We knew it was coming and the time is here; more students of color are coming to college. Research points to the layers of barriers they face to achieve academic success. Except this time we are not reading it in a higher education journal. This time, they are in every career center’s front door, waiting to be served to achieve their career goals and dreams. So the question for career services professionals is, who are we really serving?
As the director for the first ever Career Planning and Placement Center at Kennedy-King College, one of the City of Colleges of Chicago, this was a huge question I had ask myself. With 97% of the student population being students of color and the majority of them not having access to family, friends, or mentors to provide a roadmap to career success, we had to change the game. We could not do the traditional career services that I have grown accustomed to seeing. We had to think outside of the box. We had to do more.
Like most career centers we offer what I call, transactional experiences, such as resume writing assistance, mock interviews, career readiness workshops, career assessments, advising, and career fairs. As expected, the services were received well by our students, however something was missing. Our students were still having trouble with taking ownership of their career journey. Many were too dependent on our staff and simply stopped their own career development. What we found was that our transactional experiences were simply that: transactional. An instant service that helped for a moment, but did not go deep enough to initiate behavior changes for our students. So we set out to do more transformational experiences that focused on three areas: Education, Exposure, and Efficacy.
In additional to the transactional experiences, we set out to provide students of color transformational experiences to teach them the career search and attainment process through our career coaching methods. Exposed them to careers outside of their economically struggling neighborhoods through our career exploration roundtables and company field trips. Most importantly, we empowered our students to increase their career-self efficacy by creating identity consciousness programming by exploring topics such as “What does it mean to be working as a women of color in white male dominated restaurant?” Or, “What it means to use their grit as a motivator for their career success?”
Adding transformational experiences increased our ability to outreach to more students of color to engage more transactional services. As a result, our career center has had over 700 visits with over 400 students engaged in various career coaching appointments, workshops and career fairs.
To accomplish this we got to know our students’ stories, struggles, and aspirations. We built our career center using that as our foundation of our work. So when programming and creating curriculum for the next school year, take time to answer the question, who are you really serving?
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 Jake Nelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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