Engaging Faculty: Strategies for College Career Services
By Clemente I. Diaz and Valeria Diaz
In recent years, higher education has been subject to increased pressure to demonstrate the Return on Investment (ROI) of a student’s education and rightfully so. According to Eagan et al. (2016), over 85% of students cite the opportunity to “get a better job” as a critical factor for enrolling in college. Although college career services often serve as the primary vehicle in preparing students for the workforce, faculty also have an important role to play. As highlighted by Dey & Cruzvergara (2014), to be effective, career services must focus on a customized connection model centered on the engagement of multiple stakeholders.
Importance of Engaging Faculty
While there are various stakeholders career services should engage, faculty are in a unique and advantageous position. Consider Strada and Gallup’s 2018 Alumni Survey, which found that students tend to view professors as the most valuable source of career advice. Similarly, Onondaga Community College (OCC, 2017) found that their students were more likely to take advantage of career services if referred by a professor. Career services should implement efforts to develop faculty buy-in and identify career engagement trends on campus.
Preparing Students for the Workforce: What Faculty Do and Do Not Do
To gain a better sense of if and how faculty prepare students for the workforce (as well as faculty needs), the current survey gathered information from 109 undergraduate faculty from various institutions (tenured/tenure-track: 44%, adjunct/contingent: 56%). Although subject matter varied (e.g., natural science, business, philosophy), the majority of respondents (64.2%) taught in a psychology department.
Surprisingly, the vast majority of respondents (overall: 79%, tenured/tenure-track: 77%, adjunct/contingent: 81%) indicated that they incorporated career-related themes and/or activities into their courses. The most common ways of incorporating career-related themes into a course were:
- Class discussion/lectures (27.24%)
- In-class activities (21.54%)
- Skill objective on syllabus (17.48%)
- Graded assignments (16.26%)
- Course readings (13%)
Respondents who did not incorporate career-related themes into their courses cited:
“The course materials that I use don’t provide career related information.”
“My courses are more theoretical. I haven’t found a way to incorporate pragmatics in a usefully applied way.”
“I do not see this as my job.”
“I feel the course is not relevant to the careers most students choose.”
“This is not my area of expertise.”
“Just don’t find it a priority. There are too many things to cover.”
Interestingly, although most respondents incorporated career-related themes into their course(s), they did not necessarily do so by collaborating with career services. Most notably, adjuncts were less likely to collaborate with career services (29% compared to 53% of tenured/tenure-track faculty). This may be because, when compared to tenure-track faculty, adjuncts are often unaware of the resources available to them. Additionally, they might not find college career services as a valuable resource to faculty.
Faculty who collaborated with career services primarily did so by having in-class presentations. This is not surprising considering that the majority of survey respondents indicated in-class presentations were the primary service provided to faculty by career services. According to respondents, the most common services provided to them were:
- In-class presentations (42.73%)
- Consultations (21.82%)
- Career-related assignations/activities (20%)
- Other (9.09%)
- Syllabus assistance (6.36%)
There are various ways to engage faculty, but ultimately it requires career services to reassess their faculty-focused services. As emphasized by design thinking, when implementing services, the primary focus should be the “end user” (e.g., faculty) and their needs (Mintz, 2017). When asked, “What services/resources would you like your campus career services to provide faculty?” respondents indicated:
- Presentations highlighting services offered to faculty [not services offered to students] at department meetings and new hire orientations;
- One-on-one consultations and training on how to incorporate career readiness;
- Access to career-related assignments/activities, video presentations, and online resources;
- Discipline specific presentations (e.g., resumes for history majors) and post-graduate outcomes data; and
- Consistent communication.
Engaging Faculty and Developing Buy-in
In response to the survey results, we recommend the following:
- Survey faculty to determine their needs (findings may vary between disciplines).
- Reassess what services you offer to faculty. Although beneficial, only offering in-class presentations is not enough. Ensure you are also providing other services and/resources. For example, develop career-related assignments which faculty can easily incorporate into a course. At the very least such resources can be curated (see Diaz, 2019b).
- Consider having a faculty section on your website and/or a faculty-geared newsletter. Note, information should be disseminated strategically to ensure faculty have enough time to integrate resources (e.g., well before the start of the semester).
- Include faculty on your advisory board (If you do not have an advisory board consider starting one). This is a great way to engage faculty who are career development advocates (Lenz, 2007).
- Highlight internal and/or external data to make your case for collaboration and the integration of career readiness into curricula. Remember, it is crucial information be discipline specific (e.g., reasons faculty should prepare psychology majors for work – see Diaz, 2019a). This also includes tailoring in-class presentations, even if minimally (e.g., top psychology skills to highlight on your resume – see Naufel, et al., 2019).
- Highlight the fact that the skills students learn in their courses and those employers seek are not mutually exclusive. Faculty just need to make course skills attainment more explicit (Diaz, 2019b).
- Collaborate with departments already providing services to faculty (e.g., Center for Teaching and Learning).
Ultimately, if career services wants to engage faculty, they need to make incorporating career readiness into academics as easy as possible. Each time they meet with faculty, they need to ask, “How can we better assist you?”
Dey, F. & Cruzvergara, C.Y. (2014). Evolution of career services in higher education. New Directions for Student Services, 148, 5-18. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ss.20105
Diaz, C. I. (2019a, Sept. 4). Six reasons why faculty should help prepare psychology undergrads for the world or work [Twitter moment]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/Clem_Diaz/status/1169255852768931840
Diaz, C. I. (2019b, Aug. 19). Integrating career readiness into your courses. Psych Learning Curve: Where Psychology and Education Connect. Retrieved from http://psychlearningcurve.org/integrating-career-readiness-into-your-courses/
Eagan, K., Stolzenber, E.B., Ramierz, J.J., Aragon, M.C., Suchard, M.R., & Rios-Aguilar, C. (2016). The American freshman: Fifty-year trends, 1966-2015. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA. Retrieved from https://www.heri.ucla.edu/monographs/50YearTrendsMonograph2016.pdf
Lenz, J. G. (2007, Sept. 1). Career center advisory committees: Connecting with your stakeholders. Career Convergence. Retrieved from https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/5364/_PARENT/CC_layout_details/false
Mintz, S. (2017, Feb. 1). Design Thinking: A key to educational innovation. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/higher-ed-gamma/design-thinking
Naufel, K. Z., Appleby, D. C., Young, J., Van Kirk, J. F., Spencer, S. M., Rudmann, J., Carducci, B. J., Hettich, P., & Richmond, A. S. (2018). The skillful psychology student: Prepared for success in the 21st century workplace. Retrieved from www.apa.org/careers/resources/guides/transferable-skills.pdf
Onondaga Community College (2017). Student experience committee 2016-2017 report: Career services and transfer services at OCC. Retrieved from https://www.sunyocc.edu/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=39112
Strada Education Network and Gallup (2018). The Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey: Mentoring college students to success. Retrieved from https://news.gallup.com/reports/244031/2018-strada-gallup-alumni-survey-mentoring-college-students.aspx?utm_source=Download_Report_Email_News&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20181030_Strada_Download_Report_News&utm_content=Download_Report_CTA_1
Clemente I. Diaz, MA, is Associate Director of College Now at Baruch College. In this role, he assists in overseeing a portfolio of college and career readiness initiatives. Additionally, he is an adjunct faculty member at the CUNY School of Professional Studies where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Valeria Diaz, MSEd, is a career development professional with experience in employer relations, community engagement, and student leadership development. Currently, she serves as the CUNY Service Corps Manager at Hostos Community College. She can be reached at email@example.com.