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Career Paths: Career Development Counselor

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Much is written today about the perils facing this year’s graduating class. They leave college to enter an uncertain job market seemingly rebounding from the recession, but dense with competition for what new jobs are trickling in. The students expected to succeed in this environment are the ones who took the initiative well before donning their cap and gown, and sought guidance from career counselors like Marc Goldman. For nearly two decades, Goldman has participated in a vital element of the college tradition, ferrying students from academia and into the real world.

Marc Goldman headshotMr. Goldman has steered Yeshiva University’s Career Development Center since 2007, as Executive Director at two New York City campus offices. But it was at NYU’s Wasserman Center that he honed his abilities and rose from a “neophyte counselor” (as he puts it) to the role of associate director, before accepting his current position at Yeshiva. No stranger himself to the uncertainties of charting a post-college career, Marc lends his experience and administrative prudence to best serve those just starting down their career path. In the following interview, he shares with Vault the myriad lessons he’s learned along the way, the impact of recent recessionary budgeting, and how today’s students could themselves become tomorrow’s career counseling professionals.

VAULT: You’ve made your livelihood in career counseling, dating back to one of your earliest positions at Suffolk County Community College. How did you come into a job guiding others to jobs?

Marc Goldman: During my undergraduate years at Cornell, I went through a number of career transitions myself, starting as a pre-med student and ending up with a psychology major, considering graduate school options. Additionally, many of my peers who I considered to be very bright and driven individuals were finding it quite challenging to secure next steps in their career paths. “Ding letter walls” were common monuments to the challenging job market in 1990 and the lack of preparation or savvy on the part of new job seekers entering the full-time workforce for the first time.

When I was in my graduate counseling program at the University of Maryland, I chose a practicum experience at the college’s career center because it gave me an opportunity to assist students dealing with transitional issues similar to those I observed and experienced at Cornell. What struck me most about my first practical experience in the field was the multiplicity of roles college career counselors get to play. Individual counseling, workshop development and presentation, event planning, employer outreach, and program management were just some of the hats worn by the staff I worked with at Maryland. The diversity within the student body and the various stakeholders involved with the career center, including employers, alumni, faculty, administrators and student leaders, also intrigued me. No day would ever be the same, and that keeps you on your toes.

V: Prior to taking the helm of Yeshiva University’s career center, you were a 14-year veteran of the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development. How would you describe your time at NYU, and what led you to make the move to Yeshiva?

MG: My years at NYU were an incredible learning and growth experience for me. I went from a neophyte counselor to an experienced professional and administrator in my time there. What an exciting, vibrant, and diverse institution NYU is, and the career center reflects that nature. I had so many great mentors and collaborators at the NYU career center, and eventually, I became a mentor and supervisor myself. My main focal points in my work at NYU were liberal arts students and career center technology in addition to the previously mentioned counselor supervision. But the myriad programs and initiatives I had a chance to create and participate in are too many to include in this response. I spent about one third of my life at the career center there, so it certainly was a huge deal for me to leave.

The move to Yeshiva arose from two well respected mentors of mine, Trudy Steinfeld and Manny Contomanolis, serving as consultants at Yeshiva regarding its career center. Following Trudy and Manny’s recommendations, Yeshiva sought a new director to reorganize and revitalize the career center, and I pursued that opportunity. It seemed like the next logical step for me, one that could prove both challenging and rewarding in many ways. I always pictured myself as a director at a smaller institution than an NYU because of the more tight knit community feeling one experiences. Also, Yeshiva provided me the chance to take everything I learned throughout the years and bring my own vision to a fledgling department in all aspects of the operation.

V: As both an associate and executive director, how much interaction do you have with the students your department advises? In addition to your administrative responsibilities, will you take an active role to provide guidance for certain individuals?

MG: When I was at NYU, I never dramatically decreased the number of counseling appointments I had each week until I was an Associate Director, and even then, I still saw a healthy number of clients. I felt it was important since I was training and supervising counselors that I also practiced what I preached and had a handle on the students and issues the staff was dealing with on a daily basis. I have tried to carry this philosophy over to my role at Yeshiva, so I still see students in appointments from time to time, but the vast majority of my position consists of overall department management, staff supervision, strategic planning, committee involvement, and serving as a liaison to various administrators as well as both internal and external stakeholders.

V: Describe the typical office culture and social atmosphere of a career development center. Is there a sense of hierarchy among colleagues?

MG: Career center cultures vary greatly depending on the institution, director, staffing, students, budget, location, and numerous other factors. Regardless of which division the career center falls under, whether Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Development and Alumni Relations, Enrollment Management, or a specific college unit, I find many career professionals identify themselves most with student services. First and foremost, career centers exist for the students. That is something I hold true and instill in my team. In that spirit, I think career centers are made up of staffers sharing a common purpose, producing a unique environment of professionalism and fun. The balance of professionalism and fun changes at different times of year and varies with different members of each team. Whether the career center exhibits a fast paced, corporate atmosphere or a slower, more casual setting, the staffs care deeply about their work each and every day.

Of course, in order to accomplish the office mission and maintain some sense of accountability and quality, staff hierarchies do exist, but colleagues I know from across the country share my belief that college career centers attempt to be as flat in structure as possible. And in this, I mean that everyone has a voice in the direction of the office and what it is trying to accomplish. This philosophy is demonstrated on a routine basis, in regular staff meetings, or at semester strategic planning retreats. It is truly a team effort. It’s funny, but when I started as an entry level counselor, I was always lifting boxes and moving them around at our career fairs, and now as Executive Director, I am still carrying boxes or water cooler bottles. Nothing changes!

V: On the topic of offices, you work out of two Manhattan locations: One office on 185th Street, and one way down in the Murray Hill area. How are your duties and schedules divided between these offices, and how rough is that commute?

MG: Yeshiva is rather unique in that it has a men’s campus and a women’s campus for the undergraduates. When I came on board, it was very important for me to spend equal amounts of time on each campus, favoring neither population and insuring quality service for both. Even though my team is spread across the two campuses, we are indeed one team. I believe I am the one responsible for making sure our message is consistently understood and portrayed by the staff on both campuses and communication is flowing smoothly among all team members for ideal collaboration and success. The commute is fine for me because I live geographically in between the campuses. One commute is by bus, and the other is by subway. Living in Manhattan, I don’t own a car.

V: Many schools are enduring sharp recessionary budget cuts, which have taken a particular toll on career development centers. How have you weathered these issues? What effect has it had on fielding and acquiring necessary resources for your students?

MG: Yeshiva has certainly faced budget challenges, and my office has not been untouched. For me, the human capital is the most important resource at our career center, and I would much rather lose technology or other resources than lose staff. We have had to cut back on certain aspects of marketing and events, and we have become savvy at doing more with less. This is common in career centers throughout the country during this recession. Creativity and collaboration become more important than ever in times such as this.

V: From your experience in different schools and departments, what have you observed as a common education track for career development professionals on the university level? What guidance would you give to a student who eventually wants your job?

MG: A Master’s degree in counseling, higher education, industrial/organizational psychology, human resources, or a related field is typical for counselors at college career centers. However, practical work experience combined with a less common graduate degree is also welcomed many times in the field, especially at schools that specialize in certain studies such as law, business, public policy, arts, etc.

Something that I recommend in hindsight is to become involved in a professional association early on in one’s career. I have been a member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers for a decade, but I only really have gotten involved with the organization in the last few years. The networking I’ve done through my participation on committees and at events has enriched my own professional development dramatically, so I can only imagine how much I would have gained had I dedicated myself sooner.

I also would highly recommend new professionals considering this field to get some work experience outside of academia at some point. Basically, I have worked in higher education for my entire career. I did dabble in the world of theatre, so I have some knowledge of that industry firsthand, but I think it is a big plus to have some additional experience along the way to understand the world of work more fully.

Read more about the latest news and insights for student career development at Vault’s Admit One blog. Further professional development and job recruitment information can be found at the SixFigureStart blog.

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