YSU Works with Employers, Students to Keep Talent Here

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Regional employers might want to rethink traditional benefits packages to attract and retain young talent, say two career-services specialists.

Besides salary and health care, providing vacation time during the first year of employment is an attractive recruitment tool, says Christina O’Connell, director of the Center for Career Management for the Williamson College of Business at Youngstown State University. 

“It’s important for this generation of young professionals to have paid time off within the first year,” O’Connell says. “It’s important for them to have work/life balance.”

Justin Edwards, director of the Office of Career Services and Academic Advising, agrees. “I’m speaking anecdotally from conversations I’ve had with students, but they are cognizant of having time for family connections,” he says. “Employers being able to offer flexibility is a wave of necessity for upcoming generations.”

YSU’s College of Business Dean Betty Jo Licata says lifestyle and quality of life are important aspects for employers to acknowledge.

“Many of the companies are starting to realize in that race for talent, you’ve got to identify what’s important to the people you’re hiring and provide that kind of flexibility,” she says. “I think companies nationally are struggling with how do you provide that flexibility; but at the same time meet the demands of the business.”

Another national trend in the race for young talent is repaying on student loans during an employee’s tenure with a company. Neither O’Connell nor Edwards is aware of any regional companies that offer those benefits, “but they could be out there,” O’Connell says.

The reason college graduates think it’s important is that 44 million Americans owe $1.5 trillion in student-loan debt. College debt is the second- largest debt category behind home mortgages, according to first-quarter 2018 data from the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The average student debt in Ohio is $30,232, ranked 18th nationally, says a report by The Institute for College Access & Success.  

College students go where the opportunities are and regional companies also want the best talent, Licata says. “Opportunities are competitive whether it’s here or across the country; companies are looking for the best talent.”
At the same time, students are battling to get noticed by companies and YSU helps them streamline their job search.

“Our goal is to help students find that path of least resistance, that path where they wake up excited and feel like you’re not working,” Edwards says. “The definition[s] of a job and a career aren’t the same.”

The career office in Jones Hall is what Edwards likes to call a one-stop shop initiative with programs to enhance competence skills, access to free business attire from a wardrobe closet, and job searches. These services are available to YSU students and alumni. 

Career Corner is a new service that began this fall for students and alumni to drop in for front-line services to help with digital skills and resume creations and advice. People also can have a photo taken for business profiles, help with creating a LinkedIn account, and assistance with job searches on Handshake, an online recruiting tool for jobs and internships. 

Handshake is an online job database used in 60% of the universities in the country, Edwards says. Local and state listings are also available on Handshake, which students can access by using their Penguin portal on their school account. Alumni can access it by calling career services at 330-941-3515 or connecting online at ysu.joinhandshake.com. According to Edwards, job postings have tripled in the three years it has been available at YSU. 

Career peer Amanda Paynter says Handshake is an underused tool. “We’re trying to get more students to know that it’s there. The more we talk about it, the more people are going to be able to use it,” Paynter says. “A lot of other resources tend to get used, but this one is the most relevant we could be using.” 

Paynter, a senior majoring in human-resources management, says thousands of full-time and part-time jobs and internships are posted and easily accessible. She and other career peers are available to help people get logged on and create a profile. 

Maria Vince, a senior in YSU’s College of Business, used Handshake to get two internships. 

“I get a lot of great opportunities through it that just pop up in my email,” says the senior who is majoring in marketing and management. “It’s an amazing tool and super-beneficial.”

Paynter also obtained an internship through Handshake last year at Youngstown Area Goodwill Industries.

Paynter says area employers are being approved daily. Employers must apply and are then vetted before job postings can be uploaded. All job postings also are reviewed for relevance and to make sure students aren’t being taken advantage of, Paynter says.  

Besides drop-in hours, graduate students are available by appointment for content analysis of resumes or coaching with written and verbal skills, mock interviews, professionalism and work ethic and digital skills. Students seeking academic advising can see an experienced staff member by appointment.  

Edwards says there is no example of a definitive resume, but he urges students to put an emphasis on their stories. He points out that employers skim resumes, spending no more than 30 to 60 seconds on each, so they need to have a clean, easy-to-read format.  

“Describe not only what you’ve done, but why you’ve done it; otherwise you end up with a job description for that person’s life,” he says. 

Just as important today is having a digital presence on LinkedIn, according to both Edwards and O’Connell. 

“Now more than ever social media impacts the job search; so graduating students need to get ahead of that, especially for internships,” Edwards says. 

O’Connell adds that LinkedIn has a huge impact on gaining internships and full-time positions. “Time and time again we’re seeing students receive positions from their profiles,” she says. “That’s why you need to make sure you have a solid profile. The most important thing is to have a picture and make sure your profile is completely filled out.”

She encourages a strong headline to be specific about what one is seeking and to be specific about one’s qualifications. “A lot of companies pay for LinkedIn services that search for candidates and key words,” O’Connell says. 

But for those students who haven’t decided on a field of study or clear career goals, Career Services began what it calls an Exploratory Program three years ago. “Research shows that students change their major at least one time at the university,” according to Edwards.

Exploratory services are available for incoming freshmen in a first-year experience class where students take self-assessment tests to learn more about their interests, personalities, strengths and values. During this time, students can take general education courses that count toward graduation. 

“Taking these courses while exploring your options is not a waste of time,” Edwards says. “It’s moving students toward the finish line. General courses count in all majors across campus. When we combine passion with strengths — that’s where students can make the best connection with a career.”

The tests never tell students what they can and cannot do; rather, they’re a tool to help students find a fit, he points out. Students can matriculate at any time into a course of study. A four-year general-studies degree also is an option.

The centralized office oversees the College of Creative Arts and Communication, College of Education and College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Three other career-focused centers are specific for the academic colleges of Bitonte College of Health and Human Services, STEM Professional Services Office for science, technology, engineering and math and Center for Career Management in the College of Business. All of these centers fall under the deans of colleges.

Edwards says that any student, regardless of major, can use the services in Jones Hall.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.