Recap: Majors and Career Selection Anxiety in Students: How Can We Help them?

Doug Meyn, M.Ed., Career Consultant to the Muma College of Business, and Jean Keelan, M.S. NCC, Director of Career Planning, from University of South Florida presented findings from a study on how visiting the career center affected student anxiety levels, as well as tools that can be utilized to help alleviate anxiety in students. This re-cap is by Jen Harlan, Career & Internship Advisor at Kennesaw State University, jharlan5@kennesaw.edu.

Doug Meyn kicked off the presentation into this important topic with an anecdote about a student situation that those of us in the advising field are likely familiar with: a student came in to his office anxious about his future. The student told Mr. Meyn that he wanted to become a doctor, but he was anxious about taking the MCAT. From there, he started to spiral – not only was he anxious about taking the MCAT, he was anxious about how he’d do on the MCAT, then he was worried about if he’d even like being a doctor, and so on. He wasn’t certain about his choices, and, as Mr. Meyn puts it, he was “stuck in neutral” and unsure about what to do next.

Stories like these are familiar for a reason. The Spring 2016 American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment found that 17% of student respondents had been treated for anxiety, 14% for depression, and almost 11% for both conditions in the last year. This same study found that over 25% of respondents reported “career-related issues” as traumatic or difficult to handle.

To help put the student back in gear and to speak to his analytical leanings, Mr. Meyn came up with a formula: a + i = a3, or if we are anxious and add inaction then it triples our anxiety. Additionally, he came up with a solution: a + (kpA) = a/2, or if we take anxiety, add knowledge, power, and action, then we cut our anxiety in half. While this interaction eventually led to the study undertaken, the formulas Mr. Meyn created paint a decent picture of what we try to do as advisors; we try to fill in the essential variables of the equation, i.e. knowledge, power, and action, so as to cut a student’s anxiety in half.

The University of South Florida study corroborated this sentiment. Undergrad first-time users of career services seeking assistance with any topic were surveyed through pre-appointment and post-appointment questionnaires. The six questions included in each of these surveys were essentially identical, utilized the Speilberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and were chosen to get a read on the level of the student’s anxiety prior to and after the appointment. Additionally, students were asked to rank resources by most effective to least effective by level of helpfulness for them individually.

Based on the results, 69% fewer students identified with “anxious”-related statements–such as “I am tense,” “I feel upset,” “I am worried”— after their appointment. There was an additional significant decrease in the number of students who did not identify with “at peace”-related statements—such as “I feel calm,” “I am relaxed,” “I feel content” — between their pre- and post- appointment questionnaire. Eighteen percent more students identified with “at peace”-related statements after their appointment. Perhaps most striking, 87% of respondents reported “increased confidence” after their appointment at the USF career center. Students ranked the following as some of the most helpful resources gained from their meeting:

  • Gained information about the job search
  • Learned about resources available to help me
  • Identified a plan to develop career direction
  • Learned new tools I can apply

Mr. Meyn offered several key takeaways from this research, such as developing a plan with students who are anxious, identifying their needs and concerns, utilizing next step concept and messaging, and recommending beneficial resources.

Jean Keelan, in the second half of the presentation, offered further strategies for decreasing anxiety in students when dealing specifically with major selection, based on a presentation she completed for a group of students at USF. Ms. Keelan utilized five areas for structuring this presentation: statistics about major selection, the Systems Theory Framework of Career Development, an activity to measure self- and workplace knowledge, information about decision making and personality types, and, finally, next steps for students in the presentation.

The statistics utilized offered a “you’re not alone” approach; for example, from the National Center for Education Statistics, Ms. Keelan shared that about 80% of students in the U.S. end up changing their major at least once. The Systems Theory Framework of Career Development approach further added the role which chance plays in an individual’s career path. Ms. Keelan led the student’s through the activity of filling out a knowledge wheel, essentially ranking considerations in their major selection process, such as experiences, personality, chance, abilities, etc., from those the student is most knowledgeable of and least. Finally, students were led through considering how their own personality type could impact the decision-making process when selecting a major.

By providing all of this information, Ms. Keelan was able to set the students up to take the next step in their own individual major selection decision-making process. Her presentation provided a different message for different types of students represented in the room, and allowed them all to gain some sort of lead toward continuing in their decision-making process.

These two studies offer important practices in working with students who are anxious about big decisions coming up. Taking note of the best practices and recommendations based on these studies can provide professionals in the advising field a better platform and a larger tool belt for working with students in this situation.

A copy of the presentation can be accessed under the SoACE Membership portal.

Introducing a Series of Webinars at Texas Tech University Career Center

Donna Srader, Lead Counselor at the Texas Tech University Career Center, contributed this blog post about their experience introducing a webinar series at the Career Center. The Center found that utilizing webinars was an effective method of reaching students in a format that was easily accessible and reformatted materials already in use by the Center. For more information, feel free to reach out to Donna at donna.srader@ttu.edu. If you have a topic you’d like to see as part of the Advising KG blog or want to contribute, please reach out to Jen Harlan, Career & Internship Advisor, Kennesaw State University at jharlan5@kennesaw.edu.

Problem Identification and Resolution

As career counselors, we are always looking for new ways to reach students and provide them with relevant information. At the Texas Tech University Career Center, we noticed that our in-person workshops were not being well attended, and we wanted to create a new feature that allowed us to present relevant information in a format that was easily accessible to students. Webinars fit that bill perfectly because we could utilize our existing presentations while reaching local and distance students and alumni in one presentation.

As we brainstormed the possibility of webinars, we tasked one of our student ambassadors, Elo, with the project of identifying possible webinar platforms, with the attendant advantages and disadvantages. Elo came through with flying colors, taking such ownership of the project that he came to work on his day off to make sure that we would be successful in setting up and presenting our webinar. So my first suggestion for any career office seeking to introduce webinars is to have a student as dedicated and tech savvy as Elo! Second, you might also contact your IT department to see what knowledge and help they can provide.

Nuts and Bolts

  • We chose GoToWebinar as our platform because it allowed us to use the service for 30 days free of charge and present multiple webinars. Within that timeframe, we saw exactly how successful the webinars were and proceeded to subscribe to the service annually.
  • We identified a volunteer staff member who manages the scheduling and organizational details of the GoToWebinar software and ensures that all the details are correctly presented on our website and in our promotional materials. Thank you, Nicole!
  • Every staff member was invited to create webinars, including our counseling interns. With the depth and breadth of interests among our staff, we have been able to present a number of basic informational webinars about how to write a resume or cover letter, as well as more in-depth topics such as Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace and a six-part series called The First Year Student’s Survival Kit that covers such topics as how to talk to professors and social media responsibility.
  • Many of the webinars utilize PowerPoint and, recently, we have been incorporating Canva into the presentations to increase the visual appeal and professional look and feel. Canva is a free image-creating software with more advanced features for purchase. We urge webinar developers to limit the amount of text in the slides and incorporate visuals and graphs where possible.
  • At this time, we project only the PowerPoint/Canva presentation. We are exploring more interactive options such as utilizing cameras to include real-time video of the presenter.
  • Webinars are not complete until a complete, word-for-word script is written. In this way, we ensure that the webinar can be presented if the original developer is not available. Generally, we read the script, but interact with attendees in normal conversation to answer questions.
  • For students requesting accommodation, we provide a PDF of the presentation slides, including the script. Many presenters are happy to share the PDF version of the presentation with all attendees when requested.
  • We utilize the Listen-Only mode in GoToWebinar so we can control the interaction between presenters and attendees. Instead of the chat section, we use the questions section for listeners’ questions and comments and usually address questions at the end of the webinar. We leave our contact information slide up on screen as we discuss questions.
  • To help students feel more at ease, we have some starter questions that we answer while students are thinking up questions and typing them in. We have found that if we say, “Our first question is . . . .” and use one of our starter questions, the students are much more likely to type in their questions.
  • Most of our webinars are 20 to 30 minutes in length – although we block an entire hour in GoToWebinar. This strategy allows us to answer questions for as long as the attendees continue to ask. We have found student attendance increases substantially with the smaller time commitment of 20 to 30 minutes compared to an hour webinar.
  • Several professors support the Career Center efforts by offering extra credit and the TTU Graduate School accepts our webinars as professional development for their students. For extra credit, the students must identify themselves at the beginning of the webinar with the name of the course and their professor. After the webinar, we utilize the Attendee Report from GoToWebinar to identify students asking for extra credit and email the appropriate professor.
  • We also utilize the GoToWebinar reports to identify the webinars that are highly attended and learn more about attendee engagement during the webinars. With these reports we continually improve the information and the visual presentation to connect with more students and alumni.

We have found that our numbers have increased substantially and we are reaching students who would not generally attend in-person workshops. We have expanded our webinar topics and have reached out to professors of online courses and distance students to provide webinars at times that meet their needs. We are always seeking new ways to provide engaging and relevant information to all our students and alumni and the webinars have been a successful strategy in those efforts.

Webinars have not replaced class and organization presentations – we continue to provide services to any group who requests a presentation. However, we expect to expand our webinar topics and introduce new technologies such as podcasts in the future.

KG Update: Career Advising Knowledge Group

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The SoACE Career Advising Knowledge Group (KG) is off to a great start in 2016. We will be having are first webinar of the year this Friday, April 8th. Also, we are introducing a virtual case discussion group which had their first meeting on March 30th.

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Discover Instagram: How You Should Be Using This Platform to Promote Your Brand and Drive Office/Company Engagement

In an ever-changing landscape of social media, it is often hard to decide where to focus your efforts as a career center or recruiter. Statistics show that students are leaving Facebook in droves for a new friend called, ‘Instagram’. As the fastest growing social media platform, Instagram is now one of the best places to engage millenniums. In this session, you will understand the value of a reputable Instagram presence and learn how the UGA Career Center increased its Instagram following and engagement by 435% in just three months. Whether you are familiar with the platform or not, walk away with practical tips and tricks to get you well on your way to Instagram success.

Presented by: Whitney Prescott, Terry College of Business, UGA
Date: Friday, 4/8/16 | Time: 12:00 – 1:00pm EST
Register HERE

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Virtual Case Discussion Group

Date: Tuesday, April 26 | Time: 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (Central)/12:30-1:30 p.m. (Eastern)

  • Log into https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/705660237to join the conference call using your microphone and speakers (VoIP) – a headset is recommended.  Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting or, call in using your telephone to +1 (312) 757-3121; use the Access Code: 705-660-237 | Meeting ID: 705-660-237

We will be conducting additional webinars and discussion groups throughout the year. If you have any questions about these events or upcoming events in 2016 please let us know.

Thanks,

Mason Murphy (mmm210@txstate.edu) & Alex Anderson (afca@southwestern.edu)