Reimagining Career Services
There is a strong case for a reinvention of career services. Many career centers aim to ensure that they are meeting the needs of all students. Yet, so many students are missed and remain on the periphery of career services. Institutions have seen a steady increase of underrepresented students enrolling over the past 40 years (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2019). The focus (and success) of career services in the future will depend on its equitable access to connections and experiences for all students regardless of background or social capital. The true return on investment from reimagination efforts is equity. However, this requires a complete overhaul of infrastructure and strategy to support this mission in a new—daunting digital world.
What seemed virtually impossible in the past to accomplish quickly is now close—in arm's reach. This includes building a career ecosystem and virtual “hub” for integrative learning. Career services directors seek to reinvent their units to create a 24/7 career center and 21st-century model with a student-focused and responsive career culture in even the most difficult times.
• Scalable structures
• Measuring impact over input
There is a clear sense of urgency based on University of California (UC) system-wide qualitative and quantitative research conducted individually by members of the UC Career Services Directors Consortium (comprising more than 10 UC campuses) toward the need to move away from a “transactional” approach and a culture of inequity (culture of “haves and have nots”) toward a transformative culture that breeds success. This group has also discovered that the power of 10 (combining efforts) surveying, and listening tours has been very effective to manage these unprecedented times. The consensus is that to meet students where they are, career centers must be creative, expand services to diverse and underrepresented communities, and re-think their overall approach.
Disruption has not just impacted vulnerable populations; it affected all students. Careers are no longer linear, and more students must upskill and reskill to keep their head above water in the competition, especially with new and growing industries. Undergraduates are being forced to transition and/or pivot now more than ever. On the graduate level, master, post-doc, and Ph.D. students are expressing increasing needs as their paths become more and more individualized. Many graduate students are exploring non-academic careers as academic institutions become saturated. Only 12.5% of Ph.D.s will become faculty. As a result, career centers are rebranding themselves, scaling with equity, enhancing campus partnerships, and connecting with more employers and alumni on mentorship and recruitment efforts to meet the demand.
With the impact of the pandemic, unemployment in 2020 was the highest institutions have seen in 45 years. With the rapid and accelerated change toward virtual recruiting environments, many data and assessment strategies to better identify hiring outcomes and first destinations, including internship-participation rates and career-ready competencies, are outdated. The question becomes: "What must career centers do to bridge gaps and optimize their positions for a future that is so uncertain?"
Further, as many revenue-based budgets have been impacted with the elimination of in-person career fairs, more and more career centers are looking to private funds and donors to help transition their revenue and service-delivery model towards one that is more sustainable. To do so, they must be able to answer the following questions:
1) How will funds transform your initiatives?
2) What are the critical challenges and opportunities you must address?
3) How will you tell this story to a donor and how what is the appeal of the initiatives?
These questions are far from easy to answer. Leaders must re-focus on how to champion the needs of staff and students in a post-pandemic world. This includes examining how to integrate career and experiential learning into the student experience, systemic integration into academics, holistic career education and development, rich and relevant data that informs strategy, and how to redefine, build, and bridge career-readiness gaps.
Competencies & Skills
Hassan Akmal, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Ignacio Gallardo, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)
Marcie Kirk Holland, UC Davis Internship and Career Center
Suzanne Helbig, University of California, Irvine (UCI)