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Stanford's new career services director sets out to reinvent program

Farouk Dey learned the importance of practical experience and meaningful relationships with mentors as an international student from Algeria.

L.A. Cicero Farouk Dey portrait

Farouk Dey, executive director of career services, says his office's counselors begin talking with freshmen about their interests, values, skills and passion.

Farouk Dey, who arrived on campus in April, said this is an exciting time to be the new executive director of career services at Stanford.

"There is a clear recognition by the Stanford community that times have changed and we need to design a new model of career services to meet the new needs of students, parents, alumni, faculty and recruiters," said Dey, who also is an associate vice provost of student affairs.

As one of his first acts at Stanford, Dey has appointed a steering committee composed of students, alumni, staff, parents and recruiters. Called "Vision 2020," the committee will work closely with faculty and administrators to help formulate a new model of career services at Stanford.

Dey, who earned a doctorate in higher education administration in 2012 at the University of Florida, said the landscape for university career offices has changed over the past 40 years.

"Decades ago, we used to have placement centers, which changed to career development centers in the '70s and '80s," he said. "We're now in the process of transforming our career centers into dynamic networking centers that fully leverage technology, alumni and corporate partnerships to maximize opportunities for students and alumni. Stanford has an opportunity to lead this reinvention process for our community and for higher education." 

Reorganizing the center

Shortly after his arrival from Carnegie Mellon University, where he was the director of the Career & Professional Development Center, Dey embarked on a two-month "listening tour" of Stanford's campus.

He has met individually with each member of his 26-person staff, as well as with students, alumni, faculty, department heads and deans.

"As I met with various members of our community and sat down with student and alumni groups, it became clear to me that the story of the past Career Development Center successes wasn't widely known on our campus, and that our team of talented career counselors and staff is not structured in a way that establishes meaningful relationships with our career communities," he said.

Dey said he is working on an organizational structure in which career counselors are assigned career "communities" based on students' academic disciplines.

Dey, who began his career in university career services in 2002 at the University of Florida, said he has long admired Stanford's program.

"I've looked at Stanford as a source of inspiration and innovation throughout my career," he said.

He praised some parts of Stanford's existing career services model, including its smaller, more intimate career fairs. In addition to holding 16 career fairs that bring more than 900 employers to campus every year, the CDC also:

  • Administers and interprets career assessments of students,
  • Provides one-on-one career counseling,
  • Holds workshops at the CDC and in dorms, classrooms and cultural centers,
  • Hosts presentations and information sessions by employers,
  • Offers videos with employer tips on writing resumes, interviewing, preparing for a job fair, choosing proper attire and negotiating salaries,
  • Provides access to InterviewStream to conduct and record practice interviews via webcam,
  • Lists more than 10,000 job postings per year on Stanford's Cardinal Careers,

Dey said many people are surprised to hear that the center's work begins as soon as freshmen are accepted at Stanford.

"One common perception that we want to change is that students don't need career services until they're close to graduation and need a job," he said.

"An important part of our work with students involves the exploration of self, the world of work and trying to find career paths," he continued. "Our counselors help students discover who they are and who they want to become, by talking to them about their interests, values, skills and passions.

"To be successful, students must explore their curiosity, be comfortable with uncertainty, take action and risks, and put themselves out there," he said. "Our job is to leverage the career services ecosystem around Stanford and provide resources that help them do that."

A new career landscape

Dey said the national financial crisis of 2008 had a lasting effect on the career services landscape, making it more challenging for graduates to land jobs and for students to get internships.

He said each student population – undergraduates, master's and doctoral students – experiences those challenges differently. As an example, he cited the plight of students who have earned humanities PhDs and are facing an extremely tough job market for academic jobs.

"For those who are still focused on finding academic jobs, we need to find ways to support them and help them think in creative ways about how they can still be an academic in a university," Dey said.

"But now our job is also to help them think about their careers differently and help them think about how their unique abilities are transferrable to different kinds of career paths, including non-faculty positions in higher education, careers in industry, non-profits or government. We have the responsibility to not only provide guidance and resources to our PhD students and postdocs, especially in H&S (Humanities & Sciences), but also to network on their behalf and bring more recruiters from various sectors to Stanford."

From Algeria to Wisconsin

When Dey arrived at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1995, he was an international student from Algeria with very little money in his pocket and no English – save the vocabulary from a preparatory class he took just before leaving home.

"What I did have was curiosity, comfort with uncertainty, the thrill and excitement of discovery, a spirit of entrepreneurship and a can-do attitude. I just believed in the possibilities."

To help make those possibilities come true, he enrolled in an English as a Second Language program, became involved with leadership opportunities on campus, and worked in internships and part-time jobs.

"Navigating the career development process was even more challenging for me as an international student," he said. "Gaining valuable practical experiences and meaningful relationships with mentors made the difference for me. I want to pay that forward in this new role I have at Stanford."