Management Strategies for a Virtual Career Services Program

By Barbara Reuper-Baum

In 2003, Career Development Alliance (CDA) was challenged to provide quality career services to the diverse, geographically dispersed workforce of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA)—and to do so on-demand and at a reasonable cost. We met this challenge by designing a dynamic system of telephone and Internet services provided by over 30 career counselors across the U.S., supported by a state-of-the-art website, streaming video, podcasts-tech tools. At the seven-year mark, we have provided career counseling, training, and executive and management coaching to thousands of clients and have worked within budget while garnering consistently strong feedback.

TSA’s Career Coaching Program is part of a broader succession planning strategy aimed at building the next generation of TSA leaders. Specifically, the goal is to assist TSA employees with career planning and the job search process so they can be promoted within the organization. TSA’s parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a young organization, having been created in response to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Because of this, its career services must help to create well qualified employees to ensure the organization’s future success.

Masters- and doctoral-level career counselors work as “coaches” within the program—a term which the organization chose in light of its action-oriented, law enforcement culture. Clients may select from any or all of the following career assistance:

Career Planning – Together, coaches and clients select from a variety of assessments including: MBTI, the Strong Interest Inventory, SkillScan and the Gilbert-Reile Values Sort. Clients complete assessments on-line and coaches interpret the results by phone.

Job Search Process – Clients receive support with job search strategies as they move from their current positions to new positions within the organization, or within the broader federal environment. Clients learn how to use www.usajobs.gov and how to create effective federal resumes. They also participate in individualized interview coaching.

Management Coaching - Career coaches support participating TSA employees in internal leadership development programs. The coaches work with a team of multi-disciplinary professionals, along with mentors and supervisors to assist employees with leadership training. Services include 360 degree assessment and individualized development plans.

Virtual Service Delivery

TSA employees access these services seven days a week, 24 hours a day by calling a toll-free number. A professional answering service records their information and forwards an e-mail to a master’s-level Intake Coordinator who contacts the employee by phone or e-mail. The client is then assigned a coach based on his or her individual needs.

In order to be effective, CDA coaches must have substantive knowledge of the federal job search process, including federal resumes and structured interviews. They must also have expertise in working with clients by telephone and Internet—an ability that requires strong counseling skills and an ability to project their presence through the virtual world.

CDA’s remote career coaching services employ the latest technology to expand the quantity and quality of career services offered to clients. “Virtual” coaching allows TSA employees access no matter where they are located. It increases scheduling opportunities -- as well as likelihood of usage and follow-up. It also permits the client a degree of anonymity.

Marketing and Training

The entire team meets quarterly via conference call, and annually at TSA headquarters. Coaches also frequently visit many of TSA’s federalized airports to facilitate information sessions or “career days.” These visits offer coaches an opportunity to promote the career services as well as become familiar with some of the employees and their work environments.

CDA maintains a document sharing site to ensure coaches have access to the same resources and can share and learn from each other. Coaches post items such as sample vacancy announcements, handouts, and full presentations. The site also includes a message board for questions/answers and discussion of relevant issues. TSA Career Coaching maintains a privacy policy in line with the TSA’s strict confidentiality requirements, and is diligent regarding all personal information transmitted by email or fax.

Marketing is an important part of getting the word out to TSA employees. The TSA Career Coaching Service website www.tsacareercoaching.com, operated by CDA, serves as both a resource for clients and a marketing tool. In addition to airport visits, CDA also produces a monthly online newsletter featuring articles, career resources and TSA client testimonials.

In order to promote client feedback, we send an electronic survey to TSA employees who have volunteered to share their impressions of the services. We use this information to continually improve our services and to devise new ways to meet the changing needs of the organization’s workforce.


If you are attending the NCDA Conference in San Francisco, stop by to meet Barbara at:

Roundtable #3 - Management Strategies for a Virtual Career Services Program

Thursday, July 1st from 10:30 - 11:45 am


Barbara Reuper-Baum, M.Ed, GCDF, has a BS degree in Industrial & Organizational Psychology from Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA and a M.Ed. Degree in Counseling from Kutztown University in Kutztown, PA. She has extensive experience providing career counseling services to both graduate and undergraduate students. Currently, Barbara is the Program Manager & Coaching Staff Coordinator for Career Development Alliance TSA Career Coaching Service where she manages all aspects of a contract that provides career services to the 55,000 employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). b.baum@tsacareercoaching.com  

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Melanie Reinersman   on Wednesday 07/21/2010 at 11:09 AM

As a virtual worker, I can relate to the value of this article! I wonder how many virtual workers exist and who tracks them?

Mila R. Asperin   on Tuesday 08/03/2010 at 02:21 PM

reading your article, I could not stop thinking about the many doors/applications the internet has created for all types of services in many fields. But I also wonder is this a despersonalizing twist in or profession. For instance, I engage a client right from the first call, I establish rapport using my background of cultural nuances, knowledge of personality traits, etc. to quickly step into the mind of the caller and quickly in turn open a door to reception of my expertise in the intervention. My clients find my "knowledge" of their situation "amusing" and readily let the service flow. Could this "speed" be lost in the new application? Is there room for mistakes and loss of credibility? Is this a satisfactory work medium for an ethical counselor? I may be from "the old school/approach", but will not trade it for anything, even when it means not going with the flow. It is truly a new day in our profession. And despersonalization should not be its framework becouse THAT is not what counseling is all about. Carl Rogers must be turning in his grave!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.