Respondents to the PreparedU Project research study identified four top initiatives that, along with a commitment to lifelong learning, can help millennials prepare for workplace success. As a result, we now launch a seven-week series on Careers of the Future and how millennial students can prepare for them. We begin with an overview by Susan Brennan, executive director of career services.
Developing an effective career plan for college students, and then undertaking it, requires more than a top-notch career-services operation.
It also necessitates a critical three-way connection between the faculty — both liberal arts and business; executives from a wide variety of industries, who sometimes become involved in curricular design, classroom participation and definition of required skills; and millennials themselves, who need to start such planning in their freshman year.
On a broader level, a university that is trying to understand the careers of the future must demonstrate an acute awareness of how technology is transforming virtually every imaginable industry, and the jobs within them. In addition, the school, its faculty and its students need to be committed to life-long learning. And, finally, everyone involved has to agree that future success for students is enhanced when they have a portfolio of both hard and soft skills. There has to be an appreciation and acceptance of the fact that the balance and type of skills will change dramatically over the course of a career.
As I mentioned, the career process has to start early, because students need time to figure out in a structured and formatted way what careers make sense and are fulfilling for them. I believe, as educators, we have a responsibility to help make sure that students don’t spend their post-graduate years doing things they really don’t want to do professionally.
At Bentley, we help nurture and manage student talent in our Hire Education program. This program is focused on four themes tied to each college year: “Explore” for freshmen, “Experiment” for sophomores, “Experience” for juniors, and “Excel” for seniors.
The “Explore” phase begins on day one, with a career development seminar that’s designed and taught in partnership with executives from a diverse range of companies, such as KPMG, TJX Corporation, L.L. Bean and Epsilon. Laying the groundwork for a lifetime of career management, students assess interests, create résumés, draft cover letters, develop an “elevator” pitch and do mock interviews with the executives. The ultimate goal is for each student to obtain a “workplace readiness” seal of approval.
The “Experiment” phase takes place in year two, when students consider future jobs and industries on their first internship, and at industry conferences, career fairs and networking events. One of the key issues for us at this point is helping students get academic credit when they engage in unpaid corporate internships.
The “Experience” phase unfolds in year three, when students start delving into their major electives and participate in more targeted experiential learning.
And the “Excel” phase starts in the last year, when students gain “backpack-to-briefcase” executive presence and professionalism competencies and prepare to launch their full-time careers.
It’s important to note that our “Hire Education” program requires students to opt in. We give them the tools to fish, but they need to do the actual fishing.
Our faculty plays a pivotal role in developing student talent at Bentley. Professors invest in understanding what employers want and how companies define professional competency today. This input helps shape our learning objectives, our curriculum, and the corporate immersion we bring to the classroom.
That corporate collaboration manifests itself in a number of ways. In an effort to ensure that our students graduate with the latest and most relevant accounting tools and technologies, for example, Ernst & Young helped us create an intellectually rich accounting program. Liberty Mutual developed an ethics case. And practitioners from Boston Scientific and other companies are regular participants in our classes.
We’re not the only school in the world of higher education that collaborates with the private sector on behalf of our students. Google’s founders attended Stanford, for example, and today the company and university have a tight relationship that has resulted in a steady flow of people and ideas between Stanford’s departments of computer science and engineering and Google’s headquarters.
And we’re also not the only school to break new ground when it comes to preparing students for the careers of the future. Wake Forest, for instance, has a dynamic Office of Personal and Career Development that helps bring students, parents and employers together in order to help undergraduates find their optimal professional path.
But, regardless of whether we’re talking about a liberal arts school, or a business school like Bentley, it all comes back to a discussion of ROI — return on investment. This is the essence of our PreparedU Project, which was launched in 2013 and is designed to bridge the gap between employers and higher education.
What, exactly, does ROI mean?
At Bentley, we believe it’s about achieving success personally — and professionally. After spending well over $200,000 on a college education, can students get the jobs they really want? Are they truly prepared for the careers they dream about? Are they in a position to become informed and engaged citizens? And, perhaps most significantly, does this translate into a happy life?
All of us in higher education have to focus on these questions. And we have to dig in and help each student realize and enhance the game-changing abilities he or she can offer employers upon graduation.
That’s a major part of our 21st century mission.
Careers of the Future Series
Read other installments in our Careers of the Future Series:
Blending Theory and Practice with Big Data
Human-Centered Design Is Putting Innovative Insights Into Action
Sustainability, the Merging of Science and Business
Economics Has Many Career Options, From Rock Singer to President of the United States
Accounting Helps Students Get Beyond the Numbers
Will You Be Able to Recognize the Next Big Thing?