EDITORS NOTE: This is part one of a three-part series that examines student engagement and maintaining our student population. Part of the growth of GRU will depend on recruitment, but another key figure will be keeping them on campus and making sure they graduate. Guest writer Julie Goley examines some of the steps Career Services is taking.
Students often start college with great enthusiasm; they are excited about the new world, their freedom, and ideas about their future major and career afterwards. It is colored by the lens of their current knowledge about the world, coupled with expectations influenced by parents, their peers, and themselves to get to this point called college. Sometimes, the reality of the college world and the real world beyond does not meet expectations, and students become unhappy, or worse, disengaged from the learning process completely.
“Jane” wanted to be a nurse for years, only to discover she is unable to handle the rigor of science courses required to get her to that point. Or she determines it is not a passion for her, as Jane’s viewpoints and experiences of the profession expand and her self-knowledge truly begins to take shape.
The financial pressures of “getting in and getting out” of college to move forward in society and minimize college debt collide with an expansive lens of life many young students are just discovering and can’t quite zoom into focus. They realize that major selection and career planning are critical for their success. Unfortunately for some, this realization hits after several terms of academic struggle, confusion, and disengagement before they are propelled to figure it out.
Who are you? Why are you here? Where are you going? What are you doing now to ensure your success to get there? This explosion of inquisition is where Career Services can come into play by helping students (hopefully early in their college experience) explore more about themselves to make better decisions about their future, both at the university and for their career. Unlike Academic Advisement, the Career Services Office is not a mandatory service, but it offers many assessment resources for students of all types and sizes. We offer career, skills, and personality assessments online to help students get an early advantage. Couple this with a team of career advisors committed to meeting with students to review the results and the journey of discovery, and planning begins.
One of the assessments used is the Compass test, a five-minute online survey where students answer a brief series of visual questions designed to get a “snap shot” of their interests and potential careers to compliment them. This is a great starting point, and it is relatively simple for students to take on their own time as a precursor to some of our other assessments. It’s also effective for the procrastinating student who has to register on the same day and pick an alternative major “right now.” Another assessment, called Focus2, helps students assess their career interests and narrow down their major selection, while incorporating goal-setting exercises into the plan. Focus2 can be an effective bridge for students working with their academic advisor on the academic plan, while determining an overlay of their career plan.
Products like SkillScan target the student’s natural skill sets as it ties to career development. The Knowdell Cardsort determines values and motivating factors that can impact career choice or the ability to sustain in a major or career. We need to remember these students are often very young and they are still discovering things about themselves, making it difficult for them to make large choices when they are still learning who they are.
We also have a program called the DISC Index that we often use with nontraditional undergraduates and our graduate/professional students who have more self-knowledge to apply. The DISC assists students with honing their insights for professional and career development as the instrument determines strengths and behavioral tendencies in natural and stressed states of work. The department also offers the Strong/MBTI Career Report, a synthesized analysis of the two most popular career inventories that targets multiple factors which impact career and major planning, including behavior in group dynamics.
While these assessments can sound like a lot of work, we find that students typically enjoy the tests and the self-discovery, once they commit to seeking the help to begin with. Career advisors in Career Services meet with the students to guide them through which resources might be best for them, depending on their unique situation. If academic obstacles threaten a student’s perceived dream job, Career Services can help them determine alternate paths they may be more successful with that correlate to other majors and careers the student is not even aware of. Career advisors can help the student work through potential options to find one that works for them.
The reality of the career life cycle is changing in society, and Career Services is working to make sure the students understand that. It is not about “I’m going to do this job with this one degree in that field.” It is about aligning a major and career path to one’s strengths, interests, values, and abilities while they are keenly aware of their marketable and transferable skills that will serve them long after they graduate GRU.
The careers we prepare students for now may not even exist in 20 years, and if they do, they certainly won’t look and function like they do today. If students understand who they are, what they enjoy in a discipline, and how and where they uniquely add value, those are the marketable skills to help them navigate the uncertainties of their career path for life. The more they understand how GRU fits into their life and the real world, the more likely they are to see the value and graduate, even if they have some problems. In the end, it’s about building a better “you” with each student at GRU. If Career Services can help students discover how their unique talents, skills, interests, and personality can best integrate with a meaningful major and career plan at GRU, we are equipping them for success here and for the journey long after.
Julie Goley is the Director of Career Services and if you would like to learn more about Career Services visit gru.edu/careerservices.