Chatham University pushes career education with CRAFT Your Career program

Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 10/31/2023

When Michael Cadaret looks back at the factors that might’ve contributed to some of his early career decisions, he doesn’t think he was always well-informed.


“When I think about my time growing up and trying to make career decisions, most of it was cobbled together from bad advice and seeing what other people were doing,” Cadaret said.


Cadaret is a Masters Program Coordinator in the School of Health Sciences at Chatham University. According to his university website biography, his research focuses on “how social, cultural, and environmental factors influence identity, career choice, career development, and access to education and employment.”


Through these core interests, and the recognition of just how tough career decisions can be to navigate, Cadaret directs a program called CRAFT Your Career, which he piloted with 11th graders at the Woodland Hills School District last year. Through Project SEEKS SES, a grant partnership between the AIU and ACHD that supports school districts in addressing social and emotional health and looks to bolster a local pipeline of professionals to supporting fields, Cadaret hopes to expand the program this school year to numerous additional districts.


“It’s a format that I’ve been working with for a number of years, and it follows a career development theory that’s called Career Construction Theory, and the idea is that your career or your way of coming into work is part of your identity, and in that identity you’re telling yourself a story about the things your interested in and want to do,” Cadaret said.


CRAFT Your Career uses counseling and psychology graduate students, who work to mentor high school students through their career decision-making process, as they begin to approach the ever-important decision of determining their next step after high school. Last year, Cadaret’s students worked with Woodland Hills students three or four times, but he hopes to increase that in-school time in this go around.


“I think that high school is the right time to start entertaining that information, because I think in high school our ideas of what will work and the possibilities of what you can do is pretty narrow. There’s so many jobs out there and so many jobs that are unknown,” Cadaret said.


“I think a lot of students are finding out later in life that maybe they want to have a career change or do something different.”


The process of the program follows a number of steps, starting with Career Construction Theory and Relational Cultural Theory, where students are guided to reflect on what their relationship to work is, what their community’s relationship to work is and what they see other people doing and how that resultantly makes them think about work. The program also examines things like controlling images, which are stereotypes and ideas that somebody might have about their social identity.


“We do this in a group format so they can see one another and talk to one another about that and recognize that I’m not that stereotype and you’re not that stereotype and I see you as these positive things,” Cadaret said.


Additionally, CRAFT Your Career introduces high school students to career education information, introducing students to The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Occupational Information Network, so students can get a better understanding of what jobs they’re interested in and what those jobs actually entail.


The program ends with strategic goal setting.


“I tell the student facilitators to really work backwards. Someone might say that they want to go to college and major in this, but if we work backwards there has to be things that you’re doing in the next year, next six months or next month so that they can really attach to things they’re doing today and connect them to the things they’ll be doing down the road.”


In between those three main steps, there are a number of stops and lessons that help students understand themselves and what they might value in a job, as well as guidance on next steps in their career decision-making process, like information on how to apply for student aid or determining a major in college.


The end goal of it all, simply, is to help students understand their goals and values, and apply that towards making informed career decisions down the line.


“I think in today’s work, nobody goes to a job and says I’m here for the next 30 years or 40 years,” Cadaret said. “A lot of people are changing jobs rapidly, so being able to have that sense of identity and self and know what you want can be really important.”