By Jeremy Podany
CEO, The Career Leadership Collective.
Well, here we are in July 2020, and dare I say that the uncertainty, complexity and difficulty in higher education and career services is not trending toward 'normal'...whatever normal means. I stopped trying to predict anything in late March. My last prediction was that coronavirus would certainly be past us by July...again, there was a reason I stopped trying to predict.
July is often known as the last planning or vacation month prior to being 'back on campus'...whatever back on campus means now.
So, given that we all have, as I say, a New Forward, what is the best use of our July 2020 time in order to not be 'back on our heels' as we approach a slightly daunting fall?
Might I offer five suggestions to all the amazing career staff teams out there:
1. UNPLUG AND REST UP
You deserve this! And, your job is important. And, your teammates and students need you to do it. The value of unplugging from all technology, getting out into nature, not working at all for an extended period, and spending time with your lifelines may be of the highest importance in your ability to serve others this fall. I practice this about three times a year (picture above is my view last week), and it truly increases my ability to focus on others, be optimistic, do justice, and empower people.
2. SYNC-UP MORE THAN EVER BEFORE
We work with a lot of career staff teams in our advisory practice. The outstanding career teams that we see are always asking questions about priorities, goals, and what makes sense for student needs. The process of syncing-up this July will be crucial going into the fall. Ask this question: if each staff member defaults to what they think ought to be done based on the past, without being in sync, what would be the result this fall? Probably mediocre at best. If you have not already planned an extended day to virtually retreat together, I highly recommend it. You might also consider reassessing your 'meetings rhythm' leading up to the fall, so that you can be sure you have a good balance of time together and time on preparation tasks.
3. CLARIFY YOUR TOP 3 VALUES AND TOP 3 PRIORITIES FOR THE FALL
Only 3. Yes, only three. Of course you can and should have more, but you need to know your top 3 values and top 3 priorities. The reason: there is a high potential for things to get messy and for your plans to change this fall. Those who have clarity on values and priorities can pivot and adapt more quickly when the storm comes...which means students are not hurt by your teams internal lack of clarity.
Might I suggest a few items to consider as top priorities and values as you plan:
We will be content creators for our students and employers, communicating valuable insights to them often.
We will deepen our learning, intentionality, and activities around diversity, equity, and inclusion. For more learning on how to systemically consider this, see Episode 25 of The New Forward: Black Lives Matter and Career Services
We will listen to multiple employers and multiple students to inform our decisions.
We will create a clear and simple visual (an easy pathway) to access our virtual career services.
We will provide valuable training and information to key faculty and staff partners about how to embed career learning into their classes and student programs.
We will be proactive, not reactive in employer development, using data, brand promotion, content, and relationships to find new employers and help students understand the diverse array of job and internship opportunities actually available.
We will provide hope!
4. HIBERNATE OR SUNSET AT LEAST 5 PROGRAMS
Again, the truly effective career teams that we work with are regularly performing some sort of "start, stop, continue" exercise about their services...one that is free from personal attachment or hard feelings, but is all for the good of the mission. If you are heading into the fall saying, 'let's figure how to do everything we used to do, but do it virtually', you might be headed toward a crash. That will work to some degree with career fairs or advising, but still needs creativity there. Nonetheless, has your team decided what you are hibernating or sunsetting this fall? You have to say no to things! Great leaders say no. Great teams say no. If you are a career team leader, have your entire team each send you at least 3 things they think should be cut this fall. Then get together and make some rational decisions that will give you bandwidth to pivot and adapt toward what is really needed.
5. FOCUS ON THE HOPE YOU PROVIDE
You are in the business of providing hope. Your students and employers are anxious, and you can calm them. Dare I say that career services has always had the power to change generations, to bolster confidence, to transform the career mobility and the trajectory of student lives. Talk about the challenges together, but make a commitment to not despair about them. Don't live in them and don't be ruled by them. Live in the hope that you are providing, and find a way through those pesky challenges. You got this!
My team at The Collective is 1,000% for you as you approach this fall, and we are wishing you a fruitful July, one filled with rest and clarity.