What are the experiences of career advisors in a 2-year college?

By: Mun Yuk Chin

As the world of work continues to evolve, higher education institutions are increasingly scrutinized for their capacity to bolster students’ career development.[1] Unsurprisingly, career services offices face heightened focus and pressure to meet these demands.[2] Driven by this, we wanted to better understand career advisors’ perceptions of their preparedness and challenges in supporting students’ achievement of their career goals. To do so, we interviewed 5 career advisors in a local 2-year college about their work experiences, training, and received support.

First, we found that our participants were strongly committed to supporting students’ career development. For example, dvisors described “being mobile” and tailoring their ways of connecting with diverse student groups outside of their office spaces. They also demonstrated their understanding of the chronic barriers and difficulties faced by students with historically marginalized identities, as well as their efforts to promote social justice by developing initiatives to assist students (e.g., obtaining a meal card to offer students struggling with food insecurity).

Next, advisors described having varied graduate education backgrounds that were reflective of students’ interests in different industries. In addition to being certified as Career Development Facilitators, they noted being actively engaged in life-long learning to stay updated on employment trends and best practices in the profession. They also noted feeling satisfied with their workplace culture that promotes balance and teamwork, which further enhances their capacity to support students.

Some of the challenges that our advisors identified were: volatile conditions for students seeking employment with economic fluctuations and systemic discrimination. These contextual (and many times, uncontrollable) factors continue to weigh upon students depending on their particular circumstances, and advisors have remarked on being vigilant and intentional about addressing these issues to help students “put [their] best foot forward.”

In summary, career advisors can play a critical role in supporting students achieve their career goals. Like other higher education professionals, they are impacted by systemic factors that serve as barriers to students gaining equitable access to opportunities. The opportunities and support offered to career advisors in their workplace were also highlighted as a contributor to their professional and personal effectiveness. Consistent with the efforts of organizations such as the National Career Development Association, we echo the importance of educating the public, including policymakers on the legislative importance of career advising as an intervention. We hope such changes will broaden the structural resources for career advisors and professionals to better serve students in (re)launching their careers.

For the full research brief, see: http://ccwt.wisc.edu/documents/CCWT_report_Career%20Advisor%20Experiences%20.pdf

[1] Harnisch, T. L. (2011). Performance-based funding: A re-emerging strategy in public higher education financing. Retrieved from http://www.aascu.org/uploadedFiles/AASCU/Content/Root/PolicyAndAdvocacy/PolicyPublications/ Performance_Funding_AASCU_June2011.pdf

[2] Niles, S. G., Engels, D., & Lenz, J. (2009). Training career practitioners. The Career Development Quarterly, 57(4), 358- 365. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-0045.2009.tb00122.x