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Bridging Academic and Career Advising: What Matters the Most?

Photo Credit: Daisy Runggeary, University Park Campus, Clark University, Worcester, MA Summer 2015


Each year universities and colleges across the United States and the world at large prepare and graduate students who completed a degree-seeking program after years of studies, while also providing academic advising and in some universities career advising services. This post seeks to echo what is already known that students upon graduation have to face the reality of life by seeking jobs to be able to take care of themselves and their families.

Universities and colleges provide diverse services to students while they pursue their education. Academic Advisors who are typically members of the academic staff of the student degree-seeking program are assigned to each student. Their role is straightforward – to provide academic advising services to assigned students in course selection to meet the stated academic requirement for the degree being sought.

However, academic advisors also do provide other range of professional services to their students, which include, but are not limited to general counselling, meeting to talk about life after studies, stress management sessions, grades or test outcomes issues, etc. Some students and their academic advisors established long lasting friendships and relationships.

Career advising on the other hand tend to be downplayed by most students not because of the “assumed” irrelevance at the time of their studies, but because career advising is not well integrated into the university systems, such that, attentions are quickly driven to career advising.

Most students tend to subconsciously think that career advising should be focused on during the last few months of their academic journey; that is, months before commencement. While assuming this way is wrong, institutions should always drive traffic to both services; that is, there should be a clear line of communication and coordination between the Academic Advisors and the Career Advisors.

Thus, what then is career advising? Gordon (2006) perfectly sums up and comprehensively describes career advising, as dynamic and interactive process, which “helps students understand how their personal interests, abilities, and values might predict success in the academic and career fields they are considering and how to form their academic and career goals accordingly” (p.12).

If the links between the Academic Advisors and the Career Advisors are clearly established, the selection process of academic courses that would make the most sense to each student’s academic and career journey would be less stressful, worth the money spend and eliminate the worthless courses that they have to take that would eventually have no concrete and legitimate influence on their career preferences post-graduation.

In fact, at the time each student is assign an Academic Advisor and a Student Account Advisor (for the Registrar’s money issues) – a Career Advisor should also be assigned to each student irrespective of whether or not they selected that service.

If the goal of the university or college is to see each student prosper in terms of career pathway and a gainful employment after graduation, it would be an important matter for the university to invest in more Career Advisors for the proportion of students that are enrolled in a degree-seeking program.

This idea seems expensive because it means hiring more staff to serve as Career Advisors, but it is worth the money and it would drive more traffic to your institution, because current, prospective students and their families will see that you not only mean business, but you put students concerns and welfare first by trying to put in systems that could facilitate employability after graduating from college or university.

Students and their families pay huge fees and other costs each semester for courses and by the end of their academic journey, they are bombarded on each size my federal and private loans after the 6-months grace period. Yet, if they are even lucky to get a job within that period, they can at least start repaying and doing things they want and have passion for.

However, that is not always the case about 90% of the time. Recent graduates find it more difficult securing a job offer because most of them did not well planned or prepared in advance for the job market or in most cases, lack the needed skills and relevant professional experiences.

Most graduates have to accept unpaid internships as the last resort to be able to infiltrate the job market, something I would coined as the “unacceptable to accept” considering the amount of money already invested in their education and having to literally sacrifice on average 6-10 months or even a year or 2 to be able to get the assumed experience in a field – before they are even consider for an entry-level position, if they are even lucky.

Some graduates I know end up doing 3-5 different internships and I can’t imagine how much that have cost them financially, not considering the time, transportation, stress, etc.

While there is no legitimate guarantee that after going through both academic and career advising that you will have a job post-graduation, what matters is that you have the available resources handy and as appropriate as possible made some use of it.

I trust that having both the academic and career advising services for each student would ease the process of relevant course selection, concentrate focus on students long-term career goals within the academic setting, determine whether in fact, the current program of study is the right fit for the student and what alternatives exist even, if that means the current college isn’t the right place for the student.

Most universities and colleges still rely on this old-school academic advising and career divide where the gaps between the two services are huge. Each student career goals need to be integrated into their academic goals as that would make the most sense to prepare the individual for the career world after graduation.

Generally, students attend colleges and universities because eventually they want to get a job. Thus, an educational system, which holistically takes the students goals both academically and career-wise, puts the student first and at the center of the academic-career spectrum. Astin (2007) rightly noted that students continue to report that one of the major reasons they attend college is to get a better job. Integrating academic advising to career advising with clearly defined goals for the student is logical, appropriate, makes sense, and economically viable. It could also serve the university in the short and long-term as a potential lead for students who need such a transformation.

At the end of the day, the student is what matters the most and if universities and colleges are really interested in providing cutting edge education that would translate into gainful employment, the gaps between academic and career advising needs to be bridged and fully considered the student as the main focus.

Some universities have started doing more to promote career development, while students pursue their degrees, but more needs to be done given that the employment environment continues change and so should the educational systems, which seeks to prepare students for jobs out there.

The relationships and coordination between academic and career advising needs to be visible on each campus and students need to start working on career goals at the early stages of their education rather than the later.


Reference

Astin, A. W. (2007).The American freshman: National norms for fall 2006. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute.  – See more at: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Integrating-career-and-academic-advising.aspx#sthash.Do4rx2Ce.dpuf. Accessed: 11/13/2015

Gordon, V. N. (2006). Career advising: An academic advisor’s guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. – See more at: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Integrating-career-and-academic-advising.aspx#sthash.Do4rx2Ce.dpuf. Accessed: 11/13/2015

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