There is a significant gap between the transition from high school to college in terms of career decision-making guidance. “Too many students can’t see a clear, transparent connection between their program of study and the tangible opportunities in the labor market” (Symonds, et al., 2011). A survey conducted confirms the existence of this gap. One hundred and fifty-one college students were surveyed. Results indicated that students were not adequately determining entering goals. An alarming 54% of first-time freshmen reported receiving no career decision-making guidance in high school; 59% reported not taking a career assessment. We also found that 56% of respondents would like assistance making an informed career decision. From the results of this survey, we determined that evidence-based intervention is indicated. This article aims to encourage high school counselors and educators to address these needs through the establishment of career literacy interventions program.
Career Literacy Defined
Career literacy has been defined as any program aimed at “providing students with the capacity to make informed decisions about choosing a career and deciding the best course of action to reach their goals” (Blake, 2015). This includes teaching students how to use the internet for career development purposes. Career literacy can be infused into the student experience by involving peer mentors. Overall, research indicates positive effects as a result of including peer mentoring as part of the guidance and counseling process, such as increasing mentees motivation and self-esteem (Haizan, 2015).
A Career Literacy Program
In response to the survey results, Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMU-K) designed a Career Literacy program to promote early career planning. Peer mentors were a key part of the success of the literacy program. Peer mentors learned how to utilize career literacy in combination with career planning tools to help first-time freshmen discover and articulate their academic and professional goals. In addition, the peer mentors were trained to deliver career literacy guidance using Hooley’s 7 Cs of digital career literacy (Hooley, 2012). Peer mentors were also trained in the standards of the International Mentor Training Program Certification. Thirty matriculated students served as peer mentors offering office hours to students enrolled in the freshmen seminar course. Instructors who taught seminar courses encouraged participation in the Career Literacy program by offering extra credit or included participation as a class assignment. Through peer mentoring sessions with a focus on career exploration and planning, students were informed on a variety of possible career paths. First-time freshmen met with peer mentors to discuss a variety of academic programs as well as available career and experiential learning opportunities connected to each major. The objective was to increase the number of underclassmen utilizing career decision-making resources. Career decision-making resources included accessing career interest assessments, ONetonline.org and other online tools. Participants gained knowledge regarding experiential learning opportunities such as internships, national scholarships, study abroad programs, and co-curricular activities. Sample questions on the activity sheet included:
As a result of the TAMU-K career literacy program, the number of incoming students accessing career guidance resources increased by 263%! Students were asked to reflect on what they learned, a few of the responses included:
“There are so many career choices under my major that I didn’t know about.”
“I learned how important transferable skills are in the workplace.”
“I learned about websites that can link me with potential job titles that I might not be aware of.”
“I learned how many jobs are now requiring at least a bachelor’s degree and how to find a job on so many different websites.”
Follow-up assessment of program outcome (effects) after completion of program participation is essential to understanding the effectiveness of the Career Literacy Program on retention and career readiness. TAMU-K will continue to actively engage in program evaluation to assess outcomes of program participants.
Call for Action
Career and vocational guidance can no longer be seen as a discrete service offered to young people at the completion of their high school education. To ensure students have the required knowledge on which to base critical decisions regarding the career journey they are about to undertake, school counselors and educators must help fill the career literacy gap by providing students with critical information during their post school transition. Involving peer mentors to provide career guidance to students as they enter and progress through high school would ensure the success of the literacy program. Peer mentors, who are themselves in the midst of making career decisions, are able to relate to the students, as well as reap the secondary reward as they develop soft skills and experience goal realization while providing mentorship.
Blake, C. (2015). Career Literacy: An Essential Skill for all Students. Retrieved from http://online.cune.edu/defining-career-literacy/
Carnevale, A. P., Landis-Santos, J. (2017). Beyond Career Assessment: Preparing Students for Life After High School. Retrieved from http://careerconvergence.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sd/news_article/133670/_self/CC_layout_details/false
Haizan, T., Fauziah, H., Mastura, J., & Mardian, S., (2015). Peer mentoring module: The effect of an intervention of academic mentoring program towards motivation and self-esteem among foundation students in Malaysia. Universal Journal of Psychology 3(3), 80-83. DOI10.13189/ujp.2015.030304
Hooley, T. (2012). How the internet changed career: Framing the relationship between career development and online technologies. Journal of the National Institute for Career Education and Counselling (NICEC), 29.
Symonds, W. C., Schwartz, R., & Ferguson, R. F. (2011). Pathways to prosperity: Meeting the challenge of preparing young Americans for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: Pathways to Prosperity Project, Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Retrieved from https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/4740480
This project is partially federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education under grant number P031S150096. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by the U.S. Department of Education.
Amanda M. Galvan, MS, LPC, is Academic Career Counselor and Program Coordinator of the Academic Career Literacy Program at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a certified educator who has taught elementary through collegiate level students. Amanda has 7 years experience in student development services. Her experience includes developing career guidance programs and working with undergraduates, graduates, and alumni of all majors. She also works with pre-collegiate age groups during summers. Contact: email@example.com
Aracely Negrete, MBA, serves as the Undergraduate Research Coordinator at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. She has nine years experience assessing student development programs. Her experience also includes enhancing study and research areas on a college campus. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Stanley on Monday 09/04/2017 at 03:42 PM
You speak about a career journey students are "about to undertake." Actually, it is a journey that has started long before college entrance. Career Literacy (or Life Career Development) is a life long journey and K-12 schools especially have a responsibility in ensuring that students are developing age appropriate knowledge and skills so that they can be good managers of their post-secondary decisions which may or may not include college. Career awareness activities at the elementary level, mentoring, job shadowing and internships at middle and high school levels are just a few of the activities that schools can develop to ensure a comprehensive career development program that complements and enhances academic and social/emotional development. It is all interrelated.
Amanda M. Galvan on Tuesday 09/05/2017 at 11:32 AM
Great questions Henry!
Given the high counselor-to-student ratio, many school counselors face the challenge of balancing clerical duties and providing one-on-one guidance to all students. Involving peer mentors ensures every student has access to career decision-making resources. Under the direction and guidance of a professional counselor, peer mentors can assist with encouraging intentional exploration “beyond career assessment” to help high school students select a career direction.
Peer mentors are not replacing the role of the experienced career counselor, they are instead serving as a communication vehicle using resources and questions approved by a career counselor to instill a sense of urgency in students to explore careers earlier than usual. Students generally perceive career exploration as a “senior thing.” Peers can be less intimidating than professionals and messages of transition can be better received from someone who is currently facing similar choices. Peer mentors will highlight the importance of reaching out to professionals at education and training centers such as Career Service Centers and Academic Advisors.
Peer mentors are typically juniors or seniors who have been mentees in previous years. High-performing seniors who are on track to graduate make great candidates.
Henry Nsubuga on Tuesday 09/05/2017 at 06:11 PM
Thanks Amanda, that is very helpful.
Henry Nsubuga on Sunday 09/03/2017 at 04:32 AM
I love the idea of peer mentors. It is cheap, students identify easily with their peer mentors.
Are there mechanisms of talking to senior people like career counselors in case the peer mentors cannot handle some challenges?
Secondly, how do you choose the peer mentor? Are they fellow students from higher classes who have received career guidance before or fresh graduates?