Patrick Madsen, UNCG’s Career Services director, says the idea of offices like his operating as independent “silos” for career development has necessarily gone the way of the dinosaur. So Madsen is reinventing the career center as a “central training ground for career development,” making sure career support for students reaches every corner of the UNCG campus.
As part of that endeavor, Madsen and Linda Pollock, a career counselor in his office, have launched a new program to train faculty and staff in the basics of career counseling. So far, about 40 professors, academic advisors and staffers have attended two half-day Career Training Specialist workshops held during semester breaks. More sessions are planned.
“Career development is a university endeavor.” he says. “Why shouldn’t we give our expertise to other people on campus so students don’t get bounced around so much? It’s all about the students. The whole point of the university is our students.”
Jalonda Thompson, coordinator for exploratory advising in UNCG’s Students First Office, agrees. Thompson enrolled in one of the initial workshops and emerged “empowered to facilitate deeper conversations” with students as they explored themselves, potential majors and future careers.
“Career advising is everyone at UNCG’s responsibility,” she says. “I believe colleges and universities are reaching a point where career advising can no longer be the responsibility of a central unit on a campus. The Career Specialist Training proved to be an effective program that equipped faculty and staff with the theoretical and practical tools needed to further conversations started in the Career Services Center. I believe this training program appealed to such a vast group because it addressed two universal questions our students are seeking to answer: ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What have I been placed on this earth to do?’”
The workshops are voluntary, and Madsen says faculty, especially those who also serve as academic advisors, have responded with enthusiasm. The tough economy of the last several years has only heightened their understanding of the real-world obstacles their students will face after graduation.
“Faculty really see the need to do more with career counseling,” Madsen says. “They understand what the purpose is. It is refreshing to see faculty self-selecting like this. There are a lot more faculty that actually have an interest in it.”
The next workshop takes place in December. Attendees not only get accurate, first-hand information about what the Career Services Center can — and can not — do for students, they also learn various strategies and exercises to help students identify career goals.
Madsen’s favorite exercise is the Career Fantasy Line. In this exercise students compare their fantasy job — cowboy, princess, etc. — with real jobs to find a practical channel for their interests and aptitudes.
“We always fantasize about being something, and we don’t want to give that up,” says Madsen, who admits he always wanted to be a Ghostbuster.
Pollock sees them as a form of cross-training.
“Some advisors might just need a refresher, for others some of this is very new to them,” Pollock says. Some faculty may need guidance to help them better see through “a career lens.”
According to Pollock and Madsen, seeing through a “career lens” in today’s world means more than just preparing an impressive resume. It means self-marketing.
“We call it Career ID,” Madsen says. “It’s a very high-level approach to career building.”
In good economies and bad, university career centers are vital for students.
Madsen’s office served about 60 percent of UNCG’s students in the past year.
The average for career centers the same size is 40-45 percent.
Counselors did about 400 presentation and programs last year.
“That’s huge for a staff this size,” Madsen says.