Re-defining career services

I spent much of the past summer re-thinking how we might better support and prepare students for success after graduation. The cultural economy in Toronto is healthy and growing. And yet the idea of the starving artist persists. So my essential question was this: how can we give students a realistic picture of their options and help them approach the future with confidence, rather than dread?

Zev Farber giving talk on how to apply to graduate school

Zev Farber talks to students about applying to graduate school. Photo by Angie Griffith.

I talked to as many people as I could – students, staff and faculty. Many students told me they really hadn’t given their own career development much thought or attention. Not because they weren’t concerned about it. But because they were so focused on their current responsibilities of school, work and family that they couldn’t devote the time and energy to anything beyond next week. They also told me they depended heavily on the chairs of their programs — for direction, networks, and for an understanding of the opportunities available in their field.

Chairs were not uniform in their responses to my questions – there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here (there never is) – but some clear themes emerged. Among them:

  • Alignment. The supports we provide to students in their search for employment, or to start a business, or market a product, need to complement what we’re teaching. My staff need to support faculty as much as they support students.
  • Experience. We need to provide opportunities for students to test the waters in their field, get some work experience under their belts before graduation.
  • Skill development. There are soft skills — communication, leadership, promotion, planning – that, when coupled with the creative and technical skills developed through our programs, equip an artist or designer for success.

I written a fairly detailed report of my findings, available here:  Career Development Report 11.01.11  I’ve included an account of the action I’ve taken to date and the direction I’ve provided to our new staff team: Zev Farber, Coordinator, Career Development and Angie Griffith, Program Coordinator, Experiential Learning. I welcome your feedback. You can comment here, or send me an email at