– Erin Lewis
What did YOU want to be when you were growing up? Thinking back to my own childhood, careers such as pediatrician, teacher, and, of course, rock star all crossed my mind. Those perspectives changed slightly by the time I was 17, but like most traditional incoming freshmen, I had a limited exposure to careers and did not receive much guidance to conduct any sort of career research as a high school student. I selected a college major based on something I was good at (music) and something I enjoyed (teaching) and then went through the motions of successfully obtaining a music education degree. While the degrees may be different; the process I used to plan and prepare for my career is not unlike that of most of our current students.
In career development, we often talk with students about how their majors may not necessarily be their careers. Like many of the individuals who work at Clarion University, I am a perfect example of this scenario. Throughout the four years of my undergraduate degree, quality time was spent on teaching me how to be an effective teacher, but very little time on teaching me HOW to actually prepare to find a job as a teacher. In fact, this was not talked about in my classes – even student teaching. Fortunately, I connected with my career center thanks to a referral from one of my peers, and I became one of the few students who actually felt prepared for teacher job fairs and filling out the standard application.
When do OUR Clarion University students connect with their Career Center? Well – in most instances, students don’t seek out their Career Center because they think they are already prepared. However, we know from an Association of American Colleges and Universities survey that employers disagree (Jaschik, 2015). In 2015, 400 employers and 613 students were surveyed. Students rated their preparedness of career readiness skills—including communication, ethical judgment, critical thinking, teamwork, creativity, and other skills—considerably higher than employers rated students’ preparedness in those same areas. Partnerships between faculty and the Career Center can help students consciously build these skills and more accurately assess their career readiness.
Even before it was trendy or common to do so (Beverly, Hayes-Sauder, & Sefton, 2016), the Clarion University Center for Career and Professional Development staff started to embed career development into the curriculum to better reach our students. What began in 2007 as a partnership with Dr. Chad Smith—who assigned a résumé review to all students enrolled in Management 120—has become a four-year career development plan for all students across all majors at Clarion University. See Professional Development Plan.
Since this plan got started in a Management course, it may not come as a surprise to know that career development is embedded into the curriculum throughout the College of Business Administration and Information Systems. At every level from freshman to graduate student, there is some sort of assignment, classroom presentation, or a combination of both, in which students must participate with their career liaison, Josh Domitrovich, in order to receive a grade, participation credit, or bonus points.
The same four-year plan that works for Business majors is adapted to meet the varying needs of Psychology majors. Students who take Abnormal Psychology (a 300-level class) receive classroom presentations on cover letters and résumé writing and are then assigned to meet with a Career Center staff member to receive feedback using a rubric. One thing that makes the psychology collaboration special is how it has evolved and progressed over the years. What started as just a one-class partnership has expanded to junior and senior Psychology majors meeting with their career liaison for career consultations and mock interviews. Many attend professional development events to earn a digital badge. Assignments take place in several courses, build across each other, and can be customized to individual students and their needs. For all of these tasks, students earn a grade toward their class requirements.
According to Dr. Jeanne Slattery, this collaboration has benefited both the faculty and students.
“I have always felt our work together to be a true collaboration. Each semester break when we meet, Erin is considering what she can do to more effectively help my students meet their goals. My students and I appreciate that Erin has been willing to tailor her collaboration with them to their particular goals – work or graduate school, interviewing or résumés. My students, who are generally anxious about graduating and getting jobs, have felt well-prepared as a result of this work, especially relative to their fellow students in other departments and majors. I don’t have the time and expertise to work intensely with my students on career issues. My heart is in the right place, but I can only do so much. Erin’s “co-teaching” has been very helpful – and appreciated.”
Partnerships and true collaborations extend beyond the classroom for faculty in the School of Education. They have united resources, contacts and time to partner with the Career Center to create a one-day mock interview event for student teachers. Additionally, students in ECH 417 and ED417 participate in résumé reviews with their career liaison Diana Brush prior to going on their field experience.
Here’s what a recent graduate, Aubrey Monte, says about her work with the Career Center:
Collaborations are also happening in Nutrition and Fitness. Bill Bailey, director of the Center and career liaison to Healthcare, Life Sciences, and Exploratory has worked to build partnerships with ATSW 402, Nutrition and Fitness Seminar 402. Similar to the collaborations in Business, Psychology, and Education, Dr. Carol Brennan-Caplan’s students experience a classroom presentation on résumé writing and interviewing skills, complete résumé reviews with Career Center staff, and are required to earn a digital badge by participating in professional development events.
These partnerships and collaborations all have ONE thing in common: faculty endorsement. Over the past few years, our office has conducted several student-based focus groups to learn more about how to increase student participation at career events and how to engage them to utilize our services , as well as investigating the best ways for students to receive information from their Career Center. Consistently, students report that when faculty encourage them to go to something, visit an office, offer bonus points, or just require an assignment, they are more likely to do it.
The Career Center staff are committed to growing the four-year plan across Clarion’s campus to reach even more students. Over the past three years, we have created new curriculum-based collaborations with more than 40 faculty, including faculty in Communication, English, Math, Chemistry, Education, Business, Library Science, Athletic Training, Nutrition and Fitness, Nursing, Speech-Language Pathology, and the Honors Program, to enhance what is already being done in the classroom, without creating additional work for faculty. We welcome the opportunity to talk with you about how we can partner to help your students!
Beverly, E., Hayes-Sauder, M., Sefton, R. (2016). Embedding career management competency into curricula. National Association of Colleges and Employers. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org/career-readiness/best-practices/embedding-career-management-competency-into-curricula/
Jaschik, S. (2015). Well-prepared in their own eyes. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/01/20/study-finds-big-gaps-between-student-and-employer-perceptions
Erin Lewis has worked in career development at Clarion University since 2007. She is the career liaison to Arts, Communication, Languages and Public & Human Services, as well as, Environmental & Natural Resources and Math. Erin lives in Clarion, with her husband Mike, an Oil & Gas Administrator for the US Forest Service, and their three children, Jesse, Tyler, and Lacie. In addition to her work in Career Development, Erin is a classically trained singer, teaches private voice lessons, and performs on a regular basis throughout Western Pennsylvania.