If you’ve dedicated your career to advising students about their studies and careers, chances are, you’re truly invested in their success. We know that every career services center wants to help its students graduate and make successful contributions to the workforce. For the good of both your school as a whole and the individual students you work with, we know you strive to be the best. In the following post, we offer some examples of and suggestions from some of the best career service centers we’ve come across.

The Sincerest (And Most Successful) Form of Flattery

With an abundance of research articles about, case studies on, and new methodologies for career services emerging every day, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with conflicting information. Should you seek out your students, or let them come to you? Should you focus on academics or professional ambitions? Should you structure your department this way or that way? These questions can appear tough to answer when you’re inundated with data.

That’s why we think the best way to enhance your career services center is through imitation and emulation. First and foremost, we recommend that you do what has been demonstrated to work for college students. After all, observing the tried-and-true, practically applied methods your colleagues use to great effect is much more valuable than reading abstract theories.

What the Best Career Services Centers Do

You can discover the methods to model yours on by following top-ranked career services centers and finding out what they do to excel. Understanding common trends and practices amongst the best departments can help you formulate your own effective procedures.

The University of Notre Dame is an excellent framework for effective career counseling. Best Colleges named this institution number one in its list of Best Colleges for Career Services. The University of Notre Dame’s “undergraduate career services center maintains a dedicated staff of 35 [which is much larger than most institutions]. This includes two teams: an engagement team for first- and second-year students, and an exploration team to provide assistance in specific fields and industries.” This engagement team is crucial because it gets students involved in the career center and in control of their own vocational futures early on in college.

Similarly, Clarkson University, which is third on the list of Best Colleges for Career Services, “prides itself on its active role in helping students reach their goals by…fostering early engagement with career planning.” Clarkson’s career counselors focus their efforts on underclassmen, who traditionally avoid this department, wrongly believing it’s “too early” to start vocational planning or that they’re “not ready” to talk about their goals.

There are a wide variety of techniques institutions can use to make their career services procedures more proactive. For instance, Clemson University, which ranks seventh on the list, has “an impressive 83% usage rate among the graduating class of 2017,” with “a strong student engagement profile.” The best career service centers strive to activate the vast majority of the student body, such that career counseling becomes a core tenet of campus culture.

Pennsylvania State University also made the eighth spot on the list of Best Colleges for Career Services. This school notably offers “an individual professional mentor who works with [students] throughout their education,” giving them personalized professional guidance to keep them on track.

Lessons From the Best

What can you learn from looking at other successful career services departments? The three key takeaways from the preeminent institutions explored above are:

  • Proactive counseling. While many students are inclined to put off vocational advising until they run into problems, this is the exact opposite of what they should be doing. The best career services centers work proactively with students from the very start of their college careers, helping them avoid problems altogether rather than solve them when they become too much to bear.
  • Personalized planning. Students are unique individuals with their own unique concerns, goals, and dispositions, so they should be treated as such. Ensure that your practices treat your students as whole, distinctive people and your services will likely be much more beneficial.
  • Popular services. Widespread use is a key ingredient in career counseling success. You must make your offerings relevant, helpful, and even fun so that they’re commonly sought-after. (If you’re wondering how to make your services more well-liked, implementing the first two takeaways would certainly be an excellent start).

Reality Check

We realize that while the ideas presented are ideal, the reality for many schools is that resources can be scarce–whether these are budgets or staffing shortages. Yet, incorporating career guidance early on in a school’s matriculation or curriculum, and offering career services throughout a student’s educational journey, seemed to be the best in terms of getting students to engage from early on. It’s a practice that your entire school can and should get behind–not just one department on campus.

One way we play a role is with our VitaNavis analytics platform. VitaNavis offers assessment insights and data, tools, and analytics that drive informed decision-making and help students learn about their interests and discover more about their personal characteristics, strengths, and values as students. When students go through the platform as early as during the onboarding process, they are better equipped to inform their education plans which gets them more engaged through the entire process. VitaNavis also provides personalized suggestions, viable vocational pathways, and both personal and aggregated insights to help guide students throughout their entire college experience. And our 98% completion rate shows that students are interested in the process. Sign up for one of our weekly webinars today to learn more

Providing the Best in Career Services

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