Making Career Services a Point of Difference

by Colleen Johnson

Pathways: A Four Year Career Development Program

Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) believes that there is a direct relationship between how well students follow a specific, four-year career development plan and their ability to secure professional objectives upon graduation. This fall 2004, HWS implemented the Pathways program, to help students create, follow and mark progress throughout their college careers and prepare for their professional endeavors. The program is used to encourage and motivate students to explore, execute and experience all of their academic, personal and career-related interests. The fall pilot launched 70 students from Pre-law, Health-related majors, and the Summer Academic Orientation Program (SAOP).

What sets Pathways apart is that it is an active four-year program which features a support network dedicated to sustaining students' growth and success. This program motivates and keeps students on track in gaining knowledge and experience through Career Services workshops, experiential learning, career counseling, job shadowing and on-the-job experiences (internships and student employment).

The Pathways program is active because we personalize each student's career development process using a planning worksheet. The worksheet provides students with a 4-year career development timeline, outlining the necessary steps to prepare them for the "real world." These steps might include activities to help students identify their interests, values, and abilities and/or explore career options using appropriate resources, strategies, and experiential opportunities.

As students move through the process, Career Services staff fill out the Pathways worksheet with specific actions to be completed in between appointments, relevant to the student's interests and movement through the career development process. For example, action steps identified after the initial meeting might include:

      1. Create resume draft to have Career Counselor revise.


      2. Research career fields on the Occupational Outlook Handbook and Spotlight on Careers.


      3. Find 4 alumni/ae in Career Network to contact for informational interviewing.


    4. Next meeting with Career Counselor, follow up on progress, scheduled.

A copy of the worksheet is then given to the students and the original is kept on file with the staff in Career Services. If for instance the Internship Coordinator is going to be meeting with the student in the future, the Career Counselor will add these same action notes into the e-recruiting database which can track student appointments and notes. We are still in the process of finding the most effective way to share counseling notes and the Pathways worksheet with faculty.

Pathways surrounds students with people dedicated to helping them gain knowledge, grow as individuals and succeed in their path(s) of interest. This results in collaboration between students and members of our campus and extended communities. Students have a variety of resources and support systems which include:
HWS Career Services Staff:

      -Provide assessment of interests, skills and values


      -Provide assistance in choosing a major in line with student learning interests


      -Focus on how to attain experiences relevant to professional goals


      -Provide workshops to help students prepare for professional endeavors


      -Offer a wide range of resources for exploration, internship possibilities, job searches and graduate school


      -Connect Pathways pilot students with a trained student mentor and alumni/ae mentor

Trained Student Mentors for 1st and 2nd year Students:

      -Advise on ways to get involved, classes to take and "best practices" for succeeding at HWS


      -Provide motivational support


      -Act as a point of contact and someone in whom to confide

Alumni/ae Mentors:

      -Provide insight on professional fields and career directions


      -Advise on how to prepare, get involved and align goals with action


      -Offer "real world" knowledge and expertise

HWS Faculty Advisers:

      -Offer assistance with course selection and requirements


      -Help students apply their chosen major to experiential learning


      -Offer advice on gaining experience and networking with employers, alumni/ae and community members


      -Provide assistance in choosing a major that is consistent with learning interests

Parents/Family Members:

      -Provide motivational support for students' interests and goals


    -Stay up-to-date on student progress and plans


In December of 2004, students completed a midpoint student mentor/mentee evaluation which warranted positive comments such as:

      "I think this program is very helpful; just knowing that there is someone there to talk to or ask questions puts my mind at ease."

      "brings new insights to the attention of the students. I was able to learn from others first hand experiences'

      "Having a student to talk to gives us a different perspective than someone in the field or professors."

      "Student mentors are a plus; They are willing to help and you can pick their brain."

      "You have someone to meet with that knows the ropes"

      "It does quite a good job of establishing contact between students with similar interests and dedication to the Colleges and their academic programs. Working with my Hobart mentee was great. He was enthusiastic and asked many questions, and I felt like we were really able to work together not only on his class schedule but on his academic pursuits here."


        Because this is a four-year career development program, we will continue to track the progress of the initial pilot. However, as a result of the positive feedback we have received from the mid-point mentoring evaluation and significant increases in student traffic, we are planning to expand the pilot program to other majors on campus next year (i.e., Education, Economics and Media and Society).

Colleen Johnson, M.S.has her master's degree in Human Resource Development from Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY and bachelor's degree in Psychology from St. Bonaventure University in Olean, NY. She is the Career Counselor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She can be reached at

        Hobart and William Smith Colleges
        Salisbury Center for Career Services
        Trinity Hall
        300 Pulteney Street
        Geneva, NY 14456

The Hobart and William Smith Colleges Career Center
Pathways Program information
Pathways Brochure (pdf)

[Editor's Note: sorry, these links are no longer working.]

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