• Innovating in Times of Change

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    January 9, 2013

    by Gary Alan Miller and Katherine Nobles 

    Part 1 of 5 

    There is a “curse” that you’ve probably heard at some point: “May you live in interesting times.” The idea behind this subtle language barb is that “interesting times” can be filled with waters that are difficult to navigate and full of the unexpected.

    Certainly, we in career services are living in interesting times! There are many forces prompting change in the work we do. Consider this short list:

    • The concept of the higher education bubble
    • Unexpected competitors to traditional college career services
    • The pace of technological changes
    • Greater expectations from our students
    • The state of the economy

    Alone, each of these could have a big impact on the work we do, but we’re dealing with them (and more) simultaneously! As engaged professionals, we must be intentional and proactive in our efforts to best serve our stakeholders and avoid simply reacting to our environment. So, how, as a field, are we providing the innovations needed to keep up with and even get ahead of the changing times?

    With that question in mind, in summer 2012, we completed a national survey on innovation in career services. The survey had more than 625 participants reflecting schools of all types and sizes from 48 states plus the District of Columbia.

    For this study, we used a “three capabilities” model based on an innovation study completed in 2000 by PricewaterhouseCoopers. This model establishes the idea that there are three primary factors—climate, leadership, and process—that affect how innovative an organization can be.

    In addition to exploring those factors, we asked participants to share their perception of their office’s level of innovation. Slightly more than half (53.6 percent) perceived their own office as producing about the same level of innovation as other career centers. Only 15.8 percent perceived themselves as producing less innovation than other career centers, and 30.5 percent perceived they produced more innovation than other career centers.

    We also prompted respondents to document the volume of new programs, services, and technologies they implemented during 2010-11 and 2011-12, and how many of those were brand new to the field. There was a direct connection between respondents’ perception of their centers’ innovation level and the volume of new initiatives they reported.

    More importantly, dramatic results came from an examination of their responses to questions about their climate, leadership, and processes related to innovation. In short, affirmative responses to the questions across those three capabilities were associated with both greater implementation of new initiatives and the perception of being more innovative.

    So, does your center have the right climate, leadership, and processes to allow you to innovate? We will address each of these capabilities individually in upcoming Spotlight columns.

    Gary Alan Miller and Katherine Nobles work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They will host a webinar for NACE on their study titled “Innovation Trends in Career Services” on February 21, 2013, at 1 p.m. EST. To learn more and/or register online, see www.naceweb.org/webinars/2013/trends-career-services/. Results of their “2012 Study on Career Center Innovation” can be found online at http://innovation.web.unc.edu. 

Innovating in Times of Change