UWF’s Career Toolkit, Best Practices Documents Address AI for Students, Career Coaches

February 9, 2024 | By Kevin Gray

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TAGS: ai, best practices, career development, nace insights, technology,

Like it is at most college campuses, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more prevalent at the University of Western Florida (UWF).

To address this in its area, the career development and community engagement office (CDCE) at UWF has integrated AI into its staff training and started developing best practice documents for the use of AI in various career development appointments facilitated by its career coaches. Additionally, it is working on incorporating AI into its presentations and workshops.

Most recently—in mid-January 2024—the office launched its AI Career Toolkit to address its use, challenges, and possibilities by students exploring careers and the career coaches supporting them.

We know our students are already using generative AI in their career development journeys, so we want to equip them with resources that help them use it ethically and safely,” says Lindsey Walk, director of CDCE at UWF.

“It is also an opportunity for us to present them with ideas for utilization of AI they might not have previously considered.”

Furthermore, she adds, graduates who are well-versed in AI-related skills can gain a competitive edge in the job market since it is an emerging technology that many companies are just beginning to explore.

“The idea for the toolkit actually spawned from the AI webinar series NACE facilitated this past summer,” Walk explains.

“That series was so insightful and really got our team thinking about how we can leverage AI relative to career development.” 

Afterward, Walk provided her team with a framework for what she hoped the outcome of the AI Career Toolkit project would be, and team members conducted research and facilitated the implementation of the toolkit and other staff resources. Alex Miller, UWF’s high-impact practices and industry engagement coordinator, oversaw the creation of the AI Career Toolkit, while Aubrey Shelton, career education coordinator, facilitated the staff resources and training portion of the project. 

“This was an office-wide initiative, and Alex and Aubrey led teams that researched AI in the context of career development for their respective audiences,” Walk explains.

“We also worked with our general counsel and IT departments to ensure we didn’t run into any legal issues.” 

The AI Career Toolkit addresses best practices for AI use in the context of career development. Some of these best practices include safeguarding privacy through the removal of personally identifiable information before inputting content into AI platforms, assessing bias in AI systems, and ethical use in the job search process.

“Ethical use involves educating students on how they can leverage AI as a starting point or revision tool for resumes, cover letters, and other job search documents rather than relying on it for complete generation,” Walk explains.

Additionally, the toolkit details advantages and disadvantages for two widely recognized generative AI platforms, and includes sample prompts that students can input according to their specific area of interest. For example, the prompts suggested for a student working on their resume ask the tool to:

  • Identify the skills mentioned in this job description
    • Follow up: Provide suggestions on how to showcase these skills better
  • Provide a list of industry-specific keywords that can be added to tailor the document for <degree/field/position>
    • Follow-up: Where can those keywords be integrated into the document?
    • Follow up: What skills could be added to improve the applicant’s chances for this position?
  • Compare this document to the following job description for <position> and highlight the relevant skills: “<job description>”

The primary goals for the AI Career Toolkit and associated staff resources are to:

  • Provide on-demand resources for UWF students on effectively integrating and leveraging AI in the career development process;
  • Encourage ethical and safe use of AI in career-related documents; and
  • Keep career coaches at the forefront of evolving career development trends and assist them in streamlining preparation for appointments.

“To achieve these goals,” Walk notes, “we will be establishing a process for regular updates to the toolkit and staff resources to ensure alignment with advancing technology. We also plan to solicit qualitative feedback from students and staff regarding the utility of the toolkit and resources and areas for improvement. Our goal is to consistently update these resources each year, actively researching the most recent trends and applications in AI and career development.”

Walk points out several ways CDCE staff and UWF students are benefitting from this work. From the staff perspective, she explains that the AI resources they have created are streamlining the preparation process for appointments, and staff have been able to integrate AI into nearly all appointment types.

For instance, Walk says, when preparing for a mock interview, career coaches can input the job description into an AI tool and ask, “Given this job description, what potential interview questions might arise?” The software then generates a list of questions.

“This saves our career coaches time as they no longer need to craft the questions manually,” she says.

“However, it's important to note that while AI is a valuable tool, it's not infallible and there is inherent bias in all platforms. Therefore, our coaches still review the content and exercise their judgment in determining which questions to ask during the mock interview.”

From the student perspective, career coaches are teaching them how to use AI during appointments, but are also providing them with on-demand resources that have explicit guidance on how AI can enhance their career development/job search.

“A significant benefit of students mastering the use of AI in the job search process is that it simplifies the task of customizing resumes and cover letters for each job application, making it less overwhelming for students,” Walk adds.

She offers several recommendations to career services offices for addressing AI for staff and students, including:

  • Finding resources to incorporate and consider—Walk and her team found significant value in the NACE AI Webinar Series and recommends watching those recordings and others that may be valuable with your team and having brainstorming sessions about how they can implement the strategies discussed after each webinar.
  • Involve your entire team—Involving CDCE’s entire team in this initiative is key. Every member of its professional staff was involved in the development of these resources, and this really helped create buy-in in regard to implementing these strategies.
  • Have a set time of year designated for updates—By doing so, the content does not become stale. For UWF, that time of year will be summer when staff have a little more time to dedicate to researching emerging trends, evaluating the toolkit's effectiveness, and incorporating valuable insights gathered throughout the academic year.

“Finally,” Walk continues, “just get started. Your toolkit doesn't need to be flawless before launching. In fact, we acknowledge there are several enhancements we aim to incorporate into ours, and the process of improvement will be ongoing.”

blank default headshot of a user Kevin Gray is an associate editor at NACE. He can be reached at kgray@naceweb.org.

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