Ohio’s 116 colleges and universities that award bachelor’s degrees play an important role in the effort to ensure the state has enough skilled workers for the future. This is an important endeavor not just for the state’s economy, but for the overall quality of life for Ohioans. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reports that jobs requiring bachelor’s degrees will grow by 11 percent, compared to 6.7 percent for those with a high school diploma. (See: online colleges in Ohio).
These institutions know it’s not enough just to enroll students, the trick is to help them graduate. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average graduation rate for Ohio colleges was 54 percent. The national average is 53 percent. In an effort to keep those rates high, many Ohio institutions of higher learning offer career services to their students to make sure they are on the right career track. One of those institutions, Ohio Northern University, boasts a graduation rate of 72%, which may be due in part to the work of the professional career advisors at the Polar Careers office.
We sat down with Justin Courtney, the interim dean of Polar Careers and the director of residence life at Ohio Northern University, to ask for his advice on accessing career services and tracking success.
Justin Courtney, Director of Residence Life & Interim Dean of Polar Careers, Ohio Northern University
1. How/when should students use the career center?
I recommend using the services beginning your first year of college. We offer a Career Strategy Course known as AASG 3001. It begins the conversation of career exploration/vocation/call. With topics such as emotionally intelligent leadership, resume development, networking, etc. students can learn great tools to prepare for success! I recommend 2-3 meetings a semester, especially your first year, with your academic and career advisor during your time in college is an effective way to ensure you are on the right track.
2. How do you work with students?
I really tend to ask behavioral questions to get a feel for what the student is really wanting out of life. Is this career path their choice, or is it someone else's dream? These are important things to figure out. From there I like to hear their journey and share some of my own experiences. I encourage mentorship and experience. Finding folks that can impact you for the better is key. Seek out the best, brightest and hardest working talent. Emulate what you need to learn, but also strive to do what you were designed for. You are unique and special and it's important that you fulfill your call and your role, not someone else's. I believe in building the student up, that's how my meetings go. They will leave knowing they can do what they set out to do, and I will show them every tool I know of to ensure their success and adaptability.
3. How do you track success?
In Polar Careers we monitor Office use, career fairs attendance (recruiter and student), class enrollment, software usage (Symplicity and CareerShift) and placement data. We assess every area including overall satisfaction. We also monitor our alumni base to ensure we are remaining vital. Once a Polar Bear, always a Polar Bear! We use this information to perform SWOT analysis and adapt our system(s) continuously.
4. What are the most important first steps for students wanting to assess an improve their career outlook?
Believe in yourself and what you are called to do! Find strong mentors and support systems that can assist you in your pursuits. Try new things and don't be afraid of failure. Get connected and stay connected with your faculty and staff, including your academic and career advisor. Always build team, in all things success isn't just about you, it's elevating and valuing others as well. That's right!
- National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS Data Center, 2013-2014 http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Ohio Job and Family Services, "Ohio Job Outlook to 2020: Employment Projections," http://ohiolmi.com/proj/OhioJobOutlook.htm
- Justin Courtney, interview with the author, May 2015