A 3.5 GPA, active involvement in a Registered Student Organization, an internship in her major, and having applied for several positions in her field; yet this Redbird found little success in her job search. Tossing and turning at night, she couldn’t help but question, “What am I doing wrong?”
Unfortunately, this story resonates with many students. Attaining a quality degree, actively participating in extra-curricular activities, even earning good grades, are not enough to compete in a globally competitive environment.
“Students don’t fully understand how to market themselves well professionally,” said Career Center Associate Director for Student Relations Mike Minton. “This is a real need that we are seeing in today’s students. In fact, recent recommendations from the Career Development Task Force challenges the Career Center to maximize career readiness on campus and provide more support for students. So to respond to that need, the Career Center piloted the Career Ambassador Program in spring 2016.”
The career ambassadors are a team of six undergraduate students who serve to expand student’s access to the Career Center and provide more peer support. Ambassadors conduct 10-15 minute drop-in hours at the Career Center to provide useful tips to help students stand out positively to employers, such as résumé and/or LinkedIn profile reviews, addressing quick career questions or to offer general assistance. The ambassadors also conduct late-night presentations, and hold résumé and/or LinkedIn profile reviews during late-night hours at Milner Library before major career fairs. During the pilot, career ambassadors had 193 drop-in appointments and delivered six presentations to a total of 167 students. Because of the success of the program, the Career Center continues the Career Ambassador Program this fall as well, so students can interact with their peers who are well-trained to assist them in their career readiness.
Aarrieus Greer, one of the career ambassadors, took advantage of the Career Center’s services and attended their career fairs, even before becoming an ambassador. During one of his visits to the Career Center, Greer learned of the Career Center’s job vacancy tool Hire-A-Redbird. He soon began to use Hire-A-Redbird and was able to find an underwriting internship with the Assisted Housing Risk Management Association (AHRMA).
Becoming a career ambassador caught Greer by surprise. While serving as the event planning chair for the Nation Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), Greer met with Career Center Director and NSLS Advisor Pamela Cooper to discuss an event partnership. “Arrieus’s potential and initiative immediately stood out to me. I could tell from the skills he displayed that he was someone who will go far in his career; which made him a great candidate for a career ambassador,” comments Cooper. Greer’s meeting with Cooper ultimately led to his position as a career ambassador.
With the networking, communication, and leadership skills he developed from his experience as an intern for AHRMA and as an executive chair for NSLS, Greer helps other students market the skills they have developed outside the classroom and encourages them to attend career events. “Being able to connect with students, employers, and the Career Center staff is one of the greatest benefits of connecting with the Career Center,” states Greer. “As one of the ambassadors, I advise students to get involved with the Career Center early. Even if you don’t see the benefit right away, you will see the benefits in the long run.”
Career ambassadors go through extensive training with career advisors so that they have the skills they need to effectively assist students. As a part of their training, they job shadow a graduate assistant or career advisor as they conduct résumé reviews and classroom presentations. Ambassadors must also be familiar with all the Career Center’s programs and services, be able to interact with employers, and participate in the development and implementation of career services and programs.
The career ambassadors are taking campus by storm as they are increasing the number of students served by the Career Center and contributing to students’ career success. “Because of the high demand for Illinois State talent, the Career Center would like to increase drop-in hours and sustain our late night résumé reviews: and the career ambassadors will allow us to do this,” states Minton. “We also envision that because of all of the skills our ambassadors develop in their role, the career ambassador role will become highly competitive.”
Thanks to the Student Ambassador Program, students not only use the knowledge acquired in the classroom to find success, but can also get career support to learn how to effectively market themselves to employers. Students seeking help with their career plans are encouraged to visit the Career Center during drop-in hours and late night reviews. Who knows, by doing so, some may become future career ambassadors!