"This is not the right place for you."
Mr Kenneth Chan does not hesitate to say this to prospective students at the Singapore campus of James Cook University (JCU Singapore).
One might think that Mr Chan is not doing his job properly, as Senior Executive, Marketing in JCU Singapore.
But at JCU, staff want students to find the right programme for themselves and occasionally, the programme is not offered at JCU, he explains.
As part of professional development, each member of the Student Recruitment department within the Marketing division receives training in coaching for jobs and career transition and development.
"James Cook University has a student-centric culture and students are at the heart of everything we do. This training is to equip my team with additional skills and tools for a more holistic approach to serving our prospective students," says Mr Andrew Chew, Director, Marketing at JCU Singapore.
The Student Recruitment team is trained to facilitate in several different areas. First, they guide prospective students through a self-assessment, identifying their proficiencies and weaknesses, as well as what they enjoy and do not enjoy doing.
"It is important to make the distinction between what students enjoy and what they are good at," Mr Chan adds. Some students actually dislike doing the things they are highly proficient at - and sometimes do not even realise it.
Next, the team explores potential job and career options with the students, usually by sharing stories of alumni experiences - particularly useful for more unique majors such as environmental science.
Once they have helped students get a better sense of their personal motivation and values, the team then identifies industries and programmes that would be the best fit for them.
The role is not unlike detective work. One particular prospective student approached Mr Chan with the intent of enrolling in a Master's degree to facilitate her switch either to human resources or a managerial role.
In getting her to share about her current job, Mr Chan helped her identify the skills she was proficient at, as well as those she was lacking in but enjoyed using. In the process, he discovered that she had experience in the hotel industry, a major part of which was conducting in-house training.
Mutually, they concluded that she would be better off completing a training and facilitation certification, before making a switch into a human resources role that specialised in training and development. Contrary to what she believed, she could afford to get her Master's degree later.
In most universities, this role often falls into the purview of the career services team. However, JCU Singapore's Associate Director Student Recruitment, Ms Cassandra Lee is quick to emphasise that her team is not meant to replace career services, but to work in tandem with them.
"By helping prospective students choose the most suitable course of study to enrol into, the career services team can build on what my team has done, rather than trying to help a student decide on the best career options only after they have enrolled," she says.
The likelihood of students switching courses or majors halfway through the programme is thus reduced. This saves them time and money, as doing so halfway through their university studies might end up delaying their graduation.
"I really support this initiative by the university," Mr Chan says. "It signals to us that JCU wants us to find the empathy to say that I am sorry, what we have on offer may not be the best fit for your personal values or career aspirations."