Interested in the Career Studio Concept? Join the Experts on a Conference Call

By Kelly Dorner posted 07-16-2018 10:46


Following the NACE 2018 conference in NOLA, I found myself excited and ready to explore a variety of passion points.  I attended many great sessions on career readiness, design thinking, pop-up marketing, and more!  Further, my participation as a panelist in the session Flip Your Career Center: Three Peer-Led Career Studios left me yearning for more learning on this topic!

 After talking to colleagues from across the country who had started or were considering creating their own Career Studios, one thing was clear in my mind: Oakland University had barely scratched the surface on the potential of our Career Studio during our first year with this model.

This left me excited to plan for the year ahead and think creatively about ways to bring our Career Studio to the next level, as brainstorming with career services professionals is one of my favorite parts of attending the NACE conference. The relationships built at and the discussion that follows the conference have been instrumental in the generation of new ideas for my department. 

This year, as I paused to reflect, I wondered how to keep the nationwide Career Studio discussion alive. The topic of peer-led, drop-in Career Studios has sparked an interest in the NACE Community, and I felt passionate about providing a forum for continued best practice sharing.  

So, I decided to pick up the phone and call my trusted colleague, and Career Studio expert, Mary T. Calhoon from the University of Nevada, Reno.  Mary T. and I presented the Flip Your Career Center presentation together with Brigham Young University. I knew Mary T. would be equally passionate about continuing to share her expertise. We put our heads together to create a series of Career Studio best practice sharing conference calls.  Promoted through a thread in the NACE Community, we put an invitation out to colleagues across the country to join us in discussion and best practice sharing.  

Our first two calls, held in late June and early July were exciting.  As we hoped, professionals from small and large institutions around the country dialed in to chat about who, what, where, and how of setting up a Career Studio. Here are just a few of the great questions and best practices shared:

Question: What can I do if I do not have budget to create a space for a Career Studio?


  • Consider transforming the lobby of your career center into a dynamic, collaborative space.
  • Incorporate mobile furniture that can be easily moved and re-configured.
  • Train peer mentors to greet visitors upon entry and route traffic as appropriate. Consider moving the receptionist to a back office to encourage a peer-led interaction.


Question:  When and how are peer mentors trained?


  • Hold training in the summer just prior to the launch of the academic year. Be sure to set expectations for availability during the hiring process so mentors mark their calendars accordingly.
  • When creating training, start with a granular list of everything that mentors will need to do by the end of training.

The University of Nevada, Reno has a one-week, 40-hour training. Oakland University hosts a one-day training for new mentors, followed by three to five hours of shadowing and independent exercise, capped off with a one-day retreat for all mentors.

Question:  How many mentors are on the floor at once? 


  • The University of Nevada, Reno is all drop-ins, all the time. They typically have between two and four mentors on the floor at a time.
  • At Oakland University, the Career Studio supplements 1:1 appointments during the first year. Two mentors at a time was typically sufficient.

Train your mentors on how to help multiple visitors at once. Studio engagement is not intended to be the same flow as a 1:1 appointment.

Question:  Do mentors answer all levels of questions from all students? 


  • At the University of Nevada, Reno, the Career Studio is 100 percent peer led. Mentors are trained to help with everything, even the tough questions. Mentors know they can tap a professional staff member when they need help, although this rarely is needed.
  • Oakland University mentors are empowered to assist all with all career related topics. If you draw too many boundaries, it undermines their confidence. It is part of the culture of our studio that all engagement should feel organic, appropriate drill-down questions should be asked, and suggestions provided. If a visitor would still like to meet with a professional staff member, the mentor should facilitate this.

Overall, Mary T. and I were impressed with the attendance, energy, and open dialogue of the calls. 

We plan to host another call on July 24 at 1 (PT), 3 (CT), and 4 (ET).  The topic will be Career Studio flow: What will the mentors do?  The Dial-in number is: (515) 604-9944 Access code: 530666.   We look forward to talking with fellow Career Studio warriors on our upcoming call. Join this call even if you've missed the first two.

We are excited to continue brainstorming additional ways to keep the best practice sharing alive!