Billie Streufert, Advising Community on Career Advising Member
In what will likely be a landmark publication, George Steele and Eric White (2019) articulated that advising is not a service and called university presidents to invite input from advisors as they strategically lead their institutions. As advisors serve as campus consultants, the NACADA Advising Community on Career Advising encourages advisors to share the words of Virginia Gordon (2006), who wrote, “Perhaps some day the term career advising will disappear when it becomes so ingrained in the academic advising process that its separate designation is no longer necessary” (p. 12).
Other pioneers, such as Habley (1983), O’Banion (1994), and Hughey and Hughey (2009) shared Gordon’s (2006) belief that career and academic planning occur concurrently. In its pillar documents, NACADA affirmed its importance, emphasizing that advisors teach decision-making and empower students to reach their full potential (NACADA 2006, 2017a, 2017b).
Sadly, however, this vision is not a reality. In the 2018 benchmarking survey from the National Association of Colleges & Employers (Koc, Koncz, Eismann, Salvadge, & Longenberger, 2018), 86.6% of respondents reported that they provided career exploration services. Only 19.3%, integrated this with academic advising, leading the authors to conclude that “academic advising was among the least commonly offered services among respondents” (p. 7).
The authors go on to report that this disintegration is a trend, which is especially problematic given the current landscape of higher education. While students routinely report that the primary reason they attend college is to get a better job (Higher Education Research Institute, 2017), few start with the end in mind. Many arrive in career foreclosure or engaged in a truncated career search (Gottfredson, 2005; Marcia, 1966). This is exacerbated by under-resourced school counselors that do not have the capacity to facilitate effective career exploration during high school or prepare students to declare a major as they leave for college (Dann-Messier, Wu, & Greenburg, 2014).
Despite these deficiencies, many will not receive the career advising curriculum they need to master this endeavor. Advising is not mandatory on a third of campuses (NACADA, 2011). Only half of all graduates use career resources while they are enrolled in college (Auter, 2018; Center for Postsecondary Research, 2018b). In many instances, students prefer to contact friends or family (Gallup, 2017c; Vertsberger & Gati, 2015).
If students do connect with advisors, many may not receive career information. In a Gallup (2017a) survey, 39% of respondents reported that their advisors helped them explore majors and only 28% reported that their advisors provided beneficial assistance regarding post-graduation career options. Similarly, only 37% of first-year respondents to the National Survey of Student Engagement reported engaging often in conversations with faculty members about their careers (Center for Postsecondary Research, 2018a). Nearly one in three advisors may not have career planning included in their job description (NACADA, 2011).
Consequently, students’ needs may not be met. Of the second-year students attending four-year institutions who responded to a Ruffalo Noel Levitz (2015a) survey, two thirds wanted help weighing the pros and cons of their career choice. In a follow-up survey administered mid-academic year (Ruffalo Noel Levitz, 2015b), a third of these respondents reported unmet needs and continued to have questions about the advantages and disadvantages of their chosen occupation. No wonder a third of college graduates who responded to a Gallup (2017b) survey expressed regret about their chosen college major.
Continuous Career Advising Throughout the Academy
The lack of career advising diminishes students’ degree completion and ability to adapt to a rapidly changing labor market as they launch their careers (Klepfer & Hull, 2012; Savickas et al., 2009). It is time for advisors to mobilize and realize Gordon’s vision. If advisors are to engage students better in career advising curriculum, they must weave it into all advising. All academic advisors need to be knowledgeable about vocational decision making, careers popular to the academic programs they advise, and indicators of career distress (Gordon, 2005). This weaves career exploration into the ethos of the institution. The profession needs to stop waiting for students to opt-in to career advising, especially because the students who need it most are the least likely to seek it out (Harrington & Orosz, 2018).
Cross-campus integration or collaboration creates a “college-to-career community” (Chan & Derry, 2013, p. 2) that is a force multiplier. Ongoing career exploration needs to occur throughout the academy, including advising. It can be embedded into first-year seminars, career classes, capstone courses, sophomore retreats, residence hall outreach, and student athlete meetings (Nelson & McCalla-Wriggins, 2009).
This integration honors the complexity of career decision making and planning. It is over-simplistic to think that a single advising session is adequate. Career exploration is a process, not an event (Super, 1953). Advisors need to transcend the test-and-tell model and engage students in ongoing exploration and experiential learning throughout their college experience (Krumboltz, 2009).
Coupling the personalized curriculum available through advising with this supplemental continuous curriculum throughout campus meets students’ needs and avoids delays in service. Students also arrive to their advising sessions prepared and with greater prior knowledge given the career curriculum they encountered elsewhere on campus (Harrington & Orosz, 2018).
Yes, this integration is difficult, but it is possible. Strong communication channels and a clear understanding of roles are necessary. Responsibilities can be divided based on the complexity of students’ concerns and their capacity to engage in exploration (Sampson, Reardon, Peterson, & Lenz, 2004). Advisors will also need to focus on career advising competencies and elevate continuous training as a strategic priority (Mahoney, 2009). Only half of institutions offer comprehensive professional development (NACADA, 2011). This can be delivered through lunch-and-learns, manuals, or viewing NACADA webinars together. Assessment of learning outcomes and scholarship will also drive continuous improvement. NACADA’s advising community on career advising will lead this charge.
Integrated Career Advising in Practice
At Augustana University, advisors observed significant benefits of a college-to-career community. For example, Augustana recently embedded advising curriculum in the fall and spring semester of the First-Year Seminars. Students were required to attend a Majors & Minors Fair, create a plan of study, connect with organizations that offer experiential learning, and hear from alumni in their chosen field. They also engaged in monthly written reflection on their vocational choices and transition to college. This resulted in a 2.1 percentage point increase in retention from the time it was piloted to fully implemented. The institution also observed valuable student learning outcomes. For example, 94% could name at least two specific experiential learning endeavors they included in their plan of study. Another 91% reported reflecting on the ways they were going to live out Augustana’s institutional motto of service in their vocation.
In conclusion, it is time for career advising to simply be referred to as advising. It is imperative that it be included in all advisors’ job descriptions and integrated in the educational activities throughout the academy. When designed and implemented properly, universal career exploration curriculum reaches the very students who need it most and teaches students to adapt to a rapidly changing labor market. NACADA’s career advising community invites advisors to join NACADA in this advocacy. University presidents need advisors’ input (Steele & White, 2019). Students are relying on the profession. It is time to create a culture of continuous career exploration and confirmation—because like advising, it is not a service or an optional endeavor. It is an essential component of students’ education.
Executive Director, Student Success Center
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Cite this article using APA style as: Streufert, B. (2019, June). Career advising: A call for universal integration and curriculum. Academic Advising Today, 42(2). Retrieved from [insert url here]