Career CentreConference ReflectionsProfessional Development

All Hands on Deck: Career Development Isn’t Just For Your Career Centre Anymore

How do you serve an entire undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education student population on limited resources? How have we all done it so far?

One might say, “with our very best efforts”—with “our” referring to our individual departmental team. Going forward, “our” must refer to a collaborative effort across departments, faculties, and staff to ensure students thrive, in and outside the classroom.

In April (2014), the Career Development and Employment Centre (CDEC) team joined career service professionals from across North America in a 3 part webinar titled, All Hands on Deck: Getting Your Entire Campus Community Engaged in Career Development hosted by Intern Bridge and lead by Lakeisha Mathews of the University of Baltimore.

During this webinar we learned how a few career service offices were working mindfully to get parties across their Universities to willingly get their hands dirty in the educating, engaging, and empowering of students in their own careers. While many common frustrations and sentiments of career services were shared, the main take away I found was it’s no longer sustainable or realistic to lay all the responsibility of student employability and career development on one person or department. Instead it must be redistributed to be an institutional responsibility—that everyone (including faculty, staff, administration, and students) shares! From day 1 of first year, students must be asked to be partners with the University in their career development and not rely on happenstance for their careers to take shape. I think this attitude falls right in line with the many changes we’re already seeing at Ryerson!

Here are some of my other important take-aways:

There’s not much difference in experience among Universities

It was a surprising, and perhaps morbidly comforting, to learn of the shared internal and external pressures that post-secondary career service offices are facing here and in the U.S. as well. Pressures including economic factors, employment trends, academic disconnect, the existence of silos, and the lack of (willing) collaboration.

Sound familiar in your area, too? Share your story in the comments below!

Think Strategically & Transformationally

Although there is no one-way to implement an integrative approach, what is seeing success is engaging students deliberately inside and outside the classroom. A movement from a transactional to transformational career approach in working with students is required across the University—something that I feel in many places across Student Affairs is already embedded in the work we do. But perhaps the next area to examine is how to invite students to be more of an active participant in their career development?

In your area, how do you approach advising / coaching students in a transformational way?

Brick Walls Hurt

At some point we have to come to the realization not everyone will understand, or care about, the method to our madness and the philosophy/theoretical approach to career development—and that’s okay. We must stop beating our heads against walls and move onto building relationships and partners elsewhere. We need to focus on our friends, supporters, or partners and build out—reminding everyone of our/your shared institutional vision.

It’s No Fun Playing Alone

While the webinar talked a lot about what the career service department/professional can do in our sandbox, it also talked about strategies used to invite students and faculty to play with us and how to make it easier for others to understand the method to our madness. One of the strategies mentioned included working with faculty to provide career related course work (in class or as an online module) when classes must be canceled. While our office has done this to some extent, perhaps there’s a more intentional / proactive means to introduce career methodology to students with the involvement of faculty? Perhaps there is an opportunity for a campus professional development training or discussion for administration, faculty, and staff on the area of career development or building students to be professionals? If we build it, will you come?

What collaborative project would you inject at Ryerson or your institution to address career development and engagement with students?
Who would you invite into the sandbox to play?
Any particular student audience you would want to engage?

Who is the Middle?

How much time do we spend on students who get it and are engaged with us all the time? How much time do we spend on engaging students who will never visit? What about the students in the middle—who need that extra nudge, just a bit more encouragement to walk through our doors? If we operate by the 80/20 rule, we may be missing the middle.

Would faculty, staff, and student leaders help to identify the natural nexus points to have those career discussions with students, create a road map to success, and discuss how we can cross the street together? I hope so.

How do you think we can build healthy professionals among our students?
What will you pledge to do this year to help build the students you interact with into professionals?

I look forward to your comments below!

  • John Austin

    Great post, Francine! Thanks for reflecting on and sharing your learning with us!

    • FrancineB

      Thank you very much!

  • shashiB

    Thanks Francine, You have excellently put it all together and communicated the experience of CDEC staff so well. And also “You have killed 2 birds with one stone”.

  • Ian Ingles

    done Francine. I thought the 3 webinars were quite informative. Interesting that so many other Career Centre’s across North America face the same types of challenges. Much can be learned from sharing experiences through vehicles like this. Some of the points I found particularly important included:

    * “It takes a campus to raise a professional”

    * Career Centre’s need to go beyond being transactional. Students should be “transformed”

    * The importance of collaborating and working across faculties and departments with the example given that a student with bad writing skills
    (i.e. resume) should be referred to the Writing Centre as opposed to having Career Centre staff writing resumes for them.

    * Strategic plans need to be packaged in a way that senior administration understands

    * The importance of being viewed as a business partner as opposed to a liaison

  • Rachel Barreca

    Francine, this is a really interesting and well written piece. I just went to a national summit all about co-curricular records/transcripts about a week ago. I think CCR/CCTs are another tool staff and faculty can use in our work to facilitate and empower students as they transform into professionals and contributing citizens in their communities. It is a tool that STUDENTS can use in their journey towards transformation. Understanding that the co-curricular experiences on our campus are an integral part of the higher educational experience and re-thinking how we help our students think about those experiences, encouraging them to get involved in the first place and then reflecting on those experiences in meaningful ways, is so important.