• How Others Do It: Engaging Students, Faculty in a Formal Career Planning Program

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    October 10, 2012

    To get students more engaged in career planning, the staff of Willamette University’s career center created a formal program and enlisted the help of the school’s faculty to promote and incorporate it into their classes.

    Called the Career Roadmap, the program asks participating students to complete career-focused assignments in four categories—“My Profile,” “My Credentials,” “My Qualifications,” and “My Brand.” The overarching future goal of the program is to ensure that "every graduating senior will have a career plan."

    Jerry Houser, associate dean and director of Willamette’s career center, says the key to the program’s success is partnering with faculty to deliver it.

    “We cannot meet this audacious goal without the cooperation of our faculty," Houser says. "We now have the technology and resources to make it nearly effortless for faculty to get students to do career planning. Rather than begging or bribing students to use [the career center’s] resources, why not just have all students in all majors be assigned online career-planning tasks by professors? Then it’s required and it gets done.”

    Following are the steps Houser and his team took to develop Willamette’s Career Roadmap project:

    • Create a list—Develop a list of career-planning tasks that every student will complete.
    • Make it free and easy—Use virtual career center technologies and online resources that make it free and easy for students to complete those tasks 24/7.
    • Use the Web Create a website that contains the career-planning tasks as class assignments that every academic department can assign. Make it engaging, light, elegant, and appealing to student users.
    • Keep it simple Make every program assignment effortless for faculty to assign, requiring no grading, class time, or follow-up.
    • Find early adopters—Identify faculty members who are open to using your program and ask them to beta test it in their classes. Willamette has found a “Don’t Cancel That Class” service is the most effective way to engage faculty in this process. When a faculty member asks Willamette’s career center to do a class presentation, the career center asks the faculty member to give a Career Roadmap assignment to that class. Career center staff then facilitate a classroom discussion about the assignment.
    • Ask for access and assistance—Once professors have a good experience using your career-planning program in class, ask to visit departmental faculty meetings to present it to all faculty in their major. Ask departments to identify required courses that every student must take and the professors who teach them. Then determine which career program assignments fit those classes. Ensure that every student in their major will complete all career-planning tasks before they graduate.
    • Evaluate program data and feedback—Collect data such as website visits, attendance sheets, historical data of courses/professors using the career-planning program, user evaluations, and use of vendor services (number of students logging in to programs).
    • Continuously improve—Adjust the website content, assignments, approach, resources, and more based on student and faculty feedback, as well as incorporating new technologies.
    • Build momentum—Find additional ways promote your career-planning program assignments. Willamette’s efforts include:
      • Incorporating Career Roadmap assignments in university training for work-study students.
      • Serving on the Provost’s Academic Advising Working Group to propose changes in academic advising. One of these changes will include requiring Career Roadmap assignments.
      • Assigning Career Roadmap tasks to student groups, such as participants in the football team study hall, the Student Senate, resident advisers, orientation advisers, Greek associations, and many others who want a career speaker/presenter.
      • Loading The Career Roadmap onto flash drives that are given to all freshmen during orientation by Student Activities Office, and that are used as giveaways at campus events and programs.

    “In addition, we e-mail incoming students and parents inviting them to use the Career Roadmap to create the student’s first college resume,” Houser says. “Fifty percent of students in the incoming freshman class completed their resumes before they even arrived on campus.”

    For now, 12 of Willamette’s 40 academic majors now are participating in the Career Roadmap program, with others indicating interest. The career center saw an increase in the number of students attending presentations incorporating Career Roadmap assignments from 55 in 2009 to 400 in 2011. And from the 2009-10 to the 2010-11 academic years, there were increases in use of career-related vendor services (66 percent), the career center website (26 percent), and Willamette’s alumni network (15 percent), and in participation in informational interviews (36 percent).

    “This is an easily branded vehicle that drives students to complete essential career tasks,” Houser says. “It’s easy to use, easy to understand, and elegant enough to create little or no resistance from faculty, staff, or students. It uses online technologies that virtually everyone can access. Any university can use this basic model to craft its own career-planning program.”

    For more information about Willamette’s Career Roadmap program, e-mail Jerry Houser at jhouser@willamette.edu.

How Others Do It: Engaging Students, Faculty in a Formal Career Planning Program