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How Employers Can Support Students in Their School-to-Work Transition. An Interview with Jesse Sahota, Career Development and Relationship Manager

Career educators and coaches play a vital part in the success of developing future talent. This support doesn’t end once students finish their degrees – career educators continue to assist students in their school-to-work transition, and this benefits not only students but also employers. Though, it’s important for employers to be involved in career planning as well. From employer branding, showcasing workplace culture, holding events, managing campus ambassadors to connecting with students before they even start their first day can have a great impact.  We explored this topic with Jesse Sahota, Career Development Relationship Manager in the Engineering Co-op and Career Services office at McMaster University, who also won Career Educator of the Year at the 2019 TalentEgg Awards. Read on to learn how Jesse supports his students, fosters relationships with employers and his advice on ways employers can connect with students to assist in their school-to-work transition.

Starting His Career with Purpose

When Jesse first envisioned his career, he believed he was going to work in the advertising industry one day, “designing commercials for Audi or working for Kellogg’s redesigning their Fruit Loops cereal boxes,” he says. During his final year at university, he landed a job in a wealth management firm as a recruiter, which eventually led him to his passion for helping others find their careers. And what a long and meaningful career it has been for Jesse so far! With over 15 years of experience in Career Coaching and Education, Jesse’s current role is comprised of three pillars that facilitate student success. He works to pursue new business development leads while maintaining existing partnerships in the engineering and business communities. The second pillar is coaching students using personalized strategies. “Pain points differ depending on where the student is at in their recruitment life cycle,” Jesse says. Whether students come with generic resumes and cover letters, or are looking to get more involved on campus, Jesse helps them on their career journey. Finally, the third pillar to Jesse’s role is collaborating with employers who are looking to create a stronger brand on campus.

“Our department’s “Employer of the Week” series brings employers to campus where I assist in orchestrating events, such as employers in the lobby, resume roasts, bus trips, Instagram takeovers and lunch and learn workshops.”

Supporting Students on their Career Journey

Jesse’s department supports students through a variety of workshops and individual appointments to prep them before the start of their co-op work term. “In Engineering Co-op and Career Services at McMaster University, the transition from the classroom to the shop floor or boardroom is exceptionally smooth,” he comments.

“Having been in this industry and in my current role for so long, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of our employer partners on-site. These meetings give me the opportunity to provide a unique perspective and “inside scoop” when coaching students on what to expect at their new job.”

One of the most memorable career highlights was taking five students to Silicon Valley in San Francisco for their Big Ideas Contest. Students were given the opportunity to learn from top innovators and develop their professional skills. Five students, management staff and the Dean of Engineering visited Tesla, Apple, Google, Facebook, Corning and several start-ups during their trip. This is a great example of how Career Educators are creating experiences for their students to showcase their innovative engineering solutions, build invaluable networking opportunities and learn about the possibilities. While Jesse and his team created this opportunity for students to learn, he ended up taking away a lot for himself too.

“It was an eye-opening experience for me as it provided the opportunity to connect with McMaster Engineering alumni and further solidified my understanding that our graduates are changing the world.”

What Can Employers Do for Students?

While career educators help to set students up for success in launching their careers, Jesse shares some ways in which employers can make students feel welcome and valued before they even start working. Jesse comments that not only will this showcase the organizations’ culture, but it will also prepare students for the road ahead. Reaching out to students after they’ve accepted their offer, even if it’s well in advance of their start date, can have a positive impact.

“A welcome email with details regarding what to expect on their first day is a great way to get the student excited about their new adventure by winning their heart and mind. Many organizations are taking onboarding seriously by allocating a personal mentor to each new hire – a strategy that I find highly effective.”

Another way Jesse suggests employers get involved in students’ transition is during the offer stage.

“When employers present an offer to a student, I would suggest that they invite the student to their site, provide them with a tour of their facility, introduce the student to a mentor, connect them with the current student(s) that are working there, and take them out for lunch or coffee. This approach is an excellent way to strengthen the student’s commitment to the employer’s brand. It’s a win-win strategy.”

Build Your Brand Recognition – Get on Campus!

Providing the opportunity for students to connect with employers in-person is always a great strategy when it comes to recruiting the right talent and finding the best candidates to fill your talent pipeline.

“Employers are encouraged to come to campus and meet our students, run workshops, attend hackathons, partner with student groups and, ultimately, connect with career offices on campus. Getting in front of students and answering their questions in-person establishes a connection, builds stronger brand recognition, and these students can then become brand ambassadors for employers by telling their friends what they’ve learned.”

Whether you’re an employer looking to connect with and hire students or you’re a fellow Career Educator, you can learn from Jesse’s unique approach. “My career is something that I truly enjoy and I love knowing that I have had a hand in helping someone else find their dream job or career.”

Get in Touch

jsahota@mcmaster.ca

905-525-9140 ext 24432

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesse-sahota/

Why It’s More Important than Ever to Connect With Candidates Online

It’s common knowledge that employers need a web-presence and a digital strategy to promote their jobs and attract young talent. However, simply having a career website that posts job descriptions is no longer enough.

The first component of being online is indeed having a career website with compelling job descriptions and robust employer branding content. This is where you can showcase your eggs-ceptional culture, the benefits of working at your company, and your company’s competitive distinctions as an employer of choice. Your web presence is the primary tool for you to attract and engage young candidates and the go-to place where they will launch their job search. In our 2019 survey, 86% of post-secondary students stated that they look for jobs online (which includes social media as well as websites), which indicates that your online presence is vital to attracting young candidates.

“Having just the right amount of information on the website and it being easy to navigate makes the user’s life much easier and makes the website itself easier on the eyes.” – Saisurutyi Sridaran, Ryerson University, 2021

“In 2019 you definitely need to have a website that is optimized for mobile.” – Mallory Thompson, Western University, 2019

The second component is, of course, social media. It is a highly preferred method of job search and employer research among young professionals (1 to 5 years after graduation). 87% of early career professionals surveyed also prefer to look for jobs online, including social media, and there is a good reason for that. Employers who excel at finding the best candidates tend to have strong social media engagement by having authentic conversations with job seekers beyond the static one way posts. Employers with a strong social media strategy have a human voice and communicate their employer value proposition in a demonstrative way through their employees Instead of telling candidates, “working for us is awesome”, make sure to show candidates what a fun, inclusive workplace culture you have, as experienced by recent hires, who candidates can relate to, in video, Instagram Stories and testimonials, creating a compelling and authentic reflection of work life within your organization.

But each social media platform resonates with a different audience, and matching the content to the best platform for the right candidates can be difficult. Where exactly do students and recent grads spend their time? Our 2019 survey proved once again that Instagram is still king with 59% of high school students, 41% of post-secondary students and 49% of early career professionals preferring that social media platform over the others for employer branding content.

What type of content should employers post to attract maximum attention? You might have guessed it already, but video is still king as the medium of choice, and it’s popularity is only increasing. 82% of high school and 69% of post-secondary respondents prefer to engage with videos for career-related information on all platforms and media channels.

TalentEgg Talks: Live with Mercedes-Benz
Financial Services (Instagram and Facebook Live)

The main area of concern when it comes to social media is getting around tricky social media algorithms to ensure your audience is seeing your content. While we can’t fully predict algorithms, which are constantly evolving, we know that the more your audience engages with your content, the better it performs. Moreover, Facebook and Instagram are well known to favour video content and showcase it to more users on their platforms, so it’s truly a win-win. With our less text-focused content for those who like getting visual information, we are shifting how we deliver your brand messaging. We communicate your values by producing videos, hosting live Q&As with representatives of your organization in a simulcast video on Facebook and Instagram (TalentEgg Talks LIVE) and creating Instagram Stories. In other words, we’re bringing your employer messaging straight to the target candidate! Be exactly where your young talent pool is – on Instagram, and engage in an authentic way through Instagram Takeovers and TalentEgg Talks LIVE Events. The great value-add is that if your existing social media followers aren’t Gen Y and Z, we can help you build out that audience on your own social media channels. The video recording also makes great content for your Employer Profile on TalentEgg and can be repurposed and re-edited by TalentEgg for short video clips on social media to continually refresh your feed with snappy, well packaged video shorts.

Even though video is king and social media is rising, direct email remains a strong medium for the delivery of career-related information among students and recent grads. The convenience of receiving targeted job alerts in the candidates’ inboxes, the ability to customize which content reaches them, and the ease with which the job seekers can find emails tailored to their needs, all attribute to email’s continued popularity. Our research indicated that 60% of post-secondary and 52% of early career professionals prefer email communication for job postings, indicating that while candidates like learning about employers on their smartphones and social media, they still prefer to actually apply to jobs from their laptop. With our ability to personalize and create custom email blasts for our clients, we’re targeting your employer brand message directly to students and grads.

Year after year, our Incubator blog is an invaluable resource for students and grads who are hatching their careers. Our custom editorials highlight various features of your organization to amplify your employer brand and connect with our audience. In our 2019 TalentEgg Survey, we asked what type of content students and grads wanted to read about and they overwhelmingly connected to editorials that were easy to read in Q and A format, enjoy resume and interview tips, day-in-the-life stories about young relatable employees and appreciate interviews with recruiters, interns and co-op students from your organization. Many of these topics provide an inside look into the company’s culture – exactly what our respondents care about the most. Every demographic we surveyed said that the most important thing they look for in an employer is positive and friendly company culture (92% of all respondents, including high school students, post secondary students and grads, and early career professionals).

Managing a company’s reputation is another important task. 68% of post-secondary students state that negative company culture or workplace, bad online reputation and negative candidate experience are the most important factors when turning down an employer. That is exactly why it is so important for companies to tune into the social conversation about their brand, create a positive candidate experience, and highlight their engaged and inclusive employee culture!

94% of students believe that it’s somewhat to very important for employers to have a strong online presence. This includes your social media presence and website usability. If students can’t find what they are looking for easily and in an engaging way, they are on to the next thing. We know that students are busy with school, work and social lives, and if they need to search in multiple areas or click through multiple pages, you’ll likely lose their attention. That’s why our custom employer profiles are a one-stop place for job seekers to learn more about your company, as well as explore jobs and events. It’s also a great place to post your employer branding videos, social media clips and editorials.  

Testimonial from a student: TalentEgg helped me obtained numerous information regarding the internship opportunities with your all-in-one platform.

 

Keeping all of these factors in mind can be very overwhelming, especially during a busy hiring season. TalentEgg is here to help. With our trusted and talented team of writers and account managers, we can help you craft and execute your employer branding strategies to attract the best of the best in campus recruitment and beyond. Visit talentegg.ca and keep reading this guide to find out how eggs-actly we can assist you on this journey.

Custom Client Videos: Walmart Dare

Client Custom Editorial: Chang School

Custom Client Videos: EF Tours

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Client Custom Editorial: Sysco

Email Blast BMO

TalentEgg Talks: Live with Career Connections (Instagram and Facebook Live)

Why BMO Financial is Investing in Students and Early Talent Through Authentic Student Experiences That Leave a Lasting Impression 

Professional skills and soft skills are vital for new talent to have when entering the workforce. But what does that truly look like for students who are making their first school-to-work transition? Are they set up for success before getting their first full-time job, or do they still have more learning to do?

As Lisa Kramer, Director of Enterprise Campus Recruitment & Early Talent Programs at BMO Financial says, “In the years that I’ve been in the campus recruiting space I would say there is still a gap between what students are learning in their academic programs and the skills and capabilities necessary to work in a corporate environment. That’s why I think it’s important for us as employers to provide those types of experiences and learning opportunities to students when they’re coming in”. This is one of the reasons why BMO launched their new BMO Student Experience this past year. It focuses on investing in the future workforce, recognizing and providing opportunities for development to increase hiring conversions and foster a culture of authenticity, growth and development.

We had the chance to speak with Lisa to learn more about the BMO Student Experience and how BMO is positioning themselves as an employer of choice on campus and beyond.

A Return on Student Investment

Lisa started with BMO a year ago to transform the recruitment strategy for students and early talent and highlight what it’s actually like to work for BMO. “We’re trying to drive higher conversion rates – “recruit once, hire twice” type of mentality, so when we get students in the door, we show them how awesome it is to work here in hopes that they return for subsequent work terms or join us upon graduation”, Lisa says. Historically, BMO has had good programs and hired many students, but their team identified the need to offer more than just work experience and training. This is where the idea of the BMO Student Experience was developed. 

From TalentEgg’s most recent survey, 71% of post-secondary students and grads said that the most important thing they’re looking for in a career is gaining job experience, building their future career paths and development. So it’s important for organizations to showcase how they can offer these requirements to students as well as provide real, authentic examples. This is something that BMO has done very well through their presence not only on campus but online as well. 

“One of the big things for us was utilizing social media and making sure we could connect with students in a more authentic and engaging way. Moving away from the reliance of the “corporate speak” on the web page and start to tell stories about what it’s really like to work here”, Lisa comments. The BMO campus team has focused on telling real stories about students who work at BMO, as well as letting students and their recruitment team takeover the BMO Campus Recruitment Instagram account and host Instagram Live sessions where students across North America have access to their team. 

New Campus Influencer Program

One of the key components of the new strategy was introducing BMO’s Campus Influencer Program. While many organizations have an ambassador program, the BMO team wanted to do something different, something that would resonate with students and how they’re currently engaging with content, branding and goods. Enter: Influencers — the biggest wave of marketing to take over the laptop and cellphone screens of Gen Z and Millenials. “We’re seeing a lot of students and early talent that are heavily influenced by individuals on YouTube and Instagram, so it’s really a play on that. We took students who worked for us over the course of last summer and who were returning to campus to help us amplify our message”, Lisa says. BMO’s Student Influencers are communicating through their own personal social media accounts and using their own networks to spread the word about BMO. 

The benefits? BMO amplifies their employer brand through students who can authentically share their experiences with the company, point interested candidates to the right connection and provide feedback and invaluable information back to the BMO recruitment team about what students are interested in and how they want to connect with BMO as an employer. 

“It’s been fantastic to have that intel because obviously in a perfect world we’d love to be on campus every day, every campus, every program connecting with students but that’s not possible. So the influencer program has been a really great extension of our campus recruiting team.”

What Students can Expect

To continue investing in student development, a part of BMO’s strategy includes a Student Leadership Summit that will be held for returning students this year. Students will have the opportunity to spend three days at the BMO Institute for Learning with their peers to network, build leadership skills, hear from BMO leadership and more. “By investing in them and their skills, it’s our hope that this is just the start of a very successful career with BMO that will continue in the years to come”. 

Throughout their time with BMO, students are given the opportunity to gain professional skills through networking within the business and connecting with other students outside of work through the BMO Social Squad. They also learn practical nuanced skills such as using Excel or PowerPoint. In addition to what the campus team has created, all students have access to BMO U which is an online learning tool where students can complete thousands of courses for free during their work term. “We hope that by providing that experience they will, in turn, have a great work term and will want to come back and work for us again. This obviously helps drive conversion and it’s really our investment in our future workforce. We need to invest now to help identify the talent that we need in the long term.”

Final Advice for Students and Fellow Employers

Lisa provided some final pieces of advice to both students and fellow employers. For students, it’s so important to make connections. Of course, students should do their research and come out to see BMO when they’re on campus, but they should come prepared and reach out to recruiters. “We had a BMO Hangout at one school where the recruiter met with 10 students and hired 8 of them!”, Lisa highlights. As an example, Lisa suggests instead of saying “Hey, here’s my resume, do you have a job for me?”, students should come with personal and focused outcomes, like “Hey Lisa, I saw BMO on campus at this particular event, I heard [name] speak about XYZ and that’s an area I’m really interested in and was wondering if you could tell me more”. “Making that personal connection is key if you want to stand out”, she says. 

For fellow employers, Lisa comments on the importance of playing a key role in the development of future leaders. 

“Some schools and programs are certainly invested in the development of soft skills and we do certainly see in our campus recruiting efforts that students are better prepared. However, I think it’s important, if we’re truly looking for a diverse workforce, that we’re helping. We [as employers] play a part in this development and shouldn’t just rely on our school partners to prep students. It’s our role to help drive that forward. I do think it needs to be a partnership between employers and educators in terms of getting our early talent and future workforce ready for the roles of the future.”

“Once students have that first job, in order to truly build [their] career, it’s the soft skills and professional development that we really need to help students with. Things like how to write a proper email, how do you present to different levels within the organization, what level of detail do you provide in those communications? Those are all nuances that are important for students who are coming into organizations to learn, and it’s our role as an employer to help that with that.” 

Students entering the workforce value the opportunities to continue learning and developing skills that will help them in their career journey. 88% believe they need additional training to launch their career, according to our most recent Survey. Lisa and the BMO campus team are focused on doing just that. To learn more about BMO’s Reimagined Student Experience, see their student-focused article on TalentEgg here.


Lisa’s a disrupter…currently transforming the Enterprise Campus Recruitment and Early Talent Program at BMO!  Lisa began her career in student recruitment right after university, developing her talents at three universities (Laurier, Waterloo, and Ryerson), before taking her expertise to the corporate world, where she has taken student recruitment practices to a higher level. ATI Technologies, CGI, Siemens, Accenture, and RBC have all benefitted from Lisa’s expertise. Lisa was the inaugural winner of Talent Egg’s Campus Recruiter of the Year Award in 2013.  Lisa is known as an accomplished and flexible leader who leverages strong interpersonal skills and teamwork to achieve business objectives. By defining and implementing a shared vision, she’s driving results and excellence across her team. When she’s not at the office, she can most likely be found in an arena with mobile phone in hand, watching her two daughters and balancing life as a busy working hockey mom!

How Are You Helping to Build the Workplace Critical Skills Pipeline?

When describing what differentiates top talent amongst students and new graduate candidates, we often find ourselves referencing their ‘soft’ or workplace critical skills.  Things like creativity, teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership.

As employers, we seemingly all want these skills to be a part of the candidate profile for our new graduate programs, summer internships, or open positions on campus.  And, if the expectation is that students come prepared with these skills when they arrive in the workplace, I wonder how can we as career educators and campus recruiters help students to identify, acquire, and nurture them before they land their first job?

For me, the approach is two-fold:

I think it starts with helping students to become fluent in the art of articulation, reflection, and offering up evidence.

Let’s work an example – communication skills. We know that having a student simply state they are a good communicator is not enough.  Rather, it’s how they demonstrate they are a good communicator through examples or description that sets them apart.

Fellow campus recruiters, I am offering up a challenge to you here.  Let’s commit to trying to better articulate our needs. Continuing with the ‘good communication skills’ example, what if we said something like this in our postings:

‘Persuasive business writing, active listening, comfort delivering critical or difficult messages, and strong presentation skills are essential for successful communication in our organization’.

The more specific or articulate we are, the more a student has got to work with and reflect on.  They can start to assess whether they have demonstrated these skills and attributes in their studies or work to date, come up with evidence to support it, and if a gap exists, have a clearer goal to work towards.  If  Year 1 students knew what you were truly looking for in terms of workplace critical skills when they embarked on their program, think about where they might be by the time they graduate.  Perhaps ‘top talent’ would be more plentiful?

While these notions are by no means new, it stands to reason that by providing students with ample opportunity to reflect on and to talk about their skills in meaningful ways (whether it is a part of their experiential learning, course work, co-op, or even workshops) the more comfortable and confident they will become in talking about their workplace critical skills as potential candidates.

The second piece is all about providing additional opportunities to develop and nurture workplace critical skills while in school.  Case competitions, challenges, portfolios or workplace critical skills passports, skills badging, and experiential learning are all great ways to achieve this.  Think about how you can get more involved in these types of initiatives.  While yes, the time investment does need to be there to make it most effective, you will be doing wonders for your credibility, brand, and building up of the pipeline of the skills you’re ultimately wanting students to have in their toolkit.

Challenge yourself.  In your next round of engaging students – how will you help them to get really good at articulating, reflecting, and evidencing their workplace critical skills?  What opportunities will you provide to develop and nurture them?  Happy skill building!

 


Trevor Buttrum is an award-winning career education and campus recruitment leader with 15+ years of experience in the space.  He is currently the manager of a national program focused on building the talent pipeline for the next generation of the property and casualty insurance workforce.

 

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