Top 10 Things We Learned at NACE 2019

Now that NACE 2019 is officially in the books, we wanted to sit down and reflect on what turned out to be a phenomenal conference. With Disney as a backdrop, the Orlando conference gave us all a great opportunity to connect with colleagues and catch up on the newest trends in career services.


We had tons of fun attending sessions, meeting new people and connecting with old friends. With so many new ideas, we thought we would share what we learned.


1. The Career Studio – No Appointments, More Activity

We attended a great session led by Elizabeth Loun from the University of Nevada, Reno who’s office started a new trend in the career services world. Edward Cruz from Miami’s Toppel Center, Kelly Dorner from Oakland University and Dr. Joey-Lynnn Bialkowski from Concordia University Ann Arbor.

The group shared a radical approach they’ve taken on – get rid of career counseling and advising appointments. The career studio approach has two key ideas:

  • Student employees take on the front line work
  • All student activity happens on a drop-in basis


Traditionally, students book appointments with the career office to meet with a career coach or career counselor. This approach presents two main problems. First, the schedule was booked out for weeks and it was nearly impossible to see a counselor if you had a student had an immediate need. Students would end up seeking out an answer to their question through other channels. Also, students would often forget or cancel last minute which left holes in the schedule that could not be filled making the whole process inefficient and limiting the value that career services could provide.

The Career Studio approach creates a more welcoming environment giving trained student workers in the career office agency to help their peers and gives students a more flexible way to interact with the career office. Students are able to get answers to quick questions like “How do you think I phrased this bullet point on my resume?” as well as engage in longer conversations about their career paths.

students in the career center

Photo Credit: Florida State Career Center

In the new approach, career staff act in a support role for the student workers rather than booking appointments. They can provide additional coaching to staff and students throughout the day, joining in on conversations and taking notes to provide feedback to their peer mentors. With a more relaxed approach, career services staff are able to focus on developing relationships with other departments and employers to better serve students, stepping in to day-to-day tasks to provide expertise as needed.

The goal is to make career planning a more readily available and approachable part of college life. And, while some parents were concerned about student mentors helping their kids, the value of students who have more recently been through the experience is invaluable.

Tell us your thoughts. Do you think the Career Studio approach could work for your campus?

If The Career Studio has you excited you can take a look at Mary T. Calhoon’s recap of the University of Nevada, Reno’s success with their Career Studio.

2. The “Purpose-Driven” Generation (Thank you, Verne)

The latest group of incoming students from Gen Z continue to be more purpose-driven, a trend seen in from their Millennial predecessors. Just finding a job after college is not enough. They want a bigger “WHY” in the journey and they want to connect emotionally to their academics and certainly their career. This doesn’t necessarily limit their job prospects as many careers can provide a purpose for students. The focus, though, is that the mission is readily apparent to students. They want to have a strong emotional tie to the work they are doing and finding something that aligns to their interests is key for academic and career success.

3. Perfectionism Extends Beyond Self

Rebecca Fielding’s excellent session titled “The Rise of Perfectionism (and Its Impact on Students and Employers)” gave us an eye-opening look at how a growing trend of student perfectionism affects those working with students.

The session focused on ways to create safer environments for risk and failure as well as coping mechanisms. Some of the research cited was particularly revelatory with perfectionism clearly on the rise. One alarming statistic stated that the extent to which young people impose unrealistic standards on those around them and evaluate others critically has increased by 16%.

The increase of imposing high expectations to those around them was our biggest takeaway. Perfectionism is no longer just about the student. It’s about all of those around them. As we work with this generation, we have to keep in mind that they’ll be as exacting with us are they are with themselves. Employers specifically may not likely welcome this level of scrutiny.

We may have to think about helping students with their tolerance to failure and mistakes, which are bound to arise throughout their professional careers.

4. How to Best Empathize with Students Who Have Autism

Jessica Nelson’s presentation “Autism Goes to Work: Empowering Neurodiverse Individuals in Their Quest for Employment” gave us a lot to think about when it comes to the autism spectrum. The lack of open dialogue about autism can be difficult to overcome for career services professionals who aren’t able to bring up the subject with students.

The big takeaway from the session for us was what it feels like to have autism. Nelson gave us a vivid picture of autism. It’s like hearing every conversation going on around you at all full volume without the ability to filter out the noise. With this in mind, career services professionals who suspect they are working with a student with autism are advised to create a calm and positive environment.

With a tendency to become overwhelmed, career services professionals should create low sensory environments or situations without a great deal of audio or visual stimuli that can overwhelm students.

5. Career is Becoming a Larger Focus Across Campuses

We often speak to career services professionals who are frustrated by the silo effect at their college where they have to work to get students attention. That is changing.

We spoke to numerous career services professionals who have found their college is showing increased interest in the services they make available. Some schools are looking at including career more deliberately in the admissions process while others spoke about academic advisors looking to collaborate on guidance platforms.

While career exploration and placement may have met the institutional focus on enrollment and retention at many schools, the inclusion of career services in both efforts is a major trend. We have written about how career services can be one of the most impactful drivers of retention in the past.

Similarly, career services can help enrollment professionals form deeper bonds with students by showing how a school can help launch them into their ideal professional career.

6. CSM Competition is a Blessing

Talking to a number of career services directors in the exhibit hall, they all seemed to have one thing to be thankful for – Competition. In talking with one director he reflected on a time when, for a CSM system, there was only one option. Now there a number of solutions depending on the needs of the office.

They all noted prices were coming down, solutions and customer service is getting better and there has never been a better time to be looking for new technology. Many expressed how open there were to look at new innovations and how excited they were about some of the company’s projects. Shout out to SymplicityHandshake, 12twenty, Jobspeaker, Purple Briefcase and Cynaptx for their many mentions in these discussions.


7. Gamification

A special thank you to Brian Moccio from Bentley. Brian displayed Kahoot as a tool he was using to do gamification with students to make sessions more interesting and engage students with the career offices.

8. Virtual Interviews

In the rapid move towards remote solutions, there were several tools to allow for virtual and video interviewing: CareerEco Virtual Fairs, EasyVirtualFair, and vFairs.

9. LinkedIn for Career Services

LinkedIn was mentioned by several attendees as a key tool they used to help their students review job prospects based on people in the industry with similar degrees, alumni and where they went after college, to expand the horizons of what’s possible with a particular degree or within a given career path.

10. Career Pathing:

Lastly, we spent most of our time there talking about individualized assessments and career pathing. We heard from attendees in both the academic and career offices that they wanted an engaging tool to help students understand how their academics connected to careers.

We found that schools want a highly customizable tool that grabs students’ attention, particularly those who may not find their way into the career office. If you weren’t able to stop by you should take a look at how we build individual career plans based on local economic demand and a school’s academic offerings.

Final Thoughts

We couldn’t possibly of included all the great ideas from all of the sessions. Did we miss one of your favorites?

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Send me an email at