Last summer, Northampton Community College’s Career Services Office began brainstorming on changes we might implement for the upcoming academic year. During this time, we began researching professional development workshop series. Common topics for series such as these include resumes, cover letters, and interviewing. Our office had tried a version of this type of series the previous semester but the format of the program wasn’t ideal, and there was room for improvement.
The first thing we decided was to change the name of the series to something catchier – the Professional Edge Certificate or PEC. Our goal was to help students build a well-rounded professional image but we acknowledged that several barriers interfered with students’ continued participation in our previous series. Our previous series was comprised of four workshops, held in four consecutive weeks. For our new design, we disperse our workshops throughout the semester and offer opportunities to complete requirements every semester. This permits students to complete requirements over the course of multiple semesters and in any order.
Next, we reexamined our incentives. In speaking with another campus department about data they’d collected on their student workshop series, we learned that top incentives for completing theirs were certificates of completion and letters of recommendation. We decided to try offering each of these as incentives for completing our program.
Lastly, we wanted to make it easy for students to track their progress through the series. We created a “course” on Blackboard, our college’s course management system. We would enroll interested students into our course, track progress through the gradebook feature, share resources, and offer opportunities to complete workshops through video conferencing and self-paced online modules.
To see if our program was accomplishing its goals, we embedded mini assessments throughout the series: a rubric for mock interviews, pre and post surveys for the entire series, and pre and post quizzes for several of the workshops. Students also kicked off the series with a goal setting activity focusing on professional development. Those who completed the program received a personalized report that reviewed their progress since starting and offered additional recommendations on next steps.
Since its launch seven months ago, 291 students have enrolled in the program. A large majority of those students were first semester freshmen last fall, leaving many of them with at least two full years to complete the program. 101 students have now completed at least one program requirement. It is projected that twenty students will have completed the full program by the end of this semester.
The PEC features a combined seven hours of interactive training covering topics including resumes, cover letters, interviewing, networking, and LinkedIn. To quote one of the students who recently completed the program, “I learned some incredibly valuable professional skills such as knowing how to complete a resume, cover letter, and also how to handle myself in interviews. This program really gave me a head’s up as to what to expect in the professional world.”
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.