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 Grow: Quality Assurance for Career Coaches

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.

Every career center has a different approach when it comes to helping students in scheduled appointment sessions. The three most frequently used approaches are career counseling, career advising, and career coaching. Each approach has its unique advantages and a distinct set of outcomes. Many career centers have a strong rationale for the helping approach used during scheduled appointments but have not identified the outcomes associated with their methodology. In the data driven culture that higher education has become due to consumer demands and increased focused on graduation surveys we not only need a clear rationale for the method of helping we offer in our centers, but should also have a clear understating of the outcomes associated with our methods.

Consider the following questions:

(1) Do career appointments in your office focus more on transactional information and resource sharing or transformational goal setting and action planning?
(2) What are students supposed to learn from meeting with a “helping” professional in the career center?
(3) Once students leave, is there a follow-up process that assesses their experience and next steps?

At the University of Baltimore we have opted for a coaching approach to student appointments that focuses on goal identification and action planning. We have also developed a feedback system that helps us evaluate each student’s experience and encourages accountability throughout the execution of their action plan. In addition, we have opted to use the GROW coaching model popularized by John Whitmore in the book Coaching for Performance to ensure quality assurance amongst our coaching staff while still providing room for freedom in individual helping styles. To aid in our coaching model development we asked ourselves a few key questions:

(1) Are students satisfied with their coaching experience?
(2) Is there a consistent method of engaging students in office appointments amongst the counseling team?
(3) What are the learning outcomes for student coaching appointments?
(4) What does our coaching after appointment survey tell us about student satisfaction and learning?

Regardless of the helping method used in a career center, the goal is that students are satisfied with the interaction and feel that they are a step closer to achieving their career goals. Coaching, counseling, and advising methodologies all have advantages to us as helpers, but it is the learning and career outcomes that mean the most to our students.

For more information on helping students comprehend the world of work, see this article on Student Learning Outcomes on NACEWeb.

Career Coaching Notes: Values and Visualization

Rayna Anderson

Rayna A. Anderson, Career Advisor at Elon University
Twitter: @Rayna_Anderson
LinkedIn: www.LinkedIn.com/in/RaynaA
Blog: RaynaAnderson.wordpress.com

According to Howard Figler’s 1-2-3 counseling method, the following three questions capture the essence of career counseling:

  1. What do you want to do?
  2. What is stopping you from doing it?
  3. What are you doing about it?

For now, I only want to look at the first of these three questions in the context of university career services. Contrary to what we do as career advisers, our students come to us looking for direct answers instead of guidance. Their question is usually, “what should I do?” when it really just depends on what it is they want to do. Furthermore, they often fail to realize that they already have the answers they need. Our job then is, not to impose our opinion, but to drive them toward honest self-actualization.

Should you find yourself grappling with a student that insists that they, “just don’t know” or who feels silly disclosing their deepest career desires, charge them with Figler’s first question. Then consider using two of my favorite methods for helping students define their career goals:

1. Values Assessment: I almost never conduct a career decision-making or assessment appointment without first having the student complete some sort of job or workplace values handout. This exercise allows students to self-select from a list of multiple choices:

  • What they are motivated by (power, recognition, money, enjoyment, etc.)
  • What they’d enjoy spending their workday doing (taking on challenges, brainstorming with others, meeting new people, coaching others, etc.)
  • And, what they want from their workplace (autonomy, supervision, structure, flexibility, etc.)

Once they have identified their desires, have them consider which they are willing to compromise on and which values are their “non-negotiables.” Now that there’s something on paper in front of them, it’s time to let their minds wander.

2. Guided Visualization: Though I don’t ask that students close their eyes or sit in any particular position, I do provide them with an opportunity to carry out an uninterrupted daydream. I prompt this exercise by having the student consider a world where anything is possible and money is of no concern. I then ask the student to imagine arriving at work, parking and getting out of their car, then walking through the front doors of their workplace.

Next, I have them describe what they see, how they feel walking in, what they are wearing, how people around them look, and what these people doing. I conclude the visualization period by telling the student that they are going into their office that day to complete a project, then asking what type of project it might be. This exercise is especially helpful for students struggling to decide between pursing a passion and choosing a less desirable but lucrative career path.

These exercises provide the student with a tangible and intangible basis for setting goals.

After the values assessment and visualization, the student has taken the first step toward choosing a major, deciding the types of jobs or internships to search for, and formulating  questions to ask during interviews. While this process is only the beginning of the career advising journey, it helps establish trust and rapport throughout your partnership.

Our offices should be safe havens; places where students can come in to un-apologetically share their secrets and leave with plans of action. Do your own research, make changes, and make these exercises your own.

Career Coaching Notes: A Sunday Well Spent

Rayna AndersonRayna A. Anderson, Career Adviser at Elon University
Twitter: @Rayna_Anderson
LinkedIn: www.LinkedIn.com/in/RaynaA
Blog: RaynaAnderson.wordpress.com

I write this post as the newest member of this fantastic blog team – an exciting opportunity but a bit of an overwhelming one as well.  The semester is winding down and the holiday season is upon us but I am committed to balancing work, professional blogging, and a personal life.

My current state of existence is nothing that the average higher education professional is unfamiliar with. The truth is that we love what we do, but we do a lot and everyone knows that too much of anything can be harmful. Somehow, being in a helping profession has come to mean neglecting the self and endlessly serving others. But our work ethic should not be measured by the number of meals we are forced to skip or who functions the best on three hours of sleep. Burnout is real, so I dare you – dedicated, superhuman, career advising professional – to set aside one day a week to help yourself. And since it’s much easier to prepare for the storm before it hits than it is to respond in the midst of it, I suggest making Sunday your self-care day.

Here are a few things that’ll help you stay afloat:

Get in touch: Whether it’s at a church, mosque, synagogue, or a sacred space in your own home, take some time to tap in to your inner self. No work week will be perfect, so let this quiet time serve as a point of reference that will re-center you when you feel like you’re losing control.

Get ahead: Fill up the gas tank, do the laundry, pick out your outfits for the next couple of days, pack your work bag, and prepare tomorrow’s breakfast or lunch. If you’re like me, rushing or running late in the morning will make you feel as if the day is getting progressively worse. Knocking out some of these menial tasks will minimize the distractions that disrupt your flow. Also, by doing some of these things ahead of time you’ll feel a little less guilty should you want to get a few more minutes of sleep!

Get organized: It’ll be much easier to navigate through your week if your space is de-cluttered. Don’t let old receipts, meeting agendas, and to-do lists pile up. Everything has a place: either in a folder or in the trashcan. Taking just a few moments to tidy up your surroundings will help alleviate some anxiety.

Get lost: Stay balanced by plunging into your favorite hobby and losing track of time. There’s more to you than what you do for a living, no matter how awesome your job is. Doing things unrelated to work will help you maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Get moving: Take a walk, go to the gym for a few minutes, or do those sit-ups right there in your living room. Obviously you’ll feel healthier, but the extra activity will also help you sleep well. Exercise helps control the random flip flop between bursts of energy and fatigue. And speaking of sleep…

Get some rest: I say “rest” because that doesn’t always mean sleeping. Sometimes sitting around and doing nothing can be just as energizing as taking a nap. Prepare for bed by beginning to relax at least one hour earlier than you plan to fall asleep. This means silencing your phone, dimming the lights, lowering the television volume, and not checking emails.

“A Sunday well spent brings a week of content.” You’re no good to the people you help if you don’t take time to help yourself. Your students and colleagues will appreciate the happier, reenergized you!