• Emerging Trends in University Career Services: Adaptations of Casella's Career Centers Paradigm

    by Farouk Dey and Matt Real
    NACE Journal, September 2010

    University career centers have evolved and adapted since their creation during the middle of the 20th century. This article provides a theoretical framework explaining the recent paradigm shifts and their impact on career services and college recruitment. 

    New social, economic, and technological paradigms throughout the last decades have spurred changes in the delivery of career services. During the past several years, new technological trends, such as social networking, have changed the way college students make meaning of their experiences, construct their identity, and relate with others, including prospective employers. Similarly, recent economic conditions transformed the employment market, creating challenges and possibilities for students starting their career development journey. Although there have been benchmark surveys and reports exploring these trends, there has not been a theoretical model explaining the paradigm shifts and their impact on the career services and college recruiting field. This article builds on the foundation established by Donald Casella in 1990 and provides such a theoretical framework.1

    The authors explain current and emerging trends in career services, but also provide career services professionals with an accessible and functional model chronicling the organizational evolution of career centers. The Career Center Paradigm Model can be used as a reference resource for individual institutions.

    Historical Context

    Casella’s landmark article examined the historical career center structural paradigm shifts and provided an evolutionary road map for career services professionals. Prior to the publication of his research, collective awareness regarding the career centers’ service delivery was loosely connected. Casella’s functional model chronicled and formalized the various dimensions that impact “the way we perceive ourselves and exercise our profession,” from the typical names career services professionals gave their career centers to the theoretical orientation that influenced career counseling.

    Through his research, Casella consolidated the organizational evolution of career centers into three paradigms: job placement, career planning, and career networking. He proposed the emergence of a new paradigm: career networking—the transition from the Industrial Era into the Information Era. He researched trends in university career services that occurred in past decades and generated 14 dimensions across the three paradigms to explain the evolution of career centers. These dimensions included a typical career center’s overall purpose; name; theoretical foundation; central rational, main activity, and services; environment; clients served; target population; external factors; staff identity; staff performance; hiring criterion; and location for activities.

    In 1999, Youngblood, Nichols, and Wilson consolidated this model into eight dimensions and introduced their Adaptation of Casella’s Career Centers Paradigm, which tracked the structure and delivery of career services at career centers from the 1940s through 1999. Youngblood, Nichols, and Wilson presented the dimensions across each decade but renamed the paradigms: Reactive (1940s—1970s), Proactive (1980s—1995), and Interactive (1995—2000+).2 

    Through the lens of Casella’s Career Center Paradigm model, the authors incorporated and expanded the language from both models to describe the three paradigms and introduce new ones. The original dimensions were expanded to include career centers’ primary purpose, service delivery methodology, typical name, constituents served, theoretical orientation, external factors, staff identity, staff skills, location for activities, recruitment trends, industry trends, and assessment methodology.

    Research Design

    The authors’ objective was to identify new trends that have emerged since the most recent adaption and make educated predictions for future trends likely to emerge during the next decade. The study addressed two main questions:

    • What trends have emerged in career services in U.S. four-year colleges and universities between 2000 and 2010?
    • What trends will emerge in career services in U.S. four-year colleges and universities between 2010 and 2015?

    The study involved an analysis of the 2008 NACE Career Services Benchmark Survey. The survey was sent to 1,494 career centers in four-year colleges in the United States and received a 42 percent response rate, of which 88.5 percent were centralized career centers and 44.73 percent were in public universities. The survey addressed and identified patterns in various areas of career centers, including staffing, budgets, career fairs, job posting, programming, services offered, and current and future trends in career services. 

    The study also included an analysis of a supplementary survey that the authors designed and sent to career center directors in four-year colleges and universities. Of the 56 respondents, 92 percent worked in centralized career centers and 58 percent worked in public universities. Respondents reported on changes they observed during the last decade and predictions for the first half of the next decade.

    Emerging and Future Trends

     Using Casella’s career centers paradigm as a framework, the five most significant issues that faced university career centers during the 2000s were identified as:

    • The economy, impacting on-campus recruitment and university budgets;
    • Technology, reshaping the model of service delivery and outreach;
    • Student-to-staff ratios, creating challenges and opportunities relative to service delivery;
    • Student generational changes, resulting in shifts in expectations and service delivery methods; and
    • Globalization, opening new doors of possibilities for all constituents.

    The study shed light on recent changes in career center staffing. Career centers used to be staffed with essentially “job fillers,” individuals who placed candidates in job openings, but working there is now a career choice for professionals with master’s and/or doctorate degrees in counseling or related fields. The typical career center is staffed with a fairly young team of professionals who have mastered technology and the art of multi-tasking. Job descriptions typically require the ability to multi-task, emphasizing four essential skills: counseling/advising, technology, public speaking, and teamwork.

    The study also showed new trends in service delivery, mainly driven by technology, globalization, new generational trends, and recent economic challenges. Today’s career center is a “one-stop shop,” with a comprehensive menu of career services, including counseling and advising, for-credit courses, outreach and programming, career fairs and networking opportunities, online and library resources, and on-campus recruitment activities. The recent integration of technology in the service delivery involved the creation of virtual career centers through interactive web sites that provide web resources and information, self-help tools such as virtual mock-interviewing and online resume builders, and in-person and online counseling and advising, and integrate social networking web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These shifts have led to a decrease in paper library holdings and an overall increase in career services use by students and alumni.

    Also, on-campus recruitment has evolved into an experiential education model, emphasizing internships and co-ops as the premier methods for employers to recruit students and for students to enhance learning. While the private sector had a strong presence in on-campus recruitment prior to the recent economic downturn, government hiring on campus has now increased due to retirement projections and increased government stimulus funding. Although students have to compete more for career opportunities than in recent years, they still indicate a strong interest in participating in international internships and job assignments. More employers are catching on to these new trends and structuring their internship and job opportunities to involve some global aspects, even if they don’t involve international travel. As multinational employers increase their presence on campus, future improvements in the economy and technology will increase global opportunities for students and alumni, making international experiences and assignments a standard in many job descriptions.

    The information gathered by the two surveys allowed the authors to make other predictions about future trends in how career centers will leverage technology and new economic conditions to engage their constituents. The economy and technology will continue to be the most significant issues impacting career centers during the next decade. As employer participation in career fairs and on-campus recruitment decreases, technology will increase the reliance on virtual career services, expanding the use of cyber career fairs, video interviewing, and employer information sessions via web seminars.

    New Adaptation of Casella’s Career Centers Paradigm Model

    The study revealed two new paradigms in the career services and college recruitment field, building upon previous paradigms showcased in this new adaptation of Casella’s Career Centers Paradigm model:

    Placement Paradigm (1940s and 1950s): a reactive need-based model born of the surge of placement needs of new college graduate GI bill beneficiaries.

    Planning Paradigm (1960s, 1970s, and 1980s): a departure from reactive placement practices into a more proactive “self-help” career education model in which students learn strategies and apply them to advance their career goals.

    Networking Paradigm (1990s): the transformation of proactive career services into the facilitation of interactive networking opportunities between candidates and employers and teaching candidates how to leverage these opportunities.

    Social Networking Paradigm (2000—2009): a shift from an interactive model of career services based on traditional networking approaches into a superactive model heightened by the integration of social networking web sites and the emergence of new technological tools.

    Global Networking Paradigm (2010—2015): a new era of hyperactive career services with more virtual services, online resources, and virtual networking at a global scale. (See Figure 1.)

    While Casella’s and Youngblood, Nichols, and Wilson’s models ended with the Career Networking Paradigm, this new adaptation extends the model into the 2000s and the 2010s. Although there have been many changes to the structure and process by which career services are delivered, this is still the Information Era and the Networking Paradigm.

    However, it is important to make obvious the transition and evolution of networking over the past decade within the Career Center Paradigm model. The authors have made this distinction by naming the past decade the Social Networking paradigm. This reflects the shift from simply an Interactive/Networking to a Superactive/Networking paradigm developed with technologies such as the Internet, smart phones, and social networking sites. A superactive paradigm describes an increase in the overall interaction with technology and availability of information. As technology continues to integrate into our lives, we will become a truly global community. This hyperactive global availability inspired the name for the emerging paradigm—Global Networking.

    Following are brief explanations of the trends described for the Social Networking (2000—2009) and Global Networking (2010—2015) Paradigms:

    Primary Purpose. As the information available to students has increased, career services practitioners must educate more than ever. Economic and technological changes require students to compete globally for jobs. Helping them understand the global marketplace is essential—providing techniques to find and use resources will help students develop lifelong skills to be successful.

    Service Delivery. While the hope is that personal one-on-one contact remains a component of career center services, the transition to web-based services is unavoidable. Students interact and communicate through technology. Career centers must continue to evolve and create outlets that meet students’ needs and demands. Technology-based interaction is a challenge, but also creates incredible possibilities.

    Typical Name. Career centers must provide a wide range of services and resources, such as developing employer relations, creating various and dynamic programming, and maintaining technological relevance. This “one-stop shop” expectation has led to the generalization of career center names with the most popular being simply “career services.” As the impact of technology continues to grow, the use of names such as “Career Cyber Center” will eventually appear.

    Constituents Served. During the last decade, career centers have seen an increase of parental involvement in students’ career development, sparking a new trend of resources and services for parents. This trend will continue during the next decade.

    Theoretical Orientation. Typology theories such as Holland and the MBTI have continued to be a central theoretical framework for most career counselors. However, with the increased complexity of careers worldwide and the rapid introduction and expansion of new industries due to new technological and economic conditions, emerging theories such as Planned Happenstance and Chaos Theory of Careers will become more useful models to help students with career exploration.

    External Factors. Dramatic changes in technology, economic conditions, and generational trends have influenced the structure and service delivery of career centers during the last 10 years. These paradigm shifts juxtaposed with globalization and an increased sense of advocacy for sustainability will continue to impact university career services during the next decade.

    Staff Identity. Many career services professionals have roles that can be described as counselors or advisers, and often fill both roles. These titles will not be shed, but will evolve into a comprehensive professional identity of educators, claiming a place around the academic table with faculty and higher education administrators.

    Staff Skills. The expected skills of new professionals are no longer focused on a specific concentration. Rather, career services professionals must be flexible and possess a variety of skills. They will need these skills as they are asked to progress from a paradigm that valued multitasking into the Global Networking paradigm where information synthesis is needed. Advanced degrees and training will allow career services professionals to help students make sense of the chaotic barrage of information that they encounter while on campus.

    Location for Career Center Activities. Career centers have been purging physical resources and consolidating them online for the past several years. Staff interaction with students is continuing to move into cyberspace, decreasing the need and value for career centers physical facilities.

    On-Campus Recruitment. As competition for top candidates decreased due to the recent economic conditions, early recruitment and talent identification through experiential education has and will continue to be the main on-campus recruitment activity for many employers in the next decade.

    Industry Trends. During the last decade, especially prior to the economic downturn, there was a strong on-campus recruitment presence from financial and engineering companies. As the economy slowed, there was a reduction in hiring in these sectors and an increase in government hiring, stimulated by retirement projections and increased funding. Recent globalization, economic, and sustainability trends will increase the on-campus presence of multinational and energy companies.

    Assessment Focus. While assessments in career services have traditionally focused on attendance numbers and revenues, they now measure more complex dimensions such as learning outcomes and satisfaction, with special consideration to demographic data. Future assessments of career services will involve measurements of post-graduation tracking and students’ global competencies, driven by global hiring needs.


    Career centers have a unique opportunity to capitalize on the new dynamics in career services and college recruitment, and reinvent their service delivery approach. Casella’s Career Centers Paradigm provided higher education administrators and HR professionals with a mechanism to track and articulate the evolution of career services and college recruitment since the 1940s. The model has been used to define trends in a particular decade and to predict future trends that may impact the delivery of career services to college students.

    This examination of career centers through the framework of Casella’s Career Centers Paradigm helped identify emerging and future trends in career services at four-year institutions. The paradigms and dimensions discussed in this adaptation of Casella’s Career Centers Paradigm model create a framework for career services professionals and higher education administrators to understand the profession’s evolution. Although this model may not accurately represent the evolution of every career center, it provides a general foundation for a constructive discussion about each career center. To truly interact with the model, career services professionals should reflect upon and discuss how they interpret the organizational evolution of career centers based on the dimension trends provided in the model.

    Figure 1

    Adaptation of Casella's Career Center Paradigm: Dey & Real (2009)

    Dimension 1940s/50s
    Placement* Reactive**
    Planning Reactive/Proactive
    Networking Proactive/
    Social Networking Interactive/
    Global Networking Hyperactive
    Primary Purpose Job Search Skill Development Information Networking Educate & Prepare Educate for a Global Marketplace
    Service Delivery   Counseling Self-Help Resources (Physical Library) Counseling & Networking Web-Based Web-Based
    Typical Name Placement Center Career Development Center Career Center Career Services Career Cyber Center
    Constituents Served Students & Employers Students Students/Alumni, Employers & Faculty/Staff Students/Alumni, Employers & Faculty/Staff Students/Alumni, Students/Alumni, Employers & Faculty/Staff & Community
    Theoretical Orientation Trait-Factor Development Information Management Typology & Eclectic Typology, Chaos Theory, & Planned Happenstance
    External Factors Industry Strength "Self-Help" Movements (dissatisfaction with status quo) Technology Technology, Generational Trends, & Institutional Funding Globalization: Sustainability, Technology, & Economy
    Staff Identity Job Filler Counselor Organizer Counselor/Adviser Educator
    Staff Skills Processing Counseling Coordinating Multitasking Synthesizing
    Activities Location Job-Interview Room Offices & Workshops On and Off Campus Online & Career Center Virtual
    Recruitment Trends Demand Selective Strategic Competition Experiential Development
    Industry Trends Manufacturing Manufacturing & Nonprofit Corporate (Technical) Corporate (Financial & Technical) & Government Multinational & Energy
    Assessment Focus Placement Numbers Student Appointments & Placement Numbers Program Participation & Reviews Integrated Technology, Satisfaction Surveys, Demographic Data, & Revenues Post-Graduate Tracking, Global Competency, & Revenues

    Copyright 2013 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. All rights reserved.

Emerging Trends in University Career Services: Adaptations of Casella's Career Centers Paradigm