Happy New Year, 2019! The new year brings renewed energy to so many personal and professional goals for individuals, and as such, I wanted to share the 5 career services trends that we believe will make a substantial impact on universities everywhere in 2019. We encourage you to consider inserting them into your goals over the course of 2019.
Our team has enjoyed many hours spent listening and learning alongside hundreds of upper-administrators and career staff teams through our on-campus facilitations, events, growth consulting, instant polls, and notably, our commissioned EVOLVE Report.
Here is what we believe universities can do to have the most scalable and quality impact on every students' future in 2019:
1. Engage Upper Leadership in a Campus-Wide Strategy about Preparing Students for the Future
There is no doubt that effectively preparing all students for their future is a much bigger task than any career office can take on.
We have heard from academic leaders of all disciplines about their interest in fresh career-related solutions that span the curricular and co-curricular experience.
We know many upper-administrators who acknowledge that they need to think differently about how to tackle the future of work and educational agility.
We've heard from many non-career services staff and faculty who are inundated weekly by students inquiring about various career development questions.
And, we hear from admissions staff and advisors that parents have a heightened interest in the question, 'what specifically is your institution doing to prepare my child for their future?'.
Simultaneously, students are 'all about' their future! During a recent project, we polled over 500 students at a big state school and found that over 50% think about their future career daily. What? Yes, DAILY. That surprised us too. They also noted that they talk to advisors, faculty, friends, bosses, and so many people on campus that the topic of career development is becoming unavoidable.
Through this array of voices, we have found that, in many cases, university leaders have not yet taken the time to consider together how their campus might formalize goals, beliefs, and strategy for preparing students for a thriving future. However, having facilitated this type of visioning process with more than a few campuses now, we know that when it happens, it is not only an invigorating process that unifies many stakeholders around their institutional mission and renews their passion for students, but it transforms both the student educational experience and the campus relationships with their community, companies, and donors.
I sincerely believe that the best place to start is by engaging around 50-70 key campus leaders in a unifying strategic process.
2. Seek out Big Data on Alumni Career Pathways
Over the last few years, career offices have spent a good amount of time on quality first job data, and they have put quite a bit of energy behind their online job boards, which are also (mostly) related to the first job. Yet, there has been a reverberating inquiry and groan from the campus community that sounds something like,
"oh that first job data is nice, but we believe in holistic education...in preparing students for much more than their first job. Do you remember your first job? Where is the data on 5 and 10 years out regarding alumni pathways, mobility, satisfaction, and how our university or department helped?"
We, as a field, have to listen to this longing. There are truly important reasons behind it. It is a large part of the reason we are launching our National Alumni Career Mobility Survey for campuses everywhere in 2019. There have been some attempts to get this data, but mostly in the form of state tax record partnerships that display salary data alone...or a very expensive one-time commissioned survey. Still, universities need ongoing baselines of understanding about alumni pathways.
University leaders can hardly wait any longer for a way regularly access this big data, and they long to showcase much more than just one-off stories of successful alumni careers. If you don't believe me - ask them! Take a non-leading poll of your cabinet or council of deans. I have yet to meet a Provost or President, and very few Deans or VP's, who believe that sharing numbers related to students first jobs is the mission of their college or university. Again, I can't tell you how many upper administrators want real alumni career data. I can't tell you how much your gov't relations reps want to share it with the state, or how much your marketing VP wants it as part of the grand narrative.
The first destination movement is good - I like it, and have trained perhaps 200 universities on how to do it well. However, Alumni Career Mobility Data needs to become a much bigger priority than the first destination data - we need a shift in focus. It is the next big data backbone that career services must partner on to ensure connectedness with the institutional vision.
3. Reframe Inclusive Excellence in and thru Career Services
If you leave career services to chance at your university...meaning...you simply offer it to all who might stop by...rather than making intentional attempts to 'reach all'... then you may have a social justice problem on your hands. That is correct - a social justice problem. The 'have's' will have more, and the 'have-nots' will have less. These sentiments echoed at our 2018 Fall Forum, and during our Presidential Perspectives Accelerator, and are a reason why we are starting the year with our online Accelerator Series on Inclusive Excellence.
It should be noted that Career Services as a field is fairly young in comparison to student affairs in their training, conversation, and intentional efforts around diversity and inclusion. Only recently have the career associations began to make the issue more prominent than a committee or an award. We believe this topic demands much bigger and bolder thinking and action than have happened in the past. I encourage you to cross reference this article: Social Innovation for the Future of Career Education.
Here are a few approaches you might have your career staff teams consider to bring fresh approaches and momentum to inclusivity in and through career services:
How you showcase career staff teams online must change and must include diverse identity profiles: You need to highlight profiles of diverse staff and faculty from around campus who are career influencers - a lot of them. Students want to chat with people like them, but career teams are not big enough, and usually not diverse enough.
People don't accept jobs, they accept communities: As you seek to hire people with diverse identities onto your career staff, you must engage with them about what they desire in a community, and help them see it as they go through the interview process.
It is about more than that one workshop done by your staff - empower students everywhere to deliver great content: Your career staff should not be the only front door to your house - students can reach students better, and you need a huge array of diverse identities that you are empowering and training regularly.
4. Create Faculty and Classroom Solutions
We spent the summer of 2018 understanding this problem at our Think Tanks on the east and west coasts. We learned:
faculty spend perhaps (hard data not present) 200 contact hours to 1 contact hour in compared to career staff.
students talk about their future with faculty all the time
career staff should not try to redirect all things career to their office, but should train and empower faculty regularly
faculty want examples of career reflection assignments, in-class activities, field trips, syllabus learning outcomes, and other thoughtful learning activities that they can insert inside their expertise.
One prominent solution liked by many, that came from the think tanks, was for career teams to spend time (we suggest 2019) in creating an online repository that faculty can access. This repository can include white-labeled career reflection assignments and in-class activities to help faculty insert career into the classroom in their own unique way.
5. Formalize a Campus Network of Career Influencers
If you have made it this far in the post, you probably feel the subtle theme of career services being delivered beyond the career center walls. This is different than saying get out of the office and deliver workshops, or you have partners, or you have jointly run a program with a few others. It means you are creating ongoing training, roles, list-serves, awards, reports, data-feeds, and empowered solutions with 50+ key champions who are not in your career office-- who are all passing along the goodness to their peers and to students. Helping campuses do this, is our 'on your campus' training focus in 2019, and we believe it can 10-fold your impact. We are helping to develop this type of network on campuses, but there is no cookie-cutter approach - adoption has cultural nuances, and takes all staff buy-in at some level. In the best of cases, savvy career leaders have stopped advocating for 60-70K for one new counselor, and started to see how using that money to provide a stipend to a large number of career champions yields a great return.
I truly hope that 2019 will be a year of renewed focus for your university in their efforts to prepare students for a vibrant future!
Jeremy Podany is the Founder and CEO of The Career Leadership Collective, and is an innovation, leadership, and organizational growth connoisseur with unique expertise on the confluence of university career services, systems-thinking, leadership, and organizational growth. Jeremy enjoyed nearly 20 years working inside higher education in career services and corporate education, and has helped build six unique start-ups inside and outside of universities. His inventions and consulting solutions have systemically helped hundreds of thousands of college students with career education and mobility. Jeremy regularly writes, speaks, trains, and consults for universities, businesses, and tech start-ups. His specialty involves helping university upper-administrators to weave career education into the fabric of the campus and maximize results. He has a BA in English Education from Western Michigan University, and a Masters in Higher Education Administration from Indiana University. Jeremy lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife and four children. He loves college basketball and driving his jeep thru, hiking in, or gazing at the Rocky Mountains.