Rethinking the Path from College to Career

Carlow’s career development office turned the college-to-workplace transition on its head by producing a day-long conference for students to learn and apply job-hunting skills. Read on to learn more about this innovative approach to prepping students for today’s workforce.

Local students network and learn job-hunting skills at the 2014 College to Career Conference.

Turning the career development process on its head is not the sort of thing you’d expect the director of a career development.  office to do. But on Friday, November 7 at the Hilton Garden Inn, that’s exactly what Erin Bridgen, MA, director of the Office of Career Development at Carlow University, did.

Bridgen worked in partnership with colleagues at the career centers of Duquesne University, California University ofPennsylvania, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Saint VincentCollege to plan and produce a one-day conference in Oakland focused n preparing students for a successful college to workplace transition.

“Usually we work with students throughout the year,” said Bridgen, “offering a number of shorter, targeted workshops and networking sessions, as well as tips on interviewing and job search strategies. But when I spoke with colleagues at other institutions we realized that we all faced similar challenges: we were spending a lot of time developing great programs that touched relatively small audiences, simply because our students are very busy-between work, families, and studying, finding time for career development is a challenge.”

And so Bridgen submitted a grant proposal to fund a new kind of career development event: one that would bring students together for one full day of career workshops, leveraging the expertise of a variety of regional institutions and employers in support of abetter, more focused experience for the participants. The NationalVenture Fund, through the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) andAssociation of Independent Colleges and Universities ofPennsylvania (AICUP) awarded Bridgen seed funding for such an event, and once she and her career services colleagues secured the requisite corporate sponsorships, the College to Career (C2C)Conference was born.

“We positioned this as a conference, and this was really important to us. We wanted our students to get that conference experience, to have the opportunity to attend multiple sessions that would boost their employment savvy, but also to be able to network with recruiters and with one another, to really build interpersonal connections,” said Bridgen.

Carlow alumna Pamela Arroyo, program director of the UPMC CampusPrograms and Workforce Development Initiatives, offered the keynote address and energized the participants, preparing them for a day full of breakout sessions which covered such topics as resumes and cover letters, social media savvy, personal branding, networking, salary negotiation, and effective interview strategies. Every moment of the conference was devoted to self-improvement: even lunchtime was presented as an opportunity to learn proper dining etiquette, key for those all-too-important business lunches.

“We were so pleased with the event,” Bridgen said upon further reflection. “It gave people the opportunity to connect in really worthwhile ways, in ways that build the relationships that lead to meaningful employment.”

As for looking toward the future, Bridgen is optimistic. “Of course we’re already thinking of ways to improve C2C for subsequent years, but we were so happy with our outcomes, especially because this is the first year for this kind of event in the region. Our colleagues loved it, our recruiters loved it, and most importantly the students loved it.”

For more information, please contact the Carlow UniversityOffice of Career Development at 412.578.6067 or visit the Career Development website.

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