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How to Break Silos & Win Friends in Career Services

How to Break Silos & Win Friends in Career Services

EACE Blog contribution by Tiffany Waddell, Assistant Director of Career Development at Davidson College

As Career Development practitioners, we are continually charged with the task of scaling services to reach more and more students, stay on the cutting edge of technology, as well as educate students and parents on the most effective strategies to connect their co-curricular and academic experiences to the world of work, and it is in our best interest to maintain a high level quality of service that is both effective and efficient. So, how can we do more with the same amount of time and resources? How can we find out what students think they need? Why aren’t students frequenting the office? Among our many challenges is that of identifying key questions to ask and strategies to find the answers.

Here are a three key tips and advice to build better relationships across your campus in order to better support a larger cross-section of students:

Break Silos

As is the occasional nature of Higher Education, silos – or unintentional “departmental territories” can often limit the widespread campus reach that a career development unit might have. Whether your department falls under student affairs, academic affairs, or stands alone with a direct reporting structure to the President of your university – get out of your office and meet people. Make friends! Build relationships with faculty, staff, and student leaders. This allows you to learn more about initiatives happening across campus that you may be able to support, cross-promote, or integrate career development competencies into. Pro tip: I recommend meeting over coffee or a meal, if you can. It provides neutral territory and often allows you to get to know someone outside of the project or task at hand.

Educate Key Influencers

Identify campus partners who work with students regularly. Arm them with just enough knowledge of career development resources and information so that if asked, they can share that knowledge or point to that website to jumpstart a student’s learning – before they simply shuffle them over to the career office. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a young professional for sure. So, educate your village. Share department successes, benchmarks, and needs. Identify where these items overlap or intersect with their respective departmental missions. Brainstorm ways to work together – or share notes of what trends you are seeing among students who frequent your offices, so that you can better support their needs or create new programs and resources with the newfound knowledge.

Never Stop Learning

Are there questions you want to ask students and are afraid to? Have you mastered the art of giving feedback on potentially uncomfortable topics? Has a student asked you a question that stumped you? If you are reading this blog post, then you likely attend your share of Career Development conferences. However, you can also learn by doing – and seeking feedback as you go. Don’t be afraid to ask your peers what they perceive your strengths and weaknesses are. Check out the survey data from your counseling appointments (if available), where can you improve? Seek out opportunities to build your cultural competence skills as well. Our students are striving to be their very best – why shouldn’t we?

waddell-tiffanyTiffany Waddell is the Assistant Director for Career Development at Davidson College. She has coached hundreds of budding young professionals on how to create strategic action plans for academic and career-related goals.  Affectionately known for her “tough love” approach to coaching and people development, she is an avid connector of people and ideas.  Waddell received both her BA and MA from Wake Forest University. Connect with her on Twitter @tiffanyiwaddell and start a conversation!


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