Research says college students need more career readiness resources

There’s a slight disconnect between the kind of career preparation resources college students want at their institutions and the resources they actually use. Recently, a survey from Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse asked two- and four-year college students across 144 different institutions how their schools are preparing them for life after college. The students surveyed believe their institution’s career resources should include:

  • Résumé development (69%)
  • Career exploration (67%)
  • Recruitment events (64%)
  • Internship placement (62%)
  • Mock interviews (59%)
  • Networking (56%)
  • Internship preparation (51%)

 

The report notes that many of the above percentages are significantly higher than students’ actual usage rates for the same kinds of services at their institutions. This suggests “. . . something of a disconnect between what students value in career centers and what help they’re actually seeking out—or what’s available.” Here are some additional highlights from the survey:

  • 31% have never interacted with their institution’s career resources or career center
  • 53% of two-year college students used career center resources to help choose their major
  • 38% of four-year college students used career center resources to help choose their major

 

Students say their top three priorities are:

  1. Increasing their knowledge in a subject they’re passionate about (49%)
  2. Expanding their knowledge in a variety of other subject areas (42%)
  3. Developing the specific skills needed for their careers (41%)

 

There are also discrepancies related to equity. The survey found that while 45% of White students are generally satisfied with the career resources they’ve used, the numbers are lower for underrepresented racial groups. For example, only 29% of Asian students, 32% of Black students, and 29% of Hispanic students expressed the same satisfaction as their peers. (This Inside Higher Ed article also includes helpful information about how to make career resources work for students of color.)

 

Refresh college career resources by viewing students holistically

Clearly, there is work to be done on the career readiness front. According to the VitaNavis report, Establishing a Standard Vocabulary for Career Exploration, the obstacles that career counselors, academic advisors, and institutional leaders face are cyclical. Educators of all kinds “. . . wrestle with unclear standards, ill-defined vocabularies, and restricted budgets, making it difficult for them to do their jobs. Students are, to some degree, aware of these weak points. The strained service, confusing communication, and lack of actionable results make students less inclined to partake in career counseling, which further exacerbates the problem.”

This unfortunate dynamic can be repaired, though it might look different depending on the type of institution. For educators to accurately and reliably help students with career decision-making and readiness, they’ll need to look at students more holistically. In addition to academic accomplishments, students must also be able to access resources that build their confidence and increase their self-awareness. If students are empowered to understand who they are at their core, they’ll be more likely to align themselves with education and career pathways that increase persistence through the college years and beyond.

Take, for example, the idea of students’ interests in the context of career exploration. In the research study, The Nature and Power of Interests, Dr. James Round and Dr. Rong Su found that interests are powerful enough to predict a student’s educational and/or career choices, performance, and success. Likewise, Dr. Paul J. Silvia’s research in Interest – The Curious Emotion confirms that interest in and of itself has many of the same qualities as other key emotions like happiness, frustration, or grief. Interests affect the way students think, identify themselves, and make decisions.

Personality type is another example along these same lines. Each student has innate preferences regarding what energizes them, their learning style, the way they make decisions, and how they organize their time or environment (when using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® [MBTI] assessment, specifically). According to Alexander Astin’s Student Involvement Theory and Vincent Tinto’s Model of Student Departure, the first two factors of student persistence are a sense of purpose and the opportunity for differentiated instruction. Personality preferences are relevant here because they deeply impact what makes someone feel a sense of purpose, how they learn best, what kind of communication they prefer, what motivates them, and much more. If campus career resources used personality type as a launchpad for career exploration and readiness, it could open up opportunities and pathways that students may not have considered otherwise.

In the next blog post, we’ll provide some specific examples and ideas for how higher ed leaders can enhance career readiness resources at their institutions.

Research says college students need more career readiness resources

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