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Harnessing the Potential: AI and ChatGPT's Impact on Career Services

By Margie McGee-Newton

Creative and Content Manager, Consultant

The Career Leadership Collective

Image of abstract figures overlaid with a brain graphic with AI in the center.

Career services leaders and staff are beginning to ask, how will Generative AI impact our field, for better or worse? A recent survey of higher education leaders found that 90% are discussing generative AI, such as ChatGPT, with other leaders. The survey also found that 70% of respondents believe that generative AI will positively impact higher education, while 20% think it will negatively impact it. Our career teams can harness the power of generative AI to help us scale our work and increase impact with our constituents.

Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence that can create new content, such as images, text, or music, by learning patterns from existing data. It can "imagine" or generate new information rather than just recognizing or processing existing data.

ChatGPT can potentially revolutionize how students learn and interact with faculty and staff. However, it has also raised concerns about academic integrity and the future of roles that provide student-facing services. Some universities have banned students from using ChatGPT, while others are exploring ways to integrate it into their curriculum. Ultimately, how AI is used in higher education will depend on how institutions balance the potential benefits with the potential risks.

Now that we've agreed that it's a complex topic, let's dig into how ChatGPT and other generative AI might impact our work in career services. For simplicity's sake, I have created a pros and cons list that outlines ways students might leverage this technology and how we can support and coach them. NOTE: Rather than starting with “How should we introduce or gatekeep access to this tool?” it is essential to center the students in this exercise, understanding that they WILL use ChatGPT and our job is to help them use it effectively.

Pros Low Stakes First Draft & Revisions ChatGPT enables students to draft and revise their career-related documents, such as resumes and cover letters, in a low-stakes environment. They can experiment with different formats and content, gaining confidence and improving their written communication skills. Accessibility for Alternative Learning Styles ChatGPT caters to diverse learning styles, making career exploration and job search accessible to all students. It offers interactive and adaptable experiences, providing information and guidance through various mediums like text, audio, or visual cues. 24/7 With ChatGPT available round the clock, students have continuous access to career-related information and support. They can seek guidance on job search strategies, interview preparation, or industry insights at any time, facilitating self-directed learning and enhancing their career readiness. Interactive/Experiential ChatGPT's interactive nature allows students to actively engage in career exploration. They can simulate interviews, practice networking conversations, and receive personalized feedback, thereby gaining practical experience and improving their professional skills. Builds In-Demand Skill By utilizing ChatGPT in their career exploration and job search, students develop skills that are highly valued in the job market. These skills include effective communication, critical thinking, and utilizing AI technologies, positioning students for success in their future careers. Judgement-Free Learning Experience Students can engage with ChatGPT to explore career paths, seek advice, and ask questions without the fear of judgment or criticism. This creates a safe space for students to navigate their career journey, experiment with different ideas, and receive non-biased feedback Cons Dependence on AI A potential downside of leveraging ChatGPT in career exploration is the risk of over-reliance on AI. Students may become overly dependent on the technology, neglecting critical thinking and independent research skills necessary for a comprehensive understanding of career paths and job opportunities. Digital Divide There is a possibility that the use of ChatGPT in career services could further the divide between students who have internet access at home and those who don't. The effectiveness of ChatGPT relies on students having reliable internet access and the necessary technology to engage with the system. Students without access to the internet or those who have limited access may face barriers in utilizing these services. Lack of Human Interaction While ChatGPT provides interactive experiences, it cannot fully replace the value of human interaction in career services. Students may miss out on the personalized guidance, mentorship, and networking opportunities that can arise from face-to-face interactions with career professionals and industry experts. Ethical Considerations As students utilize ChatGPT in their career exploration, ethical concerns surrounding data privacy and security arise. It is important to ensure that students' personal information is protected and that they are aware of the data handling practices of the AI system to maintain their privacy and confidentiality. Skills Gap and Future Employability While ChatGPT can help students build certain skills, there is a risk of neglecting other essential skills demanded by the job market. Overemphasis on AI-driven career tools may leave students unprepared in areas such as emotional intelligence, teamwork, and adaptability, which are highly valued by employers. Potential Biases and Limitations  ChatGPT, like any AI system, may carry biases inherited from the data it was trained on. Students should be aware of this and approach the information provided by ChatGPT critically. Additionally, the system may have limitations in understanding context or providing nuanced advice, leading to potential inaccuracies or incomplete guidance.

We’ve centered students, so let’s take a minute to center ourselves and examine how this tool might shift our own work.

  • But I want to do the coaching! We know that scaling services is top of mind for almost every career center, and a big part of scaling is providing access to career education content via a wide variety of channels, including social media, web content, videos, blog posts, etc. Quality content creation is time-consuming for the best of us! ChatGPTis a tool WE CAN USE to hone our content skills. We ARE subject-matter experts, after all!

  • What if it gives bad advice? Let’s say a student comes to meet with you with a resume crafted by ChatGPT that needs a lot of edits. Is this an unfamiliar experience for you? Likely not! Sure, some of our coaching conversations might now include pro tips for drafting prompts for ChatGPT, but the value of individualized feedback is distinct from the benefits of AI.

  • But I’m not an AI expert! Through its intuitive interface, ChatGPT encourages users to experiment, learn, and develop their AI skills organically. By interacting with the model in a collaborative manner, individuals can gradually enhance their understanding and proficiency in generative text, making it an approachable and accessible learning experience.

This is a new tool, and it might transform in many ways. At the moment, it is free

to access, but we also need to be aware that this kind of product can (and will) be monetized in the future. Much like other tech tools, like Grammarly and resume review tools, we will have to keep an eye on the bottom line and do our part to ensure equitable access.

“People panicked,” says Jessica Stansbury, director of teaching and learning excellence at the University of Baltimore. “We had the wrong conversations instead of thinking, ‘Okay, it’s here. How can we use it?’”

While the future is uncertain, the disruptive impact of AI technologies like ChatGPT can be compared to other educational revolutions, such as the advent of the internet, the rise of Wikipedia, and the introduction of Grammarly, all of which have transformed and enhanced the learning experience by providing instant access to the vast knowledge and improving writing proficiency.

Postscript: While we’ve referred to ChatGPT primarily in this blog post, we'll be watching many other AI chatbots. One of ChatGPT's biggest competitors is GoogleBard. Check out this article for the main differences between these two tools. One particular advantage of Bard is that, unlike ChatGPT, its dataset does not end in 2021.

BONUS CONTENT: Prompt Pro Tips!

One of the most interesting learning curves in acclimating to generative AI is figuring out how to craft successful prompts! Below is a sample of the range from simple to more complex, but this is just a quick snapshot of how Bard responded to two different prompts. For more details, here is a link to a thorough blog post called "How to write the perfect ChatGPT prompt and become a Prompt writer."

Image of two different GoogleBard prompts that intends to illustrate the difference between a generic prompt and one with more detail.

Margie McGee-Newton, Creative and Content Manager, Consultant

The Career Leadership Collective

Photo of the author.

Margie McGee-Newton has twenty years of experience in higher education. She has worked with a wide variety of institutions, including the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, the University of Minnesota, Wellesley College, and DePaul University.

She is passionate about bringing sensitivity and appreciation for a user experience lens to higher education and leveraging accessible and engaging learning experiences to connect learners to meaningful and actionable content.

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