September 26, 2020
Catherine Neiner is director of university career services at Georgia State University. This is the fifth in a series of blogs on working with faculty.
(Read from the beginning: Faculty Will Engage With Career Readiness on Their Own Terms, Speaking Faculty, Make It Easy for Faculty, Some Secrets to Our Success.)
We all struggle with what students “want” vs. what we know students “need.” But to navigate that, we need to figure out what the actual problem is that we are trying to solve. Where is career on a student’s list of priorities? Sure, they are in college to get to career. But on most campuses engagement with career services is not required and it is not transactional. If students are living in the here and now—and putting all their efforts into the required and transactional—how do we get their attention?
On the other hand, career services is often touted as the place where students will “get” that career they dream of. Admissions wants “success” stories. Institutional Effectiveness wants “success” rates. Faculty highlights their “successful” graduates. They all want “our” stories to tout how well our graduates do. I always consider it a positive thing that others across the university look to us. We are usually the place that others look to to fulfill the promises they made to our students. That gives us weight. But it also puts a lot of pressure on us, don’t you agree?
Is it the faculty’s fault that students think they will walk out of their classrooms and straight into the perfect job? Admission’s? Institutional Effectiveness? No, not really. Our work with students is different from faculty’s. Ours is to build professionalism so that students can connect with employers. It is important work. It merges with the “technical” knowledge that faculty transfers to students.
We talk a lot about “meeting students where they are.” Well, students are at their part-time jobs and taking care of their family and doing homework in the middle of the night. We have think through all the barriers they have to accessing career, more important, to realizing that career readiness is vital so taking action.
At Georgia State, we reoriented our focus, and put it where students actually are, e.g., in the classroom and included it in what they are doing already. This is starting to transform the stories of how our students are becoming not only career ready but “successful.”
- Reorient your thinking from “should” to “why is it or is it not happening.” Then, determine how to refocus what you are already doing to make the impact.
- Remove barriers to career readiness.
- Give yourself a pat on the back for truly making a difference in the lives of your individual students. You don’t always know what you have said or what you have done to make that difference, but know it is having an incredibly positive impact on our future workforce.