Adrian D. Ramirez
Director of Career Development and College Relations
The University of Texas at San Antonio
The lasting impact of the pandemic on higher education is irrefutable. Many schools shifted dramatically in 2020; as classrooms converted from in-person to virtual, student services quickly followed suit. These changes presented many challenges and the long-term impact remains unforeseen. However, opportunities to reevaluate and adapt existing models for career development have emerged and may inform the way we approach our work and support for students in pursuit of their career goals.
For those of us in career services, the task of preparing for next year requires asking several challenging questions.
What does career exploration look like in a time fraught with uncertainty?
What resources will students find most useful for navigating their professional interests?
If our services model has changed, to what effect and for what duration?
Which campus constituents are positioned to help impact students’ career development in this upcoming year?
It’s possible that the future has arrived sooner than expected, spurred by recent demands of initiating new modes of student support. While schools and students plan for an eventual return to campus, career centers and their leaders should consider the following:
1. Student expectations of resource use may have changed
How does a career center connect to students when they’re no longer on campus? In 2020, the UTSA University Career Center (UCC) activated a virtual chat program paired to its website. Students were hired and trained to host online chats during expanded hours of operation, connecting visitors to targeted resources and explaining their use. The program also enabled the UCC to track its reach and monitor site activity in tandem with chat volume, illustrating how visitors used its online resources.
UTSA, UCC Website Visitors and Page Views, October 2020 – April 2021
The UCC anticipates maintaining its virtual chat program as UTSA prepares for a hybrid academic year. What elements of your virtual office may be worth retaining after the pandemic? Will your website support a third-party platform integration? If your career center is interested in launching a similar program, consider these and other factors before implementation.
2. New value is created with a prolonged shift in learning and service modality
According to Govindarajan and Srivastava, the “forced experiment” brought about by the pandemic has presented administrators with options to consider regarding the college experience, including the implementation of a hybrid model. Is there a place for a dual modality career center, one that offers its core services to students in person and online?
Last month, 14 Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI’S) from across the U.S. co-hosted the HSI Career Collaborative Summit, a virtual professional development and networking experience for students. The event enabled attendees to access an expanded group of employers pooled by participating schools. In hindsight, the necessity of virtual recruiting during the pandemic provided a framework by which an event involving so many stakeholders could be executed.
Are you looking for ways to coordinate resources with other career centers? Virtual programming may provide the ideal avenue. Determine if your network of affiliate schools makes use of shared platforms to host collaborative gatherings. Leverage your local consortium as a space for planning and possibly hosting virtual programs.
3. Engaging with “career champions” will be essential to reaching students.
As indicated by The Collective in 2019, developing a network of career champions is critical to building a culture of career development across a university campus. In the virtual space, this network is essential to promoting career resources to students fatigued by distance learning. Have you identified your career champions? Faculty have consistent and direct access to students in the classroom; their endorsement often leads to increased student interaction with support services. Academic advisors can promote the use of career resources by students of all classifications.
Is your career center in a position to host trainings or professional development for your network? Has it developed specific structures for collaboration with and to support career champions? Keeping your network of advocates engaged and informed will help your office amplify its position to students, virtually or otherwise.
Like last year, change and flexibility will continue to be a major themes for the near future.
Adrian D. Ramirez is Director of Career Development and College Relations at The University of Texas at San Antonio. He is an inaugural cohort member of the Collective’s Career Leaders Fellowship Program.
The Career Leadership Collective offers a variety of professional development content on emerging trends in the field and encourages their use by anyone in the community. Stay tuned for updates on new programs and resources.