Career development for college students occurs all over campus. There are formal offices like career centers to support students’ personal and professional development. Career education may also happen in classrooms, during academic advising appointments, and in co-curricular experiences. To advance students’ career education and engagement, career services professionals must ask themselves how they can ensure that students receive high-quality career information and resources in settings outside the formal career services office.
The University of Illinois realized the need to embed career education in the ethos of the institution after the career services office examined a climate survey of Liberal Arts & Sciences majors, which showed that students who had career questions were three times more likely to first turn to their academic advisor for guidance than a campus career office. These results supported findings by Gordon (2019) that “advisors are often the first professionals on campus to hear a student express a career concern” (p. 69). In addition, data from the central career center showed that the number one student referral source for students scheduling career appointments came from the student’s academic advisor. This information was telling of not just where students were initially going for advice, but a key indication on how numerous students find their way into career centers. Given these survey results, career services professionals aspired to disrupt the perception that career conversations with students only happened in career centers and then enhance the knowledge or skills of academic advisors through intentional career and academic collaboration (Ledwith, 2014).
A Career Coaching Certificate for Academic Advisors
The new university program seeks to support academic advisors’ early introduction of career concepts to students by providing academic advisors a foundational yet practical understanding of specific career theories and tools they could turn to when working with students during appointments. Through the education and empowerment of campus colleagues in academic advising, career services can reach students sooner and create a more robust referral mechanism. Reaching students earlier in the career development process can subsequently shape the framework for an undergraduate education and support the student learning outcomes of both career services and academic advising (NACADA, 2006). By offering a career coaching certificate for academic advisors, career services supports these student-advisor conversations and also provides professional development around a topic that is practical and instrumental in supporting the growth and development of their advising practices.
The components of the career program begin with an understanding of the fundamentals of career coaching, counseling, and advising. With our program’s focus on college advisors, the program intentionally, and uniquely, adds fundamentals of advising to the material along with essential elements of counseling and coaching to allow participants to better understand the differences and similarities of each practice. Crossover between each practice is prevalent when working to meet the career needs of students during their college experience but understanding when best to utilize one strategy over another is less commonly recognized.
To achieve the training objectives, the program spans 8 to 10, two-hour sessions with each discussion focused on a specific career theory, and the following week spent practicing and using hands-on tools and resources in the context of a meeting with a student. The opportunity to apply and practice theoretically grounded techniques makes the program beneficial and distinctive. Each session is facilitated by the authors who have multiple years of experience in career services, academic advising, and teaching, and the content was developed using open-sourced materials from NCDA, NACE, NACADA, individual theorist’s websites, and textbooks.
The theories covered in the program include foundational career theories of Holland and Super and evolve to the more contemporary theories like career construction and planned happenstance. In addition to specific career theories, the program also provides a session on micro-counseling skills, appointment structuring, and multicultural career counseling.
Increasing Confidence Through Training
Academic advisors initiate meaningful conversations with the many students they serve but may not have the confidence and skill to deeply engage students in these conversations if they lack knowledge around career development theory, career toolkits, and specific campus resources. To assess the program’s impact on advisors’ confidence, participants complete a pre-post assessment using a 5-point Likert scale from 1 (very low) to 5 (very high) to measure confidence around career conversations with students. The five areas measured included the following: 1) confidence having general career conversations, 2) ambiguous career conversations, 3) how interests and skills translate to career options, 4) how childhood dreams translate to career options, and 5) how a student’s personal identity fits into a career path. We found through the pre-post assessment that advisors reported an increase in each area of confidence, which is presented in Table 1.
Participant Confidence in Career Conversations
In addition to the pre-post evidence, participants also provided positive comments on the program. Participants shared an appreciation for new abilities to advance students’ career engagement during individual advising conversations or classroom activities. They also appreciated new abilities to offer services that could help attract and retain students to their majors.
While the program was initially designed for academic advisors, we have now begun to offer it to new staff. Some career services practitioners join our profession without prior knowledge or adequate training around the theories that guide our work. The program benefits participants with a deeper dive into the career theories while applying strategies of different theories into their everyday career counseling practice.
Career Support on Campus and Beyond
This university program began from a desire to create stronger collaborations between career services and academic advising on our campus. To date, three program cohorts have concluded on our campus, and we have recently begun to offer the program virtually to practitioners across the Midwest. The content of the program is strong, and the enhanced partnerships with the advising community and peer institutions’ career and advising staff has been an asset in advancing career support for college students across the board. (988 words)
Gordon, V. N. (2019). The 3-I process: A career-advising framework. NACADA Journal, 39(2), 64-71.
Ledwith, K. E. (2014). Academic advising and career services: A collaborative approach. New Directions for Student Services, 2014(148), 49-63. https://doi.org/10.1002/ss.20108
NACADA. (2006). Pillars of academic advising. https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/Concepts.aspx
Troxel, W. G., & Kyei-Blankson, L. (2020). The “typical” advising session: An exploration of consistency. NACADA Research Report 201. NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. https://nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Research-Center/Research.aspx
Brian Neighbors has 16 years of experience in career and academic development within secondary and higher education. He has worked with students in multiple disciplines at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and currently serves as the Associate Director for Student and Career Services for the School of Labor and Employment Relations. Brian has developed multiple career courses at Illinois, and he is a PhD candidate in Educational Administration and Leadership with research interest in K-12 teacher hiring, high school to college student career development, and contemporary career development theories. Brian has presented at NASPA, Midwest ACE, and NCDA on topics related to employer engagement, career development for military connected students, and career coaching. He can be reached at email@example.com
Amanda Cox, CCC, has 22 years of experience in career counseling and higher education. She currently serves as the Associate Director, Career Advising for Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She is passionate about the career development needs of students and training campus partners on the value of career services in higher education. Amanda is deeply committed to achieving equity through career services. Amanda has presented at NCDA, NACE, Midwest ACE and NACADA on topics related to equity in career services and career counseling and training. She currently serves as the co-chair for the National Career Development Association (NCDA) Awards Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org