How to Promote Professional Growth from the Career Center

professional growth
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professional growth

Being mindful of professional growth at the job seeker stage will improve students’ job satisfaction in the long run and improve their chances to push forward in their careers. 

With today’s competitive talent pool, it’s natural for students to lower their job search standards. But they aren’t doing themselves any favors by defining their job criteria as merely “a job.” 

Although it is essential to have somewhere to land after graduation, it’s never too early for students to consider what they would want beyond that first step. 

A crucial factor for job seekers to consider is how a position will help propel their professional growth and career development. Right now, not nearly enough students about to graduate know how to look for that. 

Here’s what you need to do as a career services professional to promote the importance of students’ professional growth: 

Why we need to talk about professional growth:

There are two critical benefits to showing your students why it is essential to care about professional growth. 

First, they’ll know to ask about professional development opportunities during their job search. 

The results of a 2020 study from ResumeLabs showed that 70% of workers list professional growth and development as a critical factor of job satisfaction. It even ranked above vacation time. 

You must encourage students to be mindful of professional growth now, at the job seeker stage, because it helps them filter out jobs that won’t be beneficial in the long-run. Instead, they’ll be able to consider which positions would best contribute to their long-term job satisfaction and provide opportunities for career development.

Also, teaching students about professional growth will keep them moving forward ahead of the competition. 

Applicants that boast leadership positions, volunteer hours, and high-impact learning experiences appeal to employers because those all demonstrate that the candidate is willing to learn and invest in their professional standing. Graduates who prioritize what they learn from those experiences rather than simply writing on a resume are more likely to stand out. 

How to interest students in professional growth:

It’s not always easy to reach different types of students and convince them that something is important. Even though it’s necessary to improve their luck in the job search, they may resist the idea or write it off as irrelevant. 

When addressing professional growth with students, use these arguments to demonstrate why they should make it part of their criteria in the job search: 

It’s a valuable benefit

Getting paid, receiving paid time off, and having a good health insurance package are all necessary. But professional growth is a critical benefit too. Employers who invest in employees’ professional development are the ones worth working for because they’re proving that they want to help you strengthen your skillset. 

It appeals to employers

Hard skills specific to the industry and soft skills like leadership experience or team training make you stand out from the competition. And it’s much easier to land a job when you have plenty of experience to pull on to demonstrate your growth. 

It helps your career

Continuing to pursue professional growth after getting hired significantly increases your chances of getting a raise or a promotion. The pursuit demonstrates that you’re willing to admit your weaknesses, learn, and improve. 

It makes you a better employee

Being good at your job can be its own reward. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Finding growth and improvement in the position where you’re at increases job satisfaction.

The ResumeLabs study found that getting a raise (23%) and getting a promotion (22%) were not the primary motivations for most people pursuing professional growth. Of the respondents in the workforce right now who can see which actions benefit them best, one third reported that getting better at their job spurred their desire for growth. 

Not sure how to get students’ attention amidst the pandemic? Use these Top 6 Career Resources for Students in a Virtual Setting.

How to build students’ professional skills early: 

The ResumeLabs data demonstrates that certification courses are best for professional growth, as 65% of respondents considered it valuable or very valuable. But technical skills training, leadership skill-building, and teamwork training were all over 60% as well. 

Although these types of experiences are not always available at the college level, there are plenty of opportunities that come close to replicating the results of those training sessions. 

Recommend students to partake in these professional growth activities while still in college: 

Accept leadership positions in student organizations

Student-run clubs and productions give future job seekers an understanding of leadership, responsibility, and organization. They also offer plenty of opportunities to take the initiative, adapt, and learn something new, which students can point to in interviews.

Get work experience

Jobs, internships, and volunteering experience appeal to recruiters because they demonstrate the candidate learned something from those positions. Remind students not just to get the experience for the sake of a resume. They should also reflect on what they gained from that environment and responsibility. 

Pursue skills training

Conferences, free webinars, TedTalks, demonstrations on campus, and more all offer students the opportunity to learn something new, practice self-awareness, and grow. Explain to students that these activities aren’t just something to fill up their free time; they provide opportunities to recognize new areas for growth.

Select challenging electives

Although students may not feel like they have access to technical skills training outside of their field, there are numerous opportunities to learn basic skills in other departments. It is OK for students to choose electives that most interest them or that sound easy to pass, but advocate that they also consider the ones that will expand their skill set. 

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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.