Two weeks ago the University’s Office of Career Services organized the first-ever HireTigers Meetup, a development of the previous career fair recruitment model. This meetup, in addition to a series of Career and Life Vision Workshops, is part of Career Services’ ongoing effort to reevaluate their performance and improve the quality and relevance of their services. The Editorial Board lauds the initiative to develop new ways of providing students with effective professional assistance and encourages the program directors to remain responsive to students’ concerns as they shape the Office’s direction. In the spirit of this collaborative evaluation, the Board would like to bring several issues to attention as well as a possible means of redress. Among the concerns are the sizeable demand for services, especially for practice interviews, and the fact that students’ many industry interests require specialized experience. To improve the current strength of Career Services’ performance regarding these issues, the Board suggests instituting a program of peer fellows, similar to that already in place at the Writing Center.
It is understandable that, despite the high quality of assistance that is currently available, it is difficult to accommodate the diverse needs of thousands of undergraduates in a timely manner. Interviewing well is a crucial component of the professional skill set, and Career Services does notcurrently have the capacity to meet the demands for mock interviews. While limited half-hour appointments are available with counselors, interviews take the time and full attention of a staff member, sacrificing time that could otherwise be given to other important elements of a job or internship application, such as reviewing resumes and cover letters. Many fields also require interviews with specific technical knowledge of the field in question. Many of the upperclassmen also have more pressing needs given the immediacy of their job search, which may give the underclassmen lower priority and limited access to these useful resources. In addition, the issue demands an increase in the availability of specialized and competent advice without a significant increase in operating cost.
An effective solution to these issues would be to adopt the peer fellow model now in use at the Writing Center. The Writing Center has peer fellows (both undergraduate and graduate students) that offer 50-minute appointments to review and improve writing brought in by fellow students. These fellows are especially competent, as they must have both done well in their previous writing courses and undergone extensive training sessions. These conferences are in high demand, but the Center has around 90 fellows and is able to schedule thousands of appointments each semester. Writing Center fellows are remunerated generously, but the cost of hiring a fellow is nowhere near that of contracting full time staff.
This scenario could translate analogously to the situation faced by Career Services. A group of competent interview fellows could increase the capacity of the office to help students with diverse interests at a reasonable cost. To maintain and ensure the quality of the service, these fellows should be upperclassmen or graduate students that have experience in various professional fields. Students who have been able to spend their time working with companies over the summers and have gained the specific insight into what is needed to succeed in that field would be great resources to the rest of the student body. While Career Services currently has a group of peer advisers, their main function is to serve as an information liaison between the office and residential colleges. They do not offer mock interviews (or any services), as they are neither paid nor trained to do so.
The fellows we are proposing could not only assist with general-fit interviews but also with field-specific mock interviews, indicating the elements of particular importance. The fellows could additionally hold counseling hours during which they would be available to give advice as to what has worked for them in pursuing a career in their particular field. This would be of particular benefit to the underclassmen, who could then directly get the advice of students with recent success in achieving professional goals in their freshman and sophomore years.
This system of Career Service peer interview fellows might well be the way to increase the availability of mock interview services, improve sources of field-specific experience and engage more underclassmen, all at a reasonable cost.