Research Puts Faculty Front and Center in Student Career Preparedness

Submitted by BNCAdmin on Tue,05/30/2017-16:24

In today’s changed workplace where a college degree no longer guarantees a well-paying job, the career skills students need to master while still on campus are becoming crucial to their success. In addition to a stronger focus on the importance of campus support such as student mentors, career services and more opportunities to interact with the outside world through job fairs and internships, one of the most important components of career preparedness is the relationship students have with their instructors and their faculty. The advice, experience, access to networking and mentoring from faculty is a characteristic of the nation’s best college programs and is likely to be one of the true keys to student success.

Helping Launch Careers

The current generation of students seems more confused than their predecessors by the demands of the job market.  Two years ago, Barnes & Noble College Insights launched their College Student Mindset for Career Preparation and Success research report, where students reported help from their teachers as the number two influencer on their career choice, after their parents. “Students really look to faculty as a resource, with their wealth of knowledge, to help mentor and guide them through their decision-making process,” said Barnes & Noble College Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Lisa Malat. “And faculty absolutely want to be more engaged with their students in that process.” she added.

In an effort to better understand the way faculty see their role as career mentors, Barnes & Noble College conducted a survey, last month, of faculty members and found that the mentoring of students in career preparation was a role they understood well. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said it was “very or extremely important” especially in the context of also being asked how prepared they thought their students were for the job marketplace, and only 63 percent believed them to be “somewhat” prepared. Daisy Leach, a 2017 graduate of the University of Denver, understood early on the value her instructors could bring to her own job search and sought help at the beginning of her junior year. “I was new to all of this, so the help and guidance of my professors was invaluable” she said. “They’re more than just instructors teaching classes, they actively participate in helping their students; not just academically, but also helping them launch their careers.” 

Leach says that in addition to their academic skills, her teachers helped with practical skills such as advice on field schools, alerting her to job postings, offering letters of recommendation and connecting her with their professional networks. That kind of mentoring requires a stronger bench than just teaching their subject course material. It also requires time outside of the lecture hall for face-to-face interactions, the kinds of opportunities difficult to allocate for their regular students, but especially challenging in online or blended courses — or for non-traditional students who may spend less time on campus.

In the Barnes & Noble College survey for example, almost half of faculty respondents claimed that students specifically sought their help on career issue less than a few times a semester. Equally, providing additional mentoring over and above their academic duties can prove challenging for an already time-crunched faculty. In the earlier Barnes & Noble College survey, very few faculty members saw their role  of helping students with career preparation expanding, with only one-quarter of the respondents able to utilize additional resources such as their campus career center, and most considered their role in student career preparation to be informal, based on providing customized advice for individual students. In light of those kinds of statistics, it becomes even more frustrating that faculty also reported that they truly value their role in helping students with their careers, describing instances where their own mentoring had helped a student find their true calling.

Ready for Work   

While many observers claim the skills gap is closing and that students are now emerging from college with the kinds of academic and social preparedness necessary for  career success, many graduates are still struggling with basic networking skills, unrealistic employment goals and a lack of such basic  skills as resume writing and interviewing skills. Increasingly, college programs are now integrating career information into their curriculum to give students general exposure to potential career paths, while others are ramping up their student support and career services programs in recognition of their students’ needs.  Meanwhile, graduating senior Leach is already mulling over a few job opportunities and is quick to acknowledge how connected her faculty at the University of Denver were to the needs of their students. “Faculty have been essential in guiding me, encouraging me to gain field-work experience, allowing me to take graduate level courses and giving me the confidence to pursue my career,” she says. “I’m excited about the future — and my professors helped me believe that I could do this.”

To learn more about Barnes & Noble College Insights, click here.