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Comparing 2 Career Services Offices Using CAS Standards


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  • 1. Running head: COMPARING CAREER SERVICES 1 Comparing Career Services at North Shore Community College and Syracuse University Shannon Cormier, Chris Jones, & Brian Pember EDU 719
  • 2. Comparing Career Services 2 The purpose of this paper is to use the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) to compare the career services at Syracuse University (SU) in Syracuse, New York and North Shore Community College (NSCC), in Massachusetts. The CAS standards and guidelines were developed in order “…to promote the improvement of programs and services to enhance the quality of student learning and development” (CAS, 2009, p.3). While the CAS standards were developed as a clear and consistent way to ensure student and departmental success, not all institutions are required to follow the standards. Staff members from both SU and NSCC were interviewed in an effort to compare information regarding CAS compliance, Carnegie Classifications, and other aspects of their respective programs. According to the Carnegie Classifications, NSCC is a two-year public institution with 7,968 students and SU is a four-year private institution with 19,638 students (CFAT, 2007). Within this paper, the CAS standards will be used to carefully examine the differences in the departments’ mission statements, programs and services, the way the two departments make decisions concerning ethical considerations, campus and external relations, as well as assessments and evaluations. I. Mission Statements According to the CAS standards, the primary mission of career services is to assist students and other designated clients through all phases of their overall career development. Every career services department should clearly state their mission statement and include it in the department’s media material. The mission statement should highlight the importance of serving their students’ individualized career needs for educational and professional learning. Another component of the department’s mission should be to assist career focused individuals in a multitude of disciplines including community service, student employment, research, and
  • 3. Comparing Career Services 3 internships. The office of career services should provide students with occupational and educational information regarding job searching skills, resume writing, and effective interviewing strategies. Ultimately, those who work in career services should be helping the student develop a greater knowledge of self. They can do this by helping the student develop specific career choices that correlate with the student’s “competencies, interest, values, and personal characteristics” (CAS, 2009, 125). When compared to the CAS Standards, the career services department’s website at NSCC is poor. The department’s information statement is brief in its explanation of the services provided for their students. The website should be revised to include more information specific to CAS Standards. The lack of a cohesive mission statement could leave the student seeking career development and employment services with a false impression. However, their department somewhat adheres to the institutional mission statement. For example, the institutional mission statement explains the importance of career preparation while also taking into account the surrounding community’s economic needs. However, their career services department has not been up to date with technological advances, which is stated in NSCC’s mission statement. At SU, the career services department has created a mission statement that emphasizes career guidance that is based on students’ individualized needs. Both NSCC’s and SU’s department mission statement relates to the overall mission statement of their institutions. However, SU’s mission statement for career services is more detailed and robust than the system at NSCC. One of the obvious reasons for this is the amount of financial resources made available and the volume of students serviced every year at SU. II. Career Service Programs
  • 4. Comparing Career Services 4 According to CAS standards, career services need to provide students easy access to career counseling. This includes career exploration, internship and job search services, and connections to employers and alumni (CAS, 2009). However, in order to create a successful career services program, each institution needs to provide their career services department with adequate funding and space for a career center (CAS, 2009). Syracuse University has a securely funded career center consisting of fifteen professional staff members who make their services accessible to the undergraduates, graduates, alumni, and employers. However, many career services departments do not have access to appropriate funding. Gary McGrath (2002) explains, “Career services operating budgets, like so many areas in higher education, may be inadequate to provide the kinds of quality services and programs desired” ( p. 73). Unlike SU, NSCC does not have its own career center. Instead, NSCC career services are delivered through the student support centers at both campuses, as well as by a placement coordinator at the Lynn campus. Due to the large volume of students and therefore financial support, SU excels in the areas of staff numbers and program accessibility. Overall, SU’s career center provides students with a more functional and resourceful career center compared to the services offered at NSCC, which suffers due to lack of funding and collaboration within the institution. A student will often seek out career services when they are unsure about their future career or the program of study to choose. As Scott Brown (2004) explains, “Career centers are designed to facilitate a student’s journey from confusion to career self-enlightenment” (p. 375). Career counselors help students become aware of their own competencies, skills, and values through self-reflection and assessment tests. At NSCC, the career exploration counselors meet one on one with students to help establish their future career goals and strategies, which often includes going over the process of transferring to a traditional four year institution. NSCC
  • 5. Comparing Career Services 5 career counselors also host career exploration workshops and college success seminars. These provide the student with career assessment tests, including DISCOVER and Self-Directed Search. In comparison to NSCC, Syracuse University’s career counseling services provide similar services, including career exploration advising and assessment tests. However, the counselors at SU’s career services department have more resources and expertise on internships, job search strategies, and graduate school planning. According to the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, institutions should encourage students to actively learn and “…make what they learn part of themselves” (Chickering & Gamson, 1991, p. 66). SU encourages their students to actively learn by providing access to experiential learning opportunities, such as internships and volunteer opportunities. Designated internship counselors provide students assistance with searching for an internship, earning college credits for internship experience, and funding their internship. Through these internships, SU students are able to “…experience the connection between classroom learning and work in their career field and enhance their prospects for employment after graduation” (McGrath, 2002, p. 82). On the other hand, there are no professionally trained staff members at NSCC who specializes in internships. Rather, several NSCC faculty members are available to help students acquire field placements because certain programs require students to participate in an internship program before graduation. Even though some students at NSCC have access to experiential learning, the majority of students face a lack of services when seeking employment. In order to assist students in their effort to secure a desired position, career services must help students effectively represent themselves (CAS, 2009). In addition, since employers now review potential candidates through online social networking sites, career counselors should
  • 6. Comparing Career Services 6 instruct students on how to professionally represent themselves on their online social networking sites (Schuh et al., 2011). For example, the career placement coordinator at NSCC provides in- classroom workshops and private sessions for both non-credit and credit students. These services help students who need to improve their interviewing skills, resume and cover letter, networking and job search strategies, and tips on how to professionally manage their social media sites. The NSCC career placement coordinator only meets with an average of fifty students each month, whereas SU counselors advise many more. Due to the amount of staff members available at SU, students can either walk-in without an appointment or with an appointment. In addition, SU offers students the opportunity to do a video-taped mock interview to improve their interview skills. In comparison to NSCC, SU career services contribute more to students receiving jobs because of their accessibility. Career services provide students with a variety of ways to search for jobs. For instance, the career services department at Syracuse organizes a variety of job search events, such as a local internship fair, a career expo, an environment fair, and a community connection fair. According to SU’s placement report, 18% of Syracuse’s 2010 graduating students received jobs by attending job fairs and by using their career services. These fairs provide opportunities for Syracuse students to network with prospective employers. According to NACE’s 2007 Career Service Benchmark Study, a student is more likely to find a job if the student attends on-campus interviews and career fairs before graduation (Eisner, 2010, p. 31). Unfortunately, NSCC students do not have the opportunity to attend on-campus interviews or college fairs. Due to the lack of collaboration within NSCC, fairs and similar events are seldom offered. Instead, the career placement counselor notifies students about local job fairs open to the community.
  • 7. Comparing Career Services 7 Due to the advances in technology, career services departments have expanded their services to include on-line resources. According to the 2007 Career Service Benchmark Study organized by NACE, majority of the 600 four-year institutions in their study “…reported having a career services website (98.8%), and an online job posting system to help student or alumni users identify available jobs (95%)” (Eisner, 2010, p. 31). Syracuse University has an online database system, called Orange Link, which contains internships and job opportunities available exclusively to SU students and alumnus. Students and alumnus of SU can also stay connected through SU’s social media networks, such as LinkedIn and Facebook. In addition, information on how to interview, write resumes and cover letters, as well as important external links to job search engines can all be accessed from SU’s website. On the other hand, NSCC’s career services department has made little technological advances. Their website provides minimal services to their students, including the staff members contact information and a few external links relating to job-search engines, careers, and self- assessment tests. According to Schuh et al., (2011), “Student affairs administrators must come to understand how students use various forms of popular online technology, such as social networking sites and instant messaging applications, to interact with others, and then adapt their practice to include this understanding (p. 523). NSCC’s career center would improve their services if they incorporated some of the online services Syracuse University provides to their students. III. Program Assessment and Evaluation In order for career services departments to better serve their students, they must assess and evaluate their programs and student learning outcomes (CAS, 2009). The career services at
  • 8. Comparing Career Services 8 North Shore Community College are in the process of developing ways to assess their graduates’ success with the services available to them. Currently, the career services survey undergraduates and alumni by asking them questions regarding their experiences with their services while in school and after graduation. Although beneficial, this way of assessing NSCC’s career services may limit their understanding of the success of their programs. In comparison, Syracuse’s career services office evaluates their service to gain information on what the students learned by using an online survey system called survey monkey. However, those surveys are only given to students after large workshops instead of after a one-on-one counseling session. In addition, SU’s career services produces a yearly assessment on the employment status of their recent graduates by emailing an online survey. SU’s placement report is available online to the public, whereas, NSCC’s career services does not post theirs online. In addition, NSCC tracks the total number of student visits in order to prove how frequent career services are being used and assesses their services through informal conversations and voluntary student feedback. Students are asked before and after graduation about their perceived development after utilizing the career services. IV. Campus and External Relations Developing internal and external relationships on and off campus is vital when working in a department of career services. The relationships formed within the institution among faculty organizations, committees, and various programs are crucial to the departments overall growth and success on campus. NSCC career services department works closely with academic program departments, student support, alumni services, and disability services. However, the lack of collaboration throughout the institution causes infrequent communication with faculty and staff members. This can result in miscommunication on services provided by each office. According
  • 9. Comparing Career Services 9 to McGrath (2002), “For career services staff to be effective in helping students, they need the cooperation, support, and understanding of campus administrators and faculty” (p. 72). SU has been successful with collaborating with other departments. For example, they work closely with the alumnus department since most of their services are available to alumnus as well as current students. In addition, SU works closely with the academic departments to provide students with mock interviews within their classes. The bonds formed off campus are equally as important for the department of career services because they serve as a major link to the work force. It is essential for career services to work closely with local employers because “the knowledge and understanding gained from interaction with employers adds reality and credibility to career services staff when assisting students with career concerns” (McGrath, 2002, p.74). SU’s career services department has a designated employee relation coordinator whose purpose is to collaborate with outside organizations and companies to find employment and educational opportunities for their students. In addition to the responsibilities of SU’s employee relation coordinator, NSCC’s placement coordinator has additional responsibilities causing fewer connections to be made than at SU. Technological communication has quickly become one of the most important components of career services and student affairs because it connects all the various organizations and programs of the school directly to career services. NSCC’s career services have not created online social networking groups, limiting their students’ ability to communicate with alumnus or employers. It is likely that a lack of financial resources, man power, or possibly the lack of knowledge regarding online social media technology has caused this. In contrast, SU connects students to future career opportunities through their own accounts on Facebook,
  • 10. Comparing Career Services 10 Twitter, You Tube, and Cuse Connect Alumni Services. When comparing the two school’s understanding and usage of electronic media, Syracuse University’s career services department is clearly more advanced when focusing on technology and communication strategies. V. Ethical Considerations An institution’s career services program has access to student’s private academic records as well as other information, which are required to be kept confidential (CAS, 2009). With this access, it is important for staff members to follow ethical protocol as stated in the CAS standards. Every staff member must be trained in how to handle ethical dilemmas and appropriate office etiquette when discussing student information or referring a student to another office. Both SU and NSCC have similar ethical issues despite the size difference of the institutions and the programs themselves. One thing the two programs shared was the issues regarding their interactions with potential employers and internship programs. For example, employers will sometimes request a particular type of student, possibly resulting in discrimination. Also, someone in the career services department could have a particular student they might want to apply for the position. Because of these possibilities, the departments needs to make clear and consistent decisions when dealing with these issues to make sure that every student is given the opportunity to apply to all available jobs. In addition to this, career services departments also need to obey ethical and legal laws regarding employment discrimination. Another ethical issue that arises in career services is privacy. Since SU has a larger office with more employees, the potential for interaction and breaking student confidentiality is greater, as unethical conversations can sometime occur in staff members’ interactions with each
  • 11. Comparing Career Services 11 other throughout the day. In addition, their graduate assistant provides career advice to his classmates, causing a personal conflict for him on many levels. Therefore, it is important for professional staff members to make sure their students personal information will be kept private (Venable, 2010). Since NSCC does not have a specific office or large staff the chances of having those unethical conversations between professionals are smaller. VI. Professional Staff Since they have close interactions with students, professional staff members in higher education must be trained, qualified, and understand office polices (CAS, 2009). Even though NSCC and SU have different dynamics in their offices, their employees should be held to the same expectations. Although NSCC’s career exploration advisors have master’s degrees, they lack a degree specific to the areas of career advising and student affairs. Syracuse is similar in this aspect because they also do not have anyone with a degree in student affairs. It should also be noted that there is a lack of consensus regarding career services employees who hold master’s degrees at SU. The career placement coordinator at NSCC has a bachelor’s degree in psychology along with 38 years of experience handling job placements, recruiting and sales. The experience of the Syracuse employees is varied, as the staff does not share a specific background. This is surprising considering, “Receiving a graduate education in student affairs from a program that complies with CAS standards at an accredited institution is the best means to prepare for entrance into student affairs” (Schuh et al., 2011, p. 472). Another similarity between both offices was the desire to take part in the professional development of students and graduates. Despite this, neither have the amount of funds to appropriately do so. Therefore, the professionals at NSCC and Syracuse recognize the importance of staying up to date on current
  • 12. Comparing Career Services 12 trends by attending professional development activities, program advisory boards, as well as being aware of relevant information available in the news, social media, and professional articles. With different student populations, each career services will need to customize their service in reaction to the differences in students’ demands. This can be seen in the number of professional staff members at both offices. Syracuse career services department is staffed by 14 professional staff members and 1 graduate assistant while North Shore has only four staff members split between the two campuses. In addition, professional training is administered differently. NSCC’s career counseling training is conducted on an individual basis through webinars and by utilizing the resources on the National Career Development Association’s website. In comparison, Syracuse does not train all its members, but rather introduces new staff members by coaching them through their new positions. In an effort to contribute to the individual development of staff members, Syracuse has often paid for staff to attend conferences. Despite this, not everyone in the SU’s career services department receives developmental opportunities. VII. Discussion After reviewing the CAS standards and researching information on the two career services programs and interviewing staff members from both Syracuse University and North Shore Community College, it can be seen that neither department follows all of the CAS standards. This paper attempts to show how difficult it is to create a career service program that follows the CAS standards exactly. Unexpectedly, multiple similarities were found in the two departments, despite the differences in the size of each institution. However, North Shore lacks the funds, facilities, and staffing to provide students the same quality of services Syracuse can
  • 13. Comparing Career Services 13 provide. The number of connections and available resources Syracuse can use are different due to the strong interactions with alumni and high standards set by being a large private institution.
  • 14. Comparing Career Services 14 RESOURCES Brown, Scott C., 1963-. (2004). Where this path may lead: Understanding career decision- making for postcollege life. Journal of College Student Development 45(4), 375-390. Retrieved January 21, 2011, from Project MUSE database. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT). (2007). The Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education. Retrieved December 5, 2011, from Chickering, A.W., and Gamson, Z.F. (1991). Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. Number 47, Fall 1991. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc. Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education. (2009). CAS professional standards for higher education (7th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. McGrath, G. L. (2002). The Emergence of Career Services and Their Important Role in Working with Employers. New Directions For Student Services, (100), 69. Schuh, J. H., Jones, S. R., Harper, S. R., (2011). Student Services: A Handbook for the Profession (5th ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Venable, M. A. (2010). Using Technology to Deliver Career Development Services: Supporting Today's Students in Higher Education. Career Development Quarterly, 59(1), 87-96.