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Career Advancement Moves Ahead
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
Even though the term “job placement” has come in and out of vogue in higher education over the decades, it has always been part of the philosophy at Bentley. The commitment to help graduates find rewarding and meaningful work goes back to our founder himself.
The recent evolution of career services is based on several factors: the economy and job market, students, faculty, alumni and technology. When I joined the college in 2003, for example, the economy was in a downturn and many big companies were experiencing layoffs. My job was to work with alumni in career transition, many of whom questioned how their career aligned with their values and interests. It sparked an idea: a holistic approach to career development for all students, beginning in the first year.
Our structured plan — HIRE Education — launched in 2008 and focuses on themes tied to each year of college: Explore, Experiment, Experience and Excel. Exploration begins with a Career Development Introduction seminar, which prepares freshmen for a lifetime of career management. Students start to discover their professional path with tools such as Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder. They go on to gain experience by following their career action plan through internships, networking events and more. Ideally, all students take advantage of experiential learning and mentoring. I’m proud to say that we have adapted this program for graduate students as well.
The growing sophistication of students’ skills and experiences has informed our direction. We hire career advisers with strong expertise and connections in various business fields, who are assigned to work with students in specific majors. Employers notice the preparation, hiring our students for higher-level positions and recruiting them into prestigious leadership development programs. Bentley graduates are taking on roles once reserved for those from Ivy League schools.
Strong relationships with corporate partners keep us on top of the kinds of skills employers look for. I sit alongside faculty on Bentley’s Undergraduate Curriculum Policy Committee to collaborate about initiatives that will better prepare graduates for the market. The collaboration resulted in the recent launch of two majors: Creative Services and Professional Sales.
Technology has been another avenue for building connections. When I first got to Bentley, there was a basic alumni database available to students. Since then, we’ve been forward-thinking in creating more interactive platforms to help students leverage relationships. Long before LinkedIn became popular, we built a Bentley network for alumni to find and post jobs: FalconNet.
The list of online platforms has just kept growing. Our CareerEdge website includes resources such as event listings, career advice, and industry-insight blogs and videos. In fall 2016, we became one of the first schools nationwide to use the CampusTap platform to create our very own online Mentor Marketplace, which pairs students and alumni based on personality and career interests.
In the early years, Harry Bentley built relationships with accounting firms and that was how graduates got their first job. He was committed to developing a curriculum that filled a need for what employers were seeking in the accounting profession, and to having the faculty and institution maintain close relationships in the industry. The marriage of education and connections remains a Bentley hallmark. In 2015, a full 98 percent of the senior class received job offers or went on to graduate school; this placement rate has been above 90 percent since 2007.
If we’re able to place students in fulfilling jobs, it means we’re doing our job right. Helping graduates build lifelong careers is not something we’re willing to leave to chance.
Susan Brennan is associate vice president for university career services.
The Yawkey Foundations have recognized Bentley University’s longstanding commitment to service-learning and awarded the university $500,000 to educate students to effectively lead nonprofit organizations and expand student efforts to help community groups.