Late last week, we had the opportunity to attend the Career Leadership Collective's Boston Think Tank, a meeting-of-the-minds focused on 'intentionally scaling' career services. When Jeremy Podany, former Executive Director of Career and Corporate Services at Colorado State University, and also the Founder and CEO of the Collective asked us to take part, we immediately answered with a resounding 'Yes please!' For us, there's almost nothing better than spending the day with a tremendous group of thought leaders who work in Career Services - except maybe if it also includes lunch...
You see, at uConnect, we've been thinking about this whole of 'scaling' the impact of career services notion since our inception. But we're constantly facing one ugly truth - We're always at least one degree removed from what's actually happening on the front lines. That is, we're not in the office, working directly with students, trying to get (and hold) their attention long enough to make a difference.
Very simply, our ability to continually innovate and design the tools to solve things like scaling, collaboration, and engagement depends on these real, non-sales related conversations where we can deep-dive into all the nitty-gritty and collaboratively discuss what's a problem and what's not, and which tactics are working and which ones don't.
As we said, a lot of what we talked about centered on 'scale,' so for those of you who didn't get to attend (and you really should) here's a bit more on the theme that shaped the round table discussions led that afternoon.
What is your definition of 'scale' and why is it important?
- Is scaling just doing more with less? What does scaling mean to you and how can you envision scaling to affect things like the content you create, your career services brand, your staff and your campus connections? What mechanisms do you already utilize to help you achieve these goals, and if you could scale anything, what would it be?
- The importance of scaling is related to so much of what career services are being held accountable for. For instance, ROI on education, reaching all students, and staff to student ratios making 1:1 work difficult.
What does scaling solve and what are the results?
- Your ability to scale can solve for a myriad of everyday issues like expanding reach and access, supporting a seemingly unlimited demand with limited resources, and extending your capabilities (even with the help of others). Often, these issues impact multiple stakeholders, not just your students, but also your employer partners and even your staff.
- This whole scaling thing can result in a whole lot of awesomeness, like increased staff capacity, more engaged students leading to better outcomes, higher satisfaction levels, and more recognition for your work.
Finally, what are some tactics for scaling?
- Admittedly, the whole second half of the day was devoted to unpacking scalable solutions to make them actionable - and everyone left feeling like they had a plan to bring home. You'll just have to attend one of CLC's future think tank events to get the whole story, but in a nutshell we talked about...
- Collaborating with the campus ecosystem in ways that extends beyond 'programming.' i.e., how can career services weave themselves (and their resources) into the fabric of work being done in the classroom, enrollment, academic advising, marketing and other departments to extend your reach and scale your impact? The answer often becomes framing a solution in a way that also supports the work of these other stakeholders, instead of asking them to do so for you. Start with the question of, what does your campus ecosystem think you offer to your students? How can you empower them to convey what you want them to, and how can you support them to ultimately support you?
- What outside examples of success can career services leverage to scale? Scaling applies to organizations of all shapes and sizes, and many of today's most recognizable brands have embedded different strategies for growth into their very brand fiber. How can Career Services take a cue from some of the big guys? Here are some real world examples the Collective suggested career services could apply to their work:
- Facebook - Source content, ideas and stories from the community to better engage and support your students
- Ted Talks - Engage your community of experts to create content and share their experiences once, apply it over and over
- Food Trucks - Meet people where they are - and give them something they really like (think: resume review sessions in the dining hall)
- Uber/Lyft - Train a team of "non-professionals" to do one thing really well, and efficiently (think: training student staff)
- Zappos - Give your customers the best possible experience, expect it will drive interest
- Now while some of these options make more sense than others, they all deserve consideration. The consensus? Creating content around resources, events, and information that can encourage meaningful engagement with thousands of students at a time. Facebook is a great example of how community can contribute their unique perspectives to a singular subject and Ted Talks provide an expert POV, in a format that continues to provide value even after the actual event. To the point, publishing a piece of content, or even better asking influencers in your campus community to publish content, in a way that students can find and engage with on their own can impact thousands of students while sharing the same piece of advice in an advising appointment will likely only ever impact that one student.
- The Career Leadership Collective is at the forefront of some of the most progressive, inspired, and intelligent thinking in our industry. There's no limit to what they'll accomplish in future ThinkTank events, and we look forward to contributing again in the future.
Want to learn more about how uConnect works to scale the impact of career services on the entire student journey? .
Check out some of the high caliber Career Leadership Collective content on their blog and follow @jeremypodany and @CareerLeadershp on Twitter.