Building Self Efficacy in First-Year Students

Jade PerryJade Perry, Coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University
Twitter: @SAJadePerry1
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/jade-perry/21/667/b25/
Website: jadetarynperry.wordpress.com

One of the aspects I love about my job is working with first-year students on career planning and professionalism, through a grant program at DePaul University. While our team works on career skills such as resume writing, cover letter formation, networking, and more… I also ensure that we have an early conversation about self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is a theme that our entire office incorporates into our learning outcomes, programs, and initiatives. However, there is a specific reason why this is particularly salient for first-year students. Bandura (1993), the seminal scholar associated with this theory, asserts that “Effective intellectual functioning requires much more than simply understanding the factual knowledge and reasoning operations for given activities.” So what does that mean for my first-year students? It means that while they can glean factual knowledge from the career skill workshops, assessments, and advising we provide, they also need to build a sense of self-efficacy for these things to have a strong impact.

Self-efficacy includes “people’s beliefs about their ability to exercise control over their own level of functioning and over events that affect their lives.” The career exploration process is one such event / process that affects their lives, and as educators, we are asking them to engage. We are prompting them to create professional documents, build networking skills, attend career counseling appointments to talk about strengths, interests, skills, and more. But self-efficacy determines whether or not they believe they can engage in the ways we know they need to.

Our students will not engage with career planning in their college tenure, if they do not have a strong belief that they are capable of engaging with it… and that this engagement will reap benefits. So, opportunities that will build this belief in students should happen on four levels, according to Bandura’s work: a) performance outcomes, b) physiological feedback, c) verbal persuasion, and d) vicarious experiences. Here are some examples specific to professionals working with students on career planning/skill building:

  • Performance outcomes: Within the cohort of first-year students, each student is asked to complete career-related tasks such as scheduling and conducting an informational interview, crafting professional correspondence and going to have documents reviewed, and visiting a career fair. Then, we ask them to reflect on the experience both verbally (discussions within their cohort) and through written work, so that they can assess their performance outcomes… with particular attention to what they did well and what areas they’d like to grow in, for future career exploration. Breaking our career counseling / supervisory appointments to focus on specific tasks associated with the career discernment process, might enable us to have conversations about what happened / how students are feeling about what they were able to accomplish, in a safe space.
  • Physiological feedback: Have you ever worked with a student to chart out career goal-setting, and you can see their eyes get wide, palms getting a bit sweaty, and other signs of physiological feedback? As educators and counselors, asking questions in one-on-one settings about how career exploration tasks make students feel on an emotional and physiological level can be a helpful tool to mitigate some of these effects.
  • Verbal persuasion: Sometimes, our students just need a pep talk. They have the information. They know what needs to be done. But some encouragement from us can also influences their beliefs about their own capabilities! Many times, these conversations stem from our students perceiving that they have “failed” at something: e.g., they didn’t get to the career center on time; they felt too nervous to talk with a recruiter. Re-framing these conversations to say, “It sounds like that must have been a rough experience. But you are capable of engaging with the process! How can we brainstorm a plan B together?” might make a huge difference in self-efficacy beliefs.
  • Vicarious experiences: Peer mentors, alumni, and / or professionals in students’ fields of interest are invaluable in providing some of these vicarious experiences. As we build self-efficacy for students, these voices allow them to “see themselves” or receive more information about ways they can engage with the career exploration process through hearing the experiences of others!

Self-efficacy building strategies for first-year students incorporates opportunities for them to listen, learn, go, explore, and implement!

When students come to us, there may be some who are not exactly ready to “go, explore, and implement.” First-year students are transitioning into their collegiate journey and may not feel that they have enough to offer a professional workplace yet. As educators, we want to ensure that they emerge saying: “I can do this!” after engaging in the educational outcomes we have planned for them.  So, having early conversations with students about self-efficacy also allows a point of reference for when students are not “exercise(ing) control over their own level of functioning and over events that affect their lives.”  If we have explained the concept, we can then have intentional conversations to discern: Do they believe that their individual engagement with career exploration is something that they can control (i.e. setting up and attending career advising appointments, attending workshops, taking professional development opportunities)? Or are they primarily waiting for university staff to externally? Do they quit on a project requirement when they face difficulties (“this is out of my control”) or do they seek out help when faced with difficulties (“help-seeking is within my control, and I am capable of that”)? This helps us to understand some of the barriers our students might be facing, and informs how we advise them.

Overall, coaching students through their career exploration with a self-efficacy lens allows students to connect a) what they know, b) how they feel about what they know, c) level of motivation, and d) output of career goals. Setting this foundation in the first year of student’s collegiate journey allows them to have a sense of empowerment as they move through other academic years, make post-college success plans, and apply for jobs!

Resources

Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American psychologist, 37(2), 122.

Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational psychologist, 28(2), 117-148.

 

Helping Students Find “a Good Fit”

dawn shawDawn Shaw, career consultant, MPA Career Services, McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/dawnshaw
Twitter: @Dawn_R_Shaw
Blog: http://dawnreneshaw.wordpress.com/

I had a student come in the other day and ask me “What is a good fit anyway?”  I thought, that is a good question. Many times living and breathing in career services, I take for granted what this means. Especially to a student who has recently been unsuccessful in the job search. So, how do you know if you’re a good fit for a company or if the company is a good fit for you? Here are a couple of ideas I shared with this student:

  • Culture: Think back to all the encounters you have had with a potential employer. Think about the e-mail correspondence. Think about how you felt at the interview; not how you did, not how your performance was evaluated. Also think about how everyone else was acting during the social events.  Did you like the recruiters’ responses?  Did you feel uncomfortable?  If you judged them on their performance, what grade would they get?  Also, keep in mind that office visits can give you further information if the company is a good fit or not; so we encourage you to go to office visits to help you decide.
  • Priorities: Part of finding the ‘right fit’ is knowing your own priorities.  Often times I will ask students to create a priority list before the recruiting process even begins.  Many times when recruiting is in full speed, others’ opinions can influence in ways that were not anticipated.  Therefore, having a list of your priorities can help keep you focused.   So, write down what matters to you.  Flexible schedule?  Location?  Team Culture?  Open to Ideas?  Future Career Opportunities?  Rank them.  Match the ranking against what you think the job can offer you.  Also, be mindful of what you are doing now that affects your future career transitions.
  • Take an Inventory: A right attitude can be the first step in being part of the ‘good fit’.  Do you have a habit of talking about what irks you to whomever will listen?  If so, this could easily disrupt a team dynamic and distract from the work you do.  Consider what you can give before you judge what you get.
  • Ask Real Questions: You have an opportunity in office visits to get as much information as you can before having to make a decision. Do you care about the management style of your direct supervisor? Do you want to know how work is evaluated in the company? Ask!  Many times your authentic questions show your sincerity and real commitment to the potential employer.  And guess what?  That is what the employer looking for!

Perhaps this is refreshing and encouraging to motivate your students too!

(A student version of this article is available to NACE members from NACEweb’s Grab & Go section.)

 

Helping Students Navigate Familial Pressure

katie smith at duke university

Katie Smith, assistant director, Duke University Career Center,
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ksmith258/
Twitter: @ksmith258

 

“The most important job of the adviser…is to help students understand themselves, to face and take responsibility for their decisions, and to support and to free them to make choices that are at odds with the expectations other have for them. Students look to mentors—figures ‘more attuned to their rising hopes’—to give them what their parents won’t or can’t: the permission to go their own way and the reassurance that their path is valid,” William Deresiewicz quotes Harvard faculty member Harry R. Lewis comments in his recent book, Excellent Sheep.

The quote is one that many career professionals can identify with, as we often pride ourselves in providing a safe space for students to explore and articulate their interests while helping them to identify a career to fitting to their skills, talents, and needs. If only it was that easy!

Most people who work with college students have encountered a student who is torn between what she wants and what her parents or family members want. This is an incredibly challenging situation for students, mentally and emotionally taxing, often without an easy solution.

As college tuition continues to rise, so does the discussion on ROI. Parents are, understandably, especially attuned to this issue. What will my child study, and what will he be able to do with that? Is it a competitive field? Can she get the “right” experience in classes or internships? How much money will he make?

In short, is it worth it?

For some students, there’s a lot at stake in academic and career decision making. This decision could compromise the financial support of their education, narrow options (particularly in the case of international students), or could injure, or even sever, a relationship between student and their parents or other family members. In many cases, it’s also a decision that could affect a student’s success in school, as well as their well-being throughout college and beyond.

In recent weeks, I’ve worked with a student who studied engineering due his parents’ refusal to assist with his tuition if he pursued another major. Additionally, another student passionate about education is receiving pressure to commit to a more lucrative field, as her family is depending on her for financial support. Both of these students are navigating a challenging path balancing familial pressures, both real and perceived, and their own goals and aspirations.

As counselors, coaches, advisers, and mentors, working with these students can be difficult. Generally, we encourage students to follow their interests, and to choose a field that they get excited about. However, when the field they want to choose doesn’t align with others’ expectations, we carefully venture into new territory. “Is it possible to find the best of both worlds?” We might find ourselves asking. Where do fields such as art history and medicine or computer science and philosophy converge? If the student recognizes that his family’s opinion has a major stake in his decision, is it possible for him to pursue both his interests, and theirs?

For some students, this compromise is a possibility, but for others, this may not be the case. As career professionals, it is our role to help students identify their priorities, and to find a path that maximizes opportunity and fit given the present constraints.

As Deresiewicz quotes an observant student commenting on her mother, “she wanted me to have everything instead of wanting me to have what I wanted.”

The question is, where is the line?

Career Exploration Infographic Activity

Ross WadeCareer Infographic – Ross Wade, assistant director, Duke University Career Center
Personal blog: http://mrrosswade.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswade
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

As career advisers, assessment is an important part of our job—especially when it comes to helping students explore careers and themselves. As a visual person; adviser for students interested in media, arts, and entertainment; and infographic lover; I’ve been tinkering with ways to make assessment more fun and creative.

So I present to all of you….(drum roll please)…the career exploration infographic activity! I’m sure someone else has already thought of this, but the idea occurred to me recently, and I wanted to share with all of you.

The purpose of this activity is for students to assess and rank their values, interests, Career Infographic - Ross Wadestrengths, and identity (personal or professional) in a creative and graphic way. It could be facilitated during a one-on-one session or as a part of a program or workshop on self-exploration. I used PowerPoint to design my infographic (click on the image to make it larger), but anything could be used, including pencil and paper—the point is to get creative. If you decide to use images from the web, I suggest using Creative Commons to find images that can be legally used on the web and without attribution.

Steps:

  1. Have your student select a picture, symbol, or graphic that represents her/his identity. For example, I’ve worn big, black glasses for a long time, and they’ve become a part of my “look”—they also reflect my love of learning, and my personal culture. Choosing glasses also gave me a clever way of reflecting information visually in pie chart format.
  2. Ask you student to reflect on his/her values, interests, and skills. This could be through a card sort or brainstorm. Once they have their lists completed, have them pick their top three of each. Once their top three are picked, have them rank each one with its own graphic—each graphic will represent 10 percent. For example, creativity, autonomy, and security equal 100 percent of my top values, I used a ladder graphic to represent 10 percent increments, so my values are sorted 50 percent creativity, 30 percent  autonomy, and 20 percent security (equaling 100 percent).
  3. Facilitate a discussion about other things your student would like to have as a part of his/her career—e.g., consider topics such as amount of time with people versus things, time spent in and out of the office. Your student can use his/her personal symbol in creative ways to reflect this information. For example, I used the lenses of my glasses as a very basic pie chart.

What I like about this activity is that it has several applications. It can be used to assess current values, interests, and skills, and bring to light how a student views her/his identity. Doing it multiple times, over four years (or each semester), allows you and your student to see how things have evolved and bring to light great opportunities to discuss why things have changed or what prompted the change. Finally, I think it would be interesting if a parent, friend, or manager/supervisor created an infographic for their students, and then the two—student and other person—compared what they created and discussed. Does the internship supervisor see the same skills and interests as her/his student? Does the on-campus job manager choose an identity symbol close to what their supervisee chose…or are they totally different? Think of all the interesting conversations that could come from this activity about values, skill, interests, self-marketing, and professional identity!

What ideas have you been using with students? Please share them with me and other blog readers in the comments section below.

Top 5 Tips for Using Career Services

Candace LambCandace Lamb, career coach, University of Louisville Career Development Center
Twitter: @candace_lamb
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/candacelamb1
Blog: www.theproactiveprofessional.com

I often hear complaints from new college graduates that career services didn’t get them a job. Something many students don’t understand is that career development centers are not placement organizations. Career services professionals are there to help provide students with the tools to figure out what they want to do professionally and how to best market themselves for the job search. With that being said, here are the top tips I give students to effectively using the career services.

Keep in mind: career service professionals are not there to give you a job or place you in a job.

Consider this: if you wanted to get married in the next few years, would you really want a dating service to handpick your future spouse, or even give you a half dozen people to choose from? Perhaps that sounds better than going out on dozens of blinds dates, but think it through. Before you can have a successful relationship, you must have a deep understanding of who you are (your likes, dislikes, needs, deal breakers, future goals, etc.) as well as the necessary tools to make a relationship great (trust, open communication, intimacy, etc.).

In the same way, career development offices are here to help you figure out the kinds of careers you’re interested in based on your values, interests, and personality, and how to pursue those careers.

Think about what you’d like to get from your meeting with career services staff before the appointment. 

Many times, I’ve had students come in and ask for their resumes to be critiqued.  Twenty minutes later, they admit that they’re unsure of their major or feel they need practice interviewing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having several needs, but it will make easier for everyone if you consider what those needs are before heading into your career coaching session. We don’t always realize we have more than one issue and that’s completely fine. If you can, though, consider how you’d like your career adviser to help and what areas you feel need the most attention.

Realize that career development is a process.

I think of our lives as being in a constant state of evolution. Our wants, needs, and goals change based on our experiences and the things we learn about ourselves.  The mistake I see so many people (not just students!) make is feeling like a failure for changing their career plans. It is not uncommon to realize you don’t fit in with the culture of a company or professional field. It is not strange to figure out that you don’t have the skills necessary for the job your friends or family are pressuring you to take (an example of this would be an artistic student realizing that they have no skills or interest in the field of medicine). You are not a failure for realizing a career path is wrong for you in your senior year. You are not useless because you don’t know what you want to do with the rest of your life as a college freshman.

Come back for multiple sessions.

In the same way that career development is a process, the job search does not end when you submit your resume. The career path does not stop when you figure out your major. Career services can help you edit your resume, prepare for interviews, understand your personality type, and deal with the stressors that come with choosing a profession. Develop a relationship with a career coach and maintain it through your time in college.

Don’t be afraid to call on alumni career services for help

Most colleges and universities have programs, career advisers, and assistance for alumni. Sometimes these services cost money, but they can help you tailor your resume to the different organizations or career fields you’re pursuing and help you learn to be a proactive professional.

Bonus Tip:

If you meet with a career adviser and don’t feel like they are listening to you, or you don’t feel comfortable speaking openly with them, ask for another career adviser! Every student and every adviser is different–sometimes one person isn’t the right fit for you and that’s okay.

Finding the right career can be one of the most rewarding things you do in life. Many students believe that college is a time to go to class, go to parties, and be involved in student organizations. While these can be great experiences and teach you so much about yourself, don’t forget to plan for your career. We spend so much of our lives at work—it is my opinion that figuring out what you want to do with your life is as important as knowing who you want to marry or the kind of person you want to be. Career advisers help you make the journey from college to career a rewarding one. Take advantage!

Is “Follow Your Bliss” B.S.?

Ross WadeRoss Wade, assistant director, Duke University Career Center
Personal blog: http://mrrosswade.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswade
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

I don’t have a “passion” or “bliss” to follow. I just don’t. I really enjoy a lot of things—photography, writing, listening to music, design, real estate, and documentary—but do I love them enough to sacrifice everything to pursue one of them professionally? Nope. Maybe my passion is routine, security, and a little artsy fartsy on the side? Jeez…that sounds lame.

As a career adviser who doesn’t necessarily believe in bliss or passion, I feel like a traitor to my vocation—like I need to keep my views on this topic “in the closet.” Does anyone else feel this way? I think some of you do. I know some of my students do. I’ve had countless students, literally whisper to me in sessions, “Ross…I don’t think I have a passion. Is that okay? What do I do if I don’t have a passion? How can I find one? How can I choose a major or career if I don’t have a passion?!”

It appears to me the “passionless” are really stressed out…and I totally get it! Most of what we hear about on the news, television, music, and literature is the only way to be happy and successful is to follow your passion. But I’ve got to ask…is this a healthy and realistic philosophy? Does it cause more harm than good?

I became a victim to this one size fits all philosophy, and for years it caused me a lot a grief. I was trying to find my passion, but was trying to fit it in to what I thought it was supposed to be—based on what others (e.g., media, peers, family) told me it should be. It was pretty miserable. I think some of our students are feeling the same way. Now, in my 30s, I’m finally feeling comfortable with my own career philosophy. It took me a long time to piece it together, and seems rather simple. Hunter S. Thompson said it best: pick the kind of life you want and build everything else around it.

What do I do when a student “comes out” to me that s/he has no burning passion to pursue? I reply, “I don’t have a passion either. In fact, most of the students I meet with don’t, but they feel like they are supposed to. Being passionless is ok.”

Students seem shocked and relieved to hear me say this. Next, I normally say “Let’s forget about passion and career, and talk about the kind of life you want. Tell me about that.” This tends to get them talking…it is more nuts and bolts, and basic values, but it gives us a starting point. I know this doesn’t seem like an innovative or energizing type of session, but I think it is really important. Students need to be able to be released from this passion myth, so they can start thinking about a real life, rather than trying to live up to some (nearly impossible) cultural standard. They need to know, and be taught by us, that they can create their own career philosophy—that’s what I wish someone had taught me.

Don’t get me wrong, some folks really do have a passion, and they by all means should pursue it—but that standard or philosophy shouldn’t be universal. Let’s empower our passionless!

10 Must-Read Books for Career Professionals

Lakeisha Mathews

Lakeisha M. Mathews, Director, Career and Professional Development Center, University of Baltimore
Twitter: @RightResumes_CC
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/lakeishamathews/
Blogs from Lakeisha Matthews.

One aspect of the career development field that keeps me excited is the constant need to develop professionally and keep up with changes in the labor market, higher education and career coaching. Over the course of my career I have obtained several certifications, attended conferences and webinars, enrolled in a counseling program, joined and gotten involved with several associations, and read tons of books.

One thing I’ve learned is, there is no single resource that can teach you everything you need to know about being a good career development professional. However, when I am working with professionals new to the industry there are several books that I share with them as essential reads. This includes books that gave me a solid framework of career coaching, career development, and career centers. Below I share my top 10 list of must reads in no particular order for every career professional:

1. The Career Counselor’s Handbook (Richard Bolles)
2. No One is Unemployable (Debra Angel and Elisabeth Harney)
3. What Color is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers (Richard Bolles)
4. The Three Boxes of Life (Richard Bolles)
5. Discover Your Career in Business (Timothy Butler and James Waldroop)
6. The Extraordinary Coach (John Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett)
7. Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads: Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career (Sheila Curran and Suzanne Greenwald)
8. Counseling Adults in Transition: Linking Schlossberg’s Theory with Practice in a Diverse World (Mary Anderson, Jane Goodman, and Nancy Schlossberg)
9. Ten Steps to a Federal Job (Kathryn Troutman)
10. Resume Magic (Susan Whitcomb)

Honorable Mentions:
11. Bring Your “A” Game: The 10 Career Secrets of The High Achiever (Robert McGovern)
12. How to Plan and Develop a Career Center (Donald Schutt Jr.)

Of course the list could go on. There are plenty of additional books that have impacted how I coach students, the types of programs I design, and how I manage the career center at the University of Baltimore. My list is also impacted by the student populations I have spent most of my career working with which includes adult learners, graduate students, and career changers in addition to traditional college students.

I am interested in knowing which books have impacted you as a career development professional and helped you to sharpen your skills. Comment on this blog and share your favorites.