Linking students with society through career support keeping up with changes in the social environment

University News | October 20, 2021

This article was published in the Spring 2021 issue of Litterae Populi. The full issue can be found here.

To support students’ first steps into society, the Career Center plays an important role as a place of practical and systematic career designing. The Center provides high-quality job hunting support based on the aptitude of individual students, while keeping up with “new normal” post-pandemic society.

Located on the 1st floor of the Clark Memorial Student Hall, the Career Center is visited by approximately 2,000 students annually.

Efforts toward the establishment of the Career Center started in 1998 in the Employment Information Library of the Academic Affairs Department. At that time, two workers provided employment information and guidance for students. In 2004, with the reorganization of national universities into corporations, the Career Center of the Academic Affairs Department was established under the strong leadership of the then President of Hokkaido University, Professor Mutsuo Nakamura. In 2017, it was reorganized as the Career Center of the Institute for the Advancement of Higher Education. “The present all-campus system of career education support in addition to job hunting support started here, although individual faculties have provided careful job hunting support,” says the Director of the Career Center, Specially Appointed Professor Kiyotaka Matsuura.

At the Career Center, qualified advisors and experienced counselors provide consultation for various employment-related matters utilizing their expertise. In addition, the Career Center holds many employment guidance events and seminars throughout the year to provide information useful for job hunting. The Center also supports early career education such as internship programs for first- and second-year undergraduate students.

A company research seminar in March 2019. The seminar is held for about ten days around this time every year.

A major event of the Career Center is a company research seminar held jointly with the Hokkaido University Alumni Association, Elm. It is held annually as an opportunity for students to listen directly to individual explanations given by people from each company and organization and discuss with them about the business details in each industry. It is one of the largest events of its kind in Japan, with participation by approximately 700 companies and organizations and cumulatively more than 20,000 students. Approximately seventy percent of Hokkaido University students find their jobs outside Hokkaido, so companies and organizations from all over Japan gather here. In this March, many students, mainly in their third year of the undergraduate course or in their first year of the master’s course, participated in this seminar and collected information useful for their career choices before going out into the world that is facing an uncertain future due to the pandemic, although this year’s seminar was given only online using Zoom.

Job hunting support in pandemic times

Job hunting activities in FY 2020 were quite different from those in ordinary years due to the pandemic. Many students felt anxious, as there were fewer opportunities for students to get together and share employment-related information with their classmates because university classes were given online.

Mini job hunting course (online). This is a practical course with a main focus on small group work, which is useful for networking by job-seeking students.

The Career Center has taken support measures to address the pandemic, while continuing its job hunting support activities. Job counseling by appointment, which had been given in personal interviews, phone and other various means, is now given mainly via Zoom and other remote services. Events that were held face to face in ordinary years are now held online and videotaped so that students can watch them later at home. Career support information, which was provided in print or face to face, is now accessible from the Education and Learning Management System (ELMS). Various measures are taken to allow students to collect information to the same extent as in pre-pandemic days.

The methods of employment information provision and interview screening by companies and other situations have changed due to the pandemic, the Career Center has been giving some new guidance different from before. In online interviews, for example, students need to think about their clothing, hair, onscreen appearance, speaking with time delay, and so on. Especially, regarding where to look when communicating with people through a computer screen, students are advised to look at the screen, but to look at the camera when they have something they really want to say.

The Career Center’s staff seem to be carrying out their daily tasks with the thought of giving even more careful support than before to meet the needs of students anxious about their job hunting activity in the changed situations.

Providing better support

A challenge that has been addressed in job hunting support activities carried out in the Career Center is the improvement of support for international students. With the increase in the number of international students studying at Hokkaido University, requests for consultation from these students have increased. Especially, because the number of the international students who want to work for Japanese companies is increasing, it is necessary to provide consultation for such students with a wider range of specialties and languages. Director Matsuura says, “Although we’re doing our best with a limited staff, it’s difficult to satisfy the various needs of international students.” To keep up with the globalization of companies and universities, job hunting support must be diversified.

Employment-related materials at the Career Center. Students can read job hunting activity reports of graduates and recollections of students who have passed the civil service examination.

For both international and Japanese students, it is important to start job hunting early in the time on campus, instead of starting in the third year of the bachelor’s course or the first year of the master’s course. Early internship experiences, for example, are useful for thinking about what kind of work suits them. “Many students have said their internship was an eye-opening experience that made them think seriously about their future and to find what to do before graduation,” says Director Matsuura. He encourages students by saying “Let’s think about your career together from an early stage.”

Specially Appointed Professor Kiyotaka Matsuura, who serves as the Director of the Career Center and leads 14 staff members in support of career design and job hunting.

The Career Center continues providing support for students to open paths into society through services tailored to the specialty and aptitude of each student.

This article was published in the Spring 2021 issue of Litterae Populi. The full issue can be found here.