Six years ago, our campuses decided to come together to figure out how to redesign the handoff between college and career. Today, we are delighted to release a useful playbook and action guide designed to help your campus reimagine career readiness to better serve students.
Too often in higher education, we use the “bolt-on” approach to solving challenges. Rather than re-designing our work around the outcomes we need to achieve, we “bolt-on” a solution to our existing design to try to address the need. This rarely creates the level of change needed, though it does generate a sense of accomplishment.
Career services also suffers from this innovation challenge. Rather than taking seriously the fact that the vast majority of students come to college with the goal of getting a job soon after graduation, we treat career readiness as an afterthought and bolt on a career center to address that need – typically underfunding it and failing to empower it in the institution or incorporate its work into students’ regular programs of study.
There are multiple reasons career services has evolved this way, including our own cognitive dissonance about the purpose of higher education in relation to careers. But the bottom line is that it isn’t working for students. When they look to us for guidance on how to transition seamlessly into meaningful careers, we often let them down.
So seven UIA campuses banded together to ask: If career services was truly designed to prepare our students to transition into a thriving career, what would it look like? And how can we better manage the handoff between college and career?
We do not have this all figured out, but we did a great deal of valuable collaborative work designed to help the field wrestle with these questions. As with everything we do in the UIA, it isn’t about us. This is about serving low-income, first-generation and students of color better as an entire sector. We explore and learn as a network and push ourselves to be more ambitious and aggressive than the natural pace of change in higher ed. Our goal is to blaze a trail that make it easier for any institution to do the bolder and braver work our country needs on behalf of students.
Here are a few things that struck me personally from this initiative:
- We misunderstand the scope of career services. We mapped all the elements people on campus believed to belong to career services and found that most of those things actually reported to other entities (deans, departments, etc.). We expect far too much from career services when we don’t resource them appropriately or elevate the office with the influence they need to address all the things we expect.
- There is wide variation in the relationship between college and employers. That spectrum is expansive and we have to get real about whether we have a meaningful relationship with an employer, a transactional one, or one that only exists on paper. By inflating what we believe are the number of real partnerships with employers, we shortchange our students. Each campus needs to spend time understanding this and building robust partnerships with the employers that will meet the needs of our learners in the future.
- The future of career services is inside the classroom. “The one place all students go is the classroom” was an important observation from one of our career readiness team members, and they were right. The future is not using the “bolt-on” approach and just hoping students figure this out on their own. The future is to reposition career services professionals as instructional designers and coaches to support faculty integrating career readiness experiences into every single classroom. Imagine if every single class you ever took had a meaningful career readiness experience in it. How differently would you have felt about graduating and moving forward?
Lastly, the first step of design is empathy. Conducting consistent and inclusive empathy interviews will teach you what students really need, what they struggle with, and where we can actually help them. These conversations cannot be sporadic. Instead, we have to involve students meaningfully in the innovation/change work happening on their behalf. How they see success is so different from what we assume. This short but powerful video always hits me hard, and I hope it helps you.
UIA Upcoming Event
On Tuesday August 23rd from 2-3pm Eastern, we will be co-hosting a webinar about designing the future of career services with the Chronicle of Higher Education. We will be joined by Andy Chan of Wake Forest University, Brenna Gomez from Oregon State University, and Amir Badr from Upkey. (Registration link)
Learn with Us
- College to Career Transformation Playbook
- Innovating to Close Equity Gaps: The National Institute for Student Success
- 11 Inspiring Quotes by HigherEd Leaders for Challenging Times
- Proactive Advising Playbook for Higher Education Innovators
- Free campus readiness assessment tool to help you prepare to redesign career readiness
We know your time is limited. That's why each issue, we'll choose THE BEST things we watched, listened to, or read.
- The big barriers that get in the way of employer-campus engagement - California Competes
- Closing the college-employer communications gap - WorkingNation
- Outcomes and Metrics that Matter - Handshake
- Andy Chan’s Tedx talk: “Career Services Must Die”
- Open Campus “Conversation with Andy Chan”
September 8-9, 2022: Rise Up Annual Conference on Higher Education and Prison, Online (Deadline to register: not available yet)
September 12 - 14, 2022: NCAN Conference, Atlanta, GA (Deadline to register early: July 15, 2022)
September 14-16, 2022: Rural Community College Alliance National Conference, Council Bluffs, IA (Deadline to register: September 9, 2022)
September 16 - 18, 2022: #RealCollege Annual Convening, Camden, NJ (Deadline to register early: July 25, 2022)
September 21-24, 2022: SREE Annual Conference, Camden, NJ (Deadline to register: August 21, 2022)
September 27 - 29, 2022: National Fund for Workforce Solutions Convening, Minneapolis, MN (Deadline to register: August 22, 2022)
September 29 - 30, 2022: Excelencia in Education Celebration, Washington, DC (Registration information not available)
October 23 - 26, 2022: NACADA Annual Conference, Portland, OR (Deadline to register early: September 8, 2022)
October 24 - 25, 2022: Complete College America Convening, Atlanta, GA, (Deadline to register: September 9, 2022)
November 2 - 4, 2022: ACL Annual Conference, Chicago, IL (Deadline to register early: September 14, 2022)
November 6 - 8, 2022: APLU Annual Meeting, Denver, CO (Deadline to register: not yet available)
November 16 - 19, 2022: ASHE Annual Conference, Las Vegas, NV (Deadline to register: October 15, 2022)
Stuff We Love
- Custom masks (these were a hit + effective at our first IRL event)
- Wear glasses? Definitely try these eyeglass cleaners
- Want to create eye contact on zoom? Try this camera
- My new favorite affordable webcam WITH an embedded ring light
- Don’t have room for an under the desk treadmill? This one folds up.
- Travel for work? This suitcase stand in your home makes the turnaround easier
"This project has made me aware of my blind spots. It’s helped me be more empathetic. It made me aware of where students are coming from. I was probably operating under the assumption that students were more like me, but that’s obviously not the case."