A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending a few days with some of the leading professionals in our field while facilitating a conference around The Future of Career Services. Not only did I gather incredible insights from the other faculty, but I also learned so much from the fully engaged participants. Whether leading career services at an online theological seminary, a major public university or a small community college, we all share a commitment to what Simon Sinek calls our WHY. Preparing students for meaningful careers and lives is our purpose, our cause, and our belief that gets us up every morning. After our three days together, I walked away with even more optimism about our profession and inspired by new ways to think about the future.
During the conference, we talked a lot about the mega issues that we struggle with around the rapidly changing world of work, career readiness competencies, globalization, marginalized students, and effective use of data. How do the topics all connect? I believe we need to be asking ourselves not only whether we are preparing our students for the future, but more importantly, who are the students we inadvertently leave behind? What if career services could use data and patterns more productively to answer such questions as:
- What are the career readiness competencies required by today’s employers and who are the students who are struggling to develop these competencies?
- How are analytics, AI and automation changing the roles our students had planned to pursue? Are we retooling and up-skilling all graduates to be prepared?
- If we know that “T-Shaped professionals” are in high demand, are we doing enough to develop both depth and breadth across disciplines?
- Do we understand how implicit bias keeps marginalized students from accessing our services? What are the signals we send and how can we move from diversity (a fact) to inclusion (a practice) and equity (a goal)?
- Have we enlisted the entire campus ecosystem using a brain based approach to elevate the importance of career development and address these challenging questions together?
At Bentley, we are so proud of our strong career outcomes. Year after year, over 95% of all first year students participate in our six-week career development seminar and a similar percentage are employed or attending graduate school within six months of graduation. These numbers remind us of how committed and engaged our students are and how we have built a culture of commitment around career development that directly correlates to strong outcomes. But now, more than ever, I am also thinking about those who may be left behind. Who are the handful of students who do not enroll in our career development class? What are the challenges of our first-generation students who may not have role models around professional career advancement and networks? Why do some students choose not to meet with their dedicated career coach after they declare their major? While we are fortunate at Bentley to have such a committed and engaged group of students, the data can help us understand patterns. We can use data to make sure that we measure not only student success, but also take the time to identify and understand our students’ struggles.
I would like to say thank you to my amazing colleagues from around the globe who came together in Boston to share their stories. Our time together reminded me that together we can use data for good and that our common purpose, our passion, and our collective WHY, are all too powerful for robots to replace.