More People First Timers Should Meet at #NACE17

by David Ong

The best way to meet NACE leaders is to attend the NACE First-Timers Breakfast on Wednesday morning at 7:30. In addition to the 10 people you should meet mentioned in  yesterday’s blog, here are more people you should meet at #NACE17.

Trudy Steinfeld: Many of us who have known Trudy over the years describe her as “a force of nature.. She’s best known as the Executive Director of the Wasserman Center for Career Services at New York University and for writing her “must-read” blog in Forbes magazine. Add to that her recent appointment to the 2017-18 NACE Board of Directors and her role as co-editor of Leadership in Career Services: Voices from the Field and Winning the War for College Talent and you have one committed lady! When you meet her, be sure to buy her a martini with blue cheese-stuffed olives, then ask her about her past NACE work in developing professional development activities for our members.

Stephanie Pallante: If you’re a conference first timer, be on the lookout for Stephanie Pallante, who heads up campus recruiting at Aramark and is currently serving as the Conference Co-Chair. Stephanie is a ball of energy, and she has channeled that energy in serving on both the Board of Directors from 2014-2016 and has also chaired several committees. She’d be the first to tell any conference newcomer to attend either the employer or college breakfasts on Thursday morning, especially if you’re looking to network with professionals experiencing the same day-to-day dilemmas you face!

Kathy SimsKathy Sims: I was incredibly fortunate to meet this remarkable woman during my first NACE conference in 2001 (also in Vegas!), when she was serving her term as NACE president (while also managing the career center at UCLA). Since then, this member of the NACE Academy of Fellows spent several years leading efforts related to NACE’s ongoing advocacy strategies. In the meantime, she has begun a new career with GiftedHire, one of the vendors in the NACE Exhibitor Hall. Be sure to visit Kathy and the other vendors in the Exhibitor Hall to get the latest scoop on the products and services which are helping to transform our field!

Vanessa Strauss: Speaking of that same 2001 annual conference in Vegas….I had the privilege of getting to know former NACE president Vanessa Strauss from the FDIC at that same event, and boy, am I glad I did! You’d be hard pressed to find anyone within our organization who promotes NACE more than Vanessa! Her NACE resume is endless, and she’d be the first person to urge any newcomer to volunteer for NACE duty. She walks to the walk and talks the talk as well. When you check in at the registration area, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be greeted by Vanessa, who year after year volunteers her time to assist in the member check-in process. Be on the lookout for her (and tell her I sent you!).

Norma Guerra Gaier: As the current Director of the Career Center at Texas State University, Norma already has a full plate; Her plate is about to get a whole lot fuller this summer when she moves into the role of NACE President-Elect for 2017-2018. Norma’s passion for NACE runs deep (she even worked for the enterprise early in her career….ask her to tell you some stories about it!). More recently, her work with NACE has focused on causes such as the NACE Principles for Professional Practice and advocacy efforts. Be sure to introduce yourself to Norma, and I am sure she’ll give you plenty of reasons as to why you should get more involved with this great organization!

(Editor’s note:) And, make time to meet David Ong. He’s outgoing and full of great ideas.

ongDavid Ong, Director, Corporate Recruiting, Maximus, Inc.
Twitter: @dtong2565
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/dave-ong/0/604/513

David Ong currently oversees corporate and college recruiting activities at MAXIMUS Inc. in Reston, VA. Prior to joining MAXIMUS in 2004, David managed college recruiting programs at Booz Allen Hamilton, Citigroup Corporate and Investment Bank, and Capital One. He served on the NACE Board of Directors from 2011-2015. He is a proud graduate of the University of Richmond, where he majored in business.

10 People to Meet at #NACE17

by Marc Goldman

Las Vegas, baby! My first NACE conference back in 2001 was held in Vegas, and I never tire of returning there—that other city that never sleeps. Waking up in the morning to see people first heading toward their rooms. Surveying the blackjack tables to find NACE Past-President Dan Black holding court and making everyone laugh. Breathing in the scientifically designed air and squinting through the dusk- or dawn-like lighting of the Paris hotel to keep you wide awake and slightly off your game no matter what time of day or evening it might be. And all of this can be yours if the price is right! No, wait, that’s an entirely different form of gambling. All of this can be yours if you attend the NACE 2017 conference from June 6-9!

I was asked to resurrect my traditional (if twice counts these days) blog post about who to meet at the NACE conference. And I am happy to oblige. Having been to so many of these gatherings, I forget what it is like to be a first-time attendee or know very few people in the massiveness of the crowd. I mean 2,000 or so career services and campus relations professionals running roughshod to get that perfect seat at a keynote or to be first in line at the buffet table or beverage outpost can be daunting. Where do you begin? If you are a conference first-timer, why not say hi to two awesome and extremely enthusiastic individuals who are leading the conference first-timers team, Christine Dito of UC – Davis and Lindsay Moran of Liberty Mutual Insurance.   They will be in Vegas to welcome you and lead a fun breakfast session on Wednesday morning just for first-timers. But don’t feel like you will be on your own there. It is likely the largest event at the conference other than keynotes or celebrations. And Chris and Lindsay have assembled their own team of NACE rock stars to help them with this great program. Somehow, even I got on this committee! Well, I do a mean bit of karaoke, but the videos have not been put on You Tube just yet.

Looking to make a connection from the west coast? Do your best to meet up with Amy Adams from Pepperdine or Vicki Klopsch from Scripps. Amy just served as co-chair with Melissa Gervase of Turner Construction for the Leadership Advancement Program, and Vicki was a member of the 2017 Conference Program Committee with me. This soft spoken (ha!) New Yorker always enjoys conference time with these two California colleagues. They both have such dedication to their students and their institutions, and they provide interesting views on our field as well.

Interested in learning more about NACE leadership? Make Kathleen Powellsure to say hi to outgoing NACE President Kathleen Powell from William and Mary and incoming NACE President Glen Fowler from the California State Auditor’s office. They are always a joy to speak with and incredibly encouraging and supportive colleagues to have in your corner. Through them, you can gain insights into the history and inner workings of NACE as well as one career services and one employer perspective on our field. That is if you get to chat with both of them while at the conference. Challenge accepted?!

Many of you know that Marilyn Mackes is our stalwart and steadfast NACE Executive Director, but did you know that NACE now has an Assistant Executive Director, Matthew Brink, who oversees the many amazing programs and services offered by our professional association? Matthew comes from an extensive background in career services and is quite the conference raconteur. Always looking his dapper best, Matthew is someone to get to know if you have the chance to cross paths with him in the Paris or on the Strip!

And as always, feel free to say hi to me. How else will I know that someone has actually checked out this blog post? Throw me a bone here. Or better yet, toss me a $100 chip, so I can play blackjack with Dan! See you in June, and follow me at the conference for my anecdotes and observations. I’m @MarcGoldmanNYC.

Marc Goldman, Executive Director, Career Center, Yeshiva UniversityMarc Goldman, Executive Director, Career Center, Yeshiva University
Twitter: @MarcGoldmanNYC
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/marcjgoldman

#NACE17: Meet. Greet. Follow Up!

by Kathy Douglas
Make the most of networking opportunities at NACE 2017!

As career development professionals, we all know how to do this. We advise our students on networking at conferences, events, and career fairs all the time. So I know you know how, and the annual NACE conference is the perfect time to network with peers across the country in a super friendly atmosphere. It’s the proverbial opportunity to practice what we preach. Introverts and extroverts, thinkers and feelers, high and medium EQs alike can prep, reach out, and make the most of networking during #NACE17!

The advance planning

Reach out pre-conference on LinkedIn.  I just posted a discussion in the NACE LinkedIn group asking who is going to the conference, and confirming that my travel arrangements are done!  This can be a great way to get out in front of peers, and start networking well in advance. Once you have access to a list of conference attendees, you will also have the perfect excuse to connect. Update the standard LinkedIn invite: “I see you are going to NACE. I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network, and hope to meet you there!” I did this several years ago for the New Orleans NACE, and did indeed meet up with a few individuals I had pre-connected with on LinkedIn.

Post to the NACE Community discussion board.  I just tried itwill let you know how it goes!  Hopefully I will hear from other conference goers, so I know who to look for in June!

Download, set up, and use the conference app. Conference apps offer some great resources and tools for streamlining social media, allowing messaging with peers, collecting session info and locations in one place, and providing real time information on session changes. Last year’s app included capability of making your own schedule, connecting with conference goers, creating your own profile, and linking to your social media accounts. Make the app part of your world for a few days, and if possible, set it up before you leave home.

Reach out to your established NACE and career services networks before the conference. If you have done MLI, RLI, career coaching, NACE blogging, committee work, or other NACE programs, reach out to peers to meet for coffee or dinner. Last year I was able to physically connect with a good half-dozen cohort colleagues from MLI, and connected with several more I didn’t have the opportunity to meet in person.  Ironically, I was also able to meet current and former colleagues from my own university that I rarely see, even in New Haven. And last but not least, I made it a point to meet NACE’s Social Media and Communities Manager, Claudia Allen, in person after we had been communicating via e-mail and social media for months. I made it a point to stalk her and track her down to say hello in person!

MLI 12 Alumnas meeting for lunch at #NACE16: Julie Labich, Associate Director of Employer Relations at USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, Kathy Douglas, and Ann Garner, Executive Director, Career Center, Johns Hopkins University

The obvious things to do

Tweet and Instagram.  Tag #NACE17. The first time Twitter made any sense to me was during #NACE11. In real time, conference goers were tweeting out take-aways from panels and recommending attendance to peers. I might have shuffled between sessions, hearing about one that sounded really great going on at the same time! It is a brilliant tool for real time communication. I used to feel a little awkward tweeting, thinking I wasn’t paying attention during programs, but have found just the opposite to be true: I listen much more carefully for take-aways to report out to the twittersphere. It’s a quick and easy way to share programs, spark conversations, recommend activities outside of the conference, and o congratulate peers.  And it becomes an historical record, saved indefinitely online.  Check out #NACE16 on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see what you may have missed last year! 

Go where no woman or man has gone before

Don’t always travel with known colleagues during meals. There is comfort in avoiding “cafeteria angst” by meeting and sitting with people you already know, but it limits new connections and conversations.  Be bold and sidle up to a few strangers at breakfast.  Offer to pour someone’s coffee if you see them struggling with a plate and bowl at the breakfast bar. If you are with colleagues, split up at the table. Make the conversation light, talk about the food. Then ask a few questions about the person next to you, their institution or company and their role. Ideally they will ask you about you, too. But even if they don’t, find a follow up. “How is your recruiting going this year?” you might ask an employer rep or colleague. (Warning: Ask college sports-related questions at your own peril.)

Be curious, ask questions, then listen 

We all know that people like to talk about themselves, and genuine curiosity is inviting.  Try to find common ground as well as differences quickly with people you meet. And then ask more questions.  Offer compliments—”I can’t imagine how you manage to provide services to 10,000 students with a staff of 23,” I might say to a colleague from a big-10 school. “How do you do it?  What kind of third party resources do you use? How are you still standing?” Or you may ask anyone questions about activities outside of the conference such as: “Which zip line will you be doing this week?”

Extend the conference dialog

We’re all listening, learning, and discussing ideas, best practices, big picture themes, and new technologies over several days with fabulous keynote speakers. The topics of discussion are endless. Use the conference content for talking points.  During last year’s conference, you might have asked other people what they thought about Leland Melvin’s “orbital perspective,” or Lindsay Pollak‘s comment that McKinsey is now using “young leader” to characterize new recruit cohorts rather than using the terms “millennial” or “Gen Y.”  Have we come full circle?

Introducing two colleagues over breakfast: Alyssa Student, Assistant Director, CDO, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Welsley Thorne, Director of the Career Center at UCLA.

Be generous by introducing people you know or have just met to each other

The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.
Keith Ferrazzi, Author of Never Eat Alone

Be a facilitator at your lunch table, or at the phone charging stations. Be generous and introduce people you know to other people you have just met or colleagues from other schools.  Facilitate group introductions around a table, and ask a good general question for anyone at the table. Once a conversation gets going, sit back and be an active listener.

Try this simple conversation starter

Use the fun NACE name badge ribbons as a conversation starter (and be sure to select a few for yourself!). “I see this is your first conference. How’s it going so far?”  Or “I see you need coffee before speaking to anyone in the a.m.  Me too.  Have you had any yet?”  Or, “Oh, I see you’re presenting.  What’s your topic?”  “What year did you do MLI, and did Manny present?”  Or “I see you’re an MLI alum.  What is MLI?”


Be a career services or industry researcher

Come with questions for your own research, and use them once you learn some basics from a new connection. What do you want to know to help you professionally and to improve your office? Pick a few topics that you can use over the course of the conference. You might poll several people: “Does your office have any diversity and inclusion initiatives?”  “Have you felt the effects of changes in federal hiring for your population?” “How is your office structured, and what are the relationships among the career office, student affairs, admissions and other administrative units?” “Do you provide services for alumni?” “What population is your company recruiting for this fall?” “Does your office offer professional skills workshops, and if so, what are they?”  “What was the best new program you did this year?”

Think about networking as relationship building

One of my favorite quotes on networking comes from Pete Leibman:

Here’s the truth: Networking is NOT all about who you know or who knows you. Networking is all about who likes you and who respects you.
When possible, go beyond the simple exchange of contact information or business cards. Let new connections know something personal about you, even a small thing.  Claudia Allen became my BFF over e-mail once we mentioned our grandchildren. Take a few extra minutes to share a joke, talk about a great bookstore (or comedy show) you found around the corner from the hotel—try to connect on multiple levels.

Taking a break at #NACE16 to celebrate and make some new friends!

Don’t forget to follow up

Follow Up. This is what we all tell our students.  Take quick notes with the gist of any productive conversations and note the follow up you would like to do. “Send so and so that article on salary negotiations for women.” “E-mail a copy of our first advising session checklist.” “Introduce so and so to so and so.” “Thank so and so for great idea and tell them you hope to see them at NCDA.” “Check in about X university’s policy on accepting offers.” I use business cards I collect to write on, and supplement with paper or the notepad function on my phone.
And remember: What happens at NACE should NOT just stay at NACE. Keep the connections alive. Happy conferring!

KKathryn Douglasathy Douglas, Senior Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/douglaskathy
Twitter: @fescdo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Yale-FES-Career-Development-Office/134339426609741
Website: environment.yale.edu/cdo

#NACE17: “Start Me Up”

by Kathleen Powell

“Oh Sweet Child of Mine,” I want you to “Walk this Way” to the NACE17 Conference & Expo!

“Don’t Stop Believing,” the conference is around the corner and if you’re new to the profession or your first time at the conference, I’ll see you in Vegas!  Ok, even if you’ve been to several conferences, I’m looking forward to seeing you!  “Ain’t Nobody” more excited to see you than me!

So, we’ve all heard, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” “Our Lips Are Sealed.”  You’ll make new connections, or rekindle old ones, attend sessions, connect during breaks and go “Round and Round” with colleagues as we are “Burning Down the House,” ok? (Not really!)

The NACE17 conference will present amazing opportunities.  For some, there may be nervous jitters about what to expect, who will I know, what should I wear, and so forth.  Fear not!  I’m here to assist,  “Time After Time.”

NACE17 will give you plenty of opportunities to network and network you should.  There are no hidden tips or tricks to networking.  “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” and you’re in good company, we all have interests, backgrounds and knowledge to share and striking up a conversation at the conference will come easily.  New faces, fresh ideas, and plenty of time to expand your professional network. “One Things Leads to Another!”

The conference app is your friend!  Use it, “All Night Long.”  Be strategic.  Pick your sessions and go early, the rooms do fill up quickly, but if you can’t get into a presentation, the handouts and/or PowerPoints are in the app and available at MyNACE after the conference.  And, I’d suggest a backup session as an alternate.  There are more than 80 sessions to choose from throughout the conference and I have no doubt you’ll land on sessions of your choice!

You’ll be “Hungry Like the Wolf”, so take advantage of all the breaks and provided meals in the Exhibit Hall.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised by all the excitement, products, vendors, and ways to connect.  “Jump” on the site visits and the Innovation Challenge.  “How Will I Know,” you ask, if  you are participating in site visits and the Innovation Challenge?  “Bust a Move” and go to NACEweb.org and either register or check MyNACE.

With “Every Breath You Take”, don’t be “Too Shy”, because if you’ve not figured it out by now, the 80s are coming to NACE17!  “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and you’ll be going “Round and Round,” even a “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” will make you think you “Just Can’t Get Enough.” That’s right, you read it here first, Thursday night you’ll be saying, “I Love Rock N’ Roll.”  You’ll be “Walking on Sunshine” after driving your “Little Red Corvette.”  So final words, “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” safe travels to NACE17 because it’s “My Perogative.”

Kathleen PowellKathleen Powell, president of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, will be attending #NACE17 in Las Vegas. Look for her…and say hello…”That’s What Friends Are For”!

The Resume:  Capital R Versus Lowercase r

by Lisa Tandan

Just last week a colleague from another student affairs department came over to talk with us about what we do at the career center at Hofstra University. “I know you do great work with resumes…,” he began. At that point, about 10 of us in the room perked up, all ready to pounce: “We’re more than just resumes!”

It’s a scene that I’ve seen play out across institutions, across state lines. The instant reaction we, in career development, have when we feel defined as “the resume place.” We’re so much more than that!

That noted, last semester I conducted a qualitative study of our student appointments. The first question asked students to fill in what they learned during their one-on-one appointment with a career counselor, with no prompting and no requirement that it be written in a full sentence. The question was open-ended and one word answers were okay. Of the 180 respondents, 99 of them, the largest number by far, included the word “resume.”

I’d like to propose that, when we, in career development, talk about resume, we are talking about a tool. We’re talking about the actual PDF or Word document that contains contact information, action verbs, education, skills, and experience. Resume, to us, is one of the many tools that students need when they graduate, along with the ability to tell their stories, talk about their strengths, and show the career readiness skills employers seek.

But, I think, for those outside our profession, resume means something else. The resume becomes “Resume” with a capital “R” and encompasses all of career development. It’s all the things that, because they’re not in our field, they don’t yet have the terminology to say. Resume MEANS career development to them.

Students talk casually about being able to add something to their resume. We’ve often heard that “This experience will be great for my resume!” When we hear comments like this, I hypothesize the speaker doesn’t mean to limit this great experience to simply writing something on their resume document. While that’s part of it, they also likely mean adding it to their repertoire, to their story, to their life’s accomplishments, to their reasons why someone should select them for a position. It’s much more than just writing something on a piece of paper. It’s making this new experience a part of their career narrative.

If this is so, where do we go from here? Based on the feedback from my qualitative analysis, and the knowledge that most campuses still see career development as “the resume place,” I am wondering if we can take that word and own it. Can we claim it and redefine it for our campuses? Instead of immediately correcting everyone, can we start meeting others where they are and talk about what they mean when they say resume? Is it just the document? Or something more? My money is on something more.

Answer these questions and join the discussion in the NACE Community!

lisa tandanLisa C. Tandan, Director of Career Development and Assessment, Hofstra University
Twitter: @lisatandan
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisatandan/

The Sum of Our Experiences: The Value of Hiring Military Spouses

by Andrea M. Wynne

Whenever most people see someone in uniform with their families or find out that a friend or colleague is married to a service member, the common response is: “Thank you for your service or please thank your spouse.” However, when reviewing resumes and screening for talent, gratitude may not be what comes to mind for many employers. Although there are more partnerships today to assist with this need and a greater understanding of the military lifestyle, there is still a significant amount of work to be done.

As a person who has been a military spouse for more than 20 years, I have personally felt the angst and anxiety of applying for jobs in fear of being dismissed because of frequent moves. The locations for each job, the organizations in which we volunteer and even the universities we attend can often be a dead giveaway about why there are gaps in employment and job changes. Although hiring managers should screen resumes objectively, some will see gaps and moves in a negative way. It is my opinion, that these assumptions unfairly label military spouses and do not take into account that anyone can move at any time and employee loyalty is not what it used to be. In fact, according to research by LinkedIn.com, the Millennial Generation will move jobs up to four times within their first decade out of college. Therefore, even if an employee has no affiliation with the military, they may leave an organization after a very short time.

Additionally, I have had colleagues who are military spouses say that they were passed over for promotions and told that they could not take advantage of professional development courses because employers were more focused on their marital status than on their talents and strengths. Yes, there are laws against blatant discrimination, but what about the conversations and biases that are unseen or are only spoken about behind closed doors? As with most things, the only way to combat such biases is to raise awareness and stereotypes that create the stigma.

In addition to a degree (I have a B.A. in human resources and an M.A. in education), military spouses bring valuable additional skills and experience to an employer’s work force. Below are three reasons why military spouses add value to an organization whether they are employees for two years or 20:

  1. Life Experiences: When a person has traveled domestically or internationally, it often means they have varied experiences that help them connect to others. They have, most likely, met different and diverse people, learned new cultures, and maybe even new languages. If customer service or connection in any form is required in a position, imagine the value that someone who has seen three countries and lived in four states can add.
  2. Flexibility: Remember the three countries and four states? Well, most military families also have to jump through many hoops to get things done for every single move. Furthermore, there is often a great deal of uncertainty surrounding deployments, temporary duty, and even day-to-day schedules of their loved ones. After a lifetime of “hurry up and wait,” military spouses grow to be quite the flexible and understanding group.
  3. Strategic Thinkers: Moving an entire household, finding new schools, doctors, vets, and hairdressers every few years in new states and countries can be quite the challenging task. Military spouses have to draw on their strategic thinking skills to figure out how to keep the family going and how to create a new home in a place they have never been. After a few moves, they begin to find patterns and gaps not only in the services they seek out, but in organizations in which they work. A person who has diversity of thought could be just the innovator a company needs to help them grow and excel.

The overarching message here is not to say that military spouses are better or more skilled than anyone else or that anyone owes us a job. The key take away is that when trying to find that perfect cultural fit or fresh face to help an organization with its mission, the practice of automatically assuming that being married to the military means money lost, is an opportunity lost.

Andrea WynnAndrea M. Wynne, Career Development Specialist and Global Career Development Facilitator, The University of Washington – Tacoma
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreawynnemaed/

 

 

Making Technology Decisions

by Kelli Smith

I love my job. I mean, I genuinely love my job. Knowing our area is making a positive impact on our students every single day is incredibly rewarding. I especially love the constant change we have in our department and the significant growth we have had in our programs and staff. I see it as a challenge and relish in it.

But it is no secret to my staff and close colleagues that my least favorite part of being a director is vendor solicitations. There are emails from vendors every single day. A mentor and former director of mine, Dr. Larry Routh, once said that he thought an essential skill needed for directors in the future is vendor management. He was correct; it is an important part of the job. Some really enjoy this part of our work, and there is no shortage of very interesting products to research and keep a person busy. It is just that I have a zillion other things competing for my attention.

We all need to be astute at deciding on new products and technologies. For me, the following are some of the questions I ask myself when deciding upon new products:

  1. Is this a wise use of budget dollars and really needed? It is important to consider departmental goals and align spending accordingly. Additionally, I have a particular sense of fiduciary responsibility working for a public institution. While none of my operating budget is from state dollars, we do get some student fee money and salaries are supported through the state. Always in the back of my mind is whether my budget choices and use of staff time are ones that stakeholders would generally support. I also look at the ROI. For example, for one product that we are considering to help offload the number of resumes we review in person, I calculated the cost for paying peer assistants (students) to the quoted product cost for the same amount of work. It was roughly the same, if not less expensive to students giving individualized assistance, plus we know the value of providing students with meaningful experience is great. The return on investment for the new product was weak in comparison, but gives me a strong negotiating point with the vendor.
  2. What FTE support will be needed to implement and manage it? While not operating budget dollars, I tend to automatically calculate the FTE time required to manage a new offering. Staff time is precious and scarce. Spending time on implementing a new technology, as well as ongoing staff training and support, takes away from a different priority. So the time it will take for staff and how it fits into our strategic plan is something I tend to automatically weigh early.
  3. Have we sought input from our students, employers, and campus partners, and does it meet our needs? While I truly love the dialogue around disruption and change in our field, my own approach to big technical changes considers many factors, including thoughtful consideration of stakeholders and whether the product meets the needs of campus. We recently explored a new platform for our job and internship posting system. A major consideration is that we manage one of the largest academic internship programs out of a career center in the country, and the program manager created a paperless system for it last year. Along with that program and some other factors, we decided at the time the vendor was not quite ready for us. We also had to consider stakeholders beyond our own program needs. Student input is a major factor for us. It is not the only one but, for us, it weighs a bit more heavily than others. We are fortunate to have a team of 50 student staff that help give us input and we rely upon it pretty heavily for new products. When a new technology also involves our employers, we naturally seek their input, too. And like so many institutions, we have taken the campus-wide approach that “career services is everyone’s business”; as a result, some of our technologies for which we are primary managers have become intertwined with other offices and career centers on campus. We have made collaboration a top priority, so seeking and respecting their input on new technology is also key, now more than ever.
  4. Does this duplicate technology we already have, and if so, is it better? We know we can be really good at adding new tools, especially if it is a hot new product offering. It is important to do an environmental scan of both one’s office and other offerings on campus. For instance, we recently explored software to better connect our students with alumni for mentoring. A different office on campus serving our largest college (liberal arts) already had a contract with a vendor, but we were interested in a newer one that we thought could be better and much less costly. We worked with that office to explore the new product with us, and they fortunately agreed it was a better option for all and that we would eventually be the primary administrator (and they would manage a module just for their college) for the product since we serve all students on campus. In addition to saving money for the campus, our relationship with that office was strengthened.
  5. Is this the right timing? When hired nearly three years ago, I was charged with completely reinventing how we served students, our campus reputation, partnerships, and significantly strengthen our employer services. While I am very fortunate to have an incredibly dedicated and hard-working staff and campus leadership that helped in our successful transformation, leading a culture change takes time. There is a new vendor on the market with great product but I am so glad we did not choose to implement a couple years ago. This is because while that business has been crazy successful, I know several early adopter directors shared they were on the phone with the vendor almost daily with issues in that company’s first year. Back then, I did not have that time while trying to build an office and campus culture. We had also recently switched to a new system that we branded and were so successful in implementing that our b-school career office finally decided to forgo a separate portal and instead let us manage the platform, making it much easier for both our students and employers. So to switch again so quickly would not have been a wise move on our part. We are now in a significantly better place and were much better positioned to make a change.
  6. What is the business model and approach of the vendor? The business model is an important consideration for me. This may be a hangover from surviving the dot-era which many of us recall. Companies with visions that seem to be in it for the long haul get bonus points. Naturally we need to do all we can to also ensure the use of student data is adhering to all applicable laws. Another thing that I have learned in the last year is how much I value the transparency of businesses. There are some well-known vendors on the market that do not have a standard pricing model and are, in part, pricing their product according to (what they think) is the name recognition of the career center’s institution. I do not blame career centers that have benefitted from such a pricing model in the least; I would fully take advantage myself. But I find it surprising that vendors do not realize we are a highly connected field and talk about what we are each paying for contracts. When I realize that a vendor is not being upfront or is quoting us a significantly higher price than my friends at other institutions – whether they have better name recognition or not, larger or smaller, or of the same or differing rankings – it is does sit well. For example, a peer here in New York was recently quoted a price of $25,000 for a product we are really wanting to implement. In my view it could be a game changer. But I also know a colleague at a well-known, larger, and fairly elite public school is paying exactly half of that cost for the same product. It ends up feeling as some centers are subsidizing what other career centers (often with already healthy budgets) are being asked to pay. So while not always a primary factor, transparency is one I consider. Lastly, with regard to approach, customer service is a critical consideration. We recently made a major decision this month and this was a factor that became a tipping point. Remember the concern we had about how our academic internship program would be managed? It was addressed by the vendor without us even being a committed client. The vendor we are moving to responded the same day in multiple instances when we had questions of any kind, and made improvements to their products based on our input with what felt like a quick turnaround.
  7. What is the “why”? I am a fan of Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2011). If you have not read it or watched his Ted Talk, you may want to. It resonates with me when I am needing to gain support for new initiatives with others across campus. But I also know it is important to consider the “why” for a new technology. My hope is that when making such choice we have addressed the considerations mentioned earlier, such as whether it fits with our strategic plan, and not that we are merely trying to be seen as a “disruptor” or other similar motivation. While I am one that thrives on change and being cutting edge for the sake of our students – and I most certainly do hope we are seen as a positive change agent by our campus – I am also at times just fine with others being the canary in the coal mine with new technologies. One can benefit from the lessons learned from others, and it thoughtful, careful decision-making does not need to be at the expense of being cutting edge.

Wise choices with technology can be game changers for how we serve students better and more efficiently. Our profession is full of some of the most innovative people I know and, while needing to remember my campus context may different, I regularly lean on many for input when making vendor decisions. What other factors do you consider when making such choices?

Kelli Smith Director of University Career Services at the Fleish

Kelli K. Smith, Director of University Career Services, Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, Binghamton University
Twitter: https://twitter.com/drkelliksmith
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellikapustkasmith/
More blogs by Kelli Smith