There is virtually no business that has the luxury of enjoying the status quo. Today, the business of education is in a period of great transition. There is an old business adage; “For every customer, we must show how we can save them money, make them money or make them more competitive.” Now more than ever, this applies to all sides of the education equation.
Consider this adage and apply it not only to students but also to the career department, affiliated departments, and the institution at large. While the mission will always be supporting students as they embark on their journey into the world of work, there are new opportunities to apply career services practices all along the education continuum. Adapting your career services approach could be as simple as adding it to the classroom or building a curriculum. But, true innovation to keep pace with the times requires the career discussion to be part of the marketing to attract students, admissions efforts, academic guidance, and overall pedagogy. Learning institutions that are going to thrive in this rapidly changing environment will need to ask themselves key questions in order to make the adaptations needed and, ultimately, innovate. As you consider adapting your department to better serve “your customers,” consider the following 5 questions.
1. Can I Extend Even More Value to My Institution?
You provide value in everything that you do. Career services is critical to the guidance and support system for your students and alumni. But consider how you provide financial value by helping student enrollment, retention, and graduation success. To put it simply, a great career services department can be a financial pillar to an institution. You can provide prospective students a documented, results-oriented roadmap to career success. Doesn't that make your school more valuable in the eyes of every student? Wouldn't that impact success outcomes? What if you innovated the “pick a major” approach, and instead used real predictive science and guided a learner to a vocation or career and then helped them choose the best pathway of study.
2. Can Career Services Actually Drive Outcomes in Alignment with My Institution’s Strategic Plan?
You’re a leading driver of those dollars. College is a big investment and people know that. According to some studies, the rate of return on a college investment is below 14%. Today’s learner requires the institution to have a supportive apparatus that will be geared toward finding a meaningful and purpose-filled life as a result of their education. Knowing the right career option and planning an efficient educational pathway to attain it is the quickest way for learners to immediately realize a return on their investment.
3. How Do the Services I Provide Influence Persistence and Academic Outcomes?
There is an exciting and broad diversity of learners that come through your institution. Each of them have different backgrounds, aspirations, and needs. Rigid, one-size-fits-all career services are a thing of the past. Adaptability is absolutely essential to keep up with the changing education system and workforce. In order to provide adaptable services, you’ve got to understand exactly what your learners are working toward. They’re looking for an empowering career purpose and you can help provide that. Think of your department as a hub for all of the most important things learners need. You can provide expert academic support, career counseling, job market research, career connections, and further help after graduation.
4. How Do I Reach as Many Students as Possible?
You know that every learner needs career services even if they don’t know it. What if they all became aware of that fact at the same time? If every student at your institution suddenly woke up ready to come to your office, would you have the ability to meet their needs? The answer is most likely no. How do you scale your services up to reach as many students as possible? The following are some ideas.
- Incorporate online platforms offering value to students, counselors as well as faculty
- Utilize self self paced career discovery and exploration tools to get students invested
- Leverage your existing marketing department to get the word out about all of the wonderful value career services can provide during their time at your school
- Use encounter tools that make virtual one on one’s easy
- Embrace ways to easily connect learners to resources, like work preparation tools and even work opportunities.
- Find platforms that commingle well with other resources you provide
5. How Can We Provide Lasting Value to Learners?
This question should be front and center when you consider how to evolve your career services. Most students will be at your institution for 2-5 years, but they’ll be alumni for the rest of their lives.
- What support do we provide students pre and post-graduation?
- Can these programs be applied at steps from recruitment to alumni support?
- Are we creating lifelong learners thus reengaging a student for ongoing studies?
Applying tools that provide many of these things in alumni and career support programs will make you an attractive location for future students and increase returning students who are lifelong learners. Investments in this area will also allow you to foster direct connections with employers. Your department should serve as a direct conduit between your students and companies.
By continually revisiting these five questions, you can prepare your department for the future that lies ahead – one where Career Services is an essential component of a thriving university. For more ideas on expanding and evolving career services, explore this topic further in the context of Enrollment, Student Services, or our PathwayU solution.