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Knowledge plus network helps create career success

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Guest blog by Dr. Mako Miller, director of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Professional Career Escalators program, and Davlon Miller (no relation), director of UMKC Career Services.

In their post, they discuss how they are trying to help students build career literacy and a strong network to build meaningful professional careers. 

Dr. Mako Miller
Davlon Miller


Research is showing us that obtaining a college degree is simply not enough to properly prepare students for success in their chosen career. We are embedding career development into the college experience. Developing career literacy and building a strong professional network provides a solid foundation for success in the job market.

At the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the Professional Career Escalators program is a unique, trademarked system of personalized support and services, designed to propel students from their academic studies to high-paying careers by creating what amounts to a career GPS to guide from enrollment to workforce. For students enrolled in the Professional Career Escalators, these core experiences don’t start during their last year in college – they start on day one when students first set foot on campus. 

We enrolled the initial cohort of first-year students in the new program in Fall 2022; the group is now in their second semester of college.


UMKC Career Services is available to all of our enrolled students and developing career literacy is one of our primary objectives. Given the scope of schools and majors that UMKC offers, we use several programs and tools to support academic units in providing valuable career development.

Both programs are helping students see themselves in their chosen career, develop awareness of their skills and interests, build the capacity to communicate their professional values and guide them to effectively navigate a professional career. 


The UMKC Professional Career Escalators program is centered on the focus of The DeBruce Foundation’s 2022 report: Driving Employment Empowerment with Career Literacy and Networks

The program was developed to solve several issues many college graduates face post-graduation:

  • Students lacking professional experience before entering the workforce
  • Recent graduates unsure about the next steps to transition from student to career
  • Lack of a supportive network within the professional world

Professional Career Escalators provides five core experiences that guide students in their career exploration and can solve many of these issues. 

  1. career guidance and development
  2. experiential learning
  3. mentoring with both faculty and career professionals
  4. leadership development
  5. graduate and professional school preparation 

The program helps students create resumes, develop professional skills and build a professional network. Students connect with community professionals doing the work they’re interested in pursuing someday. We are pairing all of this with leadership development and access to experiential learning opportunities, which helps them put what they’re learning in the classroom into practice.


The students we serve come from various backgrounds and have had different levels of exposure to career development. We’re highly focused on closing the equity gap of career literacy.

Through our Career Services liaison model, career coaches collaborate with academic units throughout the year to incorporate career development in the classroom. Coaches also work with students individually to help them navigate/design their career path with presentations on topics such as resume building and job interview preparation. We invite employers and alumni to campus to share their career journey and opportunities for job shadowing, internships, part-time and full-time work.


The Professional Career Escalators program provides employment empowerment for our students by developing a better understanding of the jobs they want to pursue. They are meeting, job-shadowing and serving internships with working professionals. They’re building a strong network of peers, professionals and faculty who are providing experiences and opportunities that help these students feel confident and prepared for life post-UMKC.


Networking is a key component of everyone’s career journey. The more people you’re connected to, the more opportunities you’ll find. With the support of the Career Services teams, students’ ability to network outside their existing groups increases exponentially. Some of the programs we offer students to connect locally, regionally and nationally include:

  • Industry-specific career fairs providing internship and work opportunities and serving as a hub for industry information and an introduction to networking for our first-year and exploring students.  
  • Specific networking events where students learn the fundamentals of networking and have the opportunity to practice their newly learned skills with industry professionals.  
  • RooNetwork – UMKC’s mentoring platform where students can explore careers and seek mentoring advice from alumni and community partners. 
  • Presentations on utilizing LinkedIn, Roo Network and other avenues to build a professional network from their experiences on and off campus. 
  • Employer site visits to introduce students to future workspaces and potential colleagues, mentors and employers. 


We’re grateful for our partnership with The DeBruce Foundation because our students not only get the chance to better understand what they want to do; they know what they’re good at and what they enjoy doing based on the Agile Work Profiler© and can use that knowledge to elevate their career exploration, reassuring them about their pathway. 

Building social and career capital is imperative. By helping students develop better career literacy and strong professional networks, we help them create this capital.

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