Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
March 20, 2013
As budgets are shrinking and the focus on accountability is growing, comprehensive assessment programs are becoming increasingly frequent and imperative. Meanwhile, assessment programs for internal use remain beneficial to career centers because they allow them to improve the quality of their services and demonstrate whether their mission is being achieved.
To assess your career center:
- Be strategic about your assessment—One approach is to assess a single aspect of your operations each year during a multi-year cycle. Your staff should determine expected outcomes and how the assessment will be performed, then, based on assessment results, identify actions to be taken. Trying to measure all aspects of your operations every year could lead to an assessment plan that lacks definition and is haphazard.
- Enlist the help of others—Because of the intricacies involved with proper assessment, form assessment committees composed of career services staff, others from across the university, and employers.
- Measure student learning outcomes—Assessment often tends to be about bare-level customer satisfaction, but you need to assess what your students are learning and how well you’re teaching them what they need to achieve success in their career development.
- Evaluate at different touch points—Conduct a pre-appointment survey to assess student needs and guide the career counselor or coach to make sure the student’s needs are addressed. At the end of the appointment, do a qualitative assessment to determine whether the student’s needs were met, and, the next day, send an appointment evaluation form to the student asking about the content covered and the quality of the customer service.
- Seek employer insight into student preparation—Ask recruiters to evaluate each student they interview on factors of job-search preparation to quantify the skill level of students who use the career center and identify students in need of career-development help. The data recruiters submit provide insight into the areas in which your students are proficient and the gaps that need to be addressed.
- If your career center is struggling with assessment, find help—Narrow your view. Develop a long-range assessment plan over five years and conduct periodic internal self-studies. Use the NACE Professional Standards for College & University Career Services and consider having an external review team assess your program. Doing so can give you leverage to use with upper administration on your needs because the external review team is outside your university and works with other career centers.
- Vary the types of assessment tools you use—Doing so will help you get away from simply measuring customer service, and student and employer satisfaction. The most common tools are surveys, but try using focus groups and other valid assessment methods, and include qualitative information in addition to quantitative data.
- Act on your findings—Having useable data is worthless if you don’t act upon what it’s telling you. Close the loop by determining the actions you need to take to grow and improve.
- Keep momentum for assessment—The biggest obstacle to having an effective assessment program remains a loss of momentum. Thoughtful planning, setting and adhering to deadlines, and following up on identified actions are required for the assessment process to be as beneficial as possible.