March 23, 2020 | By NACE Staff
TAGS: best practices, operations, spotlight, coronavirus
Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
In this time of disruption and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, when many career services practitioners are working from home, it is crucial for them to stay connected, says Tammy Spenziero, who is in a unique position to offer guidance on working remotely.
As director of career services at Excelsior College—a not-for-profit online institution—and NACE Group Leader for Online Career Services Professionals within the NACE Community, Spenziero is in a unique position to offer guidance on providing career services remotely.
First and foremost, she recommends ensuring that you have the right technology and are comfortable in your space at home by:
Another way Spenziero suggests to stay connected is to join groups of likeminded professionals, such as those in the affinity group for online career service professionals in the NACE Community.
“Share knowledge, tools, and resources to help one another so you can learn as well as bounce creative ideas off each other and work together to make them come to fruition,” she says.
“Seek knowledge, tools, and resources from those who have been doing it and are successful.”
Spenziero says that the major benefit of providing career services remotely is that with the right technology, practitioners can reach any student, anywhere regardless of their physical geographic location.
“A simple phone call or email works to connect and communicate,” she explains.
“However, now we have so much more virtual capability through platforms offering video chat, group chat, and even large-scale online events and activities. This allows us to provide our essential functions of career coaching and professional development services to a special population of students who otherwise would not be able to attend a traditional college.”
However, there are also challenges that arise, including accounting for time zones, technology malfunctions, learning curves with functions, and more.
“It can also be a challenge when a student is struggling with a virtual service or platform and they cannot seem to get the help they need to fix a bug, error, or problem they encounter,” Spenziero says.
“When you are not right there with them seeing what they are clicking on and struggling with, it can take a bit longer to troubleshoot and problem solve. However, with video capability, screen shots, and sharing virtually, issues get resolved. It may just take a bit longer to understand what they may be saying or doing.”
To avoid issues on your end when conducting a live event using virtual technology, be sure to fully understand the technology and test it several times.
“Have plenty of demos with the vendor and be sure they have excellent customer service and can help when needed,” Spenziero recommends.
“All too often, we have high hopes of amazing virtual events—such as job fairs and interviews—and then learn we did not allow ourselves enough time to understand it and give it a dry run, or even two or three.”
In terms of preparing others for virtual events, the ways in which career services practitioners can prepare their students and employers for virtual events does not differ much from the ways career services prepares them for in-person events, she says. Spenziero also suggests creating an on-demand video that includes tips and coaching as it relates to best practices in an online interview or during a virtual career fair.
“Maybe even demonstrate interactions with a colleague on your team so that the student can view and conceptualize the setting,” she adds.
“Allow your students to practice on their own and send you a recording to review and then provide feedback in a coaching setting. All the same rules apply for employers and students when conducting an online interview.”
These rules include being mindful of the setting and environment they are in, especially if via video.
“You want to ensure your background is minimal when you are on camera,” Spenziero advises.
“Have a neat, clean space free of distractions, and keep it professional and simple. It is common sense, but don’t be sitting in your bed with fluffy pillows in your PJs. Dress as you would in person, professionally, and sit in a location that is also professional, such as at your desk. You do not want to have too much noise, such as a barking dog, radio, or television if you can control it. There are some things that you cannot control, such as a siren driving by.”
There are effective tools available that students can use to mock interview, record themselves, hear it back, and obtain feedback to improve.
“You could provide example interviews for careers and you can even work with your alumni and others to create your own videos for demos and practice,” Spenziero suggests.
“The use of video allows students to observe body language, words, and filler words they may use, as well as the speed and tone at which they talk and how often they smile and make eye contact.”
She said there are other technologies that are particularly helpful in providing career services remotely:
“Start thinking creatively and if something is not done remotely, try to look into ways to make it possible,” Spenziero recommends.
“Nothing is so far out of reach these days with ingenuity and sharing ideas, especially with all the technology we have. Meeting the needs of students is possible 100 percent full scale with career service professionals working remotely from any location for their institutions. We learn from others to follow best practices, use technology, test run programs and initiatives, and troubleshoot all of the possibilities to find what is most effective. If you think of an idea and need the help to make it come to fruition, do your research and connect with others who have done it or a variation of it to enhance or develop a service you can provide remotely.”
She adds that as humans, we do enjoy a hug or a handshake to express our happiness.
“You can’t do that through a computer,” Spenziero says.
“These days with COVID-19, there’s not much handshaking happening anyway. However, with technology, you can always send an emoji and share a real, genuine smile.”
Percent of staff time spent student-facing
Median number of students per professional staff member
Median number of FTE professional staff
Median number of FTE overall staff
Percent of career centers reporting cuts to personnel budget
Percent of career centers reporting cuts to non-personnel budget
Percent of career centers using third-party provider to collect student outcomes
2020-21 Career Services Benchmark Survey Report