I’m a big believer in leaving things better than I found them. It’s a value of mine that I try my best to apply with spaces, places, and most importantly, people. Although it can be challenging at times, I believe it’s important to leave people feeling better after a conversation then before it.

This same idea especially applies with the students I coach. I’m driven by the challenge to raise career aspirations during career advising sessions and applying those aspirations long after the conversation. There are three ways that I intentionally apply this during interactions with students:

These three approaches can be applied to various settings when it comes to supporting students’ career development as a career advisor.

Listening and reflecting.

The most important element to raise students’ aspirations is to truly listen and then let them know you’re listening by reflecting back what they’ve shared. As a communication strategy, it’s important to seek out an understanding and then let them know you’re listening by mirroring emotion or mood to drive the conversation forward. Whether you’re meeting face to face or virtually, you can apply the same rules to help facilitate a productive and comfortable listening atmosphere.

Providing concrete career guidance.

Career advising conversations can lose power if you don’t apply concrete guidance in your follow-up. Listening is essential in identifying students’ needs as well as asking direct questions about areas from career guidance. In order to provide this guidance, it is essential that career advisors spend time creating and identifying resources that can be used with students. Some areas where concrete guidance is necessary and important are:

Developing a career action plan.

Student aspirations can be affected by the development of a career action plan. A career action plan is a guide to help identify and document short-term and long-term goals. Remember goals are different for everyone. Some students might be open and able to identify lofty long-term goals while others might need specific help setting and achieving short-term goals. The important thing is to ask, listen, and identify the various needs of individuals and most important of all, write down the goals and ideally, the steps to achieving the goals. Each student should walk away from advising with some kind of documented career action plan that they can use to pursue their dreams and aspirations.

In summary, the challenge and privilege of career advisors is to help students raise their career aspirations. By applying listening and reflecting, concrete career guidance, and written career action plans, we can help our students achieve their aspirations and become what they want to be.