T he Career Service Münster has been in existence for almost 8 years now. Jointly funded by the University of Münster, the University of Applied Sciences Münster, and the local labor office, it is one of several comparable units that have since been established in German universities. What was initially a small program has now developed into one of 200 events each and every academic year. All activities, such as lectures, excursions, counseling, or the supply of information have the same goal: to support students on their way from university to the working world. Andreas Eimer, coordinator of the Career Service Münster, discusses the question of why these services within institutions of higher education are much more relevant today than ever before.
Those were the days when a university degree automatically guaranteed a successful career or at least an acceptable income, when the freshmen already had a fairly precise idea of their career path, when most of the graduates remained in one profession for a lifetime and when jobs were passed on from father to son.
But what has actually changed over the last few decades? What makes the situation so confusing? We can see a number of factors that have permanently changed the labor market for university graduates in the last few years.
Our modern society is characterized by an ever growing division of labor, the diversification of tasks, and the specialization of our university education. At the same time, employers expect graduates to display a well-rounded personality, the ability to cope with changes, to think laterally, and to be team players.
Furthermore, it adds a frequently quoted truth: Knowledge becomes outdated with accelerating speed. Today, life-long learning is much more than an empty slogan or mere luxury. It has become a basic demand of our society ("Wissensgesellschaft").
In addition, the boundaries between subjects have become more and more blurred. The one-to-one relation between the field of study and the future profession is an outdated concept inherited from former generations. Nowadays, a university degree is just a basic qualification that has to be renewed and updated over a working lifetime.
And to state one more point, our labor market and our educational system are globalizing at enormous speed: regarding degrees, company structures, and recruiting policies, an international orientation can now be considered normal.
As a result of these changes, people must constantly make new decisions during their working lives, must repeatedly switch their point of focus, must adapt to new situations, and must remain flexible. Students have to acquire these abilities during their university education in addition to learning the specialized knowledge of their subjects. Far-reaching changes and the need to reorient oneself several times during a working life are no longer exceptions to the rule. Indeed, they have turned out to be the rule.
That situation opens up new opportunities, but it creates several uncertainties at the same time. Today, careers are very much individualized. Thus, students are challenged to develop a very clear and personal profile. In addition, they should be able to present this profile to potential employers in order to find an appropriate job.
It is not easy for students to orientate themselves in this system, to make choices, and to find a starting point for a career, which offers personally and professionally satisfying prospects.
That is why some years ago--like several other German universities at that time--the University of Münster, together with the University of Applied Sciences Münster and the local labor office, established the Career Service, which offers students support to deal with this complex system and its numerous demands.
Only some weeks ago, the Körber Foundation in Hamburg funded an international symposium on "Higher Education and Employability" to promote the establishment of Career Services in German universities. The conference was cooperatively planned and carried out by the Career Service Münster and the Körber Foundation and took place at the University of Münster.
The Career Service wants to give students a helping hand to actively organize the years between leaving school and graduating from university. There is no such a thing as an "ideal CV" or a patent remedy. Nor can we talk away the complexity and uncertainties of the labor market. But we try to give necessary information, to open up test fields, and to facilitate new, authentic experiences for our students in order to enable them to find their optimal individual career routes.
Every term, the Career Service Münster offers a great number of activities, such as application workshops, speaking seminars, lectures from company representatives, company visits, fairs, information days about working abroad, and orientation courses.
Above all, the staff of the Career Service wants to create an atmosphere of optimism. University education opens the doors to numerous work opportunities and considerably minimizes the risk of becoming unemployed. We believe that life-long learning can be fun and lead to a colorful career that in its various stages can be both exciting and rewarding.