Facebook0Tweet0Pin0 Submitted by Saint Martin’s University Even before the Class of 2015 arrives on campus for its senior year, Saint Martin’s University is working to help its members glide smoothly into life after graduation.While four or more years of education provide the knowledge and experiences to succeed in a particular career, many students get through their senior year without an essential – job-search skills. Through “Saints Have a Plan,” an innovative program masterminded by Ann Adams, the University’s associate dean of students and director of career development, seniors are learning the “how-to’s” in a timely manner.“College and University career centers have always offered this help,” she says. “We want students to have a plan before they are out there looking for work. With Saints Have a Plan, we’re just making it fun by packaging it and incentivizing it.”The inspiration for “the plan” came to Adams as she considered a troubling fact: Although the University’s Career Center offers an extensive array of resources and assistance to help seniors poised to transition out of college, many fail to take advantage of them until they are about to graduate, if at all. Others want to begin the process but are overwhelmed by the complexity of job-searching.In 2013, almost half of Saint Martin’s graduating seniors were job-searching at the time of graduation, missing the optimum time to get support, says the nine-year Career Center veteran.“The ideal time for them to start job-hunting is much earlier, when they can attend job fairs, get help developing resumes and start networking with potential job sources. Everyone wants to help students and offer them advice and referrals, but it is different when they become one of hundreds of job-seekers.”Last February, Adams e-mailed seniors an invitation to the new program that included a form about their post-graduation plans. The idea was to encourage students with no particular plan to get started, she said. As those without a plan developed one, they were awarded raffle tickets. Steps in the plan included listing grad schools or employers where the student was applying, getting their resume and cover letters spruced up, and creating a LinkedIn profile to enable networking online. When their plan was done, they earned a T-shirt and other goodies. The campaign was a community effort, with professors who joined in wearing “plan” T-shirts and donating class time for Career Center staff to introduce the event. Offices donated services, gift cards and baskets, the Saint Martin’s Alumni Association sponsored tee-shirts, and local merchants contributed generous raffle prizes.Adams said 67 percent of seniors completed a plan, a high number, given some seniors completed their degrees in December and were no longer at school.Buoyed by the pilot program’s success, Saints Have a Plan will roll out again this year. Seniors completing their academic coursework in December will develop plans this fall, and those finishing coursework in May or August will submit plans beginning in January. Adams is also hoping to find additional sponsors to help build the program.In July, Adams shared information about her new program with colleagues at the national conference of the Association for Student Affairs at Catholic Colleges and Universities at St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, Texas.“The presentation went very well and drew a great deal of interest from career counselors – even faculty from St. Mary’s dropped in after seeing the topic on the program,” she says.