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Claremont Graduate University staff hired student workers to support innovative processes for career services.

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Graduate studies continue to grow in higher education across the U.S., along with jobs that call for an advanced degree. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projects estimate around 228.3 million jobs requiring a master’s degree or higher will have openings between 2019 to 2029.

Claremont Graduate University’s career development office works exclusively with graduate students, providing career exploration and support for adult learners from a variety of experiences and backgrounds.

Recently, the office added student employees to the two-member team to expand program offerings for students and provide an opportunity for them to develop their own strengths and workforce preparation.

What’s the need: Graduate student career support is similar to that of undergraduates, such as career exploration, résumé and LinkedIn development, networking and interview support, explains Ro Lee, associate director of career and professional development.

The primary difference is the student’s age or stage in life. At CGU, many students are professionals going back to school to pursue a new career path who need support in the transition. One study found graduate students typically have four motivations for learning in career services: escape and stimulation, promotion and advancement, professional and personal growth, and expansion of social relationships.

The career services office, in turn, offers services like career exploration, networking best practices, career etiquette and mental health workshops.

Two years ago, staff recruited learners to the team and established new specialized areas for student workers to create more interaction with students, faculty and staff members and the wider community.

How it works: The office’s seven student workers are pursuing either a master’s degree or Ph.D., Lee says. They work on four teams: data analytics, industry and campus partnerships, peer consultants, and social media.

  • The data analytics team is responsible for collecting and reporting data related to different outcomes, like job placements and degree completion among students. The team works closely with the university’s data team and also helps identify what data sets are missing.
  • The industry and campus partnerships team connects the career development office to other departments on campus, whether that’s triaging student needs to another support office or helping faculty embed career development into their classrooms. They also work with groups outside the university to provide avenues for collaboration.
  • Peer consultants work directly with other graduate students to provide career counseling and coaching. Claremont Graduate’s career development office offers lifetime access to services for its alumni, so peer consultants can also support alumni or faculty and staff looking for their next career step.
  • Social media team members run the career center’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, connecting community members to resources and information around career readiness and development.

Student employees serve for one or two years and work around 20 to 30 hours per week.

The impact: Adding students to the office has changed CGU’s career services offerings and the ways the office thinks about serving students, Lee shares.

They work collaboratively across their roles, with different ideas inspiring new initiatives across teams. For example, the data team works to support analytics and measurement of the office’s efforts and disaggregation to understand underserved groups, which the campus partnerships team can use to facilitate relationships.

Student worker involvement involved a bit of trial and error, Lee says, but part of the success has stemmed from being clear in role responsibilities and in-person work, which he says would benefit another office looking to model the idea.

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