Please note: This post was originally produced by Boston University Questrom School of Business Director of Undergraduate Career Management Victoria Schroeder for publication on the CampusTap blog.
It’s truly a struggle to get students to events. With busy class schedules, work, clubs, social life and studying, career planning can fall to the back burner until students are actively job seeking. Fight the good fight and don’t give up on hosting your career events, though!
Too many offices are completely cutting out all workshops because of low attendance, but that’s a missed opportunity to get face time with students. These events build credibility and promote your office as a valuable resource, help build relationships with students, prove the career center is accessible and approachable to students, and drives students to one-on-one career advising support. If you’re thinking of canceling your workshops and career events, try to change your marketing first. Here are a few tips on how to get butts in seats at your next event.
Instill FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
In a world filled with so many choices, college students have learned to lean on reviews to help them decide if they will spend their time anywhere. Ever heard of Yelp or Rate My Professor? That said, you need to step up your game and have a strong reputation and word of mouth presence!
You can do that by selecting various students to share their experience on social media during and after career events. This will lead to more positive reviews for all to see.
Most career offices do a good job promoting their events in advance, but what about after? Get pictures of a full audience at an employer event or career fair preparation workshop and post that during or following the event using hashtags such as #successfulevent #carerservicesinaction. When students see how many people were in attendance, they will wish they had attended and prioritize your events in the future.
Seeking a seamless solution to increase awareness of your career center’s programs and services? Feel free to explore CampusTap’s private career networking platform.
Tap Into Students’ Social Media Creativity
Most career offices have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even a Snapchat account, but have you ever considered having social media ambassadors for your events? Florida State University and others recruit students to attend events and post pictures while they are happening. Their creativity leads to clever content ideas like, “Countdown to the Career Fair” on Snapchat.
You can also ask these students to work at career events to answer questions and manage registration tables. You can include them in career information videos, ask them to write blog posts featuring alumni with interesting careers and more! Don’t have a budget? Believe it or not most students would just be excited to get the experience for their resume, so don’t be afraid to try this out as a new program and beef up your marketing presence.
Host Virtual Events
Any reason is a good reason not to attend a career event, from bad weather to studying for an exam. Hosting a virtual event allows you to present meaningful content to students in a way that is convenient for them.
Resources like Google Hangouts, Facebook Live or other internal virtual tools your school uses, such as Blue Jeans, can all be great platforms to present career workshops and events that engage students and alumni on a global level. You can then archive these videos and virtual sessions to create a library of videos that students can tap into on-demand. These archived videos serve a long-term purpose because you can send them in follow-up to students after one-on-one advising sessions, and leverage them as marketing collateral.
Hold Students Accountable for Not Showing Up
I find it a huge problem that students RSVP for career events then just don’t show up. This is problematic especially when a student skips out on an employer information session, or if you had to dig into your budget to host the event. Holding students accountable will provide you with more accurate RSVP numbers and will help you know where to put your marketing efforts.
My policy is that after three missed appointments and/or career events you are locked out of our system for internal job postings, and will have a required meeting with me to regain access. Our no-show policy is firmly visible on our website and is communicated in every career class.
If you don’t have a required career course at your institution, work with your academic advising team to ensure this gets integrated into any required presentations that students need to attend regarding (i.e. class registration). Even having one slide speak to career services and career event policies will go a long way. Any academic session is the perfect opportunity to make a connection between course selection and career exploration. Then, of course, as a next step, students should be encouraged to schedule an appointment, which will create the perfect opportunity to reference your no-show policy.
Ask Students What They Want
We currently have a survey going around to our undergraduates asking them for event ideas! We are also using this survey to ask about the day of the week and time of day they would like to see events hosted, and what platforms they want to them marketed to. We find our most popular platform is still email. (TIP-always do a mail merge!) For this approach I highly recommend an incentive like a raffle for something exciting like dining points or an Amazon gift card for a few lucky participants.
Collaborate with Other Campus Stakeholders
Any opportunity you can create where you are co-hosting events is an excellent idea! Student clubs are my favorite groups to collaborate with because they are truly invested in the success of their programs (and will make all of their friends come)! Offer to help book space, get alumni to attend or offer to pay for snacks. This will further encourage student groups to collaborate with you and they will likely benefit from your help in brainstorming topic ideas and appropriate event management tips and tricks.
Working with non-career administrators is also a great way to get additional face time with students while removing some of your marketing responsibilities. Work with resident directors to do a resume workshop for their resident students. Reach out to diversity offices and offer to be a “special guest” to present on a career-related topic of their choice. Work with Student Activities to host workshops for student leaders on how to leverage their newfound skills in their elevator pitch, or collaborate with Study Abroad to host workshops that teach students to highlight their international experiences on their resumes and interviews.
Most career counselors and coaches don’t have a degree in marketing, and you’re not expected to! Exercise your creativity, leadership and relationship building skills instead, and don’t be afraid to try a new approach to getting as much time in front students as you can.
Victoria Schroeder is the Director of Undergraduate Career Services at Questrom School of Business at Boston University. She holds a master’s degree in College Student Development and Counseling from Northeastern University. She previously managed a career program at the nonprofit Bottom Line and held positions as both a Technical Recruiter for a staffing firm and a Senior Fund Accountant at State Street. If you’d like to learn about parent engagement initiatives specific to Boston University and the Questrom School of Business, feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.