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Scaling Career Services (Part 3 of 7): What Then Shall We Scale?

I have talked with a lot of career pro's about scale recently. The topic is almost always received with excitement and anticipation related to its potential for lasting transformation - which is quite real. As we together discuss stretching the envelop, changing service delivery models, and considering unique mindsets, this positive energy pauses in front of the hard work it takes to actually scale, and one thing becomes clear: It is foolish for a career center to try to scale everything.

There is in fact quite a number of services we can choose to scale. Try to scale everything at once and you will probably scale nothing, or at best have mediocre success and a very tired staff. Note 1: You may already have a very tired staff because you are not scaling anything, and thus saying yes to too large a volume of work. Note 2: Don't let the hard work of creating a scaled solution scare you; most of the work is upfront, and then workloads can dramatically decrease for staff, and your customer engagement can be tenfold larger.

I digress, but this begs the question of the hour: what then shall we actually scale?

When The Career Leadership Collective surveyed over 100 career leaders about Scale, here is one of the 8 questions we asked them:

  • 'If you could wave a magic wand and instantly scale ONE career services offering to reach thousands more users, without any additional ongoing work for the career staff, what service would you choose to scale?'

The answers were many and fascinating. So, we didn't stop at just reading the survey answers for face value. We engaged these career pro's at our three think tanks on scale, and began talking to multiple individual campus staff teams during in-person visits.

Here is what we have learned:

Generally, here are the Top 5 Services most believe we should scale today

  1. Scale Your Entire Career Education Curriculum - Yep, the entirety of what we want them to learn! Do students have 24/7, simple, and clear access to everything they need to know about career development prior to graduation, in a personalized manner? Can they get that information and education without coming into see a staff member? Is every student/alumni/prospective receiving that information? I know, that makes my head hurt too, but there are solutions.

  2. Scale Who Delivers Career Services - Identify one or two key topics your staff can train faculty, peer students, key staff, parents, etc. to do well in order to teach and train students without you. Don't fall victim to the old school philosophy that drives all career work through your team. Create a new definition of team. Stimulate your campus ecosystem!

  3. Scale Career Learning into the Classroom - Connecting deeper into the syllabi of various classes to encourage more field experiences in certain majors, and more career reflective assignments in others, is something that is a wildly popular desire among career leaders. It also has potential to create an integrated model of career learning into the most central part of the university...the classroom. This topic is so popular, we will be spending a lot of time on it in the near future through our accelerators and additional Think Tanks.

  4. Scale your Story of Career Success - We know how to tell our story. But do we know how to scale our story? Cracking the nut on how to do this can transform the way the institution as a whole embraces career development.

  5. Valuable Connections between Students and various Stakeholders (Alumni, Employers, Faculty mentors, etc.) - We are smack in the middle of the era of connections in our field. Again, we know how to do this in small numbers. We have events, we have job treks, we have panels. Yet, are we reaching as many as we desire? Students want to meet people that are going to personally and effectively help them. We can scale that! As an aside, there has a been a large rise in career related, alumni to student connection technologies in the last 2 years. Check them out!

Specifically, Scale should be personalized to each campus

Uber does not scale like Southwest Airlines, yet both are in transportation. Facebook scales very differently than Ted Talks, yet both are massive content creation platforms influencing millions.

Let's go back to the survey question about waving a magic wand and picking one service to scale. There were over 50 different types of answers, and only a couple patterns, of which I just mentioned. The many answers included items like trying to scale: mentoring, resume critiques, marketing, career exploration, 1:1 appointments, employer contacts, hands-on experiences, connections to alumni, and more. In fact, as we discussed these answers in groups there were just as many reasons for not scaling the very same services. There was disagreement, but not confusion. Why? Because, what is a top need in one context, may not be the top need in another, when it comes to scale. Therefore, you must choose to create unique scaled solutions based on your campus community, culture, values, strategic plan, and context.

May you boldly chose to do the rewarding work of scaling the career service that is a large need in your unique campus context!

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 six unique start-ups, and is currently the Founder, CEO, and Senior Consultant of The Career Leadership Collective and the Co-Founder of The Fairs App. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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