The Global Career Services Summit (GCSS), held in March, brought together career thought leaders and employers from 18 countries to discuss critical issues affecting career centres and graduate recruitment. This is Part 2 of an article sharing key takeaways from five Canadian career leaders who had the opportunity to attend the Summit.
Don’t miss Part 1, highlighting “Key takeaways from the Global Career Services Summit” from Tony Botello, Jennifer Browne and Darlene Hnatchuk.
Felicity Morgan – University of Toronto Mississauga
1. A key challenge heard from all delegates at the GCSS was how to engage students in career development – in particular, how to do so early and often. Participants reported that while some students are keen to work on their career development from the time they enter post-secondary, the majority are not.
One key stumbling block delegates identified was students’ lack of awareness of the process of figuring out their career options and the importance of early action in creating opportunities. Careers are important to students, but not urgent when compared with the day-to-day work of being a successful student (e.g. papers, labs, exams, etc.) (credit to Cathy Keates for this phrasing).
Our challenge in career services is to communicate the process of career development and the importance of early career development in a manner that reaches our students and convinces them to take small steps each year. Ideas shared at the conference included consistent and strategic messaging (e.g. when students are choosing their academic program or looking for career-related summer jobs). There was also discussion on the value of creating a high-profile culture of career education on campus, so multiple people raise the issue with students. Another idea was to connect students to exploration opportunities such as job shadowing to increase curiosity and reflection.
2. An important factor in our students’ process is their ability to make informed decisions. In one session, speaker Emma Kilford shared the findings of brain development researcher Sarah Jayne Blackmore. Blackmore’s work describes how brain development – particularly decision-making capabilities – is not completed until well into our twenties. Additionally, different students may develop brain functions at different times.
“One key stumbling block delegates identified was students’ lack of awareness of the process of figuring out their career options …”
For career development practitioners in post-secondary settings, this may mean we are asking/expecting students to make decisions that may not align with their current brain development. Depending on where the individual is within the brain development process, our approaches may not be effective. A one-size-fits-all approach (e.g. here is first-year programming, here is second-year programming) will not work and neither will the expectation that a student can quickly make large, complex decisions.
The recommendations for our practice are to scaffold career development activities and present options in different ways. For example, while year-by-year plans are helpful for some, we need to recognize that other students will not fit that mold. Alternative descriptions of career development activities may be helpful (e.g. if your question is this, try that activity).
Incorporating our knowledge of students’ brain development into our services and our marketing may help us attract more students and engage them in their career development, meeting them where they are.
Jennifer Woodside – University of Waterloo
So many of my colleagues’ takeaways resonate with me! The following are those that resonated most loudly. They each connect to developing intentional strategies to enhance the impact of career services not only on individuals but also on organizations, communities and/or systems.
My first takeaway was around the assumptions that underlie how career centres’ programs are designed and how they can be continuously improved to have maximal impact. A pre-summit workshop run by David Winter (the Careers Group, University of London) kicked this discussion off superbly. We were invited to reflect on how our underlying (unconscious or intentional) assumptions relate to supporting individuals vs. society and how they serve to maintain the status quo or support change. With reference to the work of A.G. Watts, we discussed the value of striving to achieve an intentional balance to benefit individuals and communities. This framework for thinking about career programming design was inspiring and immediately useful to me.
A second theme relates closely to what Tony mentioned in Part 1 of this article about context. A question that seems to be equally valuable irrespective of context is: What’s your student engagement strategy? It was fascinating to absorb the wide variety of approaches considered, designed and implemented by institutions around the globe. The goals are often shared, such as supporting learner well-being or enhancing employment access for students who face barriers. However, powerful solutions must resonate with the institutional culture and its dominant structures, student demographics and community needs. So many stories were shared – about mentorship programs for Indigenous students, partnerships with career influencers such as campus tutors to reach students “where they’re at” and course-integrated career education, to name a few. The GCSS left me with a deep sense that the presence of a tailored strategy is more important than the details of the strategy itself.
Finally, the third theme related to supporting the thriving of individuals with the future of work in mind. Organizational psychology researcher Karina Jorritsma of Australia’s Future of Work Institute spoke to us of her MAPnet framework for thinking about the evolution of skill development and lifelong learning at a systems level. More specifically, her focus was on individuals and groups optimizing with respect to:
- rapid, unpredictable and sustained change, and
- interdependence among people, machines and tasks.
Along the way, she shared a wonderful quote:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This leaves me with the question: How is our sector supporting individuals and organizations not purely to contain and minimize uncertainty, but also to embrace its ‘immensity’ and leverage it for good?
It was a privilege to spend three days with global career leaders and international recruiters. The discussions were provocative and rich. They will inform practices on our individual campuses and contribute to discussions on career development in higher education in Canada. We hope sharing our individual takeaways from the GCSS will support your work and pique your interest in ongoing global discussions.