Academic Advising Resources

Resource Web links to integrated of career and academic advising centers
The Handbook of Career Advising
Career Advising: An Academic Advisor's Guide

Career Advisors: A New Breed

Authored By: Dorothy Burton Nelson
2006

 

Three out of four students entering the university for the first time have no clear career/occupational goals, and only 8 percent of declared students have an understanding of their majors (Virginia Gordon, 1995). First-time freshman need and expect a roadmap for successfully resolving indecision, a roadmap typically provided through contact with an academic advisor. John Gardner (1995) notes that "advising will be more connected to an early, intrusive career planning process to heighten the probability of a more appropriate major selection earlier in the baccalaureate experience." (p. 165). Advising is a form of teaching, and all effective teaching (thus advising) begins with the identification of student learning outcomes. Helping a student clarify and set career goals becomes a paramount task in the academic advising process. Knowing when to give information, and understanding what kind and how much information is needed, requires expertise and attention from an advisor. Advising is a personal experience; academic programs are impersonal. The advising process serves as the venue for personalizing the academic program, as it provides for curricular adaptations, pacing, and, possibly, a more relaxed definition of progression and retention (Glennen & Vowell, 1995).

 

Content of the advising sessions can be considered bi-faceted: 1) educational/academic planning, and 2) career/life planning. Students often lack awareness of the relevance and impact of college decisions on their futures, and miss opportunities for identifying with key faculty and staff for developing career salience (formulating identity/role within one's field of study). Neither facet can afford oversight. Studies have shown the impact on persistence and satisfaction from having at least one meaningful faculty/staff advisor in the university (Astin, 1993; Crockett, 1978; Gardner, 1983; Noel, 1985; Rendon, 1995; Tinto, 1987).
 
Guiding students through the decision-making process requires skillful interviewing on the advisor's part. Individualized, student-focused advising is often diminished due to time constraints and limited knowledge of underlying theory. In these cases course scheduling becomes the hallmark of the advising session. To increase opportunities for incorporating career and life planning into the advising session, prescriptive information could be delivered in group settings prior to registration activity, reserving the remainder of the semester for individually addressing student concerns.
 
The first year of college is a time for students to explore, mature, and lay the foundation for a lifetime of making sound, rational choices. Matching college majors with occupations and professional opportunities is most often addressed in the office of a career counselor while the selection of courses necessary for the completion of the degree, to get the job, and engage in professional activities, is most often addressed in the office of the academic advisor. Career planning and academic advising overlap and intertwine, requiring choreographed decision-making. For convenience, efficiency, and seamless operations, units often integrate the two services, training personnel for transitioning between the related topics during any given advising session. The trained, more versatile advisor expedites systematic, rational decision-making (Damminger, 2001; Gordon & Habley, 2000).

Chickering and Reisser (1993) suggest that there are several developmental tasks that must be resolved before adequate career and academic choices can be made:

  • Development of physical, emotional, social and intellectual competence
  • Assessment of interests and awareness of options
  • Identification and clarification of work values
  • Development of a clear sense of self in a vocational context

This is a challenge for even the most seasoned of advisors. If they are to adhere to a student-focused developmental process, advisors must maintain knowledge of student development and of career-related concepts in the advising process. Training is essential and should include information on theory, processes, and application techniques. A quick to-do checklist for career advising may look like this:

  • Establish a caring, working relationship
  • Help students clarify goals; create a personal mission statement
  • Discuss relevance of higher education and liberal studies
  • Encourage thinking about life and career goals
  • Relate interests and abilities to plans
  • Assist in exploring and selecting majors and minors
  • Provide rationale for course and curriculum requirements
  • Help select and schedule courses
  • Monitor academic progress
  • Encourage students to explore options, become involved and use campus resources throughout their time in college.

Again, to seek out time for such quality interactions, delivery of general (prescriptive) information can be disseminated through group sessions whenever possible.

The challenges for expanding the scope of advising are almost as varied as the student issues. First and foremost, advisors must understand the importance of their knowledge of both career development and student development theory. They must view their work as meaningful and value their own set of job duties (thus, demonstrating their own levels of career salience). Secondary are several logistical challenges that include 1) securing funds from internal and external sources (grant writing) for additional staff, materials and equipment, 2) advisor selection and training, 3) the reduction of case loads for increased time and availability of advisors, 4) identification of meaningful student learning outcomes, 5) clear definition of procedures for the use of intrusive, prescriptive and developmental approaches, as warranted by the situation (and profile of the advisee), and finally 6) program assessment. The nuts and bolts of program expansion can impede progress when advisors lose sight of the purpose. A good general mission statement for comprehensive advising is to educate and graduate qualified individuals with the skills needed to enter suitable employment and contribute to the economic development of surrounding communities and beyond, may keep advisors focused and appreciative of the small gains.

The resources needed for advisor training and development for career advising do not significantly differ from the resources necessary for more traditional advising practices that focus on course selection and scheduling. Incorporation of the theoretical underpinnings of career and life planning may be the only real difference. The resources listed in Appendix A are by no means exhaustive. Networking among advisors becomes a platform for the discovery and sharing of new ideas and resources. Successful programs have successful advisors who typically seek out other successful programs and successful advisors for the advancement of the theory and practice of comprehensive advising.
 
Programs of study take on new meaning through the ensuing conversations between advisor and advisee that concern career and life planning. As Glennen and Vowell (1995) stressed in their concluding editorial statements in the monograph Academic Advising as a Comprehensive Campus Process,
 
It is far more important that the advisee evolve his or her own plan of action than it is to adopt any plan that an academic advisor attempts to impose on that individual.They (advisors) must help students set goals, examine options, choose a course of action, and evaluate the results of that choice. (p. 141)

For advisors who have been trained in traditional advising approaches, making the leap into career advising may require additional reading and preparation, but will add new dimensions for assisting students. The first step in expanding advising practice, involves a paradigm realignment or student needs; we must shift from information focus to student focus, from focus on the immediate time frame to connections in the future, and from curriculum completion to career salience. Advising programs, services, and resources are merely window dressing without the psychological positioning of the advisor. The real difference is made when a student enters his or her advisor's office and says "I'm not sure what I want to do with my life", and the journey begins as the advisor responds "what and exciting opportunity, let's talk about that."

 


Appendix A

Resources for Career Advising

  • Student Development theory
  • Bean's Model of Student Departure (Bean, 1980, 1983)
  • Tinto's Student Integration Model (Tinto, 1975)
  • Career Development theory
  • Super's Self-Concept theory (Super, 1957)
  • Holland's theory of personality and work environment congruence (Holland, 1997)
  • Roe's theory of occupational selection (Roe, 1956)
  • Equipment and materials
  • Computer(s) and software for occupational exploration
  • Publications, periodicals, journals, and other occupational literature
  • Career assessment instruments (self-reports) and correlated occupational information
  • Videos, websites, and other work-related multimedia presentations
  • Other resources
  • Workers in the field
  • Career Counselors
  • Career courses
  • Faculty in other majors
  • Network with other advisors
  • State, regional and national conferences
  • Professional organizations
  • Program evaluation and assessment
  • Measurements of outcomes (criterion tests, course grades, percent of classes completed, etc.)
  • Measurements of student satisfaction (survey, opinionnaire, questionnaire)
  • Advising session guidelines
  • Topics checklist
  • Student contact log
  • Transcripts and other official curriculum records
  • Student profiler (interests, abilities, values, strengths, challenges)

Dorothy Burton Nelson, Director
Career and Academic Planning Center
Southeastern Louisiana University


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Burton Nelson, Dorothy. (2006). Career Advisors: A new breed. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources website:
http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Career-advisors.aspx

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