. Though my ultimate focus is on developing opportunities for my students, my emphasis is on the benefit for the employer during calls, meetings, etc.
I have also found the importance of focusing on skills and concepts over a major or program of study when working with employers. From my experience, employers are more focused on traits and abilities then the program of study itself. I mention programs we offer, but always make sure to discuss how the employer could benefit from the content of the program, or how multiple programs could be of benefit.
I am continually building on my skills in working with employers. As with interviewing, repetition is key. The more employers I work with, the more natural it becomes. Though I have only worked in the field for a couple of years, I have worked to develop a variety of opportunities with new employers that have hired my students. Seeing my students hired, and knowing I played a major role in building the relationship is immensely rewarding.
EACE members, what are your best practices for working with employers and creating new relationships? Employers, what do you hope to see from institutions and career development professionals?
1. NACE Staff, “Employers Prefer Candidates with Work Experience,” Naceweb.org, last modified April 05, 2017, http://www.naceweb.org/talent-acquisition/candidate-selection/employers-prefer-candidates-with-work-experience/
Ethan Selinger is currently a Cooperative Education (Co-op) Advisor at Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science