The Things We Don’t Think About

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: jadetperry.com

Janet* came into my office as a senior in college and as per usual, I asked her how she was doing. However, at this particular meeting, she seemed a bit more nervous and on edge.

“How’s it going? What have you been up to as far as your professional development goes?” At the point of this meeting, I was no longer working in career services (though I had at a previous institution), but I always checked in about my students’ professional progress.

“Well… I don’t know. I’ve gotten really involved here at the university and have really explored my identities. I’m a peer mentor at the LGBTQA Resource Center. I’ve joined the Latino Caucus and more. I’d like to think that future employers will count that as positive, but…”

She cast over a knowing glance. “I guess what I’m really asking is… should I list things on my resume that may inform employer’s perceptions about my identity? How can I really assess a company’s culture of diversity? How do I know if they are inclusive?”

After exploring what her previous steps had been (she’d gone to a career counselor, asked a few mentors, etc.), we spent some time searching employer websites, identifying her LinkedIn contacts to discern:

  • If EEO statements were prominent,
  • Where information about professional affinity groups and spaces were,
  • Company organizational structure, and
  • Different levels of diversity (i.e. structural diversity in number AND how equitable staff hiring practices were through networking contact info).

And then some…

After about 15 minutes, the student was able to come up with a few concrete things she would be looking for. But one of her comments really struck me,”When I’d asked this same question before to another adviser I was told, ‘That’s interesting… We never thought about that.’ ”

Although that sounded like an isolated incident, I couldn’t help but reflect on the times many of my students, particularly students who held marginalized socio-cultural identities, told me they’d gotten a similar answer. For example:

Q: “How should I wear my natural hair in the workplace? I’ve heard accounts of natural hair not being professional and being stereotyped as not as groomed?”
A: We’ve never thought about that before! You should talk with ______.

Q: “I regularly wear my traditional cultural and/or religious garments, jewelry, or head wraps. But when I look at what many have told me professional dress is, I’m feeling like maybe I won’t fit in. How should I deal with this in the interview process and beyond?”
A: You should talk with _____________.

Q: “I am a first generation college student and I am from a working class background. I’ve been looking at average salaries for my field and my family and I have been talking about what it means for me to potentially make more than them. I’m wondering how I can have that conversation with my family in ways that doesn’t make them feel further marginalized or make me feel isolated”.
A: “I’ve never thought about that before…”

It’s simple to pinpoint, “Advisers probably shouldn’t verbalize that they hadn’t thought about that before…” (which is a fair statement). But what’s helpful is to reflect back on how not thinking about these things impacts our overall ability to serve students in a well-rounded way.

There are career decisions that happen at the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality/sexual identity, and more. While we may love to believe that we are sending our students into an altogether equitable and just world, we understand that this is not always the case. They are relying on us to assist them as they think through how their sociocultural identities show up, are perceived, and are received in the workplace. While we may have colleagues that specialize in these areas, it’s insufficient for us to operate without basic levels of understanding in these areas.

One of the things that is integral to student affairs, and particularly career services/career discernment programs, is continual, professional development. In order to serve all of our students, we need to grow in cultural competencies that allow us to see how personal identity intersects with professional identity. Directors of career centers, those who have the power to institute learning benchmarks and policy, also have the power to ensure that our students are being served by our own professional development and learning toward cultural competencies and how that impacts career decisions.

Another important piece is the art of referring. While we do have institutional experts in these areas and can call on their expertise, we also need to have a full understanding of what our colleagues do. This way, we serve our students by making intentional referrals, instead of deferring to whom we think might assist that student based on a title or a name.

Lastly, we have to take an important look at who we have as staff and leadership in our career centers. In his work on overcoming stereotype threats, Claude Steele identifies as concept called “existence proof,” which I think is also helpful in this context. Steele explains that fostering the sense of belonging in an academic space and/or professional space requires both positive mentoring from that space’s community members AND role models who may share similar sociocultural identities as the student. This is existence proof. As we look at our staffing choices, we are also making statements (even if they are unconscious ones) about who belongs in that space, who we serve in that space, and who is left out of that space (intentionally or unintentionally).

As practitioners and professionals, we are called to expand our consciousness, learning, and growing so that we can always be in tune with what our students need. As we think about our goals for the year, let’s also think about how we can better serve our students at the intersections of their needs!

Resources:
Steele, Claude. (2010) Whistling Vivaldi and other clues to how stereotypes affect us New York : W.W. Norton & Company

Morell, K., & McCune, B. (2011, December 11). Interview with Dr. Claude Steele. Retrieved January 20, 2016, from http://depts.washington.edu/trio/triotrain/topics_steele.php

 

 

Encourage Students to Tolerate Uncertainty and to Take Risks

Melanie BufordMelanie Buford, Program Coordinator/Adjunct Instructor, Career Development Center, University of Cincinnati
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mebuford/
Website: www.melaniebuford.org

It’s amazing how the title of Jullien Gordon’s TED Talk, “How to graduate college with a job you love and less debt” resonates with students.  Their enthusiasm is all the more remarkable in its rarity. Most of my students are attending the University full-time, while simultaneously supporting themselves with at least one part-time job. They come to my class already exhausted, so when they ask me if they can stay late just to finish Gordon’s talk, I am always equal parts shocked and gratified. Clearly, this is a subject students are interested in.

Jullien Gordon is a kind of Millennial whisperer. He travels around the country speaking not only to students, but to staff, parents and faculty about how to engage Millennials in higher education. One of the things I appreciate about Gordon is that he’s direct. He doesn’t try to soften the truth about career by promoting college completion as a magical key to success. In fact, within the first few minutes of his talk, he challenges students to re-think what success really means – to them, to society, to their parents, friends and teachers. He encourages Millennials to redefine achievement so that they’ll be motivated to make the most of their college experience.

When I last showed his talk, I engaged the class in a discussion about the pros and cons of letting someone else make your major and career decisions for you. One first-year student summed it up perfectly: “you lose freedom, but you don’t have to deal with uncertainty!” After this speech, he put his head down on his desk. I asked for a show of hands. How many of them enjoy the feeling of uncertainty? No hands went up. They gave me pained looks. I imagine this might be why they’ve registered for a class on career decision-making.

I empathize. Taking responsibility for your own success or failure is difficult enough. Having to make choices about what your success will look like, at 18, is more difficult still. It’s a big ask, but I think students appreciate when we’re honest with them about what’s expected. They resonate with Gordon’s transparency. They understand the concept of competition, and the signs on the wall, even in school, are increasingly clear.

If someone asked me to name the most important role a career counselor plays in the life of a college student, I wouldn’t talk about major requirements, or internships, or resume and cover letters, or even preparing for the long weeks of the job search. The most challenging, and important, part of my job, is encouraging students to tolerate uncertainty and to take risks. These skills are critical in our current job market, where technology is transforming entire fields in a space of a few years.

As Gordon implies, risks often mean sacrifices. Students may not be able to graduate with the perfect major, have a 4.0 GPA, lead three student organizations, and get the internship experience they need to be successful. No one can do it all. But if a student has a passion for travel, it may be more important for them to study abroad than to have a perfect GPA. These risks may pay off in unexpected ways, but they take courage in the short-term.

Career professionals have the opportunity to help students strategize as they decide where and how to take risks in school. Success in college is about more than just completion, it’s about preparing for the realities of post-graduate life.

Helping Students Make Employer Connections

Irene Hillman

Irene Hillman, Manager of Career Development, College of Business, Decosimo Success Center, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/irenehillman
Career Services Programs that Engage Employers
College career fairs can feel like a blur. Hundreds of college students, many of them prepared—but just as many of them unprepared, shuffle in and wander from table to table giving employers their pitches. Employers return the favor and point these young professionals to their websites to apply for positions. It’s a way to build visibility on both sides—company and candidate—but creating a meaningful connection simply isn’t in the cards.

So, how can colleges support the authentic engagement needed for both their students to build relationships that will help them launch careers and their employers to gain in-depth access to a targeted and valuable candidate group? Here are some methods being used by the College of Business at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that might provide some inspiration!

Show Students Where They Might Work

The Company Tour Program was developed specifically for entering freshmen to help tie them into both the UTC and business community very early in their college careers. The college develops a schedule of bi-weekly tours for approximately 20 students (lasting one to two hours) into the facilities of the area’s top employers and these students gain access to companies to learn more about the area’s economy, explore potential employers, and network with Chattanooga’s business community in a very familiar and engaging fashion. This encourages students to think about how their degrees can be leveraged and their academic learning can be applied following graduation, motivating them to be better students who are engaged in networking within professional circles of the city.

Connect Students and Employers Over Lunch

Through Bridge Luncheons, the College of Business invites businesses seeking a way to connect with current students, pending graduates, or alumni to sponsor a business meal. This series brings business students and local or regional organizations together in an intimate setting over a served lunch where candid and interactive dialogue can occur. Typically this is used by companies as a recruiting venue for open positions. Such events are an effective means for companies to spend quality time with multiple candidates at once and serves, in many cases, as a first and simple step in the vetting process. The luncheon is also an ideal place for students to to practice business meal etiquette. Bridge Luncheons are by invitation only based on the criteria set by the sponsoring companies. Students receive e-mails requesting an RSVP if they care to attend.

Jennifer Johnson, a UTC Accounting student (Class of 2015), says, “The luncheons have given me an opportunity to connect with local businesses and to build relationships with their owners and employees before joining the work force.”

She adds, “I am very thankful that UTC has provided me with the opportunity to participate in these luncheons because they have helped ease my apprehension interacting with potential employers and colleagues.”

As an additional perk, colleges can consider such luncheons a minor revenue stream since a reasonable flat rate can be charged to companies and remaining funds (after catering and room costs are covered) would be retained to support other career services activities and events.

Pair Students With a Mentor

The Business Mentor Program is available to sophomore, junior, senior, and graduate students. Experienced professionals are paired with students in a mentoring relationship based on common professional interests, guiding students toward career success. Employers are encouraged to nominate a seasoned professional to the Business Mentor Program.

The program provides a great opportunity for professionals to counsel and influence the next generation of business leaders and increase the work force readiness of future recruits. Undergraduates may even engage in the program for academic credit (one credit). The course integrates academic learning with business world application and experiences. Students meet in class for one month to prepare for the mentoring relationship and then pair with mentors for the remaining semester period.

Practices Makes Networking Easy

The semiannual Resume Week and Mock Interview Week events are another way to help recruiters and students engage in effective networking and develop significant dialogue.

During Resume Week, the college seeks out a few dozen professionals (hiring managers or recruiters) whose careers align with the College of Business academic programs and invites them to participate in the event. Students visit the centrally located student lounge with their resumes to give managers and recruiters a chance provide their professional opinions through a 15-minute review while networking one-on-one. Bios of the volunteers are provided to students so students can plan who they want to meet. We encourage students to dress professionally and bring a business card to make a great first impression on our visitors.

Abdul Hanan Sheikh, UTC Human Resource Management and Management student (Class of 2015), summarizes the impact that the Resume Review event has had on his career launch: “By attending this event, I received remarkable feedback, which helped me make adjustments to my resume. This event helped me get more engaged in networking effectively. It was a great opportunity for me to make connections with business professionals from around Chattanooga. Furthermore, I believe these events helped me land my first internship last fall and then my summer internship as well, and those positions gave me the experience I needed in HR to feel confident about finding a great job after graduation. So now I have a strong resume and solid experience!”

A month following Resume Week, the college holds a similarly arranged series of events for Mock Interview Week. Students walk away with invaluable advice on both developing a robust resume and interviewing successfully, but they get a chance to ask questions about launching their careers to people with realistic answers. As a result, a connection is made and networking flourishes between the student and the professionals with whom they have met.

Engaging with employers need not be an awkward or hurried venture that happens once a semester. When students are provided multiple opportunities for directed networking, relationships can unfold in an enriching manner for our students and our employers!

 

 

Building a Strong Foundation Through Comprehensive Training

Sarah SteenrodSarah Steenrod, Director, Undergraduate Career Consultation and Programs, Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University
Twitter: @SarahSteenrod
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahsteenrod

“I really want to build a strong foundation for my students much in the same way you all did for me.”

Recently, I was contacted by a former graduate assistant (GA) who is now a career services professional at another university. She asked if I would be willing to talk with her about our training process since she will be developing a training program for her office’s peer advisers. After my head shrank back to its original size, I spent some time thinking about our training process and why I think it’s so effective in setting a strong foundation for our GAs.

Build a Team

A significant amount of our seven-day training is dedicated to getting to know each other, which helps build relationships and trust. Don’t cringe when I tell you we do at least one icebreaker a day. I must be a genius, right? Here’s the kicker, I think the main reason people dread icebreakers is because they feel put “on the spot.” To avoid this, I let everyone know in advance what the icebreakers will be throughout training, with some even requiring a little advanced preparation. For example, on the first day of training, everyone shares “What I did this summer,” so people share pictures from vacations or talk about their internships. They can think about what they want to say and feel more comfortable when getting to know strangers.

Feed Them

There’s something to be said for sharing a good meal together, and our office definitely appreciates a fine potluck. While we have a very minimal food budget for training, such as a continental breakfast on the first day, we plan lunch outings to places like Chipotle and everyone pays for themselves. On the walk to Chipotle, we give the GAs a campus tour.

Set Expectations

I am a firm believer that setting clear expectations makes life much easier. Whether we are talking about the scheduling process and work-hour requirements or the importance of keeping the recruiter breakroom tidy, I am confident that our GAs know what is expected of them from the very start.

Involve People

I try to involve as many of my colleagues as possible in training because the least effective thing I think I can do is talk too much. I’m not trying to bore these people to death and I have no interest in looking around the room and seeing everyone trying to be polite by not letting out a huge “yaaaaaaawn.” So, for example, when we talk about on-campus recruiting, I bring in our recruiting coordinator to talk about how she works with employers. In addition, my fellow undergraduate full-time staff members are heavily involved with and attend most of the training, so they take the lead on various training topics. Also, our second year GAs play a huge role in serving as mentors for our incoming GAs and they gain a lot of credibility by leading various parts of training and participating in discussions.

Flip the Classroom

A few years ago, I learned about the concept of “flipping the classroom.” According to Wikipedia, “Flipped classroom is an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional educational arrangement by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom and moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, into the classroom. In a flipped classroom model, students watch online lectures, collaborate in online discussions, or carry out research at home and engage in concepts in the classroom with the guidance of the instructor.”

I now use Carmen, our course management system, to deliver training materials that I would like the GAs to read in advance (e.g., PowerPoint presentation about resume writing) so we can do more hands-on activities during training, (e.g., more resume critiques and discussions about resumes).

Our GAs begin meeting with students on the first day of school. In order for them to feel confident and get enough experience, we do a lot of hands-on activities during training. One example is preparing them to conduct mock interviews for our Qualified Undergraduate Interview Candidate (QUIC) program. We have developed a training model where we first educate the GAs about the QUIC program and process, and then we give them the opportunity to shadow, co-facilitate, and conduct the mock interviews on their own while being observed by a staff member. This process enables them to build their skills in evaluating students in mock interviews and delivering constructive feedback and they gain confidence in their abilities.

Hands-on activities are also beneficial when training GAs on student appointments. Rather than just talking about the types of student appointments they might encounter, we developed about 20 student appointment scenarios that we use in an activity where we go around the room and each draw a scenario from a hat and discuss how we would handle it. This gives us the opportunity to have open discussion and makes the GAs feel more comfortable going into a situation where “you never know what you’re going to get.”

Develop a Support System

Although we finish training before the start of the semester, we conduct on-going training throughout the academic year in our weekly team meetings and bi-weekly one-on-one meetings. This enables us to discuss questions and concerns and further explore additional topic areas that are introduced in training.

In addition to on-going training, the day-to-day support of our GAs is extremely important. We have an “open door” policy where we encourage GAs to stop by and chat with us if they have any questions or concerns. Fortunately, our GAs all work in the same space, which we affectionately call “cubeland,” so they can often times pop over the wall and bounce an idea off of their teammates.

Developing a comprehensive training program can be a daunting task, but I guarantee the time and attention spent in preparation of and during training will pay off exponentially. We couldn’t do what we do without our GAs and we love watching them grow and develop as professionals in our office.

 

What the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Teaches About Career Success

joe hayes

Joe Hayes, Assistant Director, Employer Relations & Internships, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Twitter: @_JosephHayes
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/josephhayes1

Perhaps you were among the 20-plus million Americans that watched the women’s world cup final between the United States and Japan on July 5. It wasn’t very close. While the lopsided final of the tournament’s biggest game was unexpected, the success of the U.S. team throughout the summer was no accident. Instead, the U.S. team came prepared for work—just like students can—and met success.

Capitalize on second chances

Four years ago, the United States was stunned by Japan, losing the World Cup finals in penalty kicks. In a way, that failure provided extra motivation ultimately leading to an Olympic gold medal in 2012. This year the team came out focused and seemingly on a mission to capture the first World Cup in 16 years.

Second chances may not always be as grandiose as a rematch of the World Cup final. For a student, it could be the ability to retake a course and achieve a higher grade that leads to graduation. It could be a second interview or call back from an employer after, admittedly, under-performing at the first interview. It could be getting off an employer’s blacklist from reneging on a job offer. It could be getting a new project as an intern despite the first project not going so well.

This second chance should viewed as such—a chance to right a wrong or missed opportunity—but also, a chance to learn, grow, and improve. In a sense, capitalizing on a second chance can be easy. There may not be a road map for success, but a road map for failure exists and intuitively that can lead to the inverse—success mapping.

Let go of past accomplishments – focus on the future

The U.S. Women’s National Team has been one of the premier teams in the world over the past quarter century, yet only three times have they won the games most coveted prize—the World Cup. Despite constantly contending and putting fear into opponents based on past success, the team needed to do more than simply show up to win more games. Here the U.S. team needed to let go of past accomplishments and focus on how they could accomplish new feats.

Much like the U.S. team, students shouldn’t get complacent during their career or job search. This means that a student can’t and shouldn’t automatically think their degree sets them up for success. The student shouldn’t assume that because they had a high GPA, they will be employable. The student shouldn’t think that because they had an internship or some form of experiential learning in the past that they are guaranteed an opening with that organization the following year. Instead, the same amount of hard work (and perhaps more) that went into accomplishing past goals will be needed to accomplish future goals.

Timing is everything

In soccer—a game that is played with a running 90-minute clock—successful and strategic team substitutions often decide games in key moments. This is especially important when a team is limited to only three substitutes per match (hence the extreme value of putting in the right player at the right time). This was never more evident than in the semifinal match vs # 1-ranked Germany, when the U.S. subbed in Abby Wambach in at 80 minutes and Kelley O’Hara in at 84 minutes. Moments later both played a role in the clinching goal (Ms. Wambach chasing down the ball and Ms. O’Hara scoring the goal) to put the United States up 2-0 and on their way to the World Cup finals.

Much like the key substitution that occurred right as the German squad was getting tired, students and professionals should think in terms of key moments and strategies that put themselves at the greatest advantage for success at the right time. This could be as simple as drafting a handwritten thank-you note moments after any interview while it’s still fresh in the moment. Or it may be networking with current interns at organizations a year before you are intern-ready (so as to make in-roads with companies before the official recruiting cycle begins).

In other words, one should constantly use time to their advantage.

Developing Career Goals Holistically

Melanie BufordMelanie Buford, Program Coordinator/Adjunct Instructor, Career Development Center, University of Cincinnati
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mebuford/
Website: www.melaniebuford.org

Dan Blank, a career coach who works primarily with creative professionals, offers the following advice in his webinar “Take Back Your Creative Life.”

“Career goals should not be formed in isolation. You must take into account all of your responsibilities (personal and professional), and be sure to account for your own well-being. This includes physical and mental health.” Blank encourages his clients to integrate their career and personal goals in order to set themselves up for success.

Many undergraduate students start their career decision-making process by selecting a major based on the subjects they enjoyed in high school. Students interested in majoring in one of the applied sciences tend to follow this pattern. Several students I’ve worked with tell me they’ve chosen to major in engineering because they were “smart” in high school or strong in math and science, but they don’t know much about the field itself. Time and again, these students arrive at the career development center wondering why they’re not more interested in the engineering coursework and field experiences.

The problem isn’t engineering. The problem is that these students formed career goals in isolation. They didn’t consider the environment they’d be working in, the physical location of their organization, the skills they enjoy developing and want to build on, or the ways they hope to grow as people and as professionals. Fortunately, the University of Cincinnati provides a co-op program that allows engineering students to get full-time work experience before graduation.

Career goals, increasingly, need to be formed holistically. Gone are the days when choosing a career was simply a matter of matching your best school subject to an industry. The market is volatile; new opportunities are being created and other avenues are becoming less viable. A law career isn’t the safe choice it once was, and the nonprofit world has expanded to include diverse organizations tackling new social issues. It’s more common that professionals will relocate to a new city for a job opportunity, and more workers than ever are changing jobs and moving to new sectors over the course of their careers.

We are facing the so-called “paradox of choice.” Research has demonstrated that if we are presented with more opportunities, decision-making becomes more difficult and satisfaction less likely.

When a student steps into a career development office today, they’re faced with a much broader set of options than they would have been 30 years ago. They could go to medical school in their hometown or they could spend two years in the Peace Corps and teach grade school students in Lithuania. They could go to graduate school for computer science or launch a start-up with friends based on their ideas for a new app.

In order to make these decisions, students have to consider not only what talents they have, but what kind of life they want to lead.

It is critical, therefore, that students take a holistic approach to developing their career goals. We encourage them to apply this lens both to themselves and to the field they’re considering. Here are a few questions students should consider during the career exploration process:

What skills do I have and want to develop?

What type of work environment might best fit my temperament?

What type of diversity do I hope to have in my work environment?

How is the industry I’m considering expected to evolve in the next few decades?

What city, state, or country might I want to live in?

What have my career goals been and how have they changed?

What role would I like technology to play in my career?

How important is stability to me and how willing am I to take risks?

Each of these questions will take time to answer as students develop more clarity on their identities and values. Is it any wonder career goals formed at age 18 often feel premature? These are questions we wrestle with throughout our lives.

To me, this only underscores the importance of committing to a continuous career development process, not just for students, but for graduates. Attempting to build your life looking only through a narrow lens of career is bound to work against your happiness. We must support students around this process by acknowledging its complexity and encouraging them to consider the multiple implications of a potential career path.

NACE members can pick up a student-directed version of this blog, Develop Your Career Goals Holistically, in Grab & Go.

Sources:

Blank, Dan. (2015). Take Back Your Creative Life Webinar. We Grow Media.

Cole, Marine. (2014). U.S. Job Market Has Changed Dramatically in 15 Year. The Fiscal Times. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/05/15/How-US-Job-Market-Has-Changed-Dramatically-15-Years

Hedges, Kristi. (2012). The Surprising Poverty of Too Many Choices. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/11/26/the-surprising-poverty-of-too-many-choices/.

 

Redefining Professional Development for Career Advisers

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.

Does professional development for career services staff need an update? Is the model of “go to a conference or do an assessment training” still as relevant as career services is changing so much and so quickly? What can we do to grow as professionals, connect more with employers and alumni, and gain credibility with our students and other stakeholders? I think it is time to consider redefining what professional development for career services staff means, and how it is done. I’m not talking about ditching annual conferences, they are of great value, what I’m saying is I think it is time to add a few more options.

In July of 2014, Farouk Dey and Christine Y. Cruzvergara, co-authored an article called “10 Future Trends in College Career Services.” Number 10 in their inspiring and thought provoking piece, “New Breed of Professionals,” resonated with me—especially the statement, “To be successful, career center staff must become agile content experts and network catalysts who will lead communities and develop meaningful connections among their constituents.” In my experience, in order to gain credibility with students, having experience in the field in which I advise (media, arts, and entertainment) is very important. When I tell students that I’ve worked in documentary and digital media, and know of some great companies that could be a good fit for them (based on my personal experience) I get student buy-in very quickly.

My ideas for tweaking career services staff professional development options involve creating opportunities for gaining industry experience; generating and growing relationships with employers, alumni, faculty, and staff; and serve as a means for staff to gain some “street cred” (with students, employers, and faculty).

The concept of career staff having the option to do some form of industry internship during the summer is very exciting to me. The internship doesn’t have to be full-time; it could be eight to 10 hours a week over four to six weeks. The internship could be hands-on, or more observational and include informational interviews. Regardless of the specifics, this experience would give staff a chance to understand industry skills and trends as well as positions and roles within specific industries and companies, and the chance to connect with experts and HR professionals.

For example, there is a wonderful art start-up in my area connecting artists to consumers via social media and storytelling—I’d love to intern there, creating content, connecting with artists, and growing the art scene in my community. Think of all the connections I’d make and skills I’d learn. My improved knowledge of this industry and number of contacts in art I’d make would generate credibility with faculty and students.

Approaching employers with the idea of hiring an “adult”/career staff intern may at first raise some eyebrows, but just as we tell our students, if one creates a pitch and plan (with a timeline, tasks, and goals), that is brand new or a modified version of an existing internship program, what could we lose? Don’t want to intern at company? Try an internship at another office at your institution.

For example, it would be a great opportunity to intern with the communications office at my home institution, or in the multicultural center. Think of the new connections to be made and opportunities to find points for future collaboration! Is research your thing? Approach a faculty member focused on an industry or topic of relevance to career development, and pitch a research idea. Spend 10 or so hours a week during the summer researching and writing. Career staff doing research with faculty – whaaaat?! It may sound crazy, but I think it is a wonderful idea, and I bet it is already happening at institutions across the country.

Other benefits include staff cross training opportunities after the internship or research is completed, heightened staff engagement and excitement, and great content (e.g. photos, blog posts, interviews with professionals) to share across campus via social media to generate interest in career services. What ideas do you have? I’d love to get employer thoughts on this. How would you redefine professional development for career services staff?