In student affairs, we spend a great deal of time building the leaders of tomorrow. However, we often fail to incorporate the most important leadership skill: career readiness. Being ready for the workplace is the very reason students go to college in the first place. So why aren’t we making sure that component is present every step of the way?
Our leadership programs should have learning outcomes, things we want our students to know or be able to do as a result of completing the activity or leaving the event. We use leadership principles from different resources like the CAS standards or Kouzes & Posner’s Five Practices for Exemplary Leadership. Still, we may not think about how career competencies can be infused into these programs to aid in the leadership development of students on our campuses.
NACE provides a list of career readiness competencies that help us guide our career programs and initiatives, but we keep these competencies in their own career development box and don’t let them mix with leadership development. There are a number of ways in which career readiness competencies and leadership outcomes are interconnected. Through careful development of institution-wide competencies, we can ensure students are gaining valuable leadership development skills, as well as those needed to succeed in the workplace.
Collaboration is key. This should extend beyond just talking to other areas in student affairs. It’s infusing your role, your department, and your resources into leadership initiatives across campus. We should work with other offices across campus to develop a set of learning outcomes that foster career readiness. It is a team effort and numerous perspectives are necessary to develop a clear set of competencies. Be visible and present across campus whenever there is an opportunity to develop leadership in students.
In our training as student affairs program we were consistently told to “meet students where they are.” The figurative implication of this is making things appropriate and accessible for students to learn and understand. But there’s a literal component to it, too. We have to literally get up from our desks, walk across campus, and engage with students in the places where they are spending their time.
Developing a set of competencies can be done in a number of different ways. Perhaps your institution utilizes a strong value, mission, or strategic plan throughout campus. Or, the characteristics of the school’s founder help dictate essential elements of leadership learning outcomes. In some cases, the competencies are born out of a think-tank. Regardless, it is important that this is an institution-wide initiative. Many departments need to be at the table for such discussions.
We encourage our students to take on leadership roles through clubs and organizations, so campus activities programs should be part of the discussion. We encourage students to partake in service learning, so civic and community engagement needs a voice. Including a multitude of departments ensures that all efforts can be focused towards the same outcome: developing leaders prepared for success in the workplace. This is why it is essential to collaborate and develop competencies that align with the institution’s mission, values, and strategic
plan. The most important component, however, is including student voices. These are the people we hope to influence, so their views should be considered.
The development of such competencies can be a difficult undertaking. But with collaboration, administrative support, and student input, institutions can help develop or strengthen preexisting competencies. In doing this, we can truly say that we are serving the needs of our students and helping them on their journey to become powerful, effective leaders in the workplace and the community.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Paige Erhart at email@example.com.