The Future of Career Services, Now

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When I was a little boy, the most common question I was asked was, “what do I want to be when I grow up?” My answer was easy, it was either a doctor or a pro tennis player. Well—since that day, and after prototyping many careers, I quickly realized that—I have always been drawn to a place where student development and career readiness is really at the core of everything I do.

The forward-thinking students I witness daily getting recruited by top employers are truly my inspiration. It’s become a natural progression for our bright students (the success path), as they understand what it takes—and more importantly, manage their careers seriously.

What a sensational time it is for the Career Design Lab at Columbia University. Since founded in summer 2017, we have both reimagined and reinvented not only the career center, but what it really means to be a career coach. What we do is so much more than career services, it’s really career and life design. We are located in Times Square, our new home that showcases a new state-of-the-art career center. 

Our Connector Model, entitled “BRIDGE” stands for:

B: Building
R: Relationships
I: Interconnecting
D: Dreams
G: Goals &
E: Educational Pathways

We no longer believe in bricks and mortar, but the space itself is an integrated student and career center. We believe career services is bigger than our department, and that it’s really about customized connections and communities. Not only that, we understand that we really serve as informed connectors—allowing for organic networking in a connection economy, full of chaos and happenstance.

The difference between finding a job and finding a career is passion. But you can be passionate about many things. You also don’t know you are really passionate about something until you are doing it. So, in one respect, passion is a result, not an organizing principle. Thus, we use innovative tools and design thinking to help students be life designers—so they can build their way forward, prototype their careers, and test their interests. We want students to embrace uncertainty and explore their curiosity.

In a relatively short time, we have grown as an impactful team—we not only strive to help students connect passion to purpose, but believe in instilling “career readiness”— that “Career Readiness IQ” defined as “the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for a successful transition to the workplace.” (Source: NACE)

We believe in bridging new lines of communication and collaboration in an opportunity platform—we call a career ecosystem. If I had to describe what we do on a daily basis—distilling all of the activities, coaching, events, workshops, meetings, etc., it would filter down to two things: 1) helping to build dreams, and 2) witnessing their impact. 
By continuing to harvest new best practices and by providing a nimble approach to career and professional development, we are helping to foster a university-wide diverse, visible—living and global career culture that celebrates and breathes success. We’re deeply committed to coaching  career-seekers who will strengthen our global business system.
This year, with the launch of the San Francisco location—we are now a biocoastal career center, with two locations. We aim to be the Career Compass to implementing a career and professional developmental map and journey for our students, graduates, and alumni—helping them find their true ambition, by exploring career options and motivating them to reach for their career and professional dreams/aspirations. We are solution-based, action-oriented, and committed to providing students with career and job-search guidance. We also believe in student and employer-driven feedback and value their suggestions. We want to help organizations find our talented students, so that they can be future interns, employees, and managers. Our job is simple, we match top talent with top employers—that’s our job. Their job—is to look for a job.
We have a plethora of services that we offer our students and alumni. This includes access to warm job leads via our proprietary database entitled “The Hub”, access to our events via our event platform “Engage”, sharing of job leads, facilitating on-campus interviews, professional resume and cover letter critiquing, interview coaching, and much more. The process of career development truly begins at the Career Design Lab, but continues for a lifetime.
As a career cultural catalyst, my objective is help you leverage all of the resources that are readily available. We offer innovative, creative, and passionate approaches that are focused on revolutionary, strategic, and novel concepts and design. This has helped us create a new magnetic career center for the 21st Century. I believe that this contemporary approach captures the importance of vision, personal branding, purpose-alignment, multi-layered social media in career development. Not only are these elements the key to maximizing careers, but they are the gates to growing life’s fulfillment.
I leave you all with these words— Every single one of you has a purpose. It’s developed from your passion. And when one is on point with that purpose, it can help change the world for the better.

What's your Motivation?

Hassan Akmal is the Inaugural Executive Director of Industry Relations and Career Strategies, Lecturer, Career Mastermind, and Cofounder of the Career Design Lab at Columbia University.

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