Saying Yes to the Global Career Services Summit

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

A few weeks ago I returned from the inaugural Global Career Services Summit held at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom (U.K.). It was the brainchild of Bob Athwal, Director of Student Experience and Careers at the University of Leicester, and Tom Devlin, Executive Director of the University of California Berkeley Career Center.

The program was the first of its kind and included a group of 68 career professionals invited to participate and some select sponsors from eight countries. The primary focus of the summit was to share best practices, discuss accountability within our profession, examine the global work force of tomorrow, explore new career center models, and provide opportunities for cultural exchange among practitioners. Since it was, perhaps, the most beneficial professional development experience of my life thus far, I wanted to share a few reflections. I was struck most by the fact that we were all dealing with very similar issues. Yes, we have some different terminology. We use the terms “placement” or “career outcomes” where our U.K. friends use “employability.” But I left intrigued by how the challenges we face and the innovations we are attempting are quite comparable. For example, we all face the challenge of our institutions recruiting more and more international students, but our governments restricting their ability to work in our country. In fact, by percentage, our friends abroad face this challenge even more than we do in the United States.

Secondly, we are all acutely aware of federal—and in many cases more so state—pressure on institutions for positive career outcomes. At the same time, our Take the National Student Survey Todaycolleagues in the United Kingdom are dealing with the “DHLE” (Destination of Leavers). We now have NACE standards providing our institutions much needed structure to create an “apples to apples” comparison for parents (as noted in this recent article by Billie Streufert), they have the National Student Survey which was prominently promoted all over the University of Leicester student union area, including large promotions along their walkways.

There are striking similarities in how we are challenged with a barrage of reports about the skills gap our college graduates have. As we know here in the U.S., a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) task force comprised of representatives from both the higher education and corporate world developed a definition and identified seven competencies associated with career readiness for the new college graduate in 2015.

After being inspired to research a bit more what, for example, the U.K. is facing in this regard, I found an interesting blog from the London School of Economics and Political Science by Steven Ward. This helped me rethink the way I view this perceived gap and how we can add to the conversation in a different way. Without the conference, I would not have discovered this article and had my thinking challenged in that way.

The skills gap holds some new graduates back.It was also striking how we are sometimes responding in similar ways to external challenges. For example, during the tour of our host institution and career center at the University of Leicester, which has approximately 21 thousand students, we examined the efficiency of their appointment model and how they moved from hour-long appointments to 20 minute appointments with significant pre-work assigned to students in advance.

We needed to make similar changes at Binghamton University and moved to a structured amount of time for our walk-in appointments and to 30-minute individual appointments, allowing for us to grow our individual appointment number by 130 percent the following year with the same staffing. However, while we did have “pre-work” assigned to our practice interview appointment students, we have not done what Leicester has with our other appointments So, I plan for our department to examine that concept further.

And while we have dipped our toe into a program to assist in sophomore’s professional and leadership development skills, I liked seeing how Leicester partnered with an external vendor, The SmartyTrain, to create an innovative skills development program called “The Leicester Award.” I predict that we will, over time, see more career centers developing innovative ways to help students develop the key skills we know employers are seeking, rather than only educate students about what the skills are and how to best articulate their skills and strengths.

Marilyn Mackes leading a session

Marilyn Mackes leading a session

Naturally the networking and new friendships made with leaders in our field that I admire was, personally, my favorite part of the conference. It was also noted as being one of the best benefits for others; 66 percent of the participants stressed the importance of networking as being a primary conference benefit. It set the stage for professionals in our field from Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Italy, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. to engage in meaningful relationships, thus opening up opportunities and potential collaborations that may otherwise not occur.

One of my biggest professional takeaways was around an idea that Paul Blackmore from the University of Exeter brought up one night at dinner. We often do not realize how we can get stuck in a systems thinking mindset within our own countries. When we expose ourselves to others outside of our regular connections and cultures, our thinking is challenged and we may take different—and better—approaches to solving challenges that we might not have otherwise even considered. We begin to question our own stereotypes and traditional ways of thinking, as well as aspects of our own culture that were previously unexamined. It all sounds quite similar to what we say our students gain when they study abroad, right?

I also left with some questions…

  • How much do economic conditions affect our profession’s current state of being and initiatives?
  • What would our experience have been with a mix of different countries? It was a great start, but we all agreed there were other countries that would be helpful in the future.
  • How can we continue the momentum and build partnerships with similar institutions as ours around the globe in order to better our service to students and employers?

I arrived home before heading to NASPA with a feeling of being so grateful for the initial invitation to participate. There was never any hesitation on my part since I have never been in a position to travel to Europe and have dreamed of going for years. Plus, the list of attendees was too great to miss. When I received the invitation I knew it would mean being out of the office for nearly three consecutive weeks in March for work and family reasons, plus it would mean flying my in-laws in to assist with our children since my partner would be traveling at the same time.

Reunion of former Indiana University colleagues

Reunion of former Indiana University colleagues

I would be remiss to not add how thankful I also am that Tim Luzader and Marianna Savoca, colleagues from our days at Indiana University, reached to out see if I would like to travel with them a couple days early to see London. Traveling with them was most certainly a highlight I will always treasure, too. The entire experience was, most certainly, one of the best professional experiences I have ever had. Saying “yes” to this invitation was a decision I’ll never regret, and I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity and those that made the summit happen.


Career Services Becomes a Primary Focus for Student Affairs

Heather TranenHeather Tranen, Associate Director, University of Pennsylvania Career Services

With increasing attention on return on investment in higher education, it’s no wonder that the pressure subsequently increases on career services professionals to deliver. As a result, career services becomes a more central point of discussion within the realm of student affairs.

My former colleague, Leah Lattimore, and I submitted a career services focused workshop for National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) to explore the effective communication strategies that promote lifelong career development.

Luckily, our crawfish dreams were answered and our proposal was New Orleans-bound for NASPA 2015: Navigating Courage.


We felt excited about presenting on our topic to a different audience. What I did not expect to find was the plethora of other career-related sessions throughout the conference. I was able to learn more about data/assessment, the future of career services, the importance of early engagement, and recruitment trends. Sessions were also well attended by a cross-section of departments (housing, student activities, and alumni relations to name a few).  Undoubtedly, other student affairs professionals are recognizing career development as a high impact area of their field.

A few weeks later, I am now fully able to digest (literally and figuratively), the main takeaways from the conference as they relate to our work as career services practitioners. None of this information is surprising. However, it all provides interesting insight into where the industry is at the moment, and reminds us how to focus our work.

Data, data, data. As you might suspect, data and showcasing ROI through hard numbers was a hot topic. I don’t mean to brag, but Penn collects data and showcases it in a way where it frames a story for its students (e.g. What can I do with my major, or Where are people with my major working geographically?). One question posed and potentially worth considering to include in your placement surveys would be, “Why didn’t students use career services?” I enjoyed learning what offices at John Jay and FSU are doing during these discussions, and think it is worth thinking beyond just our placement statistics to explore how the data creates a story.

Customized, targeted services. Thought leaders from RIT, NYU, Stanford, and George Mason talked about the future of career services. The need for the core services with a targeted approach will only become an increasing pressure on us as career services professionals. Additionally, Georgia State discussed their targeted programming/niche career fairs. This was also a leading theme in our presentation.

Early engagement. Schools like UConn are offering credit-bearing First-Year Experience (FYE) courses. This definitely seems like an interesting way to tie career services to the academic enterprise and to put career services at the forefront of students’ minds from the very beginning of their college experience.

Recruiting trends. Employers pursuing a “soft” recruiting approach by targeting candidates via social media and at career development events vs. the more traditional recruitment events (e.g. career fairs and information sessions) is also a trend schools are seeing.

That career services has become a central focus within higher education came when speaker Trudy Steinfeld addressed a standing-room only group. She said, “I presented at NASPA many years ago. Guess how many people were in my session? Six.”


Trudy Steinfeld said to a standing room only group, “I presented at NASPA many years ago. Guess how many people were in my session? Six.”

Now it’s up to us as professionals in the field to continue delivering top-tier work, and to innovate ways that connect our students to the placement numbers society seeks and to the careers that lead them to fulfilling work.



Building Self-Efficacy in First-Year Students

Jade PerryJade Perry, Coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University
Twitter: @SAJadePerry1

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. Reframing 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!


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.


NACE Flash Poll: Is “Career” in Your Institution’s Curriculum?

kevin grubbNACE Ambassador Kevin Grubb
Assistant Director at Villanova University’s Career Center.
Twitter: @kevincgrubb
Blog: “social @ edu”

One of the latest trends in career services is the establishment of a career or professional development class embedded into curriculum. Courses may be required, optional, for credit or non-credit bearing. With the importance of career outcomes rising for colleges and universities, this is a new possible solution for providing career education to all students.

NACE blog readers, is “career” in your institution’s curriculum? Share your answer in this poll and tell us about your career course in a comment. What do you teach and how do you do it?

For more information on this topic, check out NACE’s Career Course Syllabi.

Fixated on “First Destinations”

kevin grubbA post by NACE Guest Blogger, Kevin Grubb.
Assistant Director at Villanova University’s Career Center.
Twitter: @kevincgrubb
Blog: “social @ edu”.

 That’s my official meditation for today at the NACE conference.  This morning, I attended a session hosted by the NACE First Destination Task Force where we discussed what’s been happening at the association and beyond with our increasingly critical surveys about where our graduates go after they leave our institutions.  With national attention being paid to these data and the numbers in the spotlight more often than ever, there’s no doubt this is a hot topic for career services attendees at the conference.  Here’s a breakdown of the session and some commentary by one of your faithful bloggers.

NACE has already released a position statement about these First Destinations surveys in July 2012, and we kicked off the session with a review of the principles laid out in this statement.  The short version of that is:

  • Post graduate success is the mission of entire institution, not just career services
  • All graduates of institutions should be tracked in these surveys
  • Career services should have central role in collecting this information
  • Outcomes should be inclusive, not just about immediate employment
  • Human subject & institutional research protocols should be observed when collecting information
  • Data may come from various reliable sources
  • Data collection should be on-going, with the final collection efforts completed by 6-9 months from graduation
  • Data should be reported in aggregate and should protect individual confidentiality
  • Outcome data should consider: response rates, academic program breakdown of data, job titles, employers, salary data, further academic study (what program and what institution)

The NACE Task Force is working on a version of a standardized first destination survey which can be used by all institutions.  The Task Force’s plan is to have all institutions be using this survey for the graduating class of 2014.  So, with that in mind, the Task Force needed to do quite a bit more beyond what has been set forth in the position statement.  Namely:

  • There would need to be a core set of questions to be asked universally and consistently
  • There would need to be establish definitions for standard measures (i.e. defining what “full-time employment” really means)
  • There would need to be an agreed upon appropriate time frame for data collection
  • There would need to be suggested response rate requirements to ensure that the data reported is statistically valid and reliable

This is all no small order.  What about entrepreneurs?  What about graduates in the summer, the fall, or schools on different academic calendars?  How can we standardize all of this?  Questions about the intricacies of this are abundant, and rightfully so.

The Task Force was ready to share a bit about where they are in the process, so here’s what was learned.

New Language for First Destination Surveys

  • Perhaps we can lay the “p” word to rest?  The suggestion is to call it “career outcomes” rather than “placement.”
  • Recognizing that information about post graduate career outcomes comes from various sources (not just our surveys), the suggestion is to consider “knowledge rates” rather than “response rates.”  For instance, say a faculty member or employer lets a career services office know a student was hired and reports job title & employer information.  That’s knowledge, not a “response.”
  • When the data collection period ends, we can “close the books.”  Ongoing data collection can and should happen after graduation, and the profession should consider counting early, mid and later in academic year graduates (not just traditional “Spring” grads).  However, knowing that spring graduation is the largest for a majority of institutions, we can consider closing the books six months after that date, which is approximately December 1.  NACE would consider reaching out for information by the end of December, and then could share aggregate data in January to legislators, those involved in public policy, and those in trends reporting.

Suggestions for type and amount of information to collect

  • The Task Force suggested a knowledge rate range between 65% and 85%.  This is to serve as an initial guidepost for us, and should help us find a workable range that is achievable, valid, and reliable.  Over time as we develop this, the suggested knowledge rate range may increase
  • The outcome measures to be provided include information such as (this is not the whole picture here): percentage of graduates employed full-time, those pursuing further study, those still seeking employment, and those not seeking employment.  While information should be collected for graduate and undergraduate students, there should also be separate information for the undergraduate and graduate levels as well
  • For the employment category, examples of information to collect include: job title, employer, salary (both base salary & guaranteed first year compensation, which includes signing bonuses)
  • For the further study category, the name of the academic program and institution name should be collected
  • If a student is working and pursuing further study, it is suggested that the data be categorized by the graduate’s primary pursuit.

A few more dimensions the Task Force is considering:

  • A way to measure a graduate’s satisfaction with their outcome?  Meaning: is this where they wanted to be?
  • For those who are reported as being employed full-time, is the employment related to their degree?
  • For now, the further study category is intended for those who are pursuing a graduate degree.  What about other types of study?  Certification programs?  Those who want to earn another undergraduate degree?

Suffice it to say, there are still many questions about this process yet to be answered.  But, I think I can safely say there is agreement that this is important work which needs doing.  It’s a challenge, no doubt.  Life doesn’t fit into defined categories easily, and so it follows that neither does one’s career plans.  At a time when many want to know, “is college worth it?,” these first destination data points can be key indicators of a piece of the puzzle that is an answer to that question.