Many college students will set their sights on securing their post-graduation plans shortly after classes begin. Career fairs have typically provided an opportunity for students to network with a room full of possible employers, but COVID-19 has changed that.

“This summer, the UW System Career Directors’ meeting sounded like many others: COVID and budget updates. Needless to say, it was a difficult meeting,” said Renee Young-Trego, a specialist in the UW-Parkside Advising & Career Center. “However, we were inspired at how well we worked together as career services colleagues and decided that we could collaborate on career programming for all UW students. Thus the Career Trek Committee was born.”

In light of restrictions in place due to the pandemic, UW campuses are finding new ways to help students make important career connections. Representatives from all UW campuses met multiple times per month for three months to discuss the Career Trek program and its goals. Now, Career Services offices across the UW System have teamed up to offer virtual Career Treks starting this month.

“We wanted to provide a career exploration opportunity for all UW students, no matter where they are in their career development or in the United States. A great way to do that is to offer students a chance to virtually tour the employer site and learn more about the organization, available opportunities, and how to be successful as a college student,” said Young-Trego.

For example, UW students have the option of “Trekking” to an organization in the Kenosha and Racine areas, and/or others on the opposite side of the great state of Wisconsin. Any UW student can attend one to 13 Treks.

So, how does this work? Students register for Career Treks on Handshake and then attend the event via Zoom. The program lasts 30 minutes, which includes time for questions. Employers have free reign over how they want to conduct their Trek. They can give a walk-through, virtual tour, host information sessions based on organizational hiring, devote some time for question/answer, or any other activity that best represents their company.

There are four learning outcomes associated with the 13 possible Career Treks. Students who complete a Career Trek will learn more in-depth information about the company and its culture, develop or utilize skills in networking and connecting with employers, connect academic and/or college-related experiences with skills desired by employers, and utilize effective communication when engaging with employers.

For Parkside, this aligns well with the practice of introducing the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Career Readiness Competencies in student employment, classroom work, internships, and other activities students do while they are a Ranger. Specifically, students who attend a Career Trek advance their communication skills, digital technology skills, career management, and professionalism – all in less than 30 minutes. This series is a soft introduction to professional networking and employer research, two of the many strategies necessary to find that first opportunity after graduation and further advance your career.

“Personally, I am fortunate to have found a wonderful group of individuals devoted to student success and campus collaboration. We plan to continue hosting these Treks in Spring 2021 and beyond,” said Young-Trego.

The virtual Career Treks series begins Sept. 9 and runs through Dec. 9. Sessions will be live with recordings available to students for future viewing. For more information, contact the UW-Parkside Advising and Career Center at advisingcenter@uwp.edu.


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