Christendom’s Associate Director of Marketing and Communications Zach Smith sat down with Director of Career and Professional Development Kristin Stephens to discover what sets Christendom’s career preparation practices apart from other colleges and allows Christendom graduates to flourish and find success in any career field.

Most of us recall the gnawing feeling of not knowing what we will be—what we will do—when we “grow up.” The discernment of one’s vocation and career can be an anxiety-filled challenge. Especially in an ever-evolving workplace—and one that grows more secular each day—students need to know that they have the education, skills, and preparation to thrive in their ideal career. When Dr. Warren Carroll founded Christendom College 45 years ago, he wanted to create a college—both education and experiences—that would allow its graduates to enter the secular workplace in myriad of fields and serve as shining lights to the Truth in a culture of darkness. And for the past 45 years, Christendom alumni have entered every field of work and vocation, helping transform the culture through work and prayer.

Christendom’s Career and Professional Development Office has been instrumental in helping the students achieve their goals by preparing them to enter the workforce upon graduation. Under the direction of Kristin Stephens, Christendom’s Career Office has been assisting students to become some of the most confident and well-prepared college graduates in today’s workforce.

ZACH SMITH: Thanks so much for making the time, Kristin. Let’s dive right in. Something that is often talked about that sets Christendom’s Career Development Office apart is the resources being offered to students. Could you speak to what these resources are?

KRISTIN STEPHENS: Sure. So, I will start with our Education for Life course, or EFL, as it is called. It is a four-year career prep course that all students complete before they graduate. We have created a curriculum that they follow from freshman year through senior year, where they take classes with us every semester. As a result, no student slips through the cracks—rather, 100% of them have a professionally reviewed resume; 100% of them have prepared answers to the top interview questions; 100% of them have a LinkedIn profile, which is huge in the professional world; and 100% of them have learned how to negotiate a salary. We’re able to offer the education that they need to be prepared to leave Christendom, ready to get a job. Most schools do not even have anything close to this. Christendom’s systematic approach to career readiness, without sacrificing the beauty and authenticity of the liberal arts education, is our advantage.

This story comes from the latest issue of Instaurare Magazine, the official magazine of Christendom College. Read more from Instaurare here!

ZS: Are there any other resources you offer in addition to EFL?

KS: Our students have so many resources available to them! We have an extensive alumni mentor program, which allows students to interact with alumni in their field of interest and to learn what it takes to be successful in that field. We offer the students a variety of life skills workshops on important topics such as budgeting, finance, buying a car or house, and proper dining etiquette. We also bring in alumni to speak on their specific careers through events called Life on Tap. We typically have three of these events each semester, which allows students to hear directly from successful alumni in various fields. On top of all of this, we also help students research graduate schools and reimbursing them for their GRE, LSAT, or MCAT tests. And finally, I meet with students one on one throughout the year, helping them do career exploration, interview prep, resume and cover letter writing, and so much more. As you can see, we offer them a lot of resources!

ZS: Recently, the college reported that the Class of 2022 had a 98.9% success rate six months after graduation. What do you think enabled such a high percentage of students to find success so early after graduation?

KS: When surveyed, only 90% of the Class of 2016 had found success—meaning they were employed or in graduate school within six-months post-graduation. We looked at what we were doing as a college and made some huge changes in what we were doing, most especially changes in the EFL courses, and the results have risen each year because of this, enabling the students to become more confident in their abilities, skills, and post-graduation options.

ZS: That’s amazing that the success rate has improved that much over the past six years. How does that compare to other colleges and universities nationwide?

KS: Almost every college tracks this information, because it is a statistic that many prospective college students and their parents want to know before investing in the college. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the average success rate for graduates of private colleges in 2021 was 84.1% So, I think we are doing a pretty amazing job, going from 90% to 98.9% in six years.

ZS: How are you preparing students to thrive in the workplace following graduation?

KS: According to employers, the skills and abilities that they are most searching for in new employees include communication skills, the ability to think critically, and the ability to solve complex problems. The major is not as important these days, but soft skills, intellectual skills, as well as professional skills, are leading the way. Through our liberal arts education, students gain the most critical skills necessary to be successful and thrive in the workplace. Through the comprehensive and broad program of studies, students are equipped better than most to achieve success. And through my office and the EFL courses, we are able to give students the exact insights they need to hit the ground running on day one of their jobs. We teach them how to be better professionals—in dress, communication, and behavior—and I think that these things really matter in the workplace.

Career and Professional Development Office Director Kristin Stephens.

Career and Professional Development Office Director Kristin Stephens.

ZS: As you are aware, there are many who do not think that a liberal arts education can truly help today’s 21st-century students get decent jobs. In fact, some believe that this type of education is only good for those wanting to become teachers, or priests or religious. But this isn’t really true, is it?

KS: Absolutely false! Maybe this was the case back in the 1980s, but today, our liberal arts grads are sought after, with many of our seniors receiving multiple job offers from employers in a vast array of fields. Some of our recent grads have become legal assistants, social media managers, accounting associates, business managers, sales executives, IT professionals, marketing directors, and, yes, others are now teachers, missionaries, religious, or stay-at-home moms. Approximately 18% of all our alumni have gone to graduate school, too, including programs in law, economics, counseling, public policy, or business, among others.

ZS: With all of these students going into such varied fields, you must have an extensive on-campus recruitment system in place. Tell me about it.

KS: We have employers come to campus to recruit all the time, with generally one to two employers visiting campus each week throughout the school year. We have found that once an employer hires one of our grads, they want more and more of them. They frequently comment on our graduates’ joy, integrity, and work ethic, along with their tremendous communication skills. In today’s world, it is hard to find high-quality employees.

ZS: Finally, Kristin, what does it mean to you to be able to serve students and help them find their future careers?

KS: It means so much to me when they come back and tell me of their successes in life, because I see that our efforts are working. What we are doing at Christendom is working to get our students where they want to go and where they can ultimately thrive and be successful—no matter their vocational calling. They’re not floundering about for years and years trying to figure it out. We are, step by step, walking them from freshman year to senior year and out the door. Since coming in 2018, I have seen hundreds of students graduate, and they continue to come back and testify to the important role the career office played in getting them to where they are today. When I was in college, I had a number of people have a huge impact on me and guide me to where I am today in my career. They are the reason why I wanted to give back to other college students and impact them in a similar way. Five years later, I’m blessed to see that goal being accomplished.

Read more from Instaurare Magazine here.

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