We Are All Career Services

Michelle Bata

Michelle Bata, Associate Dean and Director of the LEEP Center, Clark University
Twitter: https://twitter.com/michellebata
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michellebata


This is my first post for the NACE blog, and I’m going to use this opportunity to share a secret: I’m not in career services. I’m not even in recruiting or career counseling or talent management or any of those areas to which most NACE members belong. Rather, I’m in academic affairs and oversee a center that houses several different offices, one of which is career services.

So why am I here?

To show that one doesn’t have to be in career services to help students identify, work toward, and achieve their professional goals. In fact, career services professionals should be but just a few nodes in a student’s emerging professional network, and it is all of our responsibilities – administrators, faculty, and staff alike – to ensure that our students are prepared for life beyond college.

So how do you get others to recognize that they, too, share this responsibility?

  1. Educate the university community – particularly faculty and staff – on policy, procedure, and resources. Tell them about your online job posting board. Inform them of recruiting practices. Make sure they know about legal issues in letter writing. And do all of this in a way that makes this information relevant to them.  You need to be audience-centric instead of career services-centric.
  2. Recruit key allies from among administration, faculty, and students. Your allies might be deans, faculty chairs, or student leaders, but they’re the ones who take an interest in what you do and care deeply about your students. Take them to lunch, keep them updated, befriend them, and you’ll find you not only have allies, but missionaries.
  3. Make your work visible. Ask if you can present at a forum, assembly, or faculty meeting. Go to staff meetings. Organize your own presentation. In addition to sending out a general invitation, specifically invite key people.  And, make sure to send your presentation around afterwards. Taking initiative to make your work public will create a sense of transparency and accessibility.
  4. Leverage existing relationships from around the university. Are you regularly talking to your alumni office, your community engagement office, your pre-health advisers, or your entrepreneurship instructors? Career services is not the only office on campus with connections to potential employers.  Find out who else has resources and pow-wow to figure out how you can better share them.
  5. Share results and data. Data such as first destination results, internship, and recruiting information is fine – that bird’s-eye view is for your supervisor, senior leadership, and marketing.  But building relationships around the university is going to require that you make your data relevant to your audience.  Consider crafting audience-specific results: pull together outcomes for certain majors or student groups, and include information like employing organizations and job titles.
  6. Follow up.  Let people know how their efforts and connections panned out.  It can be a full-time job, but following up and deeper communication can pay off in dividends.

Through careful communication, relationship building, and education, you will find that what you are really doing is cultivating partnerships and creating a culture of professional awareness and development around campus. And in doing so, you’ll be sending the message that we are all career services.


Gender Pronouns and a Young Woman’s Career

Lee Desser

Lee Desser, career and academic adviser, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lmdesser

It all started with a post on the “Student Affairs Professionals” Facebook group. Chris Liebert of The University of Kansas wrote, “Today I began using a new e-mail signature that includes my gender pronouns. If anyone else has been considering the update, join me! Since my gender pronouns associate with the typical perception of cisgender-normativity (descriptor for those whose experiences of their own gender agree with the sex they were at birth), this public display of my pronouns cost me little to no social capital…If this small, cost-free adaptation makes even the slightest difference in how supported my students feel on campus, I should have a more substantial reason not to list my pronouns…”

After reading this, I visited the suggested Samuel Merritt page titled “Gender Pronoun Resources.” I liked the section on, “Why is it important for SMU faculty, staff, and students to respect gender pronouns?” I kept nodding my head reading, “Asking SMU community members what their preferred pronouns are and consistently using them correctly is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity,” and “Discussing and correctly using gender pronouns sets a tone of respect and allyship that trans and gender nonconforming people do not take for granted.”Gender neutral pronouns. Source: https://www.samuelmerritt.edu/pride/gender

Source: https://www.samuelmerritt.edu/pride/gender

Yet, some other parts about the page bothered me. Why does the masculine have “he, him, and his” and the feminine only “she, her, and her”? The singular, “they, them, and theirs” still throws me off. And one example e-mail signature included “hers” next to “her”—isn’t that implied? Why not simply put a more subtle “Mr.” or “Ms.” in front of an e-mail signature instead of including all of these pronouns?

Still, I immediately considered getting on board and changing my e-mail signature, but something was bothering me. I realized that in the 80s my mother named me, “Lee,” because she was a big fan of gender neutral names. My mom, Christine, always went by the gender neutral “Chris,” so that in written communication she could prove herself by her work ethic and skills instead of being judged by her gender. As a regional manager at a bank, this helped her communicate with other offices without the stigma of being one of the only women in the male-dominated workplace.

Fast forward to 2016: Now Chris’ grown-up daughter is thinking of purposefully adding her gender pronoun to her e-mail signature in order to show allyship for the trans and gender nonconforming community. What an interesting turn of events. Will I purposefully reject pronoun ambiguity and face possible discrimination for being a woman in order to show allyship for a different marginalized community? While I certainly don’t want gender imposed on others, I (perhaps selfishly) don’t want discrimination imposed on me, either.

After mulling this over I thought about resumes and all the studies out there that hiring managers discriminate based on “African-American sounding names” and on female students. I had a teaching assistant in college who assigned us a number and we were not allowed to write our name on papers. He determined that this would prevent discrimination. In the same way, why don’t employment applications bar applicants from writing their name on their resume? Instead, a number could be assigned and the individual would only be called in for an interview based on their qualifications and work experience. Having no gender and/or racial identity at all would be helpful in first-round screening processes…or would it?

In the end, though, I added gender pronouns to my e-mail signature in order to show allyship and if people judge me for my gender or my addition of pronouns, so be it. If, however, I were to publish a book I would create an unrecognizable gender-neutral pen name. Compromise?

Her e-mail signature:

Lee Desser (she, her)
Career & Academic Advisor
Middlebury Institute of International Studies
Contact Me



Offer Deadlines for Students

Kayla Villwock_Kayla Villwock, Manager of University Outreach and Recruitment at SAS
Twitter: @KaylaRenee8
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kaylavillwock


Striking a Balance Between Deadlines and Decision Making With Grad Offers

In a previous blog post, I shared my perspective on the potential implications surrounding a student’s decision to decline an offer after accepting. This blog gained a lot of attention from both the career services and employer audience, and even resulted in The Wallstreet Journal reporting on the topic. It became clear that it wasn’t only the implications of offer reneges that was a hot topic of discussion, but there was a great deal of commentary around one of the root causes of this trend—offer deadlines.

So what is the proper amount of time an employer should allow students to thoroughly assess an offer? I’m certainly not going to claim that I have all of the answers here, but I would like to give my perspective on toeing the line between reasonable and unreasonable when it comes to offer deadlines. Also, I would like to touch on some trends I have seen specifically regarding the decision-making process students go through when selecting their first career post-graduation. Lastly, I will provide some advice for employers, students, and career services in relation to offer deadlines and the offer decision-making process.

The Highly Sought After Talent—Earlier Recruitment and Multiple Offers

The organization I represent targets two of the most sought after skillsets in the student market today: analytics and computer science talent. With a growing need for these skills, students in these fields have many choices when it comes to potential employment opportunities thus resulting in multiple offers…. especially for the top talent.

It is a race to access this top talent as early as possible. Most employers that are seeking May grads are recruiting in the fall for their openings. Employers are also using internship programs as pipelining opportunities to lock in the top talent before they begin their final year of school. I have even recently heard of employers actively interviewing graduates over a year before they even graduate! Not all employers have nailed down the proper work force planning that is needed in order to understand hiring needs this far in advance, especially those new to university recruiting. This said, they may be jumping in to recruit students in late fall or early spring. You can see the recipe for issues: offers are going out earlier, and students are being asked to make decisions before all companies have put their stake in the game.

So what timeframe is considered reasonable for offer deadlines so students can feel comfortable accepting an offer without regrets?

Here’s my take on it: when employers are making offers for May graduates in early in the fall, say August—October, giving students until at least Thanksgiving before they are required to make a decision is reasonable. Universities typically host fall recruiting events in September, so students should be well-educated on employer opportunities by that time. I envision a student sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table with their family talking about their offers and coming back from the holiday with a decision.

When it gets later in the recruitment season, say December/January, I think it is appropriate to give shorter deadline windows, but in my opinion, no less than two weeks.

Here’s the challenge: most employers cannot wait for an indefinite period of time to hear back from students regarding their offer decision, and the longer the student has to decide, the likelihood of finding another great fit will be lessened. The key here is transparency. Regardless of the deadline selected, it is important that recruiters explain to the student the reason for the deadline. I have phrased it this way with students before:

“The offer you have received is filling a spot at our company. The later the deadline we give, the harder it will be for us to find another rock star like you who is still available to fill the position. You may have a classmate or friend that is very interested in this opportunity and if we give you too much time, they may not have access to the opportunity if you choose to decline (which we hope you do not do).”

This helps the student better understand the reason for the deadline instead of thinking that the pressure is being put on them for no reason. It also helps them understand the bigger picture regarding the opportunity cost of them sitting on an offer.

 “Exploring All Options” vs. Strategic Career Goal-Setting

Many times I find that students want to “explore all of their options” before they commit to an offer. The more options the better, right? Or is that true? I personally get overwhelmed when I have too many options to choose from.. so why is exploring all options such a common direction for students seeking full-time employment? Is it so multiple offers can be put up against one another in order to negotiate a higher base salary? Student loans are crippling these days (I speak from experience!) so I can understand why this would be a factor.

Then I think about the heightened attention around the cost of higher education and how this may play a part in influencing students to shop around. The Higher Education Opportunities Act requires universities to conduct first-destination surveys, which provides data regarding the career outcomes of students at a particular university. What college does not want to report that they have the highest starting salary in the nation? And that their students, on average, receive 10 offers? I am not insinuating that this is definitely happening, but this would motivate the universities to advise students to shop around. But is this the right thing for the student?

I would much rather that students be guided to spend time prior to the job search figuring out what is most important to them in the career they are seeking. Is it the company? Is it the role? Is it location, compensation, the culture of the company? If students are well-educated on what they are looking for and then seek out the roles that meet these criteria, then they will have a basis for accepting the right opportunity once it is offered, or declining an offer to continue to seek out the role of their dreams.

It seems that much of the time students are asking for offer deadline extensions because they want to continue to “explore all of their options.” I would rather that the student proactively know their career goals and seek them out rather than explore all of their opportunities and then make a selection.

Career Services Policies—Providing a Baseline for Offer Deadlines

Several universities have begun enacting policies around offers that I find to be very beneficial in regulating the pressures that students are feeling from overly-aggressive deadlines. I have noticed a trend where universities are implementing an “earliest deadline date,” so an employer cannot require a student to accept an offer prior to the November timeframe. I have also worked with a few career service centers not allowing students to hold more than a certain amount of offers at the same time. I think these are great policies to put in place that help level set expectations around timing of offers between employers and students.

In summary, here are some thoughts on how we can support students in being able to make the most thorough and appropriate career choice for them:


  • Give deadlines that are reasonable to allow the student the opportunity to fully review the offer and understand if it is right for them.
  • Be transparent regarding the business justification behind the deadline date.

Career Services Professionals:

  • Educate employers on the importance of reasonable deadlines so students do not feel pressured to make a decision.
  • Help students narrow their focus and target employers and roles that align with their career goals so the decision-making process can be clearer.
  • Consider implementing policies such as an “earliest deadline date” to ensure that employers allow ample time for decisions, and so employers have a benchmark on when they need a stake in the game in order to access the talent.


  • Spend time prior to the job search to understand what is important to you. There are many aspects of a career. You should know your top three career priorities, and do your best to accept interviews only with the companies that meet your career goals.
  • Be transparent with recruiters about your career goals and any reservations you have about accepting the offer. This way, they can set an appropriate and fair deadline that allows you to feel comfortable with making this very big decision in your life.

Below is a sample list of job factors to rank in order to help you evaluate offers:

Type of work
Work/Life balance
Culture/Values of the company
Travel as part of the job
Opportunity for advancement
Global opportunities
Job stability

A student-directed version of this blog is available to NACE members for their websites.

Leadership Priorities for Career Services

Chaim ShapiroChaim Shapiro, Assistant Director of Career Services at Touro College
Website: http://chaimshapiro.com/
Twitter: @chaimshapiro
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/chaimshapiro
Blogs from Chaim Shapiro.

The new school year is the time for a new beginning. For that fresh start, I wanted to share my view on the priorities for career services leaders.

Any current statement of leadership priorities in career services has to borrow extensively from two excellent articles on the future of the profession—”Thriving in the Brave New World of Career Services: 10 Essential Strategies” by Manny Contomanolis and Trudy Steinfeld and “10 Future Trends in College Career Services” by Farouk Dey and Christine Y. Cruzvergara.

Career services, as a profession, is in a state of flux. The long term stagnant economy brought the work of career services to the forefront among college administrators, parents, and other stakeholders. There has also been a significant paradigm shift within the profession. While many balked at the word “placement” just a few years ago, it is now accepted that “career outcomes is everybody’s business” (Contomanolis and Steinfeld, 2014).

Demonstrating career outcomes and career services’ role in producing those outcomes is fundamental. Collecting and producing a solid first-destinations report based on the NACE standards is a crucial means to allow career services to tell its story and, in a larger sense, demonstrate institutional success (Dey and Cruzvergara, 2014).

The role of career services must be “elevated” (Dey and Cruzvergara, 2014), so it becomes clear that career services is part and parcel of the mission of the university. Career services leaders are collaborative in attaining that goal, thus creating allies and “buy in” across the institution, especially among senior administrators (Contomanolis and Steinfeld, 2014).

Career services leaders must remain flexible, adapt to rapidly changing realities, and take “thoughtful risks” that lead to innovation and bold new initiatives (Contomanolis and Steinfeld, 2014). They embrace technology (Dey and Cruzvergara, 2014) and seek to incorporate it everywhere it can enhance their services.

Even with the radical changes in career services and the new priorities competing for a professional’s time, it is imperative that an adviser still focus on the students. Career services leaders believe that every student has infinite potential and endeavor to encourage each student to be proactive in achieving it to their fullest, both in the career services realm and beyond.

Times of change are really times of opportunity. True leaders refuse to sit on the sidelines while the career services world reinvents itself. One of the greatest ways to “elevate” career services, demonstrate its foundational value to our institutions, and provide more effective services to students is by being an active part in charting the profession’s future.

Buckle up!


1) Contomanolis, M. and Steinfeld, T. (2014) Thriving in the Brave New World of Career Services: 10 Essential Strategies. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140506212412-2872947-thriving-in-the-brave-new-world-of-career-services-10-essential-strategies (Accessed 7/28/15)

2) Dey, F. and Cruzvergara, C. Y. (2014) 10 Future Trends in College Career Services. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140715120812-11822737-10-future-trends-in-college-career-services (Accessed 7/28/15).

Career Services: Death Is Not an Option

Kelli Smith Director of University Career Services at the Fleish

Kelli K. Smith, Director of University Career Services, Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, Binghamton University
Twitter: https://twitter.com/drkelliksmith
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellikapustkasmith/

Career services must live! Transform. Perhaps change its name.

If you are in the field of career services, you may have watched Wake Forest’s Andy Chan in a TED Talk, “Career Services Must Die,” recorded nearly two years ago. When Andy Chan and Wake Forest are discussed among colleagues, I hear responses ranging from, “They are doing some great things there,” to “Did you see the size of their staff?,” to “At least now people are actually paying attention to us,” to “Did you know that the university president committed millions of dollars to enhance their career programs before Chan arrived?”

Let me be clear. I have enormous respect for what is occurring at Wake Forest. I am excited about much of the work being done there and what the “Rethinking Success” movement has spurred within our field. I have been particularly inspired by their work in partnering with faculty and other campus entities, and by their commitment to undergraduate students’ professional development and success.

It is a fascinating time within our field. An #Elev8CS movement has begun on Twitter, and some colleagues call this “The Golden Age of Career Services.” It is not surprising to see director roles elevated in title and positional power at institutions as we are finally recognized for our direct link to recruitment, retention, and revenue. At the same time, at nearly all of our professional conferences, an expectation for transformation by campus leadership is clearly the underlying theme. This began to happen before the president’s College Scorecard focus on college outcomes  developed.

It may well be time for the typical name and nomenclature of “career services” to be buried. Yet, I worry the clearly attention-grabbing title of “Career Services Must Die” alone has prompted many in leadership positions at universities, particularly at large universities, to look critically at career services on their campuses without having the slightest idea of what career services does day-in and day-out.

This is the case even though research has indicated “getting a better job” is a top reason among prospective students for going to college.

Prior to Chan’s TED Talk and the College Scorecard initiative, many in our field believed top university leaders gave little, if any, attention to their career centers. It is critical that people understand a major reason why Wake Forest has been so successful in its transformation is that the university’s president made career development a priority, elevated the director role to a vice-president role and a direct report, assigned executive-level compensation to the position, and infused the career services team with millions of dollars to support their transformation effort.

In addition, according to the Rethinking Success website, Wake Forest raised more than $10 million to invest in their “college-to-career” efforts—with one result being the staff size quadrupled. Growing and elevating career services on a campus is much different than expecting departments to do more with less, or even more with the same.

Meanwhile, many of us at large public institutions feel we are being compared to Wake Forest, yet we are in a vastly different situation with regard to resources and positional power to have decision-making and a “seat at the table” granted by university leadership.

While Wake Forest had significant funds to assist in their transformation from the beginning, many public universities operate on very small budgets while serving relatively large populations of prospective students, current students, and alumni. And some have felt a reduction in resources over time, rather than an increase.

While (thankfully) the average career services operating budget has increased since 2012, still some campuses report decreases in in their budget than those reporting increases according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. At the same time, the national average students-per-staff ratio is 2,672 students per staff member; personalized attention for all students is simply not possible in such situations.

The significant focus finally placed our profession’s work within the last couple of years, prompted in large part by both Wake Forest and the College Scorecard, is promising. It has spurred innovation and change. I am convinced preparation of our students to enter the world of work will be bettered, and in the end, that is why those of us in my profession go to work every day.

We are ready for the expectations for change. My hope is that universities—public and private—put  resources behind their desire for transformation. It would not be fair to our students today or tomorrow.

I argue our field does not need to die, but rather needs attention and true support to become a university priority. While not yet ideal, I do feel fortunate for my own situation. In addition to the remarkable student profile of our public institution, a main reason I was willing to move my family across the country was because Binghamton recently built a new, state-of-the-art career center in the heart of campus, made possible by one of our alums. I also have a Vice President for Student Affairs who understands and values our work, supports the changes our team has made, and advocates for additional staffing resources. Stories of others in similar situations are more commonplace, and hopefully this trend will continue for all types of institutions across the country.

What’s happening on your campus?


LinkedIn Limitations

Vanessa NewtonVanessa Newton, program analyst, University of Kansas
Twitter: https://twitter.com/vlnewt
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/vanessaliobanewton
Blog: www.wellnessblogging.com

I cannot tell you how many times I hear people chirping on about how great LinkedIn is and how useful it is to “up that knowledge rate” on your first-destination survey. And while I agree with that, I think it’s time we acknowledge some of the limitations of relying on LinkedIn for information. Blame it on my scientific research background, but I think discussing and acknowledging limitations is a good thing.

A lot of companies are selling their services to look up your graduates on LinkedIn. For just 50 cents per student or $5 per student, they do all the work and find information for you. That sounds great (sans all the money you could be spending if you have a large graduating class), until you think about it. Yes, these companies can find that information for you, but what if 60 percent of your graduating class doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile? What if everyone in the graduating class has a LinkedIn profile, but half of them made their profiles because they were required by a class two years ago—and they haven’t updated their information since? The data that you paid for could say (wrongly) this person is currently a Student IT Help Desk Worker!

And what about other data on the LinkedIn profile…how do you know that it is correct? How can you reasonably assume that the graduate is still a bartender? I have graduates who fill out the destination survey and indicate in the comments that the job that they are currently working is just to pay the bills and they are actively seeking a more professional position.

And then you get into the really fuzzy section—nontraditional graduates who appear to be working in the same position they held before they started working on their degree. Did they get the degree to move higher up in the company or did they just want to get the degree?

Then there are the graduates (I find this often with arts majors) who are working on building their businesses, but are also working multiple jobs to pay bills and make ends meet. How do you classify that information? Because I think the fashion designer who is working as a receptionist and a hostess might indicate on a destination survey that they are employed full time—and not mention the other two jobs.

LinkedIn is a hub for information, but it isn’t the end-all be-all source of information. Yes, we can educate students on how to use LinkedIn, and encourage them to use it, but when it comes to pulling destination survey data from LinkedIn, it should be used with caution and in conjunction with other methods of finding information.

How Do You Help Students Avoid the Quarter-Life Crisis?


Pamela Weinberg
Website: www.pamelaweinberg.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/pamelaweinberg/
Twitter: @pamelaweinberg
Blogs from Pamela Weinberg.

I have had the pleasure and disappointment of meeting with a slew of young professionals in my career coaching practice of late. It is a pleasure, because I enjoy connecting with these bright, interesting and thoughtful Millennials. It is disappointing, however, that so many of them are unhappy with their post-college career choices. A few years out of college, they are experiencing some of the symptoms of a so-called “quarter-life crisis.” There has been much written about the quarter-life crisis affecting recent the college graduate starting out a career and living on his or her own for the first time. These young adults may be faced with their first crisis of confidence and feel adrift. Many feel dissatisfied with their job choices and/or chosen career path and don’t know where to turn for help.

How we can help prevent young alumni from falling into a quarter-life crisis? One way to mitigate these issues for the next slew of college grads is for colleges and universities to take a more active role in preparing students for the workplace. Those students majoring in one of STEM fields or who are pre-med most likely have a more direct and focused career path than an English major with a degree that opens him or her up to dozens of potential job or career possibilities. But just what are those possibilities and how is a student to know about them? Without exposure to a myriad of careers and a sense of which skills/aptitudes are needed to succeed at which jobs, it is a challenge for students to find their perfect fit post-graduation. Ben Carpenter’s recent op-ed in The New York Times has received a lot of attention as he brings this issue to the fore and calls on colleges and universities to offer courses in “career training” which would begin freshman year and end senior year.

Others seem to agree. In a new book entitled Aspiring Adults Adrift sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa speak about colleges and universities “focusing too much on students’ social lives at the expense of strong academic and career road map.” The authors go on to recommend programs that “facilitate school-to-work transitions, in terms of internships, apprenticeships and job-placement programs.”

Career services offices at colleges and universities have always been the student nexus for career- and job-search advice—but as we know, not all students take advantage of the resources there. In championing the idea of four years of career training for college students, Ben Carpenter cites Connecticut College which offers a career training program that has proven quite successful. According to Carpenter, one year after graduation, 96 percent of Connecticut College alumni are employed or in graduate school. That is in stark contrast to the numbers from a recent job poll conducted by AfterCollege, the online entry-level job site. According to the poll, 83 percent of college seniors graduated this year without a job.

The letters to the editor of The New York Times, which followed the Carpenter piece, were squarely split. Most educators were against schools offering career training programs, while most parents were for it. It seems however, that there is more that can be done to prevent recent alums from floundering a few years post-graduation. However, whether these are offerings from career services or through other academic departments is a topic up for debate.

I would love to hear your comments, thoughts, and suggestions on the topic!