Professional students are a special population, in my opinion. They are working on some kind of post-baccalaureate professional license or degree (e.g. psychology, law, nursing, veterinary, etc.). Professional students highly prioritize practical professional development opportunities – second only to their academics. This is due to the high focus on field practice.
Professional Development for Professional Students
Attending or presenting at a professional conference is an obvious, yet expensive, example of a great development/networking opportunity for students. Internships, rotations, and residencies are often program-provided forms of practical experience and professional development for students. But, not all professional programs and schools offer the same opportunities. Each educational institution has different priorities and resources and few students can afford to fund these options on their own.
As a field, Student Affairs professionals often feel pressure to “do more, with less.” This is particularly apparent when working with professional students who need to develop specific career-related skills through co-curricular opportunities.
In my current role, I work for our University Student Affairs Office (USAO). In a general sense, there is a separation of responsibilities when it comes to students at my institution. Each academic program manages their own “hard-skills” development and our office manages the “soft-skills” development. For example, our optometry program handles all internship and clinical rotations for students. USAO handles student development regarding financial literacy, effective communication, personal brand, and other skills.
Home-Grown Development Opportunities
Conferences, webinars, and other pay-to-play activities are frequently inaccessible to students due to time, travel, financial, and other constraints and commitments. My office provides a variety of personal and professional development opportunities at no cost. These include:
- Peer Advisors. These are second-year work-study students who offer non-academic advice and personal perspectives about life and learning to first-year students in an informal setting. They facilitate large events/activities during orientation week and throughout the academic year.
- Peer Tutors. These are upperclassmen work-study students whose services are provided to students at no cost. The tutors excel in course content and are trained to facilitate discussions on specific content. They also role model successful study skills and other positive habits.
- Navigating Your Way Through Professional School Seminar Series. Provided at least once per quarter, the series offers professional and personal enrichment workshops and lectures. Typical topics include financial literacy, effective communication/assertiveness, developing a personal brand, and stress management. Presenters range from our own faculty, staff, and administration to professionals in the community.
- Student Leadership Development Certificate Program. The certificate program begins for first-year students with a day-long leadership summit held annually each December. This conference is followed up by regular seminars and meetings. Students participate in leadership and service opportunities to grow and develop as leaders. Those who complete the program are awarded a certificate and a medal to wear at their commencement ceremony.
Take some of these ideas to implement on your own campus! Contact me directly for more information – happy to share: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.