How do we help college students develop a sense of purpose? That’s the question being addressed by Complete College America’s #PurposeFirst initiative.

In CCA’s new “Purpose First” initiative, 5 groups, representing consortia of higher ed institutions from different states (Virginia, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Hawaii) or cities (Houston) are developing projects to be launched this fall to help students uncover their purpose by exploring careers earlier, understanding how majors connect with career fields, accessing labor market information, and receiving enhanced support from their institutions.

The National Career Development Association is one of four partner organizations that are working with CCA on the project, along with NACE, NACADA, and AACRAO. Last week, I traveled to Indianapolis as an NCDA representative to build connections and to share ideas on how NCDA can support each group’s projects.

As I told them, I’m especially enthusiastic to represent NCDA on this project. I think that NCDA’s focus on career development across the lifespan will be critical. Career management for college students isn’t just about the senior-year job search; it needs to include exploration and support over a much longer period of time — starting in middle and high school before students ever enroll in a college, and continuing throughout the student’s college experience. All this work requires educators to possess expertise in career development, and NCDA excels at providing training and professional development.

Moreover, I’m enthusiastic to participate in the project because it gives me the chance to share our Career Readiness work in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota. We haven’t used the word “purpose” to describe our work previously, but, really that’s what we’re doing: We want to change the culture of our institution so that everyone in CLA is equipped with a common understanding of how a liberal arts education provides exceptional preparation for careers; we also want to inspire students to set ambitious goals for their futures and achieve those goals. We have career development professionals, academic advisors, our recruitment team, and our faculty all working together on one shared vision of promoting student readiness for life after graduation. We’re just getting started — but it’s been exciting to see the results that come from broadening our thinking about career support in CLA. It isn’t just the career center’s job to help students think about careers — it’s the entire college’s job.

It was a pleasure to meet with the CCA team and the representatives from each of the project teams. The groups have some ambitious plans, and I know that NCDA can support them as they are moving ahead.