BlackLivesMatter and College Career Services

By Jeremy Podany

CEO, The Career Leadership Collective



Let me start by saying that this post is just scratching the surface...it's not complete...hardly anything can be on this topic...and much more needs to be written and discussed. In fact, it's not really even a post, but rather an overview of an impromptu gathering we had on The New Forward, our career services news show, on Tuesday June 2, 2020.


My goal in writing this is to encourage more discussion and authenticity about how college career services can thoughtfully listen, learn, change, and act...for justice.

I wish I was an expert on the topic of racism or race relations, but I am more of a convener with a heart, who has a lot of expert friends. And, I sincerely believe that white male leaders (which I am) need to humbly speak up on the topic of racial injustices and use their race privilege for good. I am keenly aware that I don't fully understand the real pain of this situation, and I am often quite nervous that I might say something from my blind spots that offends. Don't let that stop you...just be willing to learn and listen.

This post is a window into the passion that is rising up among career services professionals to do something about racial injustices.


It was hard to continue with 'business as usual' on June 2. What happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis a few days prior is straight-up racism, murder, and a massive systemic problem that demands change, discussion, protest, anger, healing, the continued dismantling of white supremacy, and justice on so many levels. It is cumulative. I condemn it! My organization condemns it!


For anyone new to interacting with The Career Leadership Collective, our small little corner of the planet happens to be at the nexus of college student hiring...and we serve the leaders in that space...the system creators...a realm that has unfortunately seen many inequalities, and also bold efforts toward change and a new generation of innovative leaders. We believe equity should be ingrained into the fabric of university career services. It changes lives, income levels, freedoms, social mobility, happiness, and so much more. We are just one in a number of great organizations that are trying to change systems. It's challenging. It's frustrating. It's hopeful. We have, and will continue to have many intentional services, speakers, writers, keynotes, panels, papers, and videos that shine a light on the need for equity. Because, there is a specific problem. And, there is a lot of work to do.


All that context to say, it was hard to go on as planned on the June 2nd news show. Early that morning I couldn't eat, spent extra time praying and meditating, and then called my good friend Jennifer, an African American leader in higher education. She is a bold encourager. Her wisdom was clear, and I paraphrase:

  • Everything about this sucks.

  • Be authentic.

  • Ask questions that are practical and change-oriented.

  • Give people space to share their thoughts.

Amazing! So Needed.


So, we scraped our previous plan for The New Forward show on June 2nd about three hours before going live, put the word out, and a few hundred colleagues joined us live for a discussion about what is happening and what we can do. Dr. Jeffrey Alston graciously joined me last minute, and was truly incredible. I so admire him. He helped a lot of people on June 2nd.


I encourage you to watch the 30 minute recording here. It is freely available to everyone, and will continue to be.


Allow me to share what happened on the show:


In the beginning,

  • Jeffrey graciously talked about how he is feeling

  • It seemed through the chat feed (you can see that below) that people needed this conversation.

  • We tagged-teamed the news, specifically on this topic

  • Then we talked through some ways career staff might consider growing personally

Here are the five suggestions for personal reflection (There are many more and these could get better. I created these, and Jeffrey just chimed in with his wisdom, corrections and thoughts - it was great!).



After some good discussion, we got into 5 questions that career centers might consider to start to changing career services systems of inequity. Again, I am sure there are more questions we could have asked. Add yours to the mix!


QUESTION 1



QUESTION 2



QUESTION 3



QUESTION 4



QUESTION 5



Finally, here is the chat feed from the show (we removed basic intros and hellos). I share it to encourage you. Great insights and an eagerness to learn. Let's keep that going together. I have removed the chat feed names, as it would have taken way too long to ask everyone for permission.


Chat feed from June 2 on The New Forward, BlackLivesMatter and Career Services


o Career is social justice work!

o peer advisors and liaisons - so important!

o So powerful thinking about how we engage a great team of students who are peer advisors.

o Thank you Jeffrey for spending your time and emotional labor to help facilitate this conversation!

o Listen well, we are all responsible!

o #BeTheChange Perfect!

o Authenticity!

o We're looking to host a 2 Week Career Extravaganza Events and we will develop career education workshops targeted for select student populations.

o Thank you Jeffrey. Take the rest of the day off and do self care. We appreciate you and thank you!

o Don't be afraid to have a conversation.

o Our students just want to hear from us, to see we care

o Be strategic around diversity and inclusion

o Thank you! Be genuine!

o Speak up and take action!

o Awesome topic and sharing transparently with everyone!

o Jeremy, thank you! thank you! thank you! Your presence and insight is so valued and appreciated.

o We CAN do better!

o Thank you for the tangible things to get staff thinking!

o thank you!! changing the needle on conversations with employers

o we are all responsible for this work, not just one person in the office

o How to create systems to help with diverse hiring?

o proper career development work IS social justice work

o Thank you for your wisdom

o I love the idea of looking for insights from students of color who have used our services to adapt and grow!

o Be genuine, and take initiative to learn

o Having our office reach out to our student community instead of messaging just coming from college leadership (President's office and HR)

o Thank you for your insights. Very much appreciated!

o Take away now is the time to act. Engage!

o Thank you! Educate and connect personally.

o Career Development work is Social Justice work!

o All so good. Look for concrete ways to implement. Question what we're doing and how we're falling short.

o Thank you for the insights...lots of food for thought

o Thank you!! Loved the list of 5 questions.

o We also all have PERSONAL work we must do, and keeping it professional

o That I’m not alone and my feelings are valid

o I'm so motivated to take ACTION

o Addressing the systemic barriers for hiring.

o I think it's also important that we educate employers how to be better/more inclusive or else we'll just be sending students of color into harmful organizations which may be jarring compared to their college experience.

o I will use the 5 questions to formulate a staff retreat. We will reflect on these questions and put in a plan to enact

o Thank you, Jeffrey! This was incredible!

o Be authentic, don't worry about saying the right thing or being PC

o Great conversation.

o Accumulated weariness as a phrase that captures that concept.

o Career development is social justice work.

o Take ACTION

o Career Development work is Social Justice work - thank you.

o Act!

o Great website on career development as social justice: https://careerguidancesocialjustice.wordpress.com/

o Do your own research! do not put the labor back onto oppressed communities to answer your questions! Reflect together after!

o YES - Awesome, awesome question. This is how we can effect the larger system.

o Thank you! I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and suggestions.

o As soon as I realized this and started having intentional conversations around identity with students, my relationships with them grew deeper exponentially and suddenly my appointment calendar was full.

o Good resource for everyone: https://idiinventory.com/ Intercultural Development Inventory, A first step is learning to identify bias.

o You are right, Jeff. Some students just do not know.

o How can we encourage transparency among our employers around recruiting and compensation practices?

o YES - Career Practitioners as ACTIVISTS for CHANGE

o I'd love to see these 5 points of self-reflection, mindfulness of motivation and how you impact the world as part of every student's first year experience

o Agree with you. The social justice realm of career development is so important.

o Career services is social justice work - Economic justice, anti-poverty, uplifting generational wealth

o I posted about the career development as social justice work - I am currently working on my dissertation around this topic and hoping to engage career development professionals on the topic

o Thank you for this important conversation and terrific resources!

o The concept of cumulative weariness really resonated.

o DO your own personal work FIRST before asking others for help;

The 5 questions to ask. Jeffrey thank you so much for your willingness to share with us today, so helpful!

o Be the change you wish to see


We have a lot of work to do.


To my black and brown friends and colleagues. I see you. I care for you. I believe you. I believe in you. Your voice matters. Myself and my organization will continue to adapt and grow. We will stand with you and learn from you in trying to change systems of oppression.


To my white friends and colleagues, especially those who lead and have the power to use their race privilege for good in career services practices. Please genuinely speak. Please invite more dialogue. Please humbly evaluate your practices. Ask to be corrected. If you are scared and uncomfortable, start by saying just that. (BTW- to be honest, you and I don't really know what scared and uncomfortable feels like on the topic of race...so get over yourself and suck it up). If you don't know what to do, ask for outside help. But please...



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