• Stanford Moving to Career Connections Model of Career Services

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    January 22, 2014

    The economy and its effects on the job market for college graduates, especially those in humanities, has led the career services office at Stanford University to reconsider its approach to its positioning, structure, and delivery.

    “This [shift] is consistent with the trends we’ve seen in the field of career services in recent years and the pressures that college students, especially in the humanities and sciences, are experiencing in today’s competitive job market,” explains Farouk Dey, Stanford’s associate vice provost for student affairs and executive director of career services.

    Moving from a traditional transactional model of career services, Stanford is currently in Phase I of implementing a career connections model—dubbed Vision 2020—that engages communities of students, faculty, alumni, parents, and employers. The new iteration of the office will still offer traditional services like career counseling, resume assistance, and career fairs, but will have a stronger emphasis on connecting students and alumni to a network of career communities that will serve them for a lifetime.

    “There is no question that the field of career services is going through a major paradigm shift,” Dey says, noting some of the past career services models, including placement, career counseling, and networking. “The transformation at Stanford is happening because of the full investment and commitment of our staff and campus partners to offer a stronger program that helps students achieve their career aspirations.”

    Based on the recommendations of a steering committee representing diverse groups of stakeholders, the new connections model will focus on three key elements:

    1. Connections with student and faculty communities—In alignment and partnership with academic advising at Stanford, the career services office connected its career counselors to students based on academic majors and degrees. Staff continue to provide career counseling to their assigned students, although the office has replaced workshops with career meetups, which are informal discussion circles offered three to five times per week by each counselor and focus on a variety of career topics. Counselors are also responsible for developing community with their student groups and building connections with faculty and administrators in their assigned academic departments. A social media startup company is providing a platform for the office to develop career communities in the digital space.
    2. Connections with alumni and parent communities—The career services office make these connections through mentoring and networking programs such as Career Treks for Humanities, a program that takes students on site visits to companies and connects them with alumni, and the Stanford Alumni Mentoring program, which matches students with alumni mentors. These programs are not new at Stanford, but are receiving more funding and attention, and becoming key elements of the new emerging model of career connections. Future plans involve recruiting more alumni and parents as volunteer career coaches and connectors.
    3. Connections with employer communities—Stanford’s career services office has partnered with a startup company that specializes in engaging employers from a variety of sectors and locations, and makes connections between its students and alumni. Stanford’s career services office currently offers 16 career fairs per year that address employment needs in a variety of sectors, including social impact and startups. Future plans involve raising funds to support unpaid internships, and hiring industry experts to build networks with employers and connect students to internship and employment opportunities.

    “Our model is still emerging,” Dey says. “Implementing all the recommendations from Vision 2020 requires additional resources. We are in the process of requesting more funds from the university.”

    Dey says that when the model is fully implemented, students will be better equipped for the job market and the transition to the work force because of the connections they will have made and the targeted support they will have received from staff and mentors throughout their college experience.

    This shift will also bring new measures and metrics for Stanford’s career services. Dey says that his office has begun implementing a “net promoter score”—a measure of customer loyalty—and otherwise focus on student awareness of individualized attention and services, and on learning outcomes.

    “We are also addressing first destinations and lifelong professional outcomes,” Dey adds. “We partnered with institutional research and the registrar’s office so our survey is now part of the graduation application, yielding a 100 percent knowledge rate. We are also working with our alumni association and using online tools to gather professional outcome data.”

    Going forward, Dey anticipates hiring more staff and engaging alumni volunteers, as well as changing the name of the career center, reinventing its web presence, and renovating its facilities to “properly match the spirit of our new model of career connections through communities.” Dey credits his career center staff for the progress they have made thus far and the energy behind Vision 2020.

    “Although this model is new for Stanford, some of its elements have been tried at other schools” he says. “Developing career connections seems to be the emerging model of career services in higher education, but each institution has to determine the right approach based on its culture, circumstances, and resources.”