Aug 27

5 Aspects of a Better Career Services Technology Solution for Creating Career Pathways

Anosognosia is a curious condition in which a person who suffers a disability seems to be unaware of its existence. If you ask an anosognosic patient with a paralyzed arm to pick up something, she wound’t state “I can’t do it.”  Rather, she would say something like “I don’t feel like picking it up right now.” This condition is distinguished from the condition of denial, which is a psychological defense mechanism.  It is a characterized as a form of neglect in which an anosognosic patient tries to not consider any physically harming conditions that plagues them.  Instead, they live life as if they have full ability to operate in their small world. Attempts have been made at an explanation, but nobody knows the exact cause or cure for this condition.

Reading about it made me unapologetically connect this condition to state of many professionals in career services, and more broadly, university leadership. In the age of connectivity, apps for everything, big data, and the plethora of the “most powerful and easy-to-use career center management & recruiting solutions,”  career services professionals have involuntarily picked up anosognosia. While participation in the Career Pathways Initiative has proved that you are not denying that changes need to be made — the increasing pressure to improve your career center’s performance may have caused some to overlook the fact that you are not equipped with the tools to be successful.

One key attribute of any useful, and successful, technology tool is that it allows one to leverage data that the application generates.  Facebook, LinkedIn, Uber and many others are acutely aware of this fact.   Within a career services context, the application must allow one to leverage student and employer engagement data to reduce friction and facilitate faster connectivity. In some ways – this is the core purpose of technology; to reduce friction in a process, faster, cheaper and better.  However, what I find most interesting is that great technology allows one to answer questions previously thought unanswerable.  My view is that to truly be innovative, one has to acknowledge what they don’t know AND what they don’t know they know.   In other words, break through the technology anosognosia.

Let’s outline what must be true for great career services technology solutions so that friction is reduced in establishing sustainable career pathways.  

1. Builds an Experience for Your User Journey and Pain-Points in your Job.

A user journey is a series of steps that one take to get something accomplished. This point is #1 because if the chosen technology does not account for your unique user journey, you will be evaluating new tools again next year.  Software developers should never forget that you are an actual person navigating through a process that you’re accustomed or trained to do. New processes are great, but only if the goal of the new process is aligned to reducing pain points in your current process. Having a new solution that forces you to change behavior for a process that’s working for you is ludicrous!

Considering this perspective reframes how one values and assesses new technology solutions. Questions like “what about this?” or “can it do this” are not as primary.  I would encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing in the way leads to you to your desired outcome. The questions you should ask when considering new-technology is “how does it improve this aspect of my current process that currently prevents me from accomplishing my goal faster, cheaper and/or better.  Incremental change is NOT a bad thing if you’re changing a very important thing.  It also ensures that you will use what invest in, whether it be with time, money or reputation. 

2. Engages Millennial Job Seekers.

Let’s take one of your students, Sarah, who is 20 years old. She’s almost done with school, but has no idea what to do next. She knows that she needs to absolutely find a job as her student loan grace period ends within 6 months of graduation, and she feels like no one is really there to help her as she makes her transition into working world. Sarah is also skeptical about working in a company environment that doesn’t allow her to contribute to its environment in her own way.  She dreams about becoming a significant contributor and valued for doing what she loves.  Her job decisions are linked to her ego in ways that weren’t as evident with previous generations.  This particular behavior is perceived in her social circles as cool, and she is conscientious of that, because that’s how Gen Y have been brought up. Yet, she’s totally lost when it comes to doing something she’s never done before — looking for a job.

As educators, you are acutely aware of the important role you play during such a critical time. To effectively engage them, there must be an awareness of what motivates them, what they value and fear.   With this knowledge, university leadership can create new solutions that addresses those fears, but taps into those motivations to drive positive action.  Technology should be no different.  

Now there are a number of factors that cause millennials to engage with technology. I am still perplexed that Snapchat is the most engaging social media application, but I’m not part of the generation to really understand it. However, I try through research the millennials I hire!  The few things that are common among the most engaging applications include an immersive, private, and fun user experience with an appealing design.  These applications have fast ah-ha moments, and provide access to opportunities the users couldn’t find anywhere else, and while leveraging network effects to enhance the cool factor.

I encourage university leaders to consider decisions about the product(s) based on these attributes.  It is equally important that these solutions embrace your students user journey, which is distinct from your own. Some point points along their journey are widely known — from writing a resume to not hearing from an employer after applying to preparing for interviews. The app that addresses these pain points as students feel them in a simple is one that is empathetic and meets the user where he are she is. The reward – increased usage and engagement – without increased work from your office.  

3. Tracks and Measure your Success.

We believe that there is one metric that matters most for any university: job outcomes. OMTM is a powerful concept that introduces focus and discipline when it comes to defining the strategies to increase your career center’s performance. If the office is struggling in several areas and you’re trying to fix them all at the same time, then OMTM is a good place to re-align the team.

The challenge, however, is that ‘job outcomes,’ similar to a company’s revenue, is a lagging indicator of success.  It becomes imperative to focus on the leading key performance indicators that would lead to improved job outcomes.  These leading KPIs should be tracked and reported in regular increments. The key is to ensure that the leading indicators are those that truly lead to the desired goal: improving job outcomes.  Good technology solutions will provide clear visibility to your KPIs and report them accurately and in real-time.  Are you students discovering companies, internship and job opportunities?  Are they working on their resumes and applying to opportunities?  What I love about this point is that it forces technologists to be empathetic and accountable to its client base.  If the tool you select doesn’t make it easy to measure, track, report, and take action on leading KPIs, then the tool is not aligned to your success.  

4. Develops an Ecosystem Rather than a Place.

We’ve often heard and repeat the adage, “it takes a village.”  When it comes to establishing sustainable career pathways for students, this couldn’t me more trust.  Our research has shown that students need help from everyone in the ecosystem — career services, employers, alumni, faculty, parents, and other stakeholders in their success — to advance through the job search process. They yearn for information from these influencers to make sure they are not missing out on opportunities and are looking for ways to to make their process easier. This is important for career services because the company that provides your technology solutions should fully understand the dynamics of the ecosystem and build it into their solution.

The success of students remains a responsibility shared by the community. The technology that works to bring career services and alumni relations together, faculty and employers together, parents and career services together and facilitates all of the other possible connections will relieve some of the pressure the career center faces. If the office is able to bring everyone together to connect and collaborate in a pleasurable experience, then that would be one high performing career center; university.

5. Understands that You Are Resource Constrained.

Critical transformation requires “additional resources” and even if all of the above is solved for, these words unfortunately perpetuates anosognosia. On the other hand, businesses that successfully transform an industry, totally disrupt the “additional resources” mindset. This is where innovation comes in.  I’ve often found it useful to consider the root word, innovate, to maintain alignment on what we’re all trying to accomplish: to make something better.  It is important to note that innovation is not confined to the product itself.  Great companies make pricing strategies better, distribution channels better, cost structures better, partnership agreement better, key operations better, etc.  For example, in the early days, Redbox realized that they made more money pricing movie rentals at $1 per night, which was significantly cheaper than rivals.  Because the buyer was price insensitive at $1, they often kept movies longer than if they rented it initially for $2 or $3 dollars.  Its sort of like buying that gym membership based on what you think you would do – and easily waste a lot of money in the process.

The reality is that the career center is a cost center for your university and solutions that you provide should have an innovative model that reduces your cost – both real and hidden.  This is critical in the ROI discussions one will inevitably have with leadership. 

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This list is not mean to be exhaustive, but to focus on critical attributes that I hope facilitates valuable discussion.  For example, I didn’t address the user journey of employers and how they would like to improve brand reach and visibility, while reducing time and cost to hire.  These things don’t matter much if the things mentioned above are ignored.  

You might have seen my post about the checklist for how to choose a technology vendor for your career services operations which is another great resource when evaluating solutions. Hopefully, the companies you choose to partner with are mindful of the things mentioned, and that it has doubled down on helping you knock out any anosognosia that you and your career pathways team have.

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