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Intelligent Design

March 30, 2012
By Amy Goetzman

A smart-tech web site for today’s job search

Most web site redesigns give users a fresh interface and some new navigation paths. But Carleton’s Career Center team knew that wasn’t going to cut it. Grads heading out into a sea of glum news about employment needed something more.

So the Career Center devised an innovative site that acts as a hub for alumni and newly minted Carls to connect and share information and opportunities. It lets employers glimpse how a liberal arts education can create the kind of thinkers who become true assets in the workplace. It lets students test out the theory behind Carls Helping Carls. And it looks cool too.

A New Kind of Career Center

“Ours was a fairly traditional career center just four or five years ago. We did a lot of one-on-one counseling and assessment instruments to get at students’ values, interests, personalities, and find different careers that might align with them,” said Brad Kmoch, assistant director, Carleton Career Center. “We moved away from that model towards a very community-oriented model, one where students could connect with alumni directly, and see how the Carleton experience plays out in a career after Carleton.”

The new site puts a priority on connections. Five key groups—students, alumni, parents, employers, and volunteers—can view or post job listings, give or receive career advice, learn about ways to get experience, and more.

Kmoch says that making connections with other students and alumni is the most powerful career preparation a Carl can make. The research supports this theory: Phil Gardner, director of research for the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, has said in reports since 2008 that the way graduates are finding jobs today is not through campus job fairs but through connections they have made through college.

The new site offers several ways to connect. The 30 Minutes program lets students meet for half an hour in a group session—often conducted via Skype—with alumni in their chosen field. The Engagement Wanted program sends a weekly email compilation of student profiles to alumni, parents, and prospective employers, who can then contact the students with advice, referrals, or opportunities. Students can find internships, mentors, shadow a professional, learn more about post-graduate education, and more.

“We have a Career Center volunteer board that has been invaluable in helping us make connections to alumni,” says Kmoch, who notes that alumni involvement has dramatically increased in the career development process—as has parent involvement. And fellow students can be great sources of advice too. “We have career advisors and student peer advisors who help students learn how to present themselves over the phone and in person. We want to give them as much support as they need to move easily into ‘Life After Carleton.’”

“Getting a job in the current climate is all about who you know, but the definition of ‘who you know’ has evolved,” says Career Center Alumni Board member Alex Evangelides ’11. “It is no longer your father’s golfing buddy, but is rather the alum you found in the online directory, or the recruiter you connected with on LinkedIn.”

A New Kind of Website

The job searching process has changed in large part because the way we connect with each other has changed so dramatically throughout society. Ten years ago, students would page through folders with employer information. Five years ago, they would browse company websites using their PCs. Now they are coming to the Career Center on smart phones and tablets.

“We are seeing the number of people who access the site on a tablet steadily increasing, and we all agree that this is going to be a dominant point of entry in the future,” said web designer Nathan Breitenbach-Dirks, who, along with the web services team, implemented a responsive design that automatically adjusts to different screen sizes, ensuring a seamless user experience on devices ranging from tiny smartphones to large monitors. Students heavily use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype, so the Career Center keeps these technologies front and center in its programming and site.

Breitenbach-Dirks implemented a front page that presents a basic introduction to the Career Center with a slide show effect, and a student worker, Jon Kittaka ’13, added witty caricatures of the staff. “A lot of people have misconceptions about what a career center is for and who uses it, so we wanted to make it as inviting, light-hearted and low-key, as possible,” he says.

“The site is fun, fresh, and not the least bit intimidating,” says Evangelides. “As many Carleton students’ and alums’ first point of contact with the Career Center, this is crucial. The site is all about connection, and the layout, graphics and intuitive user interface of the site keep people coming back.”

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This page was last updated on 5 February 2016