I’ve been researching what Stanford calls the ‘Connections Model’ of career services, for an upcoming article in AGCAS Phoenix magazine and a talk at the next AGCAS Annual Conference. I wanted to share the main influences here, and my interpretation of the connection model, and how it fits in with the evolution of career services in UK higher education.

A quick summary of Stanford’s new model is here; ‘Vision 2020’ (punny!) is all about creating career communities, and I really like this how this integrating theoretical standpoints (role modelling, community interaction theory, social learning theory, self-efficacy outcomes) and strategic opportunities (internal and external engagement through increased partnership working).  While we’re doing ‘background reading’, if you haven’t seen it yet, and you’re in the mood for big thinking, check out Wake Forest’s Andy Chan talking about why ‘Career Services Must Die’ for a similar, but slightly different argument on moving away from a ‘dispensary’ service.

Farouk Dey from Stanford University used the idea of a connections model as the basis for an article posted on LinkedIn recently, theorising ‘Future Trends in [University] Career Services’, which incorporated a diagram which caught my eye:

Evolution of Career Services in Higher Education (Dey & Cruzvergara, 2014) - diagram shows arrow moving left to right, with phases of career service models as follows - 1900 - 1920 Vocational Guidance, 1920 - 1940 Teachers Guidance, 1940 - 1970 Job Placement 1970 - 1990 Career Counselling, 1990 - 2010 Professional Networking and finally 2010 - 2030 Connections and Communities

On top of my scepticism that pretty much everything career services appears to happen in neat 20 year cycles, I think there’s another reason that this doesn’t feel right to me. It’s those end dates. 

Many career professionals, I expect, will look at that diagram and think ‘we’re just getting good at our placement model’, or ‘our career counselling gets more effective each year’. The end dates imply that we don’t need any of these things any more. I’m not sure that that’s the case; I see connections and communities work as a way of growing what we can offer.

The other issue is that I don’t think this accurately represents the careers service models in the UK, which have focused much more on careers education and embedding employability in the curriculum than  US services, as far as I can tell.

I’ve always liked the analogy of career services ‘teaching students how to fish’ [for jobs, to be clear, just in case this gets anachronistically reblogged by Angling Times].

  • Job placement – “Here’s a fish for you!”
  • Careers information – “Here’s a list of inspiring fishing websites”
  • Careers advice – “You might have more luck fishing if you…”
  • Career counselling – “You say you can’t/won’t/shouldn’t fish… Tell me more about that”
  • Careers education – “This course will teach you how to fish”
  • “Professional networking – “Use this service to talk to those who’ve fished lots”
  • Connections model – Student looks up. He’s in his normal routine, but there’s a whole load of peers, staff and alumni talking about fishing. Right there.

I think we need all these aspects to make a careers service work well.  If you’ve never heard of a fish before, you won’t go fishing! If you can’t/won’t fish, sometimes a community around can help, but only if it was a lack of them and their influence that was the problem.

I’ve sketched out how I think of the evolution of career services in the UK Higher Education world, and how I think career connections and communities fits in. I think ideas of the connections model are big, and important, but we don’t want to lose sight of the great work already built. Not everyone learns to be an angler, just because everyone in their university ecosystem knows how to fish. But that’s got to help.

A diagram displaying job placement, careers information, career counselling, career education and networking as an incremental pyramid model, with the potential to add 'connections and communities' as a backdrop in the future. Argues for an integrated model of service delivery. A proposed model of the evolution of UK career services