Picture of post-it spider diagram

Taking ‘post-it’ as an imperative, here’s the fifth in the series of transatlantic discussions generated with the help of UC Berkeley’s excellent Career Counseling team.  Giant post-it #4 briefly touched on the theme of self efficacy, but here it is examined in more detail…

Giant post-it #5: Career Resilience and Self Efficacy

Initial comment from Naeema Pasha:

Can you ask if they’re doing anything on building career resilience and self efficacy with students?

Notes from UC Berkeley Career Counselors:

My hope is that students hear about these themes via stories shared by panelists/alums.

Self-efficacy by eliciting student thoughts/ideas rather than giving advice directly in counseling sessions.

Teach how not to do it for them.

Skillscan can be a good exercise to have students rate their perceived proficiency surrounding a set of skills.

I speak with students during counseling sessions individually about this very thing each session.

Career Resilience and Self Efficacy: overview and trends

As mentioned in a previous post, my perception is that career self efficacy is higher here, partly as a result of the more self-directed approach to university education in general – with regular decision-making rehearsals in choosing classes, majors and the pace of study.  At UC Berkeley, students can even teach credit-awarding classes to their peers through the DeCal program.

As mentioned by the counselor comments, the style of guidance reinforces self-efficacy; the ‘what to expect’ guidelines set student expectations just in case some still do expect to be ‘told what to do’, and I’ve seen much less of this abdication of direction.

In event programming too, self-efficacy is embedded.  Unlike in many UK services, career counselors rarely run a session giving information for a particular industry, instead allowing self efficacious students to draw their own conclusions  as they hear from alumni or employer panels (chaired by the counselor). ‘Career Lounge’ sessions are a particularly good example of UC Berkeley’s programming for self-efficacy – informal group discussions on a career management topic (resumes, networking etc.) where the counselor acts as a group facilitator rather than a presenter.  I ran one Career Lounge (on using LinkedIn), and sat in on two others, and the democratic discussion in the room was fantastic to see. Although all counselors had prepared some informational materials, just in case of a room full of non-contributors, the students really embraced the opportunity to share what they’d found useful and learn from their peers (as they also do from formal peer advisers).  I learnt about things I hadn’t heard before (student experiences of using a paid LinkedIn membership), and was able to draw out counter-examples when a student statement was in danger of being mistaken as a ‘golden rule for all industries’.

Career resilience, on the other hand, is something that I haven’t seen directly addressed, although it’s been subtly included in other events. Our big career conference for liberal arts students included a keynote from Daniel Seddiqui, a California graduate who struggled to find work after his degree, and after 3 years (I think) of set backs, and at the point of giving up, decided to challenge himself to find 50 jobs in 50 states, and wrote a book about his experiences. From persuading managers to take him on just for a bit despite no qualifications or experience, to making mistakes along the way and getting over them to taking calculated risks (such as buying a roadworthy vehicle with no income!); it was a great keynote with lots of resilience messaging.

Whereas self-efficacy is supported through the fabric of education here, resilience is something that the broader employment environment definitely requires. Students can typically only stay on their parents’ medical insurance until the age of 26, and after this point will be reliant on a stable employment package which includes healthcare benefits. Unlike the UK, students begin to pay back their loans six months after graduating, regardless of their employment status or income level. Generally ‘at will’ (no notice period) or part-time contracts offer no benefit coverage, and even for ‘permanent’ hires, notice periods for redundancies (‘lay offs’) are commonly as little as 2 weeks, as opposed to the UK’s 1-3 months.

So resiliency is needed, and at the moment, it’s the quality of the counseling provision here that helps to support it for individuals. Many counselors here identify as Counselors (with the same capital ‘C’ from their MSc in Counseling), and that counseling skill-set I’ve seen do some amazing work with increasing a sense of ownership of the process to build resiliency (see more in this NCDA article).  The challenge is to build this for more individuals, at the same time as meeting the common transatlantic drive to ‘do more with less’ where public funding is on the wane.  If anyone has good examples for programs (or programmes in the UK!) that directly address career resiliency, do comment!