How To Use Popular Engagement Strategies On College Students


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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 they’re also 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. Office Vibe’s November report, State of Employee Engagement, is surveying thousands of organizations in real-time about how well their employees are currently being engaged in the workplace. Unfortunately, 25 percent of the employees in these organizations leave work feeling drained or very drained every day, and 57 percent believe they lack personal growth opportunities.

Keeping college students sheltered from the harsh realities of the working world is impossible. To lessen the shock, it’s crucial career services gives them the tools and resources necessary to begin preparing for a career. In fact, you can use employee engagements strategies that employers use in the office everyday 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, in the office, an overwhelming 65 percent of employees feel they don’t receive enough recognition, according to the above Office Vibe survey. This is a major cause for concern, since Quantum Workplace’s What’s New In Employee Performance Management Trends report found positive feedback motivates 90 percent of employees.

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 accomplishments 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 are achieving great things. Not only will this positivity bring pride to those acknowledged, 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 classroom setting. When creating well-rounded students, you in turn create well-rounded employees — which involves both positive and negative feedback. Take a note from employees on this one: while Quantum Workplace’s report shows two-third of employees want immediate feedback at work — even if it’s negative — 35 percent of employees surveyed by Office Vibe say they wait over three months to receive any feedback.

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 in. Mock interviews are an example of an area 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 on 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 de-stress

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 normal studying routine. This will show them how breaking up the monotony isn’t a distraction, but can actually 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 is the co-owner and leader of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers. You can connect with her and the CareerShift team on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, LinkedIn.