The Art of Delivering Career Counseling/Advising Virtually

by Kara Brown

University and college career centers all over the country experience challenges reaching their online and satellite campus students. However, these online programs and satellite campuses are incredibly important for students who work full time, are nontraditional, or have other responsibilities that they need to attend to, which makes in-person workshops nearly impossible to attend. While these students are able to gain the knowledge and information that they need to be successful in the classroom, they are missing out on the knowledge and information that they need to be successful in their job search and career development.

While our university is relatively small, we have three satellite campuses and several online programs for our undergraduate and graduate students. We have reached out to these students and requested their feedback about how we can better serve them. The large majority of students explained that they want more access to workshops and presentations because they usually cannot attend on-campus events due to distance or schedules. Our career development center then worked with IT and the satellite campus administration to use Adobe Connect to provide live career development workshops for these students. We are even able to record the workshops so that we can e-mail these workshops to the students who missed them.

Recently, we held our second virtual workshop, and I was given the opportunity to present. Our office decided to present on the topic of resume and cover letter writing. The process of preparing was similar to an in-person workshop or presentation, but it did require e-mailing the link to students and alumni who were interested in attending. Our staff also advertised the event through our social media outlets. Once the evening had arrived, we had more than 60 students and alumni registered for the workshop. This was a huge number in comparison to on-campus workshops that we have held. When the virtual presentation had started there were about 25 students and alumni in the workshop, but this was still a great turnout for us.

Adobe Connect allows the presenter to use live video and audio feed, and I was able to share my computer screen with all of the presenters. Also, workshop attendees can use the chat box to type questions in real time, which is a great function. I have to admit that it felt a bit strange to speak to my computer screen as opposed to actual people, but eventually it felt like any other workshop that I have conducted. Almost minutes after the presentation had concluded, our office received four e-mails from students and alumni requesting services for resume and cover letter reviews. We also sent out a survey requesting feedback, and all of the comments were positive.

While challenges will always exist in trying to reach all of our students, we are excited by the use of technology and software to be able to face these challenges head on. There are a number of positive outcomes to implementing these types of workshops, and we are looking forward to launching more in the future.
If you or your career centers have any questions regarding virtual workshops, feel free to contact me at I would also love to hear feedback about ways that your career centers have successfully reached your online and satellite campus students.
Kara BrownKara Brown, Associate Director of Career Development, Gwynedd Mercy University

Career Research: How to Measure Career Success

by Desalina Guarise and James W. Kostenblatt

This is the first of several blog posts that will explore career-related research and feature interviews with those researchers. Let us know if you have individuals you would like to see featured.

As recipients of a NACE Research Grant, we will be kicking off a study this fall to explore the long-term impact unpaid internships have on career success (30 institutions are participating and we are looking for more partners to join; contact us if interested!) As a part of this project, we began exploring how to define  and measure career success—a complicated and somewhat nebulous concept. Luckily, we came across a research study recently published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, “Development of a New Scale to Measure Subjective Career Success: A Mixed-Methods Study” 37.1 (2015): 128-53, where Dr. Kristen Shockley and her colleagues did the heavy lifting for us. We will be using both objective measure of success (i.e. salary) and the subjective measures Dr. Shockley developed in our study.

In an interview, Dr. Shockley shared details about her research and the release of the “Subjective Career Success Inventory”—a 24-item questionnaire and validated measure of career success that resulted from the study.

Tell us about your professional background. How did you come to focus on career-related research?
I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia and my Ph.D. in Industrial organizational psychology from the University of South Florida. From beginning of my doctoral program I was interested in how people manage work and family and how to have a fulfilling work life and personal life at the same time.

In the article, you mention that measures of career success have evolved over time, shifting from objective measures to subjective measures. Tell us more about this evolution.
Years ago, you started at one company, paid your dues, and retired from that company. Now people have something like seven jobs over the course of their career.  With this shift people’s values have also changed. When we interviewed people for the study, they spoke about how important it is to having a meaningful personal life outside of their career as well as clear work/life boundaries. They also want to feel like their work is meaningful. When we looked at the existing career research, they used to measure career success very objectively—you are successful if you make a lot of money. The previous subjective measures were just about satisfaction. That’s where this career success model—the subjective model—came from; it takes into account these newer values. 

Tell us about your development of the Subjective Career Success Inventory?
We began by conducting interviews and focus groups with people from all different types of careers. We then transcribed all of the interviews, coded them, and came up with themes. Finally we focused on testing the scale for validity and reliability. The research took seven years from start to finish and we ended up with a 24-item questionnaire broken out into eight dimensions or categories that were important to these professionals when assessing their own career success: recognition, quality work, meaningful work, influence, authenticity, personal life, growth and development, and satisfaction.  

What implications do you think this has for practitioners like ourselves in career services?
Practitioners already know that it’s a daunting task for students to pick a field to go into. It’s important to have some sense of what you value and how likely it is that those values will map onto careers you are considering. This research further supports the importance of students reflecting on their values and thinking beyond objective measures of career success when decision-making. 

What are you working on now with your research?
Right now I’m trying to establish an inventory for the family-friendliness of different career paths using data from O*Net.  Hopefully this will help students and professionals make decisions about which career path may be right for them.

If you’d like to participate in research exploring the long-term impact unpaid internships have on career success , contact Alina Guarise or James Kostenblatt.

Alina GuariseDesalina (Alina) Guarise, Associate Director of Career Advancement Center at Lake Forest College




James W. Kostenblatt

James, W. Kostenblatt, Associate Director, New York University’s Wasserman Center for Career Development

We Are All Career Services

Michelle Bata

Michelle Bata, Associate Dean and Director of the LEEP Center, Clark University


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.


The Career Services Profession Is for Artists, Too

Tamara ClarksonTamara Clarkson, Career Services Consultant, Purdue University
Twitter: @tamcatcam

In the four years I’ve worked in career services, I’ve consistently heard we must recruit staff with diverse backgrounds and from various fields. I wholeheartedly agree, but that might just be my degree in art talking.

I began college, like many first-generation students, surprised I’d even gotten in. Now I was expected to pick a lifelong career? My freshman year, I studied studio art at a private university, but soon realized I didn’t know what I wanted to do and transferred to a community college closer to home. After a year of community college, I transferred to Texas State University, and when they wouldn’t take “undecided” as my choice for a major—as a junior—I hastily stuck with art. With that decision, I had seemingly selected my path for life. I focused on art education,n but found that the teaching profession did not suit my INFJ-ness. Then I thought, maybe art history could be a fulfilling career.

How many students have you seen that make life-altering decisions like these almost at random? If you’re keeping track, that’s three majors in as many schools and I was completely lost. I didn’t know how to evaluate what I loved or what I needed to feel satisfied in a career.

So I saw a career counselor.

Just kidding!

Like many first generation college students, I had no idea how to navigate the college system or find the resources that could provide direction. When I finally reflected, as a super senior, on what would give me true fulfillment and satisfaction in the workplace, I realized for the first time that what I was skilled at (creating art) did not align with what would bring me professional satisfaction (helping others).

The best professional decision I ever made was applying to the counseling program at Texas State after receiving my B.A. in art history. Luckily, the faculty saw my unique background as an asset. The program made me become who I am today and I’m so thankful to the professors and colleagues who helped shape me. It was there that I learned I needed a career that involved counseling, but also offered opportunities to work on projects and meet deadlines. I conducted several informational interviews with Texas State’s career services professionals and realized career services could provide the balance I was looking for. Four years later, I am a career services consultant at Purdue’s Center for Career Opportunities (CCO). If getting an M.A. in counseling was the best professional decision of my life, joining the CCO is my second.

When I see students struggling to stick with a career path that they have the skillset but not the passion for, or they simply don’t know what they’d be interested in pursuing outside of college, I enjoy telling them that so many others have struggled with the same dilemma. We are all unique, and as we change, so may our professional goals and interests. They don’t have to choose what they want to do for the rest of their lives, all they have to figure out is their first few steps. And I can tell them that diverse interests and a curiosity that exceeds a narrow career path are assets, not liabilities, because I am a career services professional, but I wouldn’t be here if I was not also an artist.

Helping Students Find Expertise

KKathryn Douglasathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Twitter: @fescdo

Words that rhyme with expertise:
Appease, Bhutanese, breeze, cerise, cheese, éminence grise, freeze, journalese, marquise, overseas, Portuguese, seize, sneeze, squeeze, Stockton-on-Tees,
trapeze, valise, vocalese, wheeze – selections from Oxford

Part of my job is to encourage students going on the job market to think about their areas of expertise. My goal is for them to confidently position themselves as candidates with specialized knowledge—not only as doers with hands-on experience to quantify on their resume with start and end dates, and not only as technical, language, or soft skill wizards with long lists of certifications and skills. Although these elements are important too.

I have read drafts of resumes where I can barely tell that a student has just spent two to six years taking courses, conducting complicated research, and learning broadly and deeply.

And so I ask them about coursework, concepts, areas of expertise.

  • Student: “But I can’t include x on my resume, I don’t have any experience doing it!”
  • Me: “Do you know anything about x?”
  • Student: “Well, yes, [insert impromptu dissertation on x].”

During these impromptu dissertations, I jot down some of the specific, interesting keywords that roll off a student’s tongue—COP21, LCA, renewables, EPI, deforestation free, paw paw, NRDC, camera trap, biophilic, Hotshot, CEQ, ecosystem services, bioswale, carbon neutral, Clean Air Act, systems thinking, Peace Corps, biochar. I might ask for clarification of a few terms, and suddenly there are more keywords. In a career counseling session, students do not have to worry about impressing me. And if I ask the right questions, they reveal that they do know something. And usually it is a lot of something.

It doesn’t matter if I’m working with a career-changing masters candidate with 10 years of work experience or an international student straight out of an undergraduate program—transitioning from student to expert is intimidating. Most students balk when I ask them to tell me about their expertise.

Afterall, students are students. They are learners. Faculty are the experts.

Surrounded by faculty experts and by peers who know a lot of the same things, students tend to think of themselves as:

  • knowing significantly less than others, and
  • not knowing anything special.

While I ask questions to tease out specific knowledge and reflect it back, I suggest the following knowledge scale to help students frame and think more objectively about their expertise:

  • For the past two years I have focused on…
  • I have expertise in…
  • I have thorough knowledge of…
  • I have knowledge of…
  • I am thoroughly familiar with…
  • I am familiar with…
  • I have heard of it.

When an advisee finishes describing the statewide coastal resiliency planning, renewable energy finance mechanisms, or conflict resolution strategies in small rural communities in a developing country they have been focusing on for two years (but failed to mention on their resume because it wasn’t part of their work experience), I hand them a Post-It note (or three) with keywords and concepts I have gleaned.

And then I prompt them with these questions:

  • Are there any areas included here in which you can confidently claim expertise?
  • Can you use some of this language to summarize a two-year academic or professional focus?
  • Can you identify two or three topics from this list in which you have thorough knowledge?
  • Do you have anything to add to knowledge and expertise you haven’t included in your cover letter and resume?

Unpacking knowledge, focus, and expertise is a key process for accurately and strongly presenting oneself.  Once these elements are thought out and well articulated, they can be emphasized on a resume (in a variety of ways including a bullet or bullets under degree of Selected Coursework, Projects, or Focus, or with a separate, brief “Research Interest” or “Special Focus” section), highlighted in a cover letter, and included when answering a range of interview questions.




Calling for a Return to Relationships

Irene Hillman

Irene Hillman, Manager of Career Development, College of Business, Decosimo Success Center, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga

When I was first introduced to the world of student services as an educational psychology student, what intrigued me was the coaching aspect. I was taught that the key to successful coaching was to recognize your student as resourceful and whole, and to “meet them where they are.” That phrase, a decade and a half later, still floats into my brain when I talk with a client.

It takes a good deal of curiosity to really find out where a student is in her path of life and where she wants that journey to lead. Probing questions are called for, along with the ability to offer real encouragement and very often a sense of humor plus a sympathetic ear. In short, challenging a student to head toward his or her individual goals requires an authentic connection—an honest-to-goodness old fashioned relationship where you know the other person and where she’s been, where she is, and where she is going.

But I see this art of coaching frequently dwindling in career development departments. As colleges and parents focus on the ROI of the ever-increasing tuition payment, the focus has tipped, in my opinion, towards “checking the box” of offering services.

As we struggle to serve a large population, automating processes has become the norm. Resumes are dropped off by students, checked for typos by career services associates, and picked up the next morning again with rarely a discussion of what type of job the resume is trying to target or transferable skills a student might have left uncovered. Students are given access to a myriad of career assessment tests but may never have a conversation with an adviser about how results should be interpreted or how the results might affect their college experience. Pamphlets about the importance of job shadows, professional associations, networking—you name it—are developed and distributed without follow up to see if students understood the advice, are ready to get their feet wet, or have the support they need to make real progress.

In this stunted model, the responsibility is placed on the student to build their own career development program using the bits and pieces we provide. Have you ever heard of a baseball coach putting bats, gloves, and balls on the field and then sitting in the dugout? Our intentions are good and the resources are solid, but our efforts are in danger of falling flat in terms of providing support that actually moves a student toward career success.

I propose that the way to help a student is to know a student. Have all these resources and tools ready to use and share, but at the right moment—when your client is ready to take that particular step in her journey.

And, I should mention, only in a real relationship can you expect accountability from a student. In any other scenario, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope students are listening to the advice out there—on your department’s website, in the pamphlets, in your class visit—but they are more likely listening to whatever is streaming through their headphones. I have heard many career services professionals complain that students are unresponsive and lackadaisical. I am positive that those same students would be attentive and engaged if a relationship was in place with their career adviser.

Another thing to consider is the impact not having relationships with your students will have on employers. How would I identify which job opportunity or company I would recommend to a student without understanding his/her objectives and strengths? I would be failing my employers as a result of not knowing my students.
If I’m worth my salt as a career development professional, I want to be able to push a student toward progress—and progress is a highly subjective term. I need to be keenly aware of what progress would mean to the individual in front of me. There is no standard or bulk option. Does this stretch me thin? Heck yeah. Is it worth it? Heck yeah. Relationships are what make me love being a career development professional. Seeing my students transform into flourishing professionals is the best feeling in the world. And if I was busy checking the box, I would miss it.

A Week in the Life of a Career Services Leader


Christian Garcia, Associate Dean and Executive Director, Toppel Career Center, University of Miami LinkedIn:     Twitter: @christiangarcia

“What the heck do you do all week?” Yeah, I’ve been asked that question here and there (insert eye roll emoji), so here are some highlights from a recent week on the grind. I didn’t include everything because a guy’s gotta have some mystery, right? Oh, and head on over to to learn more about the programs and initiatives I reference below.


8:00 a.m. Doctor’s appointment to get test results from annual physical (aside from a Vitamin D deficiency, all is good).

8:45 a.m. Quick stop at Starbucks on the way into the office: Trenta Iced Coffee with cream and six Equals, oatmeal with nuts and brown sugar. Repeat Tues. – Fri.

9:00 a.m. Toppel huddle, which happens every Monday, is a quick lightning round where each staff member shares what is on their plate for the week. The huddle occurs in the career center lobby (regardless of visitors present) and lasts no longer than 10 minutes. 

10:00 a.m. Strategic planning meeting with my leadership team to discuss where we are currently and next steps. For the past year, the entire Toppel staff has been immersed in the strategic planning process, which kicked off with a visit from career center innovators: Amjad Ayoubi (Tulane), Christine Cruzvergara (Wellesley/previously George Mason), and Joe Testani (U. of Rochester). During Meeting of the Minds, which we dubbed a “modern day external review,” each team within the center presented a pitch of their vision for Toppel in 2025. A number of brilliant ideas were presented and have been molded and shaped since last March, culminating in the soon-to-be-unveiled Toppel 2025: Career Services is Everybody’s Business. That’s all I can share at this point…stay tuned!

Afternoon set aside for planning a presentation to the Parents Council later in the week. The Parents Council, a group of about 80 influential parents, meets a few times a year and I have been invited to share with them my vision for the future of career services. Little do they know that they’re getting one of the first glimpses into Toppel 2025…


9:00 a.m. Strengthening teams meeting. For the sake of brevity, check out my previous post All Play and No Work?

11:30 a.m. Lunch planning meeting for the 2nd Annual Lavender Celebration. Toppel was a proud sponsor of the inaugural graduation celebration for LGBTQ graduates last year and will continue to support this important event for years to come.

2:00 p.m. One-on-one with my boss, Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education. Discuss recent accomplishments, update on strategic plan, brainstorm topics for his speech to a group of 21 career center directors visiting U.M. next month, and I’m quickly outta there.

3:00 p.m. One-on-one with my Associate Director of Assessment and Communication. This meeting basically consisted of me gushing over all the extraordinary work he and his student intern team have been producing!


11:00 a.m. Skype call with one of my NACE mentees. Jeffrey (College of Brockport-SUNY) knows about my undying love for Madonna and today, he created an agenda that used a different Madonna song for each agenda item. #hegetsme. This year, I hit the jackpot with not just one, but TWO, pretty amazing mentees who I know will be future leaders of our profession! The other one is Ryan from Muhlenberg College. I’m planning a future post all about our experiences in the NACE Mentor Program which is going to be cool!

1:00 p.m. One-on-one with my Associate Director for Career Readiness, who is one of the most genuine and positive individuals I have ever met. And by the way, she’s been talking about career readiness before career readiness was a thing!

2:00 p.m. Run all over the building to make sure it’s clean and tidy. See next entry.

2:15 p.m. Visit from Patricia Toppel. Yes, our namesake dropped by with her son and two granddaughters who wanted a tour of our beautiful building, which would not have been possible without the generosity of the Toppel family. Mrs. Toppel is a class act and I always love when I have the opportunity to see her.

6:00 p.m. Happy hour with our Associate Director, Employer Development, Washington, D.C. Hilary lives and works for us in D.C., but spends two weeks in Miami each semester. As always, the staff gathers for a happy hour in her honor before she leaves. Miss her already!


9:00 a.m. One-on-one with my Director of Career Education, who is doing a phenomenal job managing his area and empowering his team of career advisers. He led our recent transition to Chaos Theory as our department’s theoretical framework and it’s already transforming the work!

11:00 a.m. Meeting with Gapingvoid, the organization responsible for the amazing artwork at Toppel. Discussed ways to continue our partnership and some exciting upcoming collaborations. Check out our building and artwork here and an article and video about how art has transformed culture at our center here.

3:30 p.m. Retirement party for one of U.M.’s most iconic and longstanding faculty members and administrator (more than 40 years of service).


9:00 a.m. One-on-one with our Assistant Director of Graduate Student and Alumni Career Programs. We discussed a program she co-leads, Professional Development Academy, which is for juniors and students, and uses NACE’s Career Readiness competencies as its guiding framework. It’s an excellent initiative!

12:00 p.m. Phew…my presentation to the Parents Council was a big hit! They loved the five pillars that encompass the vision for our future of career services at U.M. I also garnered a lot of interest in launching Career Crawls across the country and our first international Crawl to London. Cheerio!

2:00 p.m. Meeting to discuss progress on pilot program to integrate academic and career advising. This has been and will continue to be lots of work but we will get there!

3:00 p.m. Meeting with a vendor regarding a potential partnership on a pretty cool and innovative assessment tool app. That’s all I can say right now…!

4:00 p.m. Video shoot to welcome parents and family to the Toppel Insider: Family Edition e-newsletter. After over 20 takes, I finally nailed it but we have decided to include some bloopers in the final video. Should be interesting!

7:00 p.m. A nice bottle of red wine (Cabernet) is removed from my wine fridge and cracked open to enjoy and ease into the weekend! That’s it. You’re not following me into the weekend!