How To Use Popular Engagement Strategies On College Students


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This post was updated to bring you the most up-to-date tips, October 2020.

As your career services team is prepping the future leaders of America to enter the workforce, it’s important to treat students as both mentees and employees. Exercising employee engagement techniques will not only prepare them for how employers will treat them, but also they’re a great way to keep college students focused, passionate, and motivated. 

While some students are ready to run full-force into their chosen career path, many are unaware of the challenges they’ll face upon arriving in the workplace. Unfortunately, 45% of employees do not feel their employer promotes a healthy work-life balance, according to a 2019 study from The Execu|Search Group. Additionally, 66% of professionals said that there isn’t much support for those wishing to take on leadership roles.

Keeping college students sheltered from the harsh realities of the working world is impossible. To lessen the shock, it’s essential career services gives them the tools and resources necessary to begin preparing for a career. In fact, you can use employee engagement strategies that employers use in the office every day to set them on the right path.

Here’s how to start training your college students for the big jump into their careers:

Be their personal cheering section

Just like top athletes and performers, career hopefuls need ongoing recognition for their performance and achievements. However, only 61% of employees feel appreciated in the workplace, according to a 2019 study from the O.C. Tanner Institute. This is a major cause for concern. When leaders do not effectively communicate accomplishments, employees are 74% less likely to stay at the organization.

Much like employees at the office, positivity is a huge motivation factor for students. If students are going above and beyond their degree requirements, take note. Recognize their volunteering, internship, and academic success in both a one-on-one and public setting. Put a recognition section in the quarterly magazine, use the college’s Facebook, Twitter, and website pages to showcase those who achieve great things. Not only will this positivity bring pride to those acknowledged, but also it will motivate others to push themselves into accomplishing even more.

Don’t skimp on the feedback

Feedback is crucial in both a business and a classroom setting. When creating well-rounded students, you create well-rounded employees — which involves both positive and negative feedback. Take a note from employees on this one: nearly 60% of workers who received regular feedback during informal meetings were extremely or very motivated at work, according to a 2019 study from Joblist.

The employee engagement strategy of immediate feedback is perfect for college students as well. While helping students find a career path, let them know where they’re doing well and what areas they can improve. Mock interviews are an example of an opportunity where timely feedback is most necessary. Students need to immediately understand what they did well and where they can improve. 

Once they have both positive and constructive feedback, explain how to use it to continue improving their career skills. For example, if their nervous tick during an interview is saying “um,” have them work on taking a three-second deep breath before answering. This will give them time to gather their first words in response while still appearing poised and professional. 

Teach them to destress

You know how stressful your job can be, and good career service professionals know just how much pressure is on their students — so why treat the stressors differently? As employers focus more on employee well-being, career service professionals need to teach students how to handle their many stresses to prepare for future workloads. 

Have your students begin implementing 10-15 minute breaks into their regular studying routine. This will show them how breaking up the monotony isn’t a distraction, but can increase productivity.

For those who are extra anxious, teach deep-breathing, mindfulness exercises. Coach them to close their eyes, focus on the breath, breathe normally, and put all other thoughts out of mind. Have them start with five minutes a day and increase slowly to 15 minutes a day.

College is much like a career, so approaching students with an employee engagement attitude will not only help them with courses, volunteering, and internships, it will better prepare them for what’s down the road.

How do you prepare your college students for the working world? Let us know in the comments below! 

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta, Managing Director of CareerShift, co-founded the company in 2005 to help individuals bridge the gap between education and employment.  As a recognized expert in the field, Val is a frequent speaker on career management, networking, and job hunting strategies.  You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.