Podcast

Introducing Faculty to Career Resources

Laura Kestner-Ricketts offers a step-by-step overview of a new 45-minute program she launched at Augustana that trains faculty to navigate the career center website and use all of the resources. 

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Laura Kestner-Ricketts, Executive Director of Career and Professional Development at Augustana College, shares how she introduces faculty to career resources in a super scalable, efficient way. 

In this episode, Laura offers a step-by-step overview of a new 45-minute program she launched at Augustana that trains faculty on how to navigate the career center website and use all of the resources. 

After only six months of running this program, Laura says it’s a hit with faculty (and students, as it can easily be adapted for them) due to its interactive, engaging format. Listen to the episode for more details, but here’s a general outline of the program:

  1. Laura introduces faculty to the website and briefly highlights each heading and drop-down menu.
  2. Then she shows them how to access each of the website’s six signature resources, including identity/affinity communities, labor market insights, Candid Career videos, mentors, and more. 
  3. Next, Laura breaks attendees into groups of six.
  4. Each member of the group has four minutes to research one of the six signature resources. They’re encouraged to take notes.
  5. Next, Laura invites attendees to get into groups with people who researched the same signature resource. 
  6. They have four minutes to share what they learned, hear what others have learned, and solidify their knowledge of that resource. 
  7. Attendees then get back into their original groups.
  8. Each person has two minutes to share what they learned about their resource:
    1. Who could benefit from using it
    2. What the resource is and what it can do
    3. When it might be helpful to suggest or share with a student (advising, in class, individually, group, etc.)
    4. Where to access it
    5. How to navigate it
    6. Why someone might find it helpful
  9. After 12 minutes (two minutes for each person), Laura brings everyone together to debrief. 

Resources from the episode:

Transcript

Meredith Metsker:

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the Career Everywhere podcast. I’m your host Meredith Metsker. And today, I am joined by Laura Kestner-Ricketts. She’s the Executive Director of Career and Professional Development at Augustana College in Illinois. Thank you for being here, Laura.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Oh, thanks so much for having me. I’m really excited for today.

Meredith Metsker:

Me too. And I am especially excited to have you on the show today to talk about how you’re introducing faculty to the Career Center’s Resources. I think we all know that faculty can be incredible partners, but sometimes it’s hard to get them all up to speed on what the Career Center can offer in a scalable, effective way.

So, I’m really excited to dig into how you’re doing that at Augustana. But first, for those of you listening or watching, I want to give a little background on Laura. She has worked in career services for about 30 years leading career centers at Clark College, Marquette, and now Augustana.

She’s also a former president of Midwest ACE. She’s worked with thousands of students and hundreds of faculty members over the years, and she’s developed a super cool method for introducing faculty to her career center’s website and their resources in a really in-depth and interactive way in just 45 minutes, which is, blows my mind.

So, before I get into all of that, Laura, is there anything else you’d like to add about yourself, your role at Augustana, or your background?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Oh, gosh, no. I mean, nothing crazy. I will allude to it, but I am really a fan of life design and recently went through the life design studio at Stanford. And so, if anyone wants to talk to me about that, reach out because I’d love to talk about it.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I’m assuming you know Joe Katrina then, because he mentioned that on this podcast a few weeks ago.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Oh, did he? Okay. There were a hundred of us in the session, so I didn’t know if he was in my session or not. Yeah, that’s great.

Meredith Metsker:

Cool. Okay, so before I get into the more specific questions about our topic, I want to ask you a question. I’ve been asking all of our guests on this podcast, and that’s, what does Career Everywhere mean to you?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Right. I love the concept of Career Everywhere and I use it a lot and we’ve been using it a lot more. But really to me it means, it’s a concept of we never know when some information or some interaction with the student is going to be the missing piece that clicks for them and gets them into a different place. I can think of my own aha moment, and I was a sophomore in college and I met with someone and I’m sure she had no idea that she just gave me the next step.

So, I think it’s really important to remember that every conversation we have, every interaction with student may have a piece to what their next step in their career is. So, career happens everywhere, not just in a career center. It happens in the snack bar, at the coffee shop, walking down the icy steps, things like that. So, that’s what it means to me.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, I love that. It’s a team sport really is what Career Everywhere is.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Exactly. And you may not even know that you’re playing, right?

Meredith Metsker:

Good point.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

All right. So, now I want to talk about how you’re leveraging your faculty partners at Augustana and how you’re training them on what the career center does and what your team can offer. I know you’ve recently launched a Career Readiness Champions Network there at Augustana. So, can you maybe start by giving me a quick overview of what that entails and why you created it?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Sure, sure. So, I think a lot of campuses are really plugging into that idea of Career Everywhere, right? And when you think of everyone on campus who has the most contact with students, it’s really the faculty. They’re the ones that see them at least during the semester, every day or every other day. And so, really tapping into faculty and also staff who work with student facing positions.

So, what we wanted to do was really, help make sure that those people who are interacting with students have the resources and tools that they need to really move a student through the process, make it easier for those students. And so, we developed… We had our first cohort start in October. We decided to call it the Career Readiness Champions Network. It’s not just faculty. So, faculty and staff.

And the faculty and staff members were invited, and we got the names because in our end of the year survey, we asked students to list someone on campus who had a positive impact on their career decision making or their career success. And last year, we had 140 faculty and staff whose names were given to us. So, we reached out to them, invited them, and of those 41 signed up and wanted to be part of our network. So, that’s how it got started.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay, I love that idea of including that question, the student survey. That’s genius.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

It’s really great. It’s really great. And then, we know who our partners are, right? We don’t have to convert them.

Meredith Metsker:

Right. Exactly. So, what does this program entail? I think you mentioned before that it’s several sessions. Can you walk me through what those include?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Sure. So, it’s a four sessions. We have four sessions, and it’s the whole academic year. So, we know that faculty are busy, everyone’s busy, and this is really an add-on for them. And so, this is not part of the tenure and promotion process. It’s not something they get credit for.

So, we wanted to make it easy, yet effective use of time. So, we’re doing 475-minute sessions spread throughout the fall and spring semester. And the first session is really about what is career development. Now, our office, we’re called Career Development and Vocation. We’re steeped in Lutheran traditions, but when we talk about vocation, we are not necessarily talking about a life in the church. We use the word as your… How can you serve the world. That’s how we use it.

And so, Career Development and Vocation, helping faculty and staff understand what do we mean by Career Development and Vocation, walking them through the career development process, using some language that resonates with us. The second session is services and resources. So, we’ll circle back to that one. But really introducing them to all the things we do, because everyone thinks we just do resumes, right? I’m the resume lady on campus.

The third one is called Career Conversations, and that’s rooted in career conversations, Career Everywhere. So, what are common career conversations? What are ways to help draw out more information? Maybe challenge them, helping faculty to be more curious with students around it versus having a student say, I want to be this, and then show them how to be that really asks some questions, tell me more about that, what about that interests you? Do you think you have the skills?

So, really helping them with that. And then, the fourth one is really theory to practice. So, what does this look like? How might a conversation move a student in telling and sharing the stories? And then, we are addressing the DEI, the diversity equity inclusion.

We know that so many of our students are coming from spaces and places that maybe they don’t have the networks, they don’t have the parents who have the old neighbors that can hook them up with a summer internship. So, really making sure that faculty and staff are knowledgeable and understanding that not every student comes from a place where doing an unpaid internship in New York City, that’s not really an option for most students. So, how can we make sure that that’s a part of the piece when working with students? So, those are our four areas.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. Sounds like a pretty good breadth of knowledge that the faculty will gain once they go through this program.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Hopefully.

Meredith Metsker:

I guess that’s the goal.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

So, yeah, I would love to dig more into that second session. So, the one that where you really dig into the services that you offer and the resources available for students. So, can you just walk me through what that session looks like?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Sure, sure. And, I mean, I can take credit for some of it. But a lot of this really just comes from what we would say is active learning methods. So, I was privileged at my former institution to take a two-day course on active learning methods, and how to better engage students. And that’s where this came from.

If people are interested in that, I would recommend that they reach out to their Faculty Enrichment Center or Learning and… I don’t know what, center. So, they’re called different things at different colleges, but that’s how I was introduced to this type of activity.

So, basically, what we do is, this was 45 minutes, and we’ve also incorporated this now into classes. So, I do this with students now as well. We do this in person, but it can be easily moved to a virtual platform with breakout rooms. So, first, basically, I introduce the group to our website, the platform. One thing that we have, good or bad, is that this is the first time we’ve been able to manage the content on our own website for careers.

So, we feel like probably, everybody in the late ’90s felt when they had their own website. That’s how we feel. So, we’re really excited just to share our new website with so many. But what we do is we introduce them to the website and then we briefly move them through what we would call our signature resources.

The ones that I use that we move people through is, so I show them the whole website, and then I go through these six. So, one is our affinities identities. So, uConnect offers a platform that allows you to curate resources based on whatever you choose for affinities and identities.

And so, that’s, I think really important for our students to see that it’s not just cookie cutter, but we do have information for our LGBTQ students or our international students, our students of color, all of that. So, we have resources for them.

The second one is Candid Careers, so our place where students can see videos and learn more about careers from the person. Maybe I’m not supposed to explain each of these, but I’m going to, is that okay?

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, yeah, go for it. Yeah, go for it.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Okay, okay, great. The third is Career Paths. So, this is where students can choose resources based on what we call field of interest might be. So, if I’m interested in environmental careers, then that’s one of our career paths.

The next one is the Labor Market Insights. So, if you’re not familiar with the Labor Market Insights, it’s basically, and I can’t keep track of who owns it now, but it was Burning Glass MC… I don’t know who it is now.

Meredith Metsker:

They’re called Light Cast now.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Light Cast, okay, great. So, this is real time information about what are the trends, what are the job titles, all of that. So, students can, instead of relying on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Data, which I have done most of my career, students can find this.

So, the labor market insights can be used in a lot of different ways, and I think it’s a really important tool. The other one is our Viking Connections, which is basically our alumni network. So, they can see how the alumni who want to connect with students and help them.

And the last one is Viking Score, which is basically our career pathing programs. So, students earn points for career activities that they complete, including reflections and processing. So, students earn points, and then we give away prizes. We basically bribe students to do career stuff. That’s how I like to explain it.

Meredith Metsker:

Hey, you got to do what you got to do.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

You got to do what you got to do, right. So, basically, I walk them through that, but I don’t do all of that. I just show them where they are and where this might be. Then, I have them break into groups of six, okay? So, they go to, and they actually move to a table with six people in each of the groups.

And then, I hand them a piece of paper that just says, Affinities Identities, and then I give the URL or explain how to find it. So, I give a stack of those six topics to the table, and then they have to decide which person of those six wins wants to research which topic. So, now they have their topics, and then we set the timer.

So, we give them four minutes each, and they spread out, we play music, and they can use their phone, their laptops. We bring three laptops with us, four people who want to use that, and we encourage them to take notes. So, we basically say, “You are responsible for learning everything you can about this resource.” And then, we give them four minutes. So, they do that.

Then, after four minutes, we invite them to get into a different group with people who have their same topic. So, all of the people who did Labor Market Insights, you get together. Then, we give them another four minutes to just share. So, okay, so Meredith and I had the same topic. Meredith, what did you get? This is what I got. And then, I might say, “Oh, I missed that.”

So, again, listening, taking notes, learning from each other. And after that four minutes, we invite them to go back to their home group. So, now they’re with their original six, and we give each person two minutes to share everything they learned about it. So, if we’ve got six people, then that’s a 12-minute session, and we kind of give them some prompts, the general who, what when, where, why? Who benefits from this? What is this resource? How can I use it? When would it be helpful to a student? Where do I access it? And why might someone find it useful?

So, after 12 minutes, then we bring back everyone and we just debrief on it. And this is where we hear overwhelmingly, “Oh, my gosh, I had no idea. This is so cool.” We had faculty say, “This is perfect for what I’m teaching this week. Can you send me this?” I had two faculty say, “Hey, can you come in next week and do this activity with my students?”

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, that’s awesome.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Right. And so, I think it’s just that learning by doing this is literally active learning. And so, we’ve been blown away. I did this with the admissions team also. And so, for them now, when they go out and when parents are asking questions, they can just pull up the website and show them. And uConnect has a place where we can have affinity group for prospective families as well. So, that’s really, really great about it. So, it’s a really effective activity.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I love the sound of it, especially how interactive it is. I know thinking to my learning style, I am the type that if I hear information, I have to immediately apply it or I will just forget it.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Right, right.

Meredith Metsker:

It goes in one year out the other.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Right, right. And it’s not a lecture at all. There’s no lecturing at all. So, it’s great.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. I love how you did it with faculty and staff, but also with the admissions team. That’s super smart, especially when you have that community already built into your website.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Right, right, right. I mean, they have me do a quarterly update for admissions. And so, I just did that for them…

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, perfect.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

… instead of me going through a report. That’s what we did. It was a modified version, but yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay, yeah, that’s a great idea. And also, for the folks listening or watching, I’ll be sure to include a link to Laura’s website that she’s talking about in the show notes, so you can go and check it out and see what she’s talking about.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

And I do have this in, I use a show flow for every presentation, I do. So, if anyone wants to reach out and email me, I’m happy to just share that because it has the details.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, perfect, yeah, that’s great. That’ll be a great resource for folks.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Okay, good.

Meredith Metsker:

So, Laura, why… I mean, you touched on it, but why did you structure this session in the way that you did?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

The first session that we did, which was basically what is career development and vocation, it was a lot of talking to them, explaining. We did have them share their own stories about how they got where they were. It just felt very classroom. And I thought, it’s hard to get faculty and staff to make time. How can I make this more engaging? And that’s when I thought, “Oh, I need to go to my active learning things.” So, that’s how we came up with it.

We wanted to make sure there was some movement. We do these events after the last class, afternoon class of the day. So, it’s 4:15 to 5:30. I mean, it’s long. We do fee, give great food. But still, it’s a long end of the day kind of thing.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, you got to have some active learning at the end of the day.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Meredith Metsker:

And on the note of the structure, I also love how compact it is. I mean, it’s 45 minutes that you are teaching all of these people pretty much everything they need to know about your website. That’s incredible.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, it is. Can’t agree with you more.

Meredith Metsker:

Can you remind me how many people are were in this session? Was it the entire cohort of, I think 41 people, or was it broken?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

It wasn’t. We offered two sessions of the same.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

So, I mean, sometimes we get more or less. But I mean, the groups weren’t huge, so there were maybe just three or four groups. So, it wasn’t a lot, yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay, cool. Still, super-efficient.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Right. You could do it, I think with a much bigger group as well. I mean, that’s great about it. It’s totally scalable.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, for sure. I am curious, what has been the feedback you’ve gotten from the faculty members who have participated, or even the admission staff who’ve gone through this session?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, yeah. Like I said, I think I presented it in the fall, and I got think three or four emails from people that just said, this is really amazing. It’s a game changer. One of the things I didn’t talk about was the outcomes. So, again, once they see these six things, and you can change up what you have them look at. I actually think for admissions, I had outcomes be one of them.

So, they could see all of our FDS, our first destination outcomes. They just locked onto that, right? To be able to then know how to use it and show the prospective families how it works, I think is really important. So, they loved it. And, I mean, all that data being, so many of these families and anybody, they want to be able to see it. You can’t just say, “Oh, our English majors get jobs, right?

Meredith Metsker:

Yes, it’s not…

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

But instead, which they do, right? But instead, we can say, “Here’s where our English majors over the past seven years have landed. These are the job titles, these are the grad programs. It’s right there. And it’s just again, show don’t tell, is really the key.

And then, faculty, I mean, I had a faculty member say to me, he got nominated. A lot of coaches got nominated because they helped them. And the coaches, I’m not connected with them at all. And when I say coaches, I mean, athletic coaches. And one of them followed up and said, I cannot tell you how already I’ve changed how I work with students. And that was after the second session. He said, “I had no idea.” He said, “I was an athlete in school, in college. I never connected with the career center. This was so beyond me.” He’s like, “This is really great.” And so, now we’re doing individual programs for some teams as a result. So, I mean, the wide-reaching impact of just sharing information, it’s invaluable.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, and I love, again, how active it is. It’s not just, “Hey, here’s a link to our website explore on your own,” because people may not have time or they’ll forget. It’s getting them in a room and saying, “Here, explore, and then let’s talk about it, and if you have questions, I’ll answer them.”

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Right. And I think that’s important to remember. When we say Career Everywhere, we are really talking about career conversations everywhere. And so, this is a great way to start a conversation. It’s just a tool that you can use when having those conversations.

Meredith Metsker:

I love that. And I love that you even gotten athletics involved.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I know, I know. We have a large group of all American athletes. I mean, a big percentage of our population. That’s why they come to a D-III school to play. And so, we want to make sure that we’re reaching out to those kids.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, oh, I love that. I know this is a relatively new program, and maybe you don’t have data results, but maybe more anecdotally speaking, what kind of results have you seen?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I mean, really all I have is the anecdotal. I can’t, and I could probably go back and look. We do ask when students come in if they were referred by someone. So, I have not had a chance to look at that. So, that would be one data point to see if there are names on that referral that are also our career readiness champions. Like I said, we had the athletic training department reach out to us now and they want to set up a pipeline for interns, right?

So, again, that’s just, Jay came to our session. And so, now we’re working on an internship program with him. So, it’s all those little tiny things. And it’s just, it’s what happens when you develop relationships.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, that’s great. It seems to be a common thread I’ve been hearing throughout these interviews is that, it’s not always the data that drives you. I mean, the improved data engagement is great. It’s sometimes those individual stories, the students coming to you saying, “Hey, I got this job, or I got this internship. Thank you.” Or faculty coaches coming to you and saying, “Hey, this totally changed the way I interact with students.” I keep hearing over and over that that’s kind of what keeps people going in career services.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Oh, yes, absolutely. I mean, we have this thing in our office. It’s the Success Bell called Ring for Success. So, we have a bell, and it’s really cool, I should send you a picture. But the students come in and they ring this bell when they get a job, an internship accepted to a program.

And I can tell you, we have a culture here that when we can, everyone drops what they’re doing, and we go out there and we clap and hear from that student and ring that bell. And that’s really what it’s all about. And just having a student then say, “Oh, I want to go in and ring the bell.” That’s super exciting for them too. So, absolutely.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, I love that. It’s a tangible way to celebrate the victory.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, yeah, it is.

Meredith Metsker:

So, earlier you mentioned that you get faculty to participate in this program, or one way you have is asking students in this end of year survey that you do. So, once that happens, how did you go about getting that buy-in from faculty, convincing them to join this program?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I remember talking to a few people and they said, “Oh, you’ll be lucky if you get eight.” And I said, “All right, eight’s my goal.” And I got 41. And for people coming from big schools, they may think, “Oh, that’s nothing,” right? But that’s a big deal.

And I really didn’t have to do a lot because again, and I was planning on talking about this later, but there are people who, when you talk about faculty, they’re on a spectrum of career. And I know career can be a bad word on a college campus because we’ve got on one end the people who are… And I’m in a private liberal arts college.

So, learning is for learning’s sake. And then, on the other end is maybe our professional pre-professional programs of we’re here, we’re building skills so that students can go out and be professionals living lives of purpose and meaning. But the majority of people fall somewhere on this spectrum.

And so, to me, I used to spend a lot of time in my career trying to convert the one end. If I could just convince them, this is important too, and all students need to do this, and all of that. And I just realized and heard this great phrase from Kathy Davies, who was out of the studio, the Life Design Studio, who just said, “Go with the goers.”

And, to me, that’s it. I say it all the time because sometimes you can get pulled down in like, “But what? But what? But what? What if? No, we’re going to go with the goers?” And, to me, that’s what this is about. We’re going with the goers. My goal is not to make every faculty or staff member a career champion, but it’s like, “Okay, who’s out there who gets this, who is also passionate about helping students with career success?” Let’s find those people and let’s just make sure they have the tools and skills that they need to get students to the next step.

And so, to me, that’s what this is about. So, if we just had gotten eight, awesome. Then, we would’ve done it for eight. Now, maybe below that, probably not. We’d probably do individual. But I think if we just continue to grow, then maybe we’ll have a movement. And a lot of people said, “I’m on sabbatical, but will you include me next year?” So, I already think we’ll have quite a few in our next cohort, so I’m just going with the goers.

Meredith Metsker:

I love that phrase. I’m going to have to write that down, so I remember it.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, I love it too. I love it. And so many times, I get pulled into the other and it’s too much time wasted.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, for sure. And I suppose by including that question on the student survey, that I think is something like, what faculty member has inspired you? Or something like that, is that correct?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Mm-hmm.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Have a positive impact on your career exploration or career success.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay, yeah, I imagine a question like that, and the people who get nominated automatically means they’re probably going to be the faculty that’s more inclined to be more active with students and have those conversations. So, yeah, again, this is…

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

And what was so great about it too is that, that’s how I started the request. And so, many people were like, “Wow, I’m so flattered.” I mean, a lot of people, again, they had no idea. It’s not like they say, “Okay, we’re going to talk about career now.” And that’s part of their agenda with students, you can realize they have no idea the impact they might be having. And that’s what so beautiful about it like, “Wow. Someone thought that I had an impact on their career. That’s special.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, that’s so meaningful.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

And so many people. Yeah, yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, I love that. I hadn’t even thought about that part of it. But, of course, not only will they be flattered to be mentioned, but I imagine that makes them even more inclined to want to learn how to do more.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Exactly. And to realize they have an impact. This is important. We got to pay attention. I need to do this right. That’s happened.

Meredith Metsker:

That why most of us would work in higher ed, because we want to have an impact on students ideally.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I know. I can’t quit. I can’t quit this higher ed thing.

Meredith Metsker:

You’re already 30 years in.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I know.

Meredith Metsker:

You must love it.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I do. I do.

Meredith Metsker:

All right. I want to talk a little bit about, a little bit more about your career center websites, since that’s a really key part of this session that you’re doing with faculty.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

So, can you just walk me through a little bit more about how it’s structured, how you built it, the resources you have on it, anything else that you think is relevant?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Sure, sure. I mean, this is hard because I think I am most people out there. This is my sixth position, and I’ve just been in Augustana about five years. And so, every place I’d been in the ’90s, I was learning HTML and we were writing our own websites, right? And then, in the 2000s there were the web editors.

So, I just worked at a place where I hadn’t… I was able to easily write my own content and have control of my own website. And then, I came to Augustana and I apparently, this is a model that many schools have where really the common marketing department has control of that. And so, the messaging is really external facing and realizing that the website was not an option for us to be able to connect with current students.

So, we used our platform Handshake, and that’s great for a lot of things, and I’m a big fan of Handshake. But in terms of the resource delivery and the functioning and the design and aesthetic of it was really lacking. And we needed a website. So, I mean, lo and behold, thank God for David.

But uConnect really, if you don’t know, which I’m sure you do, Meredith. But if you don’t know the story and the passion from the founder who was a student who came back, had no idea, wasn’t as plugged in into career and thought, “Why don’t more students know about the career centers at colleges?” And created a product that was really about that, connecting the students to resources that are already available to them, right?

Guess what? That’s exactly what I needed. And I remember this was a four-year like, “How can we crack this nut?” I got an email from Ryan and I thought, “All right, I remember uConnect.” And there it went. So, we were able to very easily transfer all of our content. So, we already had most of our content. It was just a matter of getting it in a different platform, which is always a painful process, but it was pretty easy.

And we were able to build our website in about two and a half months, and we launched. And from the day we launched, it was, we use a QR code. Thank God they came back. They were popular in the early 2000s, they came back. So, we use a QR code, and our traffic is, we just had our first-year report, and we’ve got really great numbers.

So, I mean, it’s the best thing that we’ve ever done. We have students now who can access and get the resources that they need without having to come into our office or without having to have a personal invitation, but they can find it, and then come in and say, “This was helpful. I need help with this little piece and how I fit in.” So, I can’t say enough about it.

Meredith Metsker:

I’m very glad to hear that.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Working for uConnect. I’m curious, you mentioned the QR code. Where are you putting that? Like places throughout campus, and that’s how people can get to your website?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, we should have it be called Career QR Code Everywhere, right? So, we have sandwich boards all over campus with it. We have stickers. The stickers on your computers with it. We use a QR code with our event check-in as well. And right next to that, then is the website QR code. So, we use QR codes and it’s the same one for the website everywhere. It’s on all of our documents, all of our, yeah, it’s everywhere.

Meredith Metsker:

It’s got to get that Career Everywhere.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I don’t know if I answered the question, but yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, just curious.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

QR career codes everywhere, right?

Meredith Metsker:

Cool. Yeah, I was just curious how you were using that particular strategy. So, I imagine too with the website, it’s probably really helpful having everything in one place, especially when you’re doing these presentations, like the faculty or to admissions to students.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, it really is, because what I can do is I can do a Canva or a PowerPoint, but when I get to this part, I just close out of that and I’m just live on the website, and I’m showing them. And then, I’ll say, “Okay, what is the last thing a student asked you?” And I don’t have to open five different things or find the log into this, that, or the other. I just click on it through our website.

And because we are connected, it’s connected, integrated because of all of our different integrations, it’s really easy. Students don’t have to log in and out to a lot of different things. And that’s really great. There’s also ways that we can put some resources that like I teach a course right now. And so, we can put some resources on there that it’s for faculty and staff that they can access, but it’s password protected, so there’s great functionality there as well.

And the coolest thing, honestly, is so because we pull them and we get our students to be able to subscribe to different communities, then we can send out information. So, we send a weekly newsletter and all of that is curated content for that particular affinity group. And so, that way we’re not spamming students with stuff that’s not relevant, but what’s getting to them is very specific for what they have said that they’re interested in.

So, I love it. I love it. And it’s all automated. I mean, I need to spend time setting it up. But once it’s set up, it goes and I can just sit back and look at all the numbers, all the views, all the clicks.

Meredith Metsker:

And perhaps most importantly, you have control over it. You are not having to go to a marketing team and try and be like, “Hey, I need this copy change, or I want to add this article or this video.” You can just do it.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I can just do it. And I’ve got a team of students who help me as well. So, for example, right now, after this call, I’m meeting with my alumni. I have an alumni board career development committee, and there’s maybe 18 people and they’ve all written a blog post, a guest blog post, super easy through uConnect.

And then, I just go in and I tweak it and I put in some fun pictures. And now, for the rest of the semester, once a week we’ll have an alum highlight. And once that’s set up, I don’t have to do anything. So, again, super easy. Don’t have to get anyone’s permission. I don’t have to lobby for it to happen. I just make it happen.

Meredith Metsker:

And then, you can spend your valuable time doing something else.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Right. Something else. Right.

Meredith Metsker:

All right. So, I’m curious, how has this website and this session, as part of your Career Readiness Champions Network program, how has it all enhanced or increased awareness of the work that you and your team are doing or even the perception of the work that you’re doing? And how has it changed…

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I think…

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, go ahead.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, I think that’s the biggest piece is the perception, so that when we can show them the A, we even know the word affinity group. And B, to show them like we have resources for all of these students. I think that gives a sense. It garners respect, and they can see us as a tool to get to the resources and the expertise for students.

Also, it takes away that whole piece of that we’re just a resume shop and that we just help business majors because we know, I always say like the accounting, and yeah, we love it when they come in, but they don’t really need a career center. They can find the jobs on their own, at least in this economy, it’s all those other students.

So, when we show that everyone’s welcome and there’s resources for everyone regardless of X, Y, and z, I think that really helps. This is a great example. We have made huge strides with public health. So, there are some departments that really, it’s straddles the line of pre-professional science, social sciences kind of does that.

And so, the faculty who are in there, they’re practitioners. So, because they’re practitioners and they’ve been practitioners, they believe, and it’s true that they know how to do a job search in public health, and they have all the information. And how possibly could a woman from career services who has to be a generalist? No, right? And I get that, I totally get that. But there are pieces of that that are universal.

And so, having relationships and having that person come to our career pieces, I mean, can’t even tell you how that’s opened up that space between our two departments. I have a career coach who specializes in health sciences, and she’s been invited. She was invited to actually take the professional preparation course for our public health majors. And she took that whole course.

And now, she’s doing a lot of the sessions. She’s coming in and sharing the pieces that are universal career, that are the etiquette, the LinkedIn, all of those pieces. And then, the faculty is really taking that, what is the public health piece? What’s the difference here? And so, they’re basically partnering to help those students. And if we gotten disturbed or just if we’ve gotten way laid by the idea that, “Oh, they don’t need our help, then we don’t need to help them” versus saying like, “How can we work together? Help us understand more about how public health is different than ours,” that could have turned out differently. But it is a wonderful partnership. So, I think that really is the key, and that’s our goal in doing all of this by partnering with faculty and staff.

Meredith Metsker:

Right, just building that trust and credibility. I mean, that alone is huge.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. So, after your three decades in career services and all this work you’ve done with…

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

It sounds so old, don’t I?

Meredith Metsker:

Experienced, very experienced.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yes, yes, seasoned, I like to say.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, yeah, there you go.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

So, yeah, with all the experience that you have and all this work that you’ve been doing with the Career Readiness Champions Network, what advice would you give to other career services leaders who want to get faculty more familiar with their career resources?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I already said this part, but I’ll say it again, go with the goers, right? Use the people that collaborate with those that are willing to collaborate with you. Don’t neglect the ones who are all in, and you don’t even have to worry about them, but don’t neglect them. Thank them. Make sure that they’re recognized to their supervisors.

I know we may think that faculty, they just keep their folder of things for tenure and promotion, but faculty will already have tenure and who’ve already been promoted. They need that as well as our staff members. So, keep in doing that. And then, also really, like you said, I’m coming up on 30 years in this field and we can’t do things the way we did 30 years ago. We can’t do the way things the way we did 10 years ago, five years ago.

These students are different. The tools and resources and technology is different. And we were just having this conversation, I’m president of an organization where we just had our 38th Career Fair, 38th Annual Career Fair. And we had abysmal student turnout. And what we want to do is sit and rehash the whole thing. And I’m just like, “Is this what we need to do? Is the career fair a thing still? And is busing students two and a half hours to a city?”

So, I think that’s it, is the advice is like, we need to let go of some of this antiquated way of doing things. And maybe we still do an event, but what does it look like? And how are we partnering with our employers? What do they need? Are we talking to our constituents?

And so, always growing, always changing, and not being afraid to try new things. And I think, I’m sure people think I’m old, but I don’t feel old and I don’t feel like this is the same old thing every day. And I think that’s because I’m going to continue to grow and develop and see how we can meet the needs of the students sitting in front of us rather than the ways things used to be. Because it used to be great. I mean, I used to get 900 students at programs, be happy to get 90.

Meredith Metsker:

Wow.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

It just, the world doesn’t work that way anymore.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I suppose that’s part of this evolution to investing in your online and your digital presence, because students may not be as inclined to show up to an event at this time and this place instead, they’re going to want to do some research at 10:00 PM before bed or 2:00 AM whatever floats their boat.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Right, right. And just maybe after a conversation with their parents about what they’re going to do after graduation, right.

Meredith Metsker:

True.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I mean, it’s just in time like, “Oh, I guess I should Google career services.” We want our URL, our hit to come up for them and then pull them in.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, for sure. Or I imagine, I know for me as an alumna, I wish my institution had the labor market data that you have because I’m thinking as you go through your career, let’s say you get a great job offer or you want to negotiate salary, you could go to Augustana’s website and look up salary data and have that information whenever you need it to just go and make an educated negotiation.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Exactly, exactly. And a lot of those other platforms, you have to log in. You have to give them your personal information, you have to answer a bunch of questions. Exactly.

Meredith Metsker:

Or if you use BLS data, it’s six to 12 months old.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Or older.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. Laura, I want to be cognizant of our time here. So, I’ll start wrapping this up, but is there anything else about this topic of getting faculty familiar with career resources that you would like to add or any questions that I didn’t ask that I should have?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I would say just as our students, their needs change, their learning styles change, sort of our faculty, right? I mean, faculty, we’re getting new faculty every day. And so, just remember that to pay attention to the new faculty, welcome them. If they’re new to campus, I mean, gosh, a request for a lunch or come over for a visit, that can go really far. And those are the ones that are going to, most faculty stick around a long time. So, that’s a time well invested and getting to know new faculty. So, that would be to be one thing to add.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. Great. Laura, if people would like to connect with you or learn more from you, where is a good place for them to do that?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I’m a Gen-Xer, so I still use email all the time. So, email, if you have questions. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. Of course, our Twitter and Insta feeds are all done by our marketing person. So, it’ll get to me. But if you want something, email me.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay, and I’ll make sure to include your email in the show notes as well.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Okay, great.

Meredith Metsker:

All right. And now, to close this out, I’m going to do our typical answer a question, leave a question thing. So, Laura, I will ask you a question that our last guest left for you, and then you’ll leave a question for the next guest. So, our last guest was Sharon Belden Castonguay of Wesleyan University. And she left you this question, “A trustee of your college decides to give you $5 million for the career center, how do you spend it?”

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

I have a whole plan already mapped out. So, I would love to create a center that is like a Venn diagram, that it’s threefold. So, career and life design center where we’re helping students with career and life design. We’re helping faculty and staff learn and teach career and life design. Then, we have an outward facing where we’re helping our immediate community.

We sit in an impoverished area and really build up that community. And then, the revenue generating piece would be offering design, thinking concepts to the corporations in our area. So, I’ve got a whole plan. And as soon as Sharon finds that trustee and wants to share it between Wesleyan and Augustana, I’d be happy to connect with her.

Meredith Metsker:

Love it. And I’m not surprised at all that you already have a whole plan.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Oh, yeah, yeah, I do, I do. The second day our new president started, I just said, “Just dreaming over here in career,” and I sent it over to her.

Meredith Metsker:

Nice. Be proactive, may as well get it on their radar.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Exactly. Exactly. ButI do have a question for the next person.

Meredith Metsker:

Yes.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Am I supposed to say it now?

Meredith Metsker:

Yes, what question would you like to leave?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

So, I am so curious about how people are addressing the use of ChatGTP with students around their job search materials. Because I’ll be honest, I sent a love poem to my husband using ChatGTP, and it was pretty good. And so, I thought, “Oh, how can we do this?” So, I’m just curious really how you are addressing its use in the job search process.

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, interesting. I hadn’t even thought of that particular use case for it.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Reference letters. Thank you. I mean…

Meredith Metsker:

Oh.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

It’s quite astounding.

Meredith Metsker:

Mm-hmm, that is a great question, Laura. I am excited to hear the answer to that one.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, we need a call in topic for that. That’s what you need. Do they do call in on webcasts? No. Or on topic podcasts?

Meredith Metsker:

Of this?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

You could. I could do a live audience.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.

Meredith Metsker:

Cool. All right. I’ll make sure to ask the next guest that question. And then, Laura, thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. It was really great to chat with you about getting faculty more familiar with career resources. And I know that’s going to be a very relevant topic for a lot of our listeners. So, thank you very much for sharing your time and your knowledge.

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Thank you. I had a great time talking with you, and I’m excited to share this. And if we can help get more students connected to their dreams, then that’s better.

Meredith Metsker:

That’s what it’s all about, right?

Laura Kestner-Ricketts:

Absolutely.

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