I have been an academic advisor for over a decade and have found my role shifting slowly over the last few years as the job market has tightened, and as many of you have begun to ponder your futures with a heightened sense of urgency. In the early days of my career, academic advising felt very transactional: students would come to me and request a schedule of classes which I would easily build; we would repeat the same pattern semester after semester. Recently, I have noticed that while schedule planning is still important and covered during advising sessions, there has been an increased interest and flood of questions pertaining to how your college major is going to prepare you for the world of work. In other words, the connection from college to career can no longer be an abstract one;  you are no longer interested in dotted lines but clear pathways to employment. Academic departments must rise to meet this challenge by forging ahead to create these paths.  Academic advisors can play a pivotal role in facilitating these discussions as they often wrestle with curricula and student expectations on a regular basis.

Although we do not take the place of a career services department, many initial career discussions often take place in our office—which positions us to become powerful career champions for you. There are a variety of definitions for career champions, but a simple definition is that a career champion can be anyone who recognizes your talents and is dedicated to your future success in the workplace. In an academic setting, career champions can be staff and faculty who provide career development opportunities inside and outside of the classroom. Career champions can also be your mentors, coaches, or sponsors. I would encourage you to build your career champion circle mindfully and consider who will be the best source of support you as you begin to navigate and prepare for your career. Consider connecting with your academic advisor early in the process because your advisor can assist you by:

  • Offering support in a safe space, so you can begin to assess your strengths. In other words, what areas do you excel in? Do you have any special talents that also could translate into employment opportunities? What are your career values? What type of roles could you picture yourself in?
  • Connecting your major to transferable job skills. What are the employment outcomes for your program of study? How will your undergraduate major prepare you? What are some critical skills you will gain as you progress in your coursework? What major electives should you complete that will enhance or support your career goals? Should you consider supplemental coursework or a study abroad program?
  • Collaborating on a path forward: Who have you added to your career champion circle? How can they assist you in your journey? What are some student or departmental organizations or clubs that you can join to begin building your skills?
  • Planning for employment or graduate school. What specific career fields do you feel drawn to? Are there internship/co-op opportunities that will help you build your skillset in this area? If you are interested in graduate school, are there undergraduate research opportunities in your program? Are there faculty members in the department who share your research interest and are available to work with you? Should you participate in an honors or an advanced standing program?
  • Providing you with other resources. Career services can assist you as you begin the process of drafting your job search materials such as a resume and cover letter. We also may know of alumni from our departments who may be able to mentor you by providing informational interviews or job shadowing.

I often jokingly say that academic advisors are the hidden gems on a college campus. Although some students do not utilize us as much as we would like, I hope that you take advantage of the relationship we want to build with you. We will work with you to develop a career readiness plan. Please come visit us! You never know; an advising appointment could be a pivotal moment for your career. We will be loyal advocates for your lifelong success.

About the Author: Stacie Moser

Stacie Moser
Stacie Moser is an academic advisor IV in the Department of Anthropology and in the Department of Sociology at Wayne State University. She is passionate about connecting her students with career information and learning opportunities outside of the classroom. She is a current member of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) and has participated and presented at a variety of workshops and conferences pertaining to student success.