The Development and Use of Peer Counseling Educators in University Career Centers to Extend Counseling and Advising
EACE Blog contribution by Scott Borden, LPC, NCC, NCCC, DCC – Career Development Specialist at Rutgers University, University Career Services
In the last few years college and university campuses across the country have seen the growth of formal peer education and training programs to assist staff-needy, budget conscious college offices to augment professional service delivery and provide meaningful, career-related training and professional/personal development to promising undergraduate students. The rise of this practice highlights some of the benefits (to both the university and student populations).
A review of university practice reveals a number of formal undergraduate student peer training programs. These programs are designed to train promising undergraduate students to provide counseling, mentoring, advising and guidance services to college student populations. Programs offer opportunities for undergraduate student peer educators to learn valuable work-ready skills, develop as young professionals, gain exposure to and awareness of possible career fields and jobs, and network with professionals in the field. In turn, these trained students are providing guidance and advice to peers in the following areas:
- College Campus Career Centers
- College Counseling Centers
- Student Life Programs
- As classroom instructors to diverse First Year Interest Groups (FIGS) students.
Colleges and Universities such as UC San Diego, UC Irvine, Lehman College and College of Charleston have developed formal Peer Educator programs.
In campus career centers, Peer Educators:
- Advise students regarding resume writing, internship opportunities, career exploration resources and general Career Services Center questions.
- Deliver workshops and conduct outreach presentations on the following topics: overview of the Career Services Center, internship search, resume writing.
- Participate in job and graduate school fairs and other Career Services Center employer events.
- Participate in outreach and marketing activities to various student groups and units on campus.
- Assist students with the location and use of resources in the Career Services Center library and on Career Services Center website.
- Attend peer staff meetings, trainings, and occasional off-campus training/workshops throughout the year.
At Rutgers University, New Brunswick, Associate Director David Bills has actively developed a program over the last year and a half to provide topical and content rich training to a select group of peer educators. Students are encouraged to apply and submit a cover letter and a resume. Student applications are reviewed and students are formally interviewed and selected for positions. Peer Educators are only selected from the undergraduate student population and only work with fellow undergraduate students. This past year, Rutgers University Career Services employed six students. The students then received targeted training from professional career center staff. Training modules included:
- Resumes, cover letters and interviewing
- LinkedIn, and Social Media use in the job search and personal branding
- Networking on and-offline
- Use of our on-line job posting systems, website, assessment tools and awareness of our programs and events
- Answers to typical student career-related questions
Students shadow staff counselors on resume and cover letter review sessions to gain additional exposure to the dynamics of shaping and managing an in-person session. An introduction of our career counseling staff and their respective areas of expertise is also provided for referral if needed.
The students work in rotating shifts based on their availability and are always present for “drop-in” sessions with services directed toward the critique of resumes and cover letters/LinkedIn profiles and basic internship and job search strategies. The Peer Educators also present basic workshops to student groups on an overview of University Career Services and Resume Writing.
The students have greatly expanded the reach of our professional staff, increased available drop-in sessions and have freed full-time counseling staff to participate in many other professional activities. The Peer Counseling Educators have positively assisted many student peers, have especially helped the staff during peak service demand around career days/on-campus interviews, received favorable evaluations from counseling service evaluation surveys and have provided meaningful focus group feedback to staff on student concerns.
The Peer Counseling program was a success in its first year and the staff has delivered expanded training to the fall 2014 class of Peer Educators. Having experienced several benefits over this past year, University Career Services plans to expand both Peer Counselor Educator positions and continue to involve the professional staff and enhance the training provided the Peer Educators.
Scott Borden is a New Jersey licensed professional counselor, national certified counselor, national certified career counselor, and distance credentialed counselor. As a Career Development Specialist with University Career Services, he provides career counseling, life-planning, and related programming to undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing careers within the following areas: business, communication and English. While working with all undergraduate and graduate students, Scott also serves as a liaison to students on academic probation/at risk for retention and transfer students new to Rutgers.
Prior to his experience at Rutgers and in private practice, Scott was an operations manager for Lehman Brothers in NYC for six years, where he managed the OTC Equities group and provided team-building and communications seminars to staff.
Scott holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the College of New Jersey, a bachelor’s degree in finance and management from Monmouth University, and is a member of the NJ Counseling Association, NJ Career Development Association, Middle Atlantic Career Counselors Association, and Chi Sigma Iota.