I have been working on an interesting project recently, helping a careers service to make sure that they are positioned effectively within the political landscape at their university.
This apparently simple objective presents a number of challenges:
- Understanding the landscape and the key players (internal and external) that influence it;
- Getting your agenda onto the senior team’s radar;
- Having a clear strategy and a “sticky” message that describes what you do;
- Making sure every person in your team understands and buys into the principles that drive your service.
Here are a couple of ideas that might help you to tackle these challenges:
To understand the wider political landscape, investigate your university’s approach to managing risk. Knowing what is on the risk register will help you focus on what matters to your senior team. Understanding the steps that are in place to manage each risk will show you what is on the agenda for academic colleagues and other professional services, and might suggest new ways that you can collaborate with them. And making sure that “employability” is on the list helps you to showcase what you are doing to minimise the chance of the risk occurring – and what else you would like to do.
To catch the attention of the senior team, look for opportunities to engage with them in novel ways. I was fortunate at City to be asked to act as Chief Marshal at our graduation ceremonies. As well as being an enjoyable experience this gave me the chance to meet with senior colleagues up to the level of the Chair of Council, and to talk to them about what was happening in the careers service.
To make sure you are sharing a consistent message, ask yourself the following question: if the Vice Chancellor asked the most junior member of your team to describe your service’s strategy, what would they say? Having a clear narrative around employability that the whole team can relate to will promote a shared understanding of what you are doing, and will help to make sure that colleagues outside of your service understand it too.
As with many things, one key to success is to look at the situation from the other person’s perspective: how often do you put on the VC’s hat to look at your service from their point of view? If you think some of these techniques might be useful to help you do that then I would love to hear from you.
PS – I watched an excellent webinar this week, delivered by Carolyn Parry at Career Alchemy as part of her SHiNE Interview Confidence Programme. Carolyn shows graduates and early career professionals how to “put on the recruiter’s hat” to help them understand the process from the other point of view, and her sessions are packed full of excellent advice and suggestions. Check them out.