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How do I Build Long-Term Employer Relationships and Partnerships (Without Repeating the Same Old Same Old)?

By Dale Stelter

Career services teams need solid, enduring employer relationships. These connections play a huge role in helping students land internships, secure job offers, and kickstart their careers. Unfortunately, developing and maintaining these connections is a lot of work. And usually repetitive. 

ER specialists often rely on a few tried-and-true methods to create and maintain employer relationships:

  1. Job and internship fairs
  2. Networking events and mixers
  3. On-campus interviews and presentations
  4. Industry-specific panels and workshops
  5. Targeted email campaigns and newsletters
  6. Personal outreach
  7. Sponsorships

Yes, these activities are effective, and no one's suggesting abandoning them. However, shaking things up makes your university stand out. So, for the next five minutes (actually 4 minutes and 55 seconds, but who’s counting?), let's forget the traditional methods and discuss fresh ideas to connect with employers and engage them with students, thus strengthening their commitment to your career services mission. 


Getting Employers' Attention

When traditional methods like email and phone calls aren't cutting it, it's time to explore adding innovative ways to reach out to employers and grab their attention. Here are three unconventional approaches to impress employers, potentially launching sponsorships and partnerships


Employer-Student Speed Mentoring

Organize a speed social media "mentoring event" where employers and students post back and forth about specific career topics. This fast-paced and interactive format gives students valuable insights from multiple industry professionals. At the same time, employers connect with potential talent and share their expertise.


Themed Surprise Packages 

Send employers a carefully curated surprise package with themed items highlighting your university's programs, student achievements, and the value of partnering with your career services team. This tactile and memorable approach can help you stand out from the usual emails and make a lasting impression. 


Virtual Reality (VR) Career Exploration

Create a virtual reality experience to transport employers and students into various industry-specific scenarios to collaborate on solving real-world challenges. This immersive approach showcases your students' skills and talents. Simultaneously, employers engage with potential candidates in memorable ways while better understanding the university's programs and resources. In addition, this innovative method can help strengthen employer and recruiter relationships and create a lasting impression.


These creative outreach tactics can help you break through the noise and capture the attention of employers, opening the door for further conversation and collaboration. After all, you can't stand out doing things the same way season after season or copying what everyone else is doing. Maybe start with forming some unusual alliances? 


Embracing Unlikely Collaborations

Let’s discuss how embracing unlikely collaborations can work wonders for your career services team. These unexpected partnerships can catch the attention of employers, open doors to new opportunities, and showcase the diverse talents of your students. The key to making these collaborations succeed is to be open-minded, think creatively, and bring together individuals or groups with complementary skills or interests.

Here are a few tips for success:

  1. Identify shared goals and objectives between different parties
  2. Communicate openly and frequently to ensure everyone's on the same page
  3. Encourage participants to step out of their comfort zones and learn from one another

But be cautious! Things to avoid include:

  1. Forcing collaborations that lack a clear purpose or objective
  2. Overlooking the importance of planning and coordination
  3. Underestimating the time and effort needed for a successful partnership

Now, let's take a look at three fun examples of unlikely collaborations that led to fantastic results:


Art & Tech Mashups 

Have you ever considered pairing computer science students with art majors for a joint showcase? It might sound like an odd combo, but this unique collaboration appeals to employers interested in both fields, creating new student opportunities and potential career services partnerships.


Themed Food Trucks Tours

Food trucks get attention. These giant restaurants on wheels offer various menus and cultural experiences; they appeal to a broad audience. Offer employers opportunities to sponsor food trucks for an on-campus lunch or TGIF party. 

Or, if your university has a hospitality or culinary program, use the food truck roundup as the backdrop to introduce these students to potential employers, including the restaurant owners! You're introducing early talent to recruiters and building relationships with the local business community. 


Volunteer-Based Partnerships 

Consider strengthening your employer relationships with local non-profits by connecting university clubs and associations with volunteer activities. Campus organizations, including fraternities and sororities, often include volunteering in their membership or program requirements. Your career services team can help student groups and non-profits fulfill their missions while strengthening their early talent networks. 

OK, we've explored how unlikely collaborations can create exciting opportunities. So let's shift gears and explore another game-changing approach: out-of-the-box communication. Clever thinking beyond the usual channels can help you engage employers in refreshing and unforgettable ways. 


Out-of-the-box communications

So, why are out-of-the-box communications important? They help you stand out from the crowd and create memorable experiences for employers, ultimately leading to stronger relationships and more opportunities for your students. 

Here's how you can make these innovative ideas work:

  1. Don't be afraid to experiment with new platforms or formats
  2. Keep it authentic, and let your university's personality shine through
  3. Listen to feedback and be ready to adapt your approach as needed

But watch out for these potential pitfalls:

  1. Losing sight of your target audience and their preferences
  2. Focusing on being different at the expense of being effective
  3. Neglecting to follow up or build on the initial interest generated by your unique communication methods

Here are three inspiring examples to get you thinking differently about communication!


Interactive Webinars 

Instead of regular webinars, host interactive sessions where employers and students work together on real-world challenges relevant to their industries and majors. You’re showcasing students’ skills and facilitating relationships with employers, especially those who appreciate team members that take a hands-on approach.


Podcasts with Personality 

Try a podcast series with students interviewing industry leaders in a fun, informal setting. The subject matter experts can share career insights while raising their company's brand awareness. In addition, students get a sense of what the organization is like; Career services staff connect with multiple people in the company setting up the podcasts. 


Recruiter Social Media Takeovers

There's a good chance we've all heard of or even hosted student social media takeovers. Flip it. Invite recruiters to "take over" your career services' social media accounts for a day. Let them showcase select employees' personalities, show off their company culture, and share job openings while interacting with students on your social media accounts. 


Harnessing the Power of Gamification

Think about adding gamification activities into your career services ER management approach. Tap into people's natural desire for competition, achievement, and fun! Consider starting with one or all of these three.


Recruiter vs. Student Challenges 

Organize friendly competitions where recruiters and students team up or go head-to-head in various challenges, like solving real-world management problems with business school students or a hackathon for computer science students. These events foster collaboration, showcase student talent, and help recruiters connect with potential hires in a dynamic setting. 


Interactive Campus Tours 

Create a campus-wide scavenger hunt or virtual reality tour highlighting your university's programs, resources, and success stories. Invite employers to participate with coworkers, students, or career services staff!


Gamified Networking Events 

Reimagine the traditional networking event with game design. For example, use an app to create a "networking bingo" where participants earn points for connecting with others from specific industries or job roles. Offering employers and recruiters productive and unusual ways to meet students solidifies your employer relationships. 

Employers expect career services to facilitate better recruiting and hiring outcomes. Playing games injects fun and excitement into employer outreach and partnership development efforts.


Level up your employer outreach and partnership efforts with fresh, even daring (within reason, of course!) ideas and activities. People--employers and students--notice unique collaborations, inventive communication, and win-win situations. 


Oh, and make sure you onboard with Career Forge | ERM now so you customize your employer relationship management platform before the Fall semester. After all, you need someplace to track and maintain all the new employer relationships from your new outreach! 

Tags: career services, careers, employer relations, employer relationship management

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