Undergraduate students increasingly cite vocational preparation and enhancement as their main reasons for pursuing a post-secondary education. Yet, when they require career advice and support, instead of visiting the career centres on their campuses, students turn to the career influencers in their existing networks: individuals who informally provide career-related advice, guidance, and/or counselling. This qualitative study explores the conceptions of post-secondary education (PSE) professionals working outside of career centres and asks, “How do post-secondary education (PSE) professionals conceive their influence in student career development?” First, 104 students completed a poll identifying the types of PSE professionals they turn to for career help. Then, PSE professionals serving in these identified roles were recruited for the study. Fifteen professionals participated in an in-depth interview discussing a) their professional background, b) their conceptions of the term career, c) how they saw themselves contributing to student career development, and d) resources and competencies that would further their impact to student career success. The study reveals that professionals’ conceptions of career, informed by their experiences and beliefs, influence the career advice they provide to students. Professionals also believe they contribute to student career development through performing their professional roles and exhibiting personal attributes that promote meaningful student interactions and relationships. To enhance their career influence they desire professional development on career-related topics and would like to see institutional commitment in recognizing student career success as an institutional priority. The findings yield recommendations for further research on career influencers in other institutional contexts. Implications are identified for practice that would enhance career services delivery, and employee and student career success.
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Thesis advisor: Magnusson, Kris
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