The University Career Center (UCC) at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has implemented unique programming designed to address the common career development barriers faced by three distinct groups: veterans, athletes, and students with disabilities.
These three populations face similar barriers related to career development.
Identification of transferable skills – These individuals may encounter difficulty in articulating transferable skills obtained from their unique experiences (i.e., military training and deployment, competitive athletic participation, and overcoming disability stereotyping and discrimination). Common examples of transferable skills include:
Veterans – self-sufficiency, self-discipline, self-confidence, minimized need for supervision, ability to establish goals, ability to be a team member and a team leader, ability to give and follow instructions, leadership and management training
Athletes – teamwork, leadership, communication, goal-oriented, competitiveness, ability to accept constructive criticism, time-management, dedication, and discipline
Students with disabilities – assertiveness, persistence, positive attitude, loyalty, stability, ambitious, resilience, and self-determination
Marketing experiences to employers – These diverse groups may need assistance in presenting their skills and qualifications in a manner that allows employers to make a connection between their respective backgrounds and the demands of the position.
Identity concerns – From their experiences (i.e., military service or athletic involvement), individuals may sense they have lost a large portion of their identities. More specifically, during their career transition process, veterans and athletes commonly experience grief over the perceived loss of their identities. On the other hand, students with disabilities experience uncertainty about whether or not they should disclose their disability to an employer. The decision to disclose early on in the job search process is correlated with how significant the disability is to that student’s identity.
Lack of work experience – Veterans and athletes typically have limited work experience due to the time they have invested in their military experience and sport involvement, respectively. Therefore, it is important to encourage these individuals to utilize their experiences as strengths in both the resume and interview process. On the other hand, individuals with disabilities face other challenges in attempting to find jobs, including stereotyping, profiling, and low expectations.
Ineffective use of career center resources –The time commitment needed for athletes to succeed in their field sport, as well as in their academics, leaves little time for job-related activities, meetings, and appointments. This may cause athletes to post-pone their involvement with a career center. Veterans and students with disabilities encounter other barriers in effectively utilizing the services offered by career centers including lack of referral from respective offices (Disability Services and Veteran Affairs) and misconception of services rendered.
Job preparation and job search – Because of the difficulty in articulating how their transferable skills are relevant to the job market, these individuals will also experience complexities in the job preparation and job search processes. Career professionals may need to spend more time assisting these groups in their job search process.
Suggested Strategies for Career Professionals
The following are examples of ways in which the University Career Center (UCC) at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has developed unique programming to better serve these populations:
Career counselors have given priority to identifying companies interested in recruiting individuals with these respective backgrounds (military, disability, and athletes).
Tracking which employers have previously hired these students and which employers have a solid reputation for respecting these diverse populations for their unique skill sets.
Utilizing specialized job search websites to provide insight into which employers are considered “friendly” to these specific populations.
Connecting current students with alumni of similar backgrounds (i.e., former athletes) who have successfully transitioned into the world of work.
Keeping up-to-date on employment law and educating students about their rights.
Resources are provided on career center websites to assure that these individuals are tapping into all the available resources. Effectively collaborating with campus offices, including the Veterans Affairs office, the Athletic Department, and the Office of Disability Services, ensures easy access to career resources.
Community partnerships have been developed by establishing faculty, staff, and student contacts. When referring students to other resources on or off campus, knowing a specific contact person who will warmly welcome the student is beneficial. Examples include:
Veterans: Know students active in the Student Veterans Association (SVA), and staff in the campus Veterans Affairs office. Have a representative from the Career Services office sit on the Veterans Task Force Committee.
Athletes: Know the Life Skills Program Coordinator, Athletic Academic Advisors, Coaching staff, and Compliance officers.
Students with disabilities: Know staff in the Office of Disability Services, Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), and Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP).
Programming designed to meet the specific needs of each of these populations has been developed. Examples include:
Specific workshops are offered, such as: Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) application packet preparation workshop, transferable skills workshop for veterans, former student-athlete career transition panel presentation
Transferable skills checklists can assist students in identifying and marketing their unique skill sets to employers. Specifically for student veterans, utilizing the DD Form 2586 can be an effective stimulus to spark conversation for resume writing and interview skill purposes.
An undergraduate Personal Career Development course (COU 2103) is offered specifically for student-athletes.
Career center staff participate in new student-athlete orientation and present to potential recruits and parents during official campus visits. Additionally, a student blog is under development to assist students in gaining perspective on the job search process from fellow athletes.
A Student Veteran Information Exchange event is offered to student veterans each fall semester. This is an opportunity for representatives from both on and off campus to inform veterans of their services. A freshman seminar course for student veterans is another initiative being discussed.
Students are encouraged to get connected to their campus veterans association and utilize the mentor programming available.
Specialty events are offered for students with disabilities, including the Alamo Area Disabilities Alliance career fair and career fair preparation workshops. Career counselors attend this fair to assist and coach students.
Mock accommodations request sessions have been conducted with career counselors to assist students in articulating needs to employers.
In summary, the ultimate goal in working with diverse clients is to help them identify occupational options that align with their interests, skills, employment preferences, and personal and cultural values. This article has reviewed numerous strategies to assist other career professionals in effectively designing and implementing a plan to expand their own programming within their respective career centers.
Mary Buzzetta, M.S., LPC-Intern, is a College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA) career counselor at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Career Center. Her research interests focus on college student career development and counseling, with particular focus on the Cognitive Information Processing (CIP) approach. She has experience teaching undergraduate and graduate career development courses. She can be contacted at Mary.Buzzetta@utsa.edu
Stefanie Cisneros, M.A., is the Career Counselor for all Student-Athletes at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). She graduated from UTSA in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and in 2008 with a Master of Arts degree in Community Counseling. Her tenure at the UTSA Career Center Office spans over 10 years. She can be contacted at Stefanie.Cisneros@utsa.edu
Michael Zucker, M.A., is a College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA) career counselor at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Career Center. He has been with the UTSA Career Center for over 5 years. He is a graduate of UTSA and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and completed his Master of Arts degree in Community/School Counseling. He can be contacted at Michael.Zucker@utsa.edu