Career Studio Practitioners Share Answers to Frequently-Asked Questions

By Kelly Dorner posted 01-08-2019 08:13


It has been an exciting fall semester in Oakland University’s Career Studio. Our nearly 500 visitors had an opportunity to receive meaningful advice from our Career Ambassador Team on resumes, career fair preparation, job search, and more! This was a 62 percent increase in students visiting the Studio from last fall. We tried some exciting new things ranging from extended evening hours to employer-led Career Studio Takeover days.  As I enter the month of December and reflect, I am incredibly pleased with the buzz the Career Studio has generated on campus. As time goes on, our students and campus community are recognizing our Career Studio as a great way for students to receive meaningful, on-demand, services from our department.  

In the spirit of sharing, Mary T. Calhoon, from the University of Nevada, Reno and I held a series of best practice sharing conference calls. We were excited to gather in November and hear from more than 90  colleagues from schools across the country who had recently launched or plan to launch their own Career Studio. In case you missed it, here are some key takeaways from the call. (Notes are available in the  NACE Community.)

Here are some highlights from the call:

Question: How do you handle initial training and on-going training?

Response: A common practice is to hire in the spring and conduct training at the end of summer. The University of Nevada, Reno conducts a 40-hour week of intensive training and Oakland University conducts a two-day group training.

Additional best practices:

  • New peer advisers can apprentice with seasoned peer advisers until they feel confident.
  • Consider online courses to cover the basics, and supplement with more face-to-face training.
  • Conduct ongoing training throughout the year to refresh skills and teach new ones.
  • Looking for more specific information on the hiring and training of peer coaches? Mary T. Calhoon: has released an online course—Peer Career Coaches: Hire, Train, and Empower

Question: What does your career studio space look like?

Response: Institutions should consider thinking creatively when identifying a space. Repurposing a small lobby could serve a sufficient space to open a career studio.

Additional best practices:

  • Station peer advisers in lobby to work with students on the spot. See if demand increases to where you can ask for more of open-ended space.
  • Re-position lobby furniture to make a distinction between lobby space and space dedicated to the career studio; consider moving a reception desk to the middle of the room where it functions as a command center for peer mentors.
  • Flexible seating is key; consider mix of low- and high-top tables and counters where peer advisers can offer a quick consultation.
  • One institution shared they have a cluster of computers along the wall, a table in the middle of the room, and chairs around the table. In addition, there are some small tables with two chairs, for intentional, private, conversation.
  • Have a “triage desk” near the door to control traffic coming into the space.
  • Peer advisers should wear identifying shirts and name tags.

Question: What is the role of the professional staff in the career studio? What are the responsibilities of the peer advisers in your career studio?

Response: Oakland University’s Career Studio is staffed completely with peer advisers. The services provided serve as a supplement, rather than a replacement, for the services performed by professional staff. If a student needs a resume review, they can drop in to the Career Studio and meet with a Career Ambassador.  Alternatively, they can schedule an appointment with a professional staff member. Our Career Ambassadors are trained to take discussions as far as they organically make sense to go. For example, if a client has a question about job search, a Career Ambassador would be prepared to share appropriate resources, provide Handshake tips, and offer other relevant advice. When the student needs more specialized attention, an appointment can be made with a member of the professional staff. It is not our intention to keep clients from professional staff, and, ambassadors are trained to know how and when to make referrals for more specialized services.

Question: How are peer advisers paid?

Response:   Best practices shared:

  • Some institutions pay peer advisers and have them work a set schedule each week. An example of 10-20 hours per week was shared.
  • Revenue from career fairs and other employer events can create a budget for a peer adviser program.
  • If you have employer partnerships or sponsorships, you can build in the option to sponsor a peer adviser for a semester or year.
  • If you have an open position for a professional staff member on your team, consider hiring someone at a slightly lower level and use the salary savings to start a peer adviser team.
  • Don’t be afraid to start small, then grow and expand. 

If you would like to see more details regarding the discussion on our last call, don’t forget to check out the notes posted in the NACE Community. Mary T. Calhoon and I also plan to host additional calls in the spring. Be on the lookout for further details. In the meantime, I hope you all enjoyed a successful end to your fall semester as well as relaxation time with friends and family. Cheers!