SMC Students Learn What It Means to be a Professional
By Jeremy Handel
This article appeared originally in the fall 2021 issue of Frontiers Magazine.
Employers continue to stress the need for college graduates to learn skills and behaviors that will better prepare them for the workforce.
Spartanburg Methodist College recognized this need and introduced the Camak Core professional development program in conjunction with the addition of four-year bachelor’s degrees, providing students with the soft skills they need to succeed after college, whether in the office or in the field.
Focusing on skills that will prepare students to contribute and succeed in their careers from the start, the Camak Core gives SMC students an advantage over other graduates in competing for jobs. Professional communications is the first of the professional development courses most students will take, teaching them key skills for job interviews, professional networking, office interactions, and more.
“It’s really an introduction to being a professional and how to conduct yourself in a professional setting,” said Megan Georgion, M.Ed., Dean of Career and Student Success. “We want them leaving this course knowing how to carry themselves, to dress appropriately, to correspond professionally, and be confident in doing so.
”At its core, the professional communications course prepares students to conduct a job search, prepare for and conduct interviews, and make themselves an attractive candidate. But the skills learned for these tasks carry with them into the professional world, helping them more quickly become a contributing member of their new organization.
Students have taken well to the Camak Core and the professional communication course.
“The class shaped me into a well-prepared person,” said 2021 graduate Rebecca Edmondson about the course. “From developing a LinkedIn profile to a resume and cover letter to a professional portfolio, the (professional communications) course has you covered.
”SMC President Scott Cochran brought the vision of including professional development with him when he became president in 2016. With a history in the corporate finance world, he saw the importance of preparing students in more than the book knowledge of their chosen degree. He wanted SMC students to leave school with a poise and professionalism that improved their career prospects.
“It’s important that we prepare students to adapt to life in their chosen career, not just the theory and knowledge of their concentrations,” he said. “How to communicate, how to interact, and the technology and tools used in a profession are critical to being able to contribute to a new employer right away.
”Georgion said the professional communication course is purposely positioned as the first of the Camak Core classes to prepare students for the other courses they will take. Students start off with establishing their professional profile by building a LinkedIn profile, writing a resume, and establishing a digital portfolio to feature their work and accomplishments.
Next, they learn the lifecycle of applying for a job, including researching the company, customizing their resume and cover letter, conducting mock interviews, and appropriate follow up after an interview.
From there, students delve into the various types of professional communication and appropriate ways to communicate in each area.
“We want this course to prepare them for internships, job searches, and interviews. We also want to prepare them for how to conduct themselves once they do start a career,” Georgion said. “There are a number of skills from this course that carry over into their careers, like professional correspondence, networking skills, and office etiquette.
”She added that employers are noticing and have provided positive feedback on the readiness and professionalism of SMC graduates. Georgion believes the Camak Core – and particularly the professional communications course – are providing employers with applicants who are better prepared and have the basic understanding of the processes and intricacies of an office environment.
"With a history in the corporate finance world, he [SMC President Scott Cochran] saw the importance of preparing students in more than the book knowledge of their chosen degree."
“Employers have told us that our students are better prepared during the interview process and when joining their companies,” she said.
Students also understand the advantage that the professional development curriculum provides them as they begin their careers.
“I think students who have taken the Camak Core classes have an advantage over other college students when searching for a job,” said 2021 graduate Landon Wakefield. “Because of the classes, SMC students already have a complete resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and the mindset of a professional.
”Another key element of the professional communications course is a revisit of the elements of the course, particularly updating resumes and profiles, as the students are preparing to graduate. Georgion says this update provides students with a refresher of the skills they learned as they prepare to apply for jobs.
“Revisiting the professional communications with them as they approach graduation is not only a way to revisit the skills they learned, it’s also an opportunity to reinforce their readiness and build their confidence,” she said.
Transitioning from college to a career is challenging, but with the professional communications course at SMC, students can be confident in their ability to fit in with their colleagues.