Number 4: Welcome them back during breaks. Many students return home at Thanksgiving and even bring friends. Rally your local leaders, chamber, young professionals, etc. to host an open house at one of the student’s favorite spots. No program. Just friendly faces and some free food. Prepare your local leaders to mention a few things while mingling. 1. If you’re interested in working over winter or summer break, I’d love to connect you with local opportunities. 2. If you’re interested in meeting someone in your field of study, I would be happy to help you connect with someone locally when you’re home next. 3. If you need anything, you have a whole community of folks here to help you.  

* In this series about 6 simple ways to be intentional about recruiting college graduates, I have written about the value of starting with your own youth, celebrating them before they leave town after high school, and staying in contact. 

Any time I share this idea in a group, someone will exclaim, “I know exactly where all the college students hang out together on Wednesday night when they return home for Thanksgiving!” It’s almost comical how compartmentalized most of us are with our thoughts. On one hand community leaders and recruiters wish we knew the secret to connecting with talented, college educated, future leaders that could fill the job openings in our community and support economic growth. And, yet in our own hometowns we know that we can walk into a local establishment on the fourth Wednesday in November and find these exact individuals, having returned from institutions from perhaps all over the country, reuniting.  

It would be bad form to break up their party. So, what if a community invited all of these students to a dinner beforehand? If that sounds expensive, ask your local companies who are seeking to attract talent to pitch in. It would be great for them to be there in this informal setting to connect with folks.  

This is just one idea. It doesn’t have to be dinner. In fact, there are probably several better ideas that your local leaders could come up with that are more specific to your community. Maybe it’s opening the bowling alley or the high school gym. Perhaps, it’s providing live music or organizing a euchre tournament. The important part is that you do something, with no strings attached, that provides you with the opportunity to connect with them informally while also demonstrating that you appreciate them.  

To get the biggest return on your investment here are a few things you can do to prepare your local leaders to make the most of these engagements.  

  1. Make sure that they all know the goal of the time. This means clearly explaining what the event is and what it isn’t. 
  2. Have them bring their business card for easy follow up. If they have a name tag from their work, that would be good, too. Or you can provide these at the door. But be sure that they write the name of their employer on it.  
  3. Have some door prizes (items or gift certificates from local stores, restaurants, and coffee shops are great). Have the students fill out a card with their name, cell number, and email and drop it in a bowl. Let them know that you will use this information to invite them to future events.  
  4. Open this event to all young people, not just college students, because part of returning home is seeing old friends. This gives you an opportunity to show appreciation to young adults who stayed home for other careers paths. It could be advertised as an event for the high school classes of 2020-2023. That way you’re catching the college aged students without opening the net beyond what your target is.   


If your community has additional strategies for this challenge, email us and let us know. We’d love to share your story. 

Jeff Eads is the Director for Industry Engagement at Ball State University.