Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
January 23, 2013
To provide effective staff training and development, career services offices should assess the knowledge and talents they have in-house and devise ways that are compatible with their culture to share those resources, suggests Susan Loffredo, Northeastern University’s (NU) associate director of career services.
Loffredo says one challenge her office faces in terms of staff development is keeping pace with the changing nature of the field.
“The skills and training in most demand today will most likely not be at the top of the list in a few years, so we have to continually update our information,” Loffredo says. “Online sources of career information—including social media sites—also evolve quickly. And while good counseling skills generally stand the test of time, it's important to keep those skills fresh.”
The staff of the career center has implemented strategies to account for these shifts, and the added challenges associated with limited time and budget. Loffredo suggests:
- Making training and development part of your career center’s culture—Be collaborative and creative in making sure that learning is a regular part of your staff members’ lives. Loffredo reports that, at NU, emphasis on professional development has been a departmental philosophy, and the staff culture is one of staff members supporting one another.
- Sharing knowledge and training to get the maximum ROI—NU’s career services staff members attend professional conferences and meetings as often as possible and make a point of sharing information learned with the rest of the staff through e-mails or presentations. They also participate in webinars—which are often free or affordable—and other relevant programming, and share knowledge gained with the group.
- Enlisting interns to assist with your training efforts—NU’s career services office has a well-developed intern training program, and works with four to six interns or practicum students per semester. As part of the students’ experience, career services staff assign them research projects that culminate with the students making presentations to the staff, or creating handouts or web pages. Recent examples of project topics include salary research websites, temp agencies, characteristics of Millennials, and the “reality therapy” approach to counseling.
- Empowering staff to take ownership of professional development—NU has a well-attended “lunch and learn” series of professional development programs, with a session held at least once each month. While it's not mandatory to attend, it is required that each staff member present or arrange a lunch-and-learn program once a year. NU staff members have presented themselves, or have enlisted guest speakers. For example, a Northeastern faculty member spoke about his research on working with international students, an intern presented on her experience with narrative therapy, and one career services staff member is planning a session on student veterans.