Mandatory Workshops Prepare Students to Get the Job
By Jennifer Spencer
Two years after introducing a series of required workshops, Career Services staff say students are better prepared to translate the strength of their Fordham experience into the skills that will help them land a job.
Completion of the first two workshops, World of Work and Resume and Cover Letter, grants students access to Fordham’s online CareerLink job search database.
The second tier of courses, Interview Skills and Professional Dress and Etiquette, are required before students may participate in on-campus recruiting events sponsored by the office.
Introducing a series of mandatory workshops was one of the first initiatives Career Services Director Stefany Fattor implemented when she was appointed in 2011.
Though requiring that students take workshops to be granted access to certain Career Services resources was a big step, Fattor said feedback from employers who recruited at Fordham led her to believe the risk was worthwhile.
“Employers want Fordham students,” she said. “But when we were meeting with employers who had interviewed our students or received resumes, we learned students were making the same mistakes over and over again and getting eliminated.”
To help Fordham students put their best foot forward, the Career Services team developed the four workshops based on extensive educational research and employer feedback.
In the two years since the programs were implemented, employers have noticed and appreciated a difference.
“In the past year, we’ve heard from employers how much it’s improved, from professional dress, and how students come to interviews more knowledgeable about the company,” said Kathlene Lewis, director of employer relations.
The workshops alert students to basic job search strategies, like the importance of an action-oriented one-page resume. But the nuances, such as not glancing at a vibrating cell phone and being sure one’s shoes are polished, have also made a big difference in employer feedback.
Fattor said the fact that the workshops are required is a strong factor in motivating employers to recruit at Fordham for the first time.
“There was no better way to get them on campus than to promise them a minimum level of proficiency. I can say, ‘It’s worth your time because students won’t be able to view your jobs unless they’ve been through these workshops,’” Fattor said.
“Other schools aren’t guaranteeing that.”
It’s precisely because of this type of direct insight from employers that the Career Services team encourages students to take advantage of their services “early and often.” The required workshops help achieve this aim, getting students into the Career Services offices sooner than later and help them get a sense of what’s available.
“The workshops themselves are only half-hour experiences by design. We want to whet your appetite,” said Bernie Stratford, director of experiential education.
The first workshop in the series, World of Work, focuses on the strengths of their Jesuit liberal arts education and how those skills translate to a career. Stratford said that even if a student isn’t yet ready to pursue an internship, this workshop is valuable in offering a perspective that will help them make the most of their Fordham education.
“We needed to connect the students’ academic experience with the world of work in a meaningful way as soon as possible,” Stratford said. “Students need to think about their careers from the get-go, but the beauty is that awareness starts the process.”
Ashlyne Polynice, an English major who is considering pre-law, took all four workshops during her freshman year. She said the insight she gained made a huge difference in developing a strong resume.
“My resume was unfocused and all over the place, and I didn’t know how to take all my diverse experience and focus it on one thing,” said Polynice, a sophomore at Fordham College at Lincoln Center. “The workshop helped me see they were all leadership roles.”
Michael Kungl said that his experience of interacting with people from Career Services during and after the workshops helped him think about the way he communicates and ultimately be far more prepared for interviews.
“When you’re with professional people, and they’re giving you professional hints, you’re learning how to converse with people who aren’t in college,” said Kungl, a sophomore at the Gabelli School of Business.
“Once you’re settled down and you’re in an interview, you’re not as nervous and it’s easier to communicate your thoughts,” he said.