#TBT…University of West Florida Career Services Engages International and Study Abroad Students

Katie Hudon, University of West Florida

The University of West Florida (UWF) Career Services Department has partnered with the Office of Diversity and International Education and Programs (ODIEP) to afford UWF international and study abroad students the opportunity to learn about techniques and best practices in career planning and to understand the availability and advantages of engaging in experiential learning.  Both international students and study abroad students have unique needs, opportunities and challenges they face.  UWF Career Services has worked to become well informed about these populations so that the office can better  support, offer programming, and assist these students in communicating their experiences to bolster their credentials and help ease the transition for them into their future careers.

In addition to extensive research conducted by Career Services staff, representatives from Career Services from both the Career Planning Team and the Experiential Learning Team reached out to the Director of the International Student Office as well as Program Coordinators/Advisors for International Students, the International Center and Study Abroad.  Setting up meetings with these ODIEP staff members created an ongoing series of forums for learning about students with which the ODIEP regularly worked.  Career Services representatives were able to ask pointed questions about how to best reach out to and serve international and study abroad students.  Moreover, to get a pulse on the needs of international students, discussions with the ODIEP included uncovering common questions and concerns related to Career Services that were asked by UWF international students.  For study abroad students, opportunities such as international internships and future participation at the ODIEP-hosted Study Abroad Fair were explored.

From these meetings, Career Services gained valuable insight on participation and partnership opportunities available through events and activities hosted by the ODIEP.  For example, participation through volunteerism at large-scale events hosted by the ODIEP (such as UWF Celebrates the World and Cultural Explosion) allowed staff members to meet and interact with many UWF international students and those students interested in study abroad.

In addition to learning more about ODIEP events and international and study abroad students, Career Services was able to share its own upcoming events.  Representatives of the office were also able to inform the ODIEP team about the full range of services available through the Career Services office.

As a result of this newfound relationship between the two departments (which are housed in two different divisions at UWF), the lines of communication are fully open between the ODIEP and Career Services.  For example, recently, job scam alerts were discussed in a Career Services staff meeting.  As this issue was being discussed in the staff meeting, Career Services staff quickly recognized that this information should be shared with the ODIEP, as many of these scams target international students.  Soon after the staff meeting, this information was relayed to appropriate individuals in the ODIEP.  In addition to protecting students because of the free flow of information now existing between the two offices, international students are very frequently referred to Career Services for various career needs.  The close relationship between the two offices keeps Career Services forefront in the minds of ODIEP staff as a helpful resource for both students and staff members.

Finally, a capstone programming initiative was launched in the Fall of 2012, an initiative that further demonstrates the impact of the flourishing collaboration between the two departments.  In an effort to focus on the specific needs of international students, a series of career-related workshops targeting international students were held.  The first workshop provided an overview of Career Services and gave some specific information related to job search strategies, networking, and goal setting.  The second workshop, held early in the Spring of 2013, provided students with techniques for interviewing, networking, and engaging employers at career events.  This presentation was strategically situated for relevancy less than three weeks before the UWF Spring Career Showcase, which was the largest career expo of the Spring 2013 Term.  Several international students attended the career expo after coming to the workshop.  The third workshop, which was a resume workshop, allowed international students the opportunity to identify similarities and differences between resumes in their home countries and in the U.S.  All of the workshops were infused with well-researched content highlighting best career development practices for international students.  Students from both the Pensacola and Emerald Coast campus attended the workshops, and international students representing each of the three UWF colleges were present.  Students attending the workshops were very engaged and asked in-depth and specific questions that allowed Career Services staff to convey their knowledge gained from research and experience.