The Real Danger in the College Enrollment Downturn

I was having a discussion with a client about some career services challenges when the conversation turned to projections for the 2014 cohort. “One important thing to remember” I said, “is that new enrollments are down, so many of the graduate employment issues we are discussing today are going to self-solve in the near future.” Read more

Going “Old School”

Three days per week, I go to the same restaurant, at the same time and order the same thing for breakfast.  Three days per week, as I am standing in line, the same young “Millennial Girl” comes in and literally cuts to the front of the line to place her order.  I appreciate her tactic; she acts as if she is incredibly hurried and is always talking on her cell phone in an attempt (I believe) to appear  as though she is so absorbed in conversation that there is no possible way she could notice the other five people waiting in line in front of her.  No one ever corrects her, and the server always takes her order with no questions asked.  Bravo Millennial Girl, bravo.

I would never hire her in a million years and I suspect she is not well liked at work.  Why?  She hasn’t any manners.   Read more

A Jack of All Trades- Master of None

Not that long ago we were hired to “fix” a career services department for a college school system that was struggling to meet bench in almost all programs. As part of our initial assessment of the department we asked the team what they felt was the root cause of the problem?

One person reported that the problem was poor quality resume’s another felt the problem was the preparedness of the grads for interviews, one person felt they just didn’t have enough hiring employers and another told us that the real problem was they were all overworked, didn’t have enough resources to do their jobs and needed at least three more people in the department. Read more

It’s Already Too Late! (?)

Your accreditation report isn’t due for another nine months or so… so it’s NOT too late!

That said, TODAY is the day to do a “health check” on your placement outcomes. Sure, you already run reports to see how you’re doing. You know your placement results year-to-date like the back of your hand. You might even have a dashboard that shows results by campus, and by program.  But you’ve tracked that before, and still ended up in a rush at the end of the reporting period because one cohort, or one campus was behind…

Here are some important questions to ask yourself now so you can Read more

Faculty – The Career-Readiness Missing Link

We recently attended a fabulous day of faculty development at West Tennessee Business College.  Michael Brandwein, an Emmy Award winning author and speaker, entertained and taught a room of eager faculty and staff.  The focus of his teaching was on engagement strategies for learners — how to make the classroom as engaging as possible.

The transformation tools were incredible — simple to implement and it was easy to see how these tools will make the classroom more engaging and improve learning outcomes.

The real magic for me, however, was in the simple tools that Michael shared to help students see that a JOB was the desired outcome of their time in school.  Simple things, like saying, “we want you to attend class because your employer will want you to attend work — this is preparation for a JOB, not just school.”

How are you working with your faculty to ensure that their language not only engages students, but also sets student expectations and engages them, from day one, in thinking about the end goal — a career!


Innovative Idea — Admissions and Placement

In the work we do, we are lucky to work with innovative companies.  One of our clients is currently exploring new products in the Career Services space for higher education.

While conducting market feasibility studies for this new product line, we encountered an innovative new idea that solves several challenges…

The Challenges:

a) Students want to attend programs that offer promising career outcomes

b) Admissions is very limited on what it can say about career outcomes

Out of these facts, came an exciting idea to combine three powerful tools into one interface…

1) which provide job seekers with insight into career markets (salaries, job openings within a geographic region, sample job titles, career paths, etc…)

2) Pearson interest assessment tools, which give prospective students an opportunity to assess their skills and interests and match them to potential college degree programs; and

3) a college database that could then suggest colleges within the prospect’s geographic region and make suggestions for best-fit

The leads that would be generated from this interface would come to the school with career interest data attached, and the prospect would already have career market data, from an independent third party resource.

Such an interesting idea to take the interest inventory a step further… and then to marry all of the above with college suggestions.  My client and I are excited to be working on something that could transform the college-to-career lifecycle.

Welcome to the Knowledge Age.  If you have ideas about how to improve this concept, or other career services concepts, email me at:

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’ve been invited to speak at the annual California Association of Private Post-secondary School Conference in Pasadena, CA this week and as I meet with new and old friends one recurring theme keeps striking up; “we’ve got to get these students working”.  This reminds me of the old expression that the definition of insanity is repeating the same act over and over expecting a different outcome.

Here’s what I mean; year in and year out we all spend the latter part of our summer and early fall trying to get every last placement for our reporting year.  It literally is an “all hands on deck” attitude and approach at every school, which of course is the right thing to do, but is typcially at the expense of our new year’s cohort.  What feels different of late is that it used to be we were trying to reach institutional goals that were typically much higher than what our accreditors set.  Now, it seems that more and more schools are working into the fall to meet the minimum standards set to remain compliant.

So, that’s a bummer.  Here’s the reason to be optimistic!  This shift in outcomes and the amount of effort and difficulty around that, has also caused a paradigm shift in our thinking!  Gone are the days of waiting until the end of a students tenure to start preparing them for the job search, externship and interview processes.  More of our clients are saying to Martha and I are gaining new clients monthly and all of them have the same need- we must get to our students earlier if we want to get higher employment outcomes.

With that in mind, Martha and I are committed to continue to provide all of you with practical, usable, implementable tools that will help you do just that- get in front of the student early and often to prepare them for a postive end result.  If you haven’t yet looked into our Passport Series, you should.  As we receive more feedback from schools who are implementing them we become more convinced that it should be a part of every career colleges curriculum.

Stay-tuned people!


It’s that time of year again!

About a month ago Martha and I were discussing how the end of summer is full of deadlines, to-do lists and the beginning of the process of wrapping things up for the year.  It seems funny to think about — that 2012 is nearing an end already — but it is, and with it comes the challenges of doing more with less time to accomplish “it”.

It was through that discussion, along with calls from clients who were looking for last-minute ideas to maximize their placement efforts, that we decided to put together a webinar.  We designed it to help schools with accreditation deadlines looming, to get across the finish line with respect to reporting placement statistics.

We know that historically the toughest challenges this time of year have to do with finding all the grads who have gone MIA, turning over every leaf to find a job for that hard to place grad and to make a call for “All Hands On Deck” to get everyone successfully placed.  This of course requires team-work from every department.

These are just some of the topics we’ll be covering tomorrow along with some creative, dare I say ” brilliant” ideas we’ve picked up to help you get placements immediately!  We call them our “Game Changers” and we are really excited to share them.

So, tune-in tomorrow September 5th, at 2pm EST.  To access the web-based portion of the webinar, go to and follow the prompts for entering your name, company, email, and the pass code 68257640. For the audio portion, call 1-877-366-0711 (In Canada, use 1-866-627-1651) and, when prompted, enter the pass code 68257640# (the “#” must be included for the audio portion). The webinar will last approximately one hour, including time for a question and answer session. This is a free APSCU member benefit and no pre-registration is required.

Back to School

We educators are like the cobbler’s children — you know the story — even though their father made all the shoes in town, they had the most worn soles and knotted shoelaces in the village.

As educators, we often focus so intently on educating our students, that we fail to implement strong programs to educate our staff and faculty — and likely, we are individually also guilty of failing to make learning a priority.

As I was stuffing school supplies in to my son’s backpack today, I was overcome with the realization that I wished it was me that was going to start 3rd grade next week — the teacher shared that their first unit of inquiry was on “Maps” — how cool would that be to focus on studying maps?

Let’s make ourselves a “back-to-school resolution” (instead of those rapidly-forgotten New Years Resolutions!) — this year, let’s make sure we are putting energy into our own lifelong learning.  What would you like to learn next?  Comment on this post below and share how you are driving lifelong learning in your own world — and throughout your organization.


What’s Cookin’ at The Sparrow Group

We are very excited to have put the final touches on our innovative “Ready 4 Work” program.  This program leverages what we’ve learned through our highly successful “Portfolio Project” and the “WOW” incentive program — and creates one comprehensive, two-part program that covers every component of Career Services effectiveness.

From Admissions to Alumni Relations, the Ready 4 Work program ensures that student expectations are set properly, that they become prepared to gain employment when they graduate, and that they communicate with you after graduation. Read more

Graduate Placement — Maximizing Career Service Staff Skills

We CAN do it all — the question is, can we do it all well?

We hire people who are passionate about helping students, nurturing their confidence, and preparing them for interviews.

This same advisor is then also required to make countless cold calls to employers to identify new job leads, attend dozens of networking events, write and mail letters to employers, etc.

We ask them to be social worker and cold-caller — two disparate functions that rarely reside comfortably in the same person, creating a career services function that is not likely to fire on all cylinders.

Consider the environment where these conflicting tasks are broken into two positions — a community outreach person (employer relations focused on finding and generating job leads), and a student-facing advisor.   By separating the employer relations function — you will empower the advisors to focus on excelent student relationships and job search skills, and improve their job satisfaction — and likely increase graduate preparedness. Read more

Excellence in Placement Outcomes — It Takes a Village

Placement outcomes have oft been relegated to the career services department on campus.  That department lives or dies on their relationships with students, and the preparedness of same, yet other departments on campus are rarely accountable to preparedness measures and/or placement outcomes.

In the new college environment, employment outcomes must be at the forefront of thinking for all departments, and all staff and faculty.  This opinion isn’t rocket science — what does appear to be rocket science is how to implement campus-wide ownership of employment outcomes.

Innovative private-sector colleges, and other campuses across America are implementing extraordinary programs that capture key areas to drive accountability for employment outcomes, including:

  • Compensation plans for every member of staff that have at least some component tied to placement outcomes for the campus
  • Student-facing programs, including at the point of admission, that reinforce the importance of pursuing a career in their field of study — some even go so far as to have students sign a letter committing to seeking employment
  • Regular and comprehensive communication plans to make staff and faculty aware of employment outcomes, and forecasting employment challenges in the future

And, perhaps most importantly:

  • Aggressive and comprehensive market analysis programs that analyze present and future employment needs within a reasonable geography and then dare to ask the tough questions about eliminating programs that are popular, but have limited employment potential.

It truly does take the village — and not just the village within your campus walls, but those villagers outside, such as key employers, educators at other institutions, even the competition.  How are your partnerships with those external constituencies?

Assess the strength of your village today — will it raise and send forth graduates that are prepared to become successfully employed in their field of study?