By Jeremy Podany
Founder and CEO, The Career Leadership Collective
Probably once a month, I get an email that asks something like, “What does it take to be the best career center in the country?” I currently have one in my inbox from a VP of Advancement who is about to inherit career services and has a potential donor who wants a plan. Sometimes people even ask me for a list of the best career centers.
Of course, most of us are aware of the polls that try their hand at awarding the best, and if you are like me, you have a love-hate with those annual polls…until you get in the top 20 and showcase your glory on Linkedin. Ha! But seriously, they have some merit. Still, the polls often come across as outsiders who are less connected to career services and have to make a ‘field-wide’ value judgment on what defines the best. That is hard to do.
While it is undoubtedly difficult to define the criteria for ‘best’ if you are an outside pollster, it is even more complex when you realize that we are in the era of ‘each institution is unique,’ meaning criteria may vary by institution as to what each values the most. In terms of universal needs, there is definitely a need to measure the first destination outcome, and that is fairly straightforward, but there is more. Measuring career readiness levels is also a need, which is a bit more challenging to assess and define across diverse institutional types. What about broader career outcomes, such as being satisfied five to ten years after graduation or the level of preparation received? Furthermore, is popularity in the career services field part of the equation for being the best? It certainly helps, but to what degree? To be sure, defining ‘BEST’ has many dimensions.
I have had the privilege of dancing with the concept of ‘what is best’ in career services for the last 7 years in our consulting practice, and I have seen good, bad, and ugly up close in the pursuit of it. Therefore, I would like to invite you to dance with me on this concept in a different way.
Since you may have your own definition of best, different from pollsters or popularism, I encourage you to replace ‘best’ with ‘great,’ and to do one thing: Pursue greatness in career services in how your team and your institution define it!
This pursuit will quickly take you into the realms of:
Growth and sustained achievement of metrics and goals
Ubiquitous career readiness across the institution
These are not easy concepts and beg the question: however you define greatness in career services, what does it take to get there?
This is what I spend most of my time on, what it takes. Practical steps. Handling the challenges. Specific how-to's in the midst of change and transformation. Why? The pursuit takes intentionality, strategy, and hard work.
So check your motivation, specify your definition of what is best, and soak up what I believe are the top 10 considerations for setting up your career office with what it takes to become your best!
One bonus item:
You will end up waiting forever. Interims, job changes at the top, and new macro issues facing senior administrators will forever be present. Don’t be the campus that waits for what senior leadership thinks or plans. Put the plan on their desk instead and invite their feedback as you keep moving. They want you to think and plan and lead bravely.
Go forth with confidence! Happy innovating! Stay in touch!
Jeremy Podany | Founder & CEO | The Career Leadership Collective
Jeremy Podany is the Founder and CEO of The Career Leadership Collective, home of The National Alumni Career Mobility Survey and EMBARK. The Career Leadership Collective has done business with over 1,000 colleges and universities since 2017, providing big data and consulting solutions for the systemic career development needs of higher education. Jeremy is an innovation, leadership, and organizational growth connoisseur with niche expertise in 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 multiple unique start-ups inside and outside of universities. His inventions and consulting solutions have systemically helped thousands of university leaders and hundreds of thousands of college students with career education and social mobility.