As many universities recently released their admissions decisions, students and parents are comparing college offers and are trying to figure out the best academic, personal and financial college fit.
While the decisions about the right college or right major are complicated, what is incontrovertible is that systematic career exploration during college will greatly improve employment preparation.
Students at the University of Maryland have a geographical advantage in securing high-quality internships and jobs while still in college. However, the University is still focused on helping students intentionally prepare for their first professional steps after college. For example, a new Psychology elective course helps guide college students in developing the professional skills and knowledge they need when they graduate, beyond what they learn in their academic classes. The course is open to students from all majors.
The Psychology of Getting Hired (PSYC123 at University of Maryland) was the idea of a psychology faculty member and grew into a partnership between the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences and the University Career Center & President’s Promise. The theme of the course is that if you understand the science-based psychology of human behavior, such as communication and persuasion, then you can be more strategic in self-assessment, career planning and job searching.
Through the lens of social psychology, this one-credit elective course guides students to the numerous career resources available throughout the University, such as the Careers4Terps database, the University Career Center’s job and internship database, all through the lens of the social psychology literature. PSYC 123 also helps students develop foundational communication and presentation skills that are critical to crafting effective resumes, cover letters and e-mails to employers. The course helps students gain skills and confidence with the critical processes of interviewing and negotiating for jobs and internships.
The outcomes of the first run of the course in fall 2014 were extraordinarily positive, with students reporting substantial gains in their ability to describe and use campus career resources. Students indicated increased confidence in their ability to find reliable information about employers and to conduct informational interviews with employers and alumni. Students noted that they now have a greater awareness of how to get help with these materials and communiques in the future.
Another important goal that the course achieved was helping students to establish a professional social media presence, through which they connected with the University and its departments and colleges. This connection enriched the size and strength of the students’ networks for the future, and taught them how to find and communication with professional contacts.
Dr. Scott Roberts, Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Psychology, partnered with Dr. Kelley Bishop, Director of the University Career Center, to create this online course that is engaging, scalable, and that relies on open-source content. Roberts said he is extremely satisfied with the success of the pilot semester and the fact that the Center was able to scale it up to 300 students this spring.
“I have always told students, whether or not they are psychology majors, that the more you understand about yourself and others, the more effective you can be. By introducing students to some of the fundamental psychological principles that influence thought and behavior in the professional world, we give them a better context in which to understand the value of their academic pursuits,” Roberts said. “When we combine that scholarly learning with a structured opportunity to explore career resources, develop materials and skills, and get critical feedback all along the way, we help students initiate a professional development process that simply cannot wait until the second semester of their senior year.”