Vocatio, a startup offering an on-campus “Career Hacks” workshop series specifically for students with liberal arts majors, arrived last week and comes to a close on Thursday.

It piloted its first six-session program spring semester of last year, with the goal of returning once per semester going forward.

Each session tackled what Miami alumnus and founder Patrick Jones saw as crucial to helping students identify and understand how their majors can be transferrable to a career, even when it seems unlikely.

Miami was chosen as the destination because Jones saw what his alma mater needed, starting in 2014, while working on the Alumni Advisory Board for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Dean Makaroff and, before him, Dean Callahan were nurturers of this approach,” Jones said.

Jones said Vocatio specifically caters to liberal arts students, as future job titles are not in the name of their degree. Many students feel the pressure to comply with studying an area with a clear career path.

The College of Arts and Sciences, in particular, has been on a mission to professionalize the passions of liberal arts students for about five or six years. Dean Chris Makaroff’s hope for these well-rounded students is for them to start to “explore academically, but do it a little bit more intentionally, with a career path in mind.”

“You’ll spend four years kind of thinking ‘Oh, my major, my department, my major, my GPA’ and as soon as you graduate… almost no one will ask you what your major was,” Jones said. “They just want to know ‘What can you do? What skills you got?’”

Matt Gwin, Jones’ business partner, echoed that statement.

“[A lot of students] are coming in with this expectation that ‘I need to figure out what I want to do with my life,’” said Gwin. “So, you still might be lost in where you want to be in ten years, but you don’t have to answer that question. We’re trying to figure out where you should be next year.”

Their company helps those who have been ushered along what Jones called the “moving sidewalk” of the education system. They knew many students worry about their “return on investment” after college.

“You’re just trained to be curious about a problem. Period,” Jones said of liberal arts students. That mindset paired with the resources he provides, like connections between participants and companies, is a system that works.

The startup, limited to the beta trial stage over the past summer, has matched companies with 20 or so students, Vocatio reported. They anticipate getting 100 matches by the end of this semester and 500 by the end of the spring semester.

Jones emphasized the importance for students to determine whether a match generated by the Vocatio platform is truly a “good fit” for them.

The team made rounds to Emory University and will continue making arounds to Miami. There are 28 schools on their target list, according to Gwin.

The team felt that active engagement was necessary in their area of specialty, job-hunting. They designed both in-person and online components so participants would not act solely as receivers of information.

The first session this semester was titled “Passion and Purpose” with College of Arts and Sciences alumni as guest speakers. With a range of topics in between, the last will act as a skill showcase in front of real employers.

Their on-the-ground approach in classrooms pairs with an online platform. After users give the site a small sample of their tastes, the discovery process begins.

Students’ aptitudes are matched up with suggestive, predictive real world job profiles. Based on Vocatio’s own research and interviews, there are personal stories and more explicit breakdowns of the job.

The results listed are often appropriately applicable to entry-level jobs and internships.

Gwin took the example of a student’s traits matching up with the aptitudes of an account manager, joking about its non-glamorous nature.

”Nobody wants to grow up and be an account manager. You don’t even know what that is until you’ve worked in a company that has one,” said Gwin. “We kind of try to bring everything relevant and entertaining and informative about account managers into one spot.”

Exploring what specific industries may be of interest to an account manager-minded person comes next. Eventually students reach out to employers for job and internship opportunities, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to pure startups, nationwide.

Makaroff made clear his interest in this program.

“We want to let students know there are a lot of career opportunities if they major in the liberal arts, if that’s their passion.”

newberbm@miamioh.edu

 

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