Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Seven Pearls of Wisdom from NACE 2013

I attended the annual National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) conference last week in Orlando, FL.  As usual, it was a fabulous time of learning and connecting.  

The following are seven pearls of wisdom gleaned from my peers at the conference.

1. Relationship - No matter which way you slice it, the career business is ALL about relationships – with students, with employers and with peers. Nothing else bypasses this fact.

2. Experience - The best way to build relationships is to personalize service and provide a great experience.   The keynote speaker, Jeremy Gutsche of Trend Hunters put it this way, "You are not selling a product.  You are selling an experience."

3. Gen Y - We have to understand the contemporary student.  What worked 5 or 10 years ago no longer works.  Not only has technology changed the manner in which we communicate, Gen Y views time differently than most of us do.

Kevin Burns from Arizona State University put Gen Y views into perspective for me during a discussion we had at the MBACSC reception.  He reminded me that most of our undergrads have only been alive for 18 or so years.  Thus, 4 years seems like a long time for them. Therefore, they tend to put career education behind other matters such as academics, student activities, etc… (They have plenty of time, right?) To reach them, we must be easy to access, fun and compelling. This is so simple and fundamental, but we tend to forget.  

4. Channel - Another important ingredient in the career business is channel, especially with students.  We have to be where they are and where they want us to be.  As a note of caution, we have recently heard that Millennials are abandoning Facebook because adults have invaded their space.  “Updates,announcements and sharing exactly like this is what’s driving Millennials away from the leading social networking site, It’s because, the parents (like me) are policing, patrolling and using Facebook to connect with their friends. That’s so not cool so they’re logging out and spending their time online somewhere else.” ~Jessica Miller-Merrell, Blogging4Jobs

5. Message - Some schools have dipped into the secret sauce of student engagement by being relevant (utilizing peers to get across an important message).  They also use meaningful incentives like the opportunity to win an iPad. University of Maryland has done a great job at making their career services and online tools fun and engaging.  Check out this video for their career passport program

6. Marketing - Jeremy Gutsche was full of pithy comments that career centers should consider in developing student marketing.  Some of the comments were: 

Don't speak TO but WITH your customer."
"Millennials are motivated by social currency."
"Culture eats strategy for breakfast."
"Observe your customer.  Get deeper in how choices are made."
We need: "Viral connections...Viral mediums...Well-packaged stories..."
7. Innovation - Gary Miller and Katherine Nobles from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill spoke on innovation.  They cited the “top two barriers to innovation as time & budget.  After sitting through a group discussion with peers, I would add that innovation thrives in an environment that enables ideas & their implementation by mitigating / eliminating roadblocks.  It does not matter whether the roadblocks are time, budget, fear, management caprice, "analysis paralysis" or staff who do not feel empowered.  The roadblocks have to go in order for innovation to become part of the culture. Finally, innovation is better when it is a team effort. Ideas build upon ideas.  

Well, it's time to get to work on some Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) for this coming year. Hope to see everyone in San Antonio, TX for NACE 2014!

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