On January 1, 2017, The Career Leadership Collective was born out of what we hypothesized was a large stirring around the globe for fresh career services and innovative leadership. At the risk of sounding like a college student, we were freakin' blown away to see over 3,500 people engage The Collective over 12,500 times in under a month; to see well over 100 personal emails from colleagues in nearly every US state, Canada, Australia, The Netherlands, South Africa, The UK and more, affirming this massive desire to have the toolbox to re-imagine, and to contribute to the movement.
Friends, the need to re-imagine Career Services is much bigger than The Collective, much bigger than NACE, than NASPA, than the AAC&U, and any other group.
This is us telling us that we need to change - and 'us' genuinely wants to do so.
Please don't think this is a phase like bell bottoms (hated those) or parachute pants (loved those); please don't brush aside the recent Gallup Report that pointed out some of our weaknesses - identify your weaknesses - all the greats know theirs well; please don't hide behind that one cool thing you did 5 years ago that is still making you feel innovative (though that was pretty cool); and please don't think only an elite few people are wired to be innovators - you know, Steve Jobs, Edison, and whomever created the idea of pairing wine tasting with painting.
There is a need for everyday innovators from all identities and personalities, and this is achievable if we lean in together and raise the bar on what we need to be going after.
Your tremendous response to our 1 Question Survey about dialogue topics and training gaps was quite insightful.
The following comes from those responses, from the innovative thoughts inside The Collective blog over the last month, from my own 15-year listening and consulting tour in our field, and from a mosaic of brilliant minds much bigger than ours. I am simply putting together the picture of these collective sentiments, with the hope to both inspire you to take action, and to give you some concrete, beyond best-practices ways to implement.
The Daring Needs of Career Services Today
What our Leaders Need
Authentic Renewed-Passion for the User - the best solutions start with empathy for those you hope to serve (Stanford D. School, Design Thinking). Neat ideas get in the way. Leadership ego gets in the way. But a renewed commitment to listen deeply to the problems and desires of your main stakeholders holds the keys to tripling your impact.
Communities of Excellence for the Mid-Manager - the Executive Directors (top dogs) and the Counselors (coaches, educators, advisors, etc) get all the niche training, all the special groups, and all the glory. But the Associate Directors, the mid-level managers who have one foot in the vision and one foot in the details - they are the change agents, the operators, and our future leaders, and they have very little in regards to training and community. This has to change!
Depth in Ability and Agility to Lead Change - this could be the leading competency growth area for our career leaders today. We teach them budgeting, marketing, management, partnerships, and more, but there is a codified skill-set around growth and change that is needed in spades.
What our Brand Needs
Ban these four-letter words: Decentralized and Centralized - the opportune word is 'Coordinated'. Decentralized means silos, and Centralized means power-hungry. We want as many career staff as possible, and we shouldn't care if they report to us or not - because more is good if coordination is effective. It takes humble strength, and lots of it.
Get A Brand - unfortunately many offices have no intentional effort around branding, and are therefore 'the placement office that helps with resumes, hosts career fairs, and administers tests'. The Default Brand.
Get out of the way: your office name is too small - do you realize how much bigger a report is, when it is called The University Graduation Survey Report, instead of The Career Center Graduation Survey Report. Be wise about the many things you should remove your name from and watch your impact grow.
What our Staff Teams Need
The Mindset and Permission to Scale Themselves - you don't have enough staff and nothing about you is mandatory. Your 1:1 appointments rock as an intervention, but should be less than 25 % of your time, or you might die a slow death. And you certainly would not want your marketing plan to actually work, or you'd be in trouble. Begin to train your partners how to have great career convos, think about systemic and large initiatives, give away lots of money so others can do your mission without taking your time.
New Competencies - hire for the ability to be connectors/conveners, operational-minded administrators, data narrators/story tellers/professional designers, trainers of partners, and agile at every turn.
What our Events and Services Need
Retirement - if your numbers are consistently low, in the words of a great innovator who will remain nameless, 'just get rid of it'. Tear off the band-aid fast and everyone will cheer. You should be having a memorial service for 1-3 things per year. You might need 10-12 of them this year.
Operational Geniuses - the benefit of sophisticated event planners is like a beach vacation. Your users will love you and keep coming back for more. Quit assigning counselors to events (I love you counselors). Find a volunteer, outsource, find a work-study, hire for different competencies, whatever it takes, but find the best operators money can buy.
Ecosystem Integration - the old phrase is 'partner on a program', but the new phrase is 'ecosystem integration'. And the concept is radically different. We need to do the hard work of integrating into traditions, curricula, mandatory milestones, and more.
What our Technologies Need
Funding Priority - the power of tech, when implemented strategically, can grow your educational footprint by 10-fold. Phase into budgeting differently and spend at least 2 entry-level staff salaries worth on your technologies. If you do it well, it will be like 6-8 staff hires.
Multiplying - only career staff think we should have one tech application that does everything. Users do not think or want this. This is a clash we need to reconcile. It is very helpful to have many technologies that major in a few key items, and the path to them needs to be clearly defined.
An Overhaul - the technology of today can connect to other technology; it is an app, but not app-only, to be inclusive; it provides instant metrics; it allows you to build or create inside a platform; and it predicts.
For the rest of 2017, The Collective will respond to this growing need by using a variety of mediums to put a spotlight on the innovative, the extraordinary, and the uniquely helpful in our field. Specifically we will be providing deeper insight from experts on excellence in events, curricular integration, design thinking, healthy leadership, mid-level management, employer connections strategy, leading change, leadership team effectiveness, and more. We will also be providing more ways to contribute to and participate in these deep dive topics. Keep in touch and Dare to Change!
Jeremy Podany is an innovation, leadership, and organization growth connoisseur who has helped nearly 1,000 organizations and 500 leaders, having nearly 40 leadership roles in the last 20 years. Jeremy has enjoyed a career in higher education, has helped build five unique start-ups, and is currently the Executive Director of Ascend and The Career Center at Colorado State University, the CEO & Co-Founder of The Fairs App, the Inventor and Managing Partner of Career Tools, and the founder of The Career Leadership Collective. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.