At the beginning of the spring 2021 semester, the Colorado State University College of Health and Human Sciences career development team launched a series of workshops, coined Class to Career, to advise students in every major within the College on a variety of inquires related to career development.
The goals of the Class to Career workshops were to share educational and professional information on various topics and to provide a space for students to talk about their experiences and concerns about their job search process. The workshop series spanned 12 weeks and covered a new topic each week concerning both current students and alumni.
Rooted in connection
Kara Johnson, the career development manager for the College of Health and Human Sciences, said the workshops were intended to provide a broad overview on topics that frequently come up in career development conversations. More importantly, Johnson sought to drive conversation and acquaintanceship among workshop participants, which calls back to her passion to help others.
“Like many others, I’ve always had a desire to help, but it took me a while to figure out exactly how I wanted to help,” Johnson said. “After a lot of soul searching, exploration, and some happy accidents, I found my niche with career counseling because it allows me to work with people on an individual level and support them through really important life decisions.”
The workshops’ topics covered everything from career planning and goal setting, to job searching during the pandemic, to salary negotiation. Johnson and her team designed the workshop schedule so each week would serve as a standalone session, recognizing that most people wouldn’t be able to attend every session. However, there are themes that tie each workshop together – one of which is shared experience and community.
The pandemic brought unique challenges and circumstances for many students, and it especially impacted networking opportunities that would have otherwise been in-person. These workshops went beyond solely giving students resources and information, and instead provided them the opportunity to network with one another around the shared experience of job searching during a pandemic and the uncertainty that comes with it.
These connections provide a sense of hope and courage for students to take command of their situation and pursue their career and life goals.
“These workshops transcend majors and disciplines. So, whether someone is a third-year interior architecture and design student, or a master’s student in education, the information is applicable.” Johnson said. “Of course, each person is going to have their own unique circumstances and considerations, so we used these workshops as a starting point, and we welcome folks to follow up with us for more individualized support.”
Aiding Johnson in the support of the College’s students and alumni are career advocates Cai Hopkins, a School of Social Work master’s student, and Olivia Palizzi, a senior in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.
Faced with similar circumstances as their fellow Rams, the students provided a perspective that closely related to workshop participants.
“I feel it is vital to provide opportunities to connect with students to provide resources, offer encouragement, and support their unique journeys,” Hopkins said. “That’s why we took an intentional look this past year at all the ways we could support students – not just through individual appointments but also in group settings like the workshops so students could learn from each other and feel as though they weren’t alone.”
There are many resources that CSU offers in terms of career services, but many students may not realize it. The Class to Career workshops reassured students that there is no need to experience isolation during the career-building process.
“As a career advocate for the college, I am often struggling with the same anxieties that students bring up in our workshops,” Palizzi said.
Through empathy and guided advice, Johnson and her team of career advocates connected with the students who attended the workshops, passing along the information to help them in their professional journeys. The process of career counseling is one of mutual benefit – when Johnson, Hopkins, and Palizzi help others fulfill their goals, they are then fulfilled as well.
“I had one student who I had met with for a mock interview surprise me at a workshop saying she had been offered an internship! Her excitement was contagious, and I think back to that moment often,” Palizzi said. “Everyone has the capacity to succeed, but support from people who believe in you can make all the difference.”