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Transforming Career Data into Action

By Vanessa Newton

Data & Visualization Lead, Consultant

The Career Leadership Collective and National Alumni Career Mobility Survey

Collecting data is important. Understanding data is valuable. Doing something with the data you are collecting is critical.

Today’s blog post dives into some of the data we at the Collective have gathered on three different topics with a focus on how to transform that data into action.


Undoubtably, the past 6 months have been filled with an immense amount of decision making. Even things as small as what kind of cereal to pick up at the grocery store (Meijer if you are lucky enough!) have felt like massive decisions.

During the first New Forward of the fall semester, Jeremy asked the participants to identify the most important decision their career office has made regarding the fall semester. Not surprisingly, over ~70% of the respondents indicated a decision centered around being virtual. The other ~30%? Their responses were focused in on priorities and strategic thinking regarding how their staff will function with less people, less resources or to focus on building relationship and career-centered content. Here is a diverse sampling of a few of the comments:

  • How to ensure our student interns have an engaging/meaningful semester of work.

  • To do fewer events and focus on what they need NOW

  • Virtual offerings and more emphasis on content and bringing career into the enrollment process

  • What our priorities will be/how we'll spend our time

  • Having more virtual career fairs than we even normally have regular fairs

  • Authentic Engagement with students, alumni, faculty and staff

  • Deeper partnering with Faculty, Students Orgs and others

I think what is important here is how are you measuring success? What are things that you are doing now that are going to carry over into a new way of delivering career services? Why are they going to do that?

Transforming Data into Action: How are you and your team collecting meaningful and usable data that will assist in informing the decisions that you will continue to be making?

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Back in the day when I was a grad student, we had a saying in my Industrial & Organizational Psychology program – 'what gets measured gets managed.'

Now I know exactly what you are thinking…Vanessa, you have gone an entire section talking about data and not shown us a single dashboard…who are you? Agreed. Let’s play with some data shall we?

The Collective surveyed our members about intentionality around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion . What can we do with this information?

We asked about the level of engagement in 4 areas: Your Team, Employer Advocacy, Career Education Efforts, and Your Data. For purposes of these questions, let’s group together the responses by “engaged a moderate amount” through “engaged a great deal”. Now I feel like a game show host, but the top 4 groups by engagement level are…

1. Your Team (68.4%)

2. Career Education Efforts (65.1%)

3. Your Data (57.5%)

4. Employer Advocacy (52.4%)

You can slice and dice this data in a number of different ways but it’s fairly clear that generally speaking, respondents are saying that their teams are fairly engaged with DEI practices but that tends to take a back seat when it comes to employers.

I’ll say this again, what gets measured gets managed. If you don’t have a pulse point on your employers and their DEI commitment, consider reviewing any surveys that you have employer partners do and seeing if there is a place where you can include a question regarding DEI. It can feel overwhelming if you are starting from a place where you feel that you have no information but if you continue to just push it off and not collect any information/data, how are you going to know when you are making progress? Be thoughtful and intentional about understanding where your team, your career education efforts, your data, and your relationships with employers are.

Transforming Data into Action: How are you measuring intentionality of implementing DEI?

Still with me? Need to take a coffee break yet? A walk-break? If you are giving your pup scritches, give them some from me. Take a minute because we are going to dive in with this next section.


Priorities, priorities, priorities – why does this word feel like the heaviest word right now? At the beginning of the Fall Semester, the Collective reached out to gain insights from career services staff about what they will spend most of their time and energy on during the semester. The data we received back could be categorized into about 6 main categories:

  • Typical Career Services Offerings – we are still career services after all and we are still doing our day-to-day tasks like seeing students, working with employers, setting up career fairs, engaging with students in the career process, working with faculty and staff to integrate career into the classroom, etc.

  • Virtual Offerings/Space – this includes things like transitioning to a virtual career fair, delivering content in a remote/virtual environment, distance learning, creating new content specifically for a virtual environment, etc.

  • Strategic/Operations/Budget – this includes things like strategic planning, budget cuts and/or freezes, supporting staff through changes, amplifying career services to university leadership to underline the importance and value of the work being done, etc.

  • DEI/Equity – initiatives, understanding systems and addressing inequity and racial injustice, prioritize partners who have demonstrated a commitment to DEI, embedding DEI in all engagement with internal and external stakeholders, etc.

  • Data – assessment, first destination/career outcomes data, staying up-to-date on latest trends and research, metrics, etc.

  • Technology – this includes managing technology issues, learning new systems and/or software, launching new technology, etc.

We also coded the responses based on number of mentions and this is how the data shook out:

  • Typical Career Services Offerings – 195 mentions

  • Virtual Offerings/Spaces – 141 mentions

  • Strategic/Operations/Budget – 119 mentions

  • DEI/Equity – 25 mentions

  • Data – 20 mentions

  • Technology – 17 mentions

We didn’t just collect this data on priorities, we also collected it on type of role. So let’s look next at how this data breaks down by your role.

Career Education/Advising (any level)

  • Typical Career Services Offerings – 68 mentions

  • Virtual Offerings/Space – 48 mentions

  • Strategic/Operations/Budget – 18 mentions

  • DEI/Equity – 4 mentions

  • Data – 4 mentions

  • Technology – 3 mentions

Employer Relations (any level)

  • Typical Career Services Offerings – 32 mentions

  • Virtual Offerings/Space – 30 mentions

  • Strategic/Operations/Budget – 17 mentions

  • DEI/Equity – 5 mentions

  • Technology – 4 mentions

  • Data – 1 mention

Top-Level Leader

  • Typical Career Services Offerings – 73 mentions

  • Strategic/Operations/Budget – 72 mentions

  • Virtual Offerings/Space – 51 mentions

  • DEI/Equity – 12 mentions

  • Data – 10 mentions

  • Technology – 5 mentions


  • Typical Career Services Offerings – 22 mentions

  • Virtual Offerings/Space – 14 mentions

  • Strategic/Operations/Budget – 12 mentions

  • Data – 5 mentions

  • Technology – 5 mentions

  • DEI/Equity – 4 mentions

What gets measured gets managed. For example, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion was rated 4th out of 6 categories – and it wasn’t even close to being in the top 3 of priorities. If you aren’t being intentional in understanding DEI issues, then you have no idea what progress you are making. And, to be fair, it could very well be that DEI issues are front of mind and a priority for career staff, but that they weren’t mentioned in this one off pulse check of priorities.

In Summary

Finally, y’all, you cannot forget to add in the human element of data. And as someone that used to have “data driven decision maker” on their resume, I’m here to say that data should be informing your decisions. What is the context behind the data you are looking at? I can tell you from the question about priorities, some people who responded were just clearly having a no good, very bad, awful day – which happens (and it happens a lot in a global pandemic). Even as you are looking at this data we’ve presented today, put it in the context of how it applies to you, to your team, to your office. But please do more than collect good data…transform your data into action!

Vanessa Newton is currently the data and visualization lead for The Career Leadership Collective, managing the data of The National Alumni Career Mobility Survey. She has worked in career services utilizing data for seven years starting her career off at the University of Kansas before moving to the University of Rochester. Throughout her career, Vanessa has utilized data and story-telling to provide valuable insights for the institutions notably working on building out first year post-graduation outcomes processes and reporting of that data, earning her a “Viz of the Day” nod from Tableau for her work at the University of Rochester. Vanessa has a BA in Psychology from the University of Northern Iowa and a MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Eastern Kentucky University. Vanessa is currently based in Ann Arbor, Michigan and enjoys spending her time flying through the air and hanging out upside down.


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