Podcast

Amplifying Your Impact Through Campus Partnerships

Rebekah Paré, the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Paré Consulting and a former longtime career services leader in higher ed, shares how career leaders can amplify their impact through campus partnerships.

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Rebekah Paré, the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Paré Consulting and a former longtime career services leader, shares how career leaders can amplify their impact through campus partnerships.

After 20 years in career services and higher ed, Rebekah began her consulting business in 2023 to help career centers all around the world develop strategies that improve students’ career readiness and outcomes, engage alumni, elevate the career center’s status with employers and community members, and attract prospective students and their families. 

In the episode, Rebekah talks about:

  • Why building effective partnerships across campus is so important 
  • What’s at risk if career leaders don’t prioritize building partnerships with other stakeholders
  • How career leaders can go about building partnerships (and with whom)
  • How to leverage those partnerships to advance the career center’s goals
  • How to balance long-term strategy with short-term day-to-day tasks
  • How career leaders can combat outdated perceptions about what the career center does
  • And more

Resources from the episode:

Transcript

Meredith Metsker:

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the Career Everywhere Podcast. I’m your host, Meredith Metsker, and today I am joined by Rebekah Paré. She’s the founder and chief strategy officer of Paré Consulting and a former long-time career services leader in higher ed. Thank you for being here, Rebekah.

Rebekah Paré:

Thrilled to be here. Thanks for having me, Meredith.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I am so glad to have you. And I’m excited to talk to you today about how you can pull career services, as you say, up and out. Not only to build collaborative partnerships without the departments and stakeholders across campus, but to also gain advocacy and just build impact. And I think we all know the importance of this, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, right?

Rebekah Paré:

Absolutely.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, especially if your plate is already so full. There are so many other things to manage day to day, which I know is the case for a lot of career leaders right now.

Yeah. So that’s why you’re here. I know you have done this successfully yourself during your many years of career services leadership. And now you help other career centers do this too as part of your consulting business. So I’m excited to dig into this topic with you today.

Rebekah Paré:

Absolutely.

Meredith Metsker:

Before I get into my questions, Rebekah, is there anything else you’d like to add about yourself, your background, or your consulting firm?

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, sure. Thanks for asking. So, you know, I worked in career services leadership roles, as you said, for about 15 years at the University of Wisconsin and at Washington University in St. Louis. And I really do understand the opportunities and challenges that your listeners face. Totally. You know, there are so many times that I wished I had a strategy coach myself, someone who really understood our unique challenges and stakeholders.

And I feel really privileged now to be in a position where I can sit side by side with career services teams to really work to push the boundaries so that they can experience transformation and elevate their work. And I just think we’re at such an exciting time in higher education. And I think that we’re seeing more and more higher ed leaders see the value in career services, right? They’re starting to see it in a new light.

And I think we have a real opportunity here to support these leaders and whatever priorities that they’re trying to work through, which may include things like, you know, enhancing their institution’s value proposition, you know, better supporting students from underrepresented backgrounds, or responding, you know, even to mental health crises, right? So I think this evolution is really exciting, but it’s also daunting, right? So, like you were saying, like, how do we take on more? How do we, you know, elevate our work to respond to some of these challenges?

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, right.

Rebekah Paré:

How do we help our university leaders really understand what it takes to have the impact they want to have? And that’s the work that I get to do now. So I work with people through strategy coaching and consulting not only to elevate career services strategically and efficiently, but also to support aspirational leaders to level up their impact on students. And I love it. I love what I do. I’m really enjoying this work.

Meredith Metsker:

Awesome. I’m glad to hear that. It’s been fun watching you kind of go out on your own and build your own business, so kudos to you on that.

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, thank you. Thank you, thank you.

Meredith Metsker:

Cool. Well, before I get into my more specific questions about our topic today, I do want to kick us off with a question I ask all of our guests, and that’s, what does career everywhere mean to you?

Rebekah Paré:

I love the concept of Career Everywhere. I think it’s just a great phrase and I use it all the time. And for me, it really means making that career development experience for students unavoidable, right? That throughout their college experience, students will have many touch points across a great variety of experiences, whether that be through an admissions welcome letter,or academic advising, student leadership, student employment, or in class, or online, right, to explore who they are, where they want to go, and how to get there.

And I think that as a campus community, this Career Everywhere concept is about how do we pull together? How do we pull together to help spark students’ imaginations for what’s possible and lead them toward their goals? And that we all have a responsibility in doing that.So it’s a great concept and I think it’s a great set up question for our topic today.

Meredith Metsker:

That’s exactly what I was going to say. That’s a perfect segue. Yeah, perfect segue to our topic today, which again, is how to really amplify your impact with those effective partnerships across campus. So to start with some context, in your opinion, why is this such a necessary part of career services leadership? What’s at risk if career leaders don’t prioritize this?

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, so I thought I’d start by telling a story. So I recently consulted for a medium-sized public university and learned through my stakeholder interviews, so it’s the beginning of the project, about 90% of the deans on this campus, 90%, were working on integrating career into their strategic plans. Like 10 years ago, that would probably never be the case.

So this is amazing. 90% of our deans are working on this or thinking about it or strategizing toward it, but career services wasn’t involved. Career services hadn’t even been consulted, okay? So here you have these really important campus leaders lining up resources and supports to improve students’ career readiness. Think about it. Huge number of deans, huge numbers of students we’re talking about, money-

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, no.

Rebekah Paré:

People, resources on the table. And we have these influential partners focusing on career development. And we’re missing the tide of the experts on campus who know the work and how to get it done. Right? And that disconnect is such a problem.

And why do we have a disconnect like this? You know, why wasn’t career services consulted here? I mean, there are a number of possible reasons, but I can tell you what I hear is that campus partners just didn’t think about career services. It just wasn’t on their mind.

They don’t really understand the work, so they don’t maybe understand how they would plug in to these kinds of priorities. Or it’s also possible, and I’ve seen this working with different clients, that they got the message somewhere along the way that career services really wasn’t positioned to help. Career services is under-resourced, they’re not really open to collaborating, so we’re just going to move on and do our own work.

And I think when this kind of thing happens, we have three big risks. Career services misses out on key resources, potentially financial support, to do the innovative work they want to do. Real big missed opportunity. They also miss out on strategic opportunities to reach more students. So just thinking about these deans for a minute and the numbers of students they have access to. Getting in through those deans would be huge for Career services.

And then I would say definitely last but not least, career services then lose out on potentially powerful advocates and ambassadors, right? To have your deans supporting your work and pulling for you so many doors can open.

So huge risks, I think, for leaving this all on the table. So I do think that building effective partnerships is critical to success today. And if you want transformation, if you want to reach more students, it’s essential.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. It’s kind of like the statement that we hear in other aspects of life, right? No one does anything alone.

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. And we all, we get tied up in our silos at times. And when we’re stuck in these silos, we are busy doing our work and they’re busy doing [inaudible] and no one’s building bridges in the same way, right? So I think that bridge building it creates a tremendous opportunity.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. So kind of on that note, here’s the big question. How should career services leaders go about building these bridges and these partnerships? Where should they start?

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, so I will say the most simple idea is to help your campus partners accomplish their goals. And I know so many times when I say this, career services leaders are like, ‘Say what? What are you talking about? Rebecca, I already have enough going on here. I got enough on my plate. You’re telling me now I’m going to go work with partners and help them accomplish their goals? Like, like, how’s that going to work?’

But I mean, what I share is just imagine that you had a campus partner, maybe one of these deans, for example, that makes an appointment with you and sits down with you and has a conversation and says, hey, what are you working on right now? What are your priorities? What are you trying to accomplish? And you share what you’re working on and they’re like, gosh, you know, that is really important to me too, right? Your second priority is like, we are talking about it right now on our leadership team. What if, what do you think if we work together to get it done?How would you respond? You might think, where did this magical human come from? Where did this person come from? What kind of, who could this be?

And I think now if career services leaders took this approach and brought this energy to campus, we could really start changing the culture and making impactful change for our students. And I think when we think of Career Everywhere, this is where I think it starts.

So I think there are a few key steps. One is really understanding where do you have existing relationships? Take stock of what relationships you have. Now I’ve talked to a lot of career services leaders about this and I just in the fall put out an article called Reintroducing your Career Services Department As Your ROI Department. That’s my new title, at least. I just rephrased that a little bit, but it’s this concept of career services as your ROI department. And in there, I put in a map where I sat down and I just mapped all of the relationships that I had as a career services leader. I was floored, because we’re so busy working and we have these relationships for all kinds of reasons.

But when you start and you take stock and you document it, it’s fascinating. So map it out. And if you want, take a look at the article as a cheat sheet as a way to help you through and identify some of these articles. But when you sit and look at this, you’ll realize how powerful this is. One, career services has oodles of partners across campus. So many partnerships and this is a really powerful place to be. As a matter of fact, I don’t really know another office, I’ve been thinking about this and asking a question, like who has this number of diversity of partners on campus?

So dig into that, understand it, set meetings with some of these partners, and then these meetings, I think what you want to do is really get clear on what matters to them. Get really clear, what’s keeping them up at night? What’s motivating them? What’s their highest priority? What are they excited about?What are they worried about? Really understanding this. The job here is to listen. And just really try to understand what they’re trying to tell you.

And through that, you’ll start to identify overlapping priorities and shared goals. I always tell people don’t promise anything because usually that’s the next thing. The folks who want to start promising stuff don’t promise anything. Just really seek to understand. And it’s an opportunity to communicate what you do. What you do, what it matters, how you’re working with their stakeholder groups. And this is also a great opportunity to ask for what you need. Especially if requests are being made of you.

And then I would say just think about maintaining that relationship and also protecting your peace in that process. We’re all busy. They’re busy too. And…It’s easy to feel like you have to have conversations with these folks every couple of weeks, you don’t. But so, you know, think about what timeline that you might want to stay in touch with them, but it doesn’t, you don’t have to kill yourself to do that, right? So I think what will happen then, you have these meetings, you have like a pile of priorities in front of you that your campus partners are thinking about. And without a doubt, you’re going to see patterns, right?

So you’re going to find that themes are going to come to the surface that folks are working on. And they want more internships, or they want more experiential learning programs, as some examples. And now, here you are as the career services leader. You’re positioned to decide which of these priorities do we want to pursue. Where can you have some quick wins for your partners? Where are some larger long-term projects that you could be working on to make a bigger impact? And then from there, you identify what are the resources that you need to move forward.

And I can tell you that when you are working on projects in collaboration with your partners, say in collaboration with 90% of your deans, you now have an advocacy group. So you’re in a much better position to ask for resources if you feel like you need them when you have these campus partners and trying to accomplish their goals, right? They see you as part of that resource to accomplish their goals. So that’s a really powerful place and exciting place to be. So I’d say that’s really kind of the nuts and bolts of how to go about this process.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, yeah, that makes a ton of sense. And I was even thinking kind of towards the last point that you made, like, not only do you have all these folks across campus who can now help you, but you have this team of champions who can advocate for you when you are not in the room, who understand more what career services does. They can say, “Hey, you should include them in this conversation, deans.”

Rebekah Paré:

That’s right. As a matter of fact, I’m working with a client right now who, she works in student affairs and she’s been starting to have conversations with the provost and her VP about what are we going to do about career services? Where do we want to take it from here? Career services 2.0, let’s say, right?

And meanwhile, a dean came and talked with her separately, completely unrelated to these other conversations.and sat down with her and said, look, I really love what you’re doing, but I want more. I need more. Can you do more for me? And she unpacks what he’s looking for, what are his priorities, what are his needs, where is this coming from? And she says, yeah, you need more. I don’t have any more to give you. I want to be able to give you more. I believe in what you’re trying to do and I want to be a partner with you. Here’s what I need from you. I would love for you to go tell your boss, the provost that this is something that’s really important to you. Because as you go and have that conversation, right, now the provost is hearing from her direct reports that this is important to the deans, right? Deans can be really powerful players on campuses.

And so suddenly now she’s building this advocacy pipeline up to the provost where she’s having these other conversations, right? And so the future is…what will happen as a result of that, what kind of resources could potentially be invested. But here she is trying to advocate for career services. We need more, we need to do more for our students. And now she’s got someone saying, yeah, but the work is good. We just need more of it, right?

And that’s a great place to be. And then unless we’re having these conversations and opening the door to these conversations, we’re going to miss them. We’re going to be cut out. And that’s where you don’t want to be. You don’t want to be cut out.

Meredith Metsker:

Right. Because I mean, your peers across campus, they don’t know what they don’t know. Like, it’s just-

Yeah, it’s like this information/listening tour that you really need to go on.

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Exactly.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. So you just mentioned the deans, you’ve mentioned vice provosts, but there are dozens and dozens of departments and stakeholders across campus. So which departments would you recommend career leaders start with and why?

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, my recommendation here has a little bit to do with personality. So, you know, if the career services leader is really excited and gung-ho about this, they can pretty much start wherever they want.

But I think generally, if you’re a little tentative about this process, I’d go to somewhere where you have a familiar existing relationship where you can start having these conversations, right? It reminds me of when we talked to students about informational interviews and…Who do you have your first informational interview with? It’s not the highest stakes person, right? You have some practice conversations before you get to the high stakes conversation, and this is very similar, right?

So maybe before you jump into the highest stakes conversation, you have a couple conversations with familiar folks to kind of get used to presenting your work, to practice deep listening in this way, you know, we’re always so rushed. We don’t spend all the time listening that we should.

Meredith Metsker:

Right.

Rebekah Paré:

So have a few practice conversations or lower risk conversations. And I think that you can be really strategic about this and identify where can you have the biggest bang for your buck, right? So eventually, where do you know that there are relationships or are priorities brewing around career services? Maybe you want to prioritize those relationships.

So it’s really thinking about who these partners are, what the context is around those partners, what your relationship is and then embarking upon this. Summer’s a great time to have these conversations when workload’s a little bit lower and students are not taking up quite as much time because they’re obviously doing these wonderful internships and experiential programs that we set them on. So people have a little bit more time during the summer to have these more open conversations. It’s a great time to go for walks and go for lunch or coffee and meet up with folks in more fun settings.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, for sure. This is good timing for this conversation that we’re having today. Maybe this is too in the weeds, but when people reach out to some of these stakeholders, especially if it’s maybe a stakeholder they don’t know as well, what should be in that phone call? What should be in that email or that meeting request? Just to make it super clear on what expectations might be.

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, I full on love transparency. So I think it’s really, it’s really okay to say, ‘Hey, I’m doing a listening tour and talking to key campus partners about their needs for their students. I would love to have a conversation with you. Would you be able to take an hour with me?’

I don’t think it has to be complicated, but it helps if you make them feel like they’re an important partner on campus. People are always willing to do that.

And then of course, you know, folks are really busy this time of year too. I know sometimes like if you’re trying to reach some populations, like I keep bringing up deans, but you know, some of them are doing fundraising tours and meeting with people all over the world. So it may not be instant turnaround for some of these meetings, so being patient, giving yourself that flexibility and time to get to all of these partners.

So be transparent, be honest about what you’re trying to accomplish.

Meredith Metsker:

Gotcha. And one would hope that whoever you’re reaching out to, as soon as they hear that, “We are trying to help students,” they’d be like, “Great. I’m also on board with that. Let’s do it.”

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, especially our partners in the academic space who feel like their students are theirs. Our students? You want to do something with our students? Yeah, okay.

So yeah, I know, I think people generally are really open to these kinds of conversations. And as I gave in that earlier example, a lot of people are thinking about this work a lot more than 10 years ago. So if you haven’t had an opportunity to do this kind of a listening tour, or if it’s just been a while, do it again. Because I think the way in which higher education is being presented in the media, the types of emergent priorities and the evolution that career services, not just career services, but the evolution of just higher ed generally, the pace at which things are moving and changing is really causing folks to pause and reconsider a lot of things.

So people who may have felt a little bit adverse to career conversations in the past might be really open to that now. It’s amazing. It’s like really we’re seeing a 180. And so I would worry less about that and just more about trying to get in as many spaces as you can. I don’t think I’ve ever been turned down for a conversation like this.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. It’s just really all about a matter of asking, I think.

Rebekah Paré:

I think you just need to ask, yeah, and say what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. And people, I think, want to partner, they want to support.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. And I think you’re totally right in that the environment right now is perfect for these kinds of conversations. There are, I see almost daily, articles in the news, I think, about just the cost or the ROI of higher education, what’s the future there, what do students get out of it? Parents, of course want to know that. So yeah, I imagine this is excellent timing for-

Rebekah Paré:

Yes, it’s excellent timing and for career services it’s super exciting right? I mean like I was saying, I think my article is called re-introducing your ROI department career services right? So that’s it. I have webinars coming up too. Folks want to join me for conversation around this because I do think career services is really in a position to help respond to these things and some people are noticing, some people might need a little bit of cultivation and understanding around how to seek their services in that light-

Meredith Metsker:

Mm-hmm.

Rebekah Paré:

But I think there’s just oodles of opportunity to really make a difference at all different levels of your institution. And I think that stepping into that space is a little scary, but it’s super exciting. There’s like a lot going on there.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, yeah, for sure. I think the next, I don’t even know, 2, 5, 10 years are going to be just fascinating on the career services front.

Rebekah Paré:

Yes, I know it’s just like a rapid change. It’s amazing.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, for sure. So on that note, I think we’ve really established that this is super important. It’s a great time to begin these conversations. But as you and I have talked about in your prep call, a big blocker for a lot of career teams is they just have so many other responsibilities and day-to-day tasks. They are in the trenches heads down working that I think it’s hard to think about some of those long-term benefits of partnering across campus when they’re seemingly endless short-term responsibilities. So yeah, knowing that, how would you recommend Career leaders approach that? How can they balance building those partnerships with their day-to-day tasks?

Rebekah Paré:

That’s true. Mm-hmm.

I want to just acknowledge that it’s not easy work necessarily, right? So really reaching out, taking the time to have these meetings, that’s a lot of time that you could be using for a lot of other things. I recognize that. But this is not like a quick and dirty strategy. This is playing the long game, right? And I think once people execute this strategy, it can be really…transformative.

So I’m working with a client who is walking through this right now and the other day she said to me just out of the blue, “I have so much clarity on what I need to do.’ And I thought, wow, that’s gold, right? In a time where we’re being pulled in all of these different directions. The stuff we’ve always done, the stuff we want to do, what stuff do we go do first and why, right? To get clarity on where to go is amazing.

And I think that if we can strive for that, that’s great. So there’s some clarity that will come with this activity, as well as we talked about some of the advocacy and impact that you want to have. And I think that some other reasons to really engage in this and to worthy of taking the time is that people are willing, like I said before, people are willing to open those doors to you, right? And when they open doors to you, avenues to reach more students open, right? It’s our ultimate goal to reach more and more students.

You’ll gain ambassadors who advocate for you and your own resources your way and you will attain your goals faster. What? Like with all this work I’m going to attain my goals faster? Yeah that’s also gold, right? And so I see, I tell you, I see lots of career services offices, I work with all these different clients and these different offices. Some of them are just super frustrated because they can’t innovate. They can’t move forward. They want to do more for students but they don’t have the capacity. And I’m asking what if we’re putting our energy in the wrong places?

So when we take career services expertise up and out, and we spread it across campus in the service of our partners, we all win. And so I think about really truly executing a Career Everywhere strategy, you need to realign your work from a student-facing service, kind of this narrow focus, to a university-facing service. There’s the up and out. And that’s where you’re going to have the impact.

So it’s a different mindset. It’s a little bit of a different realignment or alignment of our thinking and approach. But it is, I think, really where we need to go in order to really, really meet the students where they need us is to really support our partners. And I know many folks have partnerships all across campus, right? Like we know you can make a map of these partnerships. What we’re suggesting here is you dig in and you get really deep into these partnerships.

How do we work together on accomplishing these shared goals? And when you have that shared purpose, it is really meaningful. It makes work more meaningful and exciting. So I think we can all use a little bit of that too.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I think that’s some great advice. And I am curious if you have seen any patterns in your work as a career services leader and now your work in consulting in terms of what people can maybe delegate or outsource or adjust so that they have more time to work on some of this up and out strategy.

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, I feel like every situation is so unique, it’s really hard to draw patterns. I can tell you that one of the things that I tend to see with my clients, and I experienced myself as a co-resources leader, it’s not that they can’t identify the things to delegate, it’s the willingness to take the time to delegate and move things down. And I think that when we reframe delegation, delegation has a negative connotation to it. I just feel like it’s pushing down.

And I think instead, we’re leveraging the opportunity to give, to hand off some work to our staff who can rise to the challenge. And as we think about continuing to engage our staff, our staff are tired, our staff are stressed and strained. They’ve been through a lot the last five years. So how do we support them? How do we support them and engage them? And they are engaged by doing work that’s meaningful and exciting to them. Right? So if there’s opportunities to involve staff in projects that do relieve you, but also build your leaders around you, I mean, that’s a tremendous place to be.

And so really taking the time to think through what could I hand off and how does that work support one of my key leaders on staff that will help them grow and support their growth, but support their own development, professional development and help us get this work done.

The other thing that I want to share with us is because we’re talking a lot about this front end, right? That front end adjustment into this process is tough. As you’re trying to balance, how do I have these meetings with getting this work going and handing off some projects and navigating all the other things that I have day to day. But once you’re in there and you start to execute on these priorities, right? You have this pool of priorities that you’re choosing what to work on. It’s going to be clear to you when things are not in alignment with what you’ve identified as where you want to take your institution or college or wherever you work.

And so there’s going to be some easy places to perhaps whittle and cut or reframe the work so that it is more in alignment with these broader priorities that you’re trying to accomplish. So you’ll be able to let some things go as these other priorities become more clear. The key is letting go. We sometimes don’t like to let things go. And student services just broadly. So we have to be diligent about that. But over the long term, I think we’ll be able to better align our resources toward the right goals. And I think that’s super interesting and exciting to watch people move through.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, very true. And I imagine too, obviously I’m biased because I work here at uConnect, but we see technology used in a lot of cases to help not necessarily delegate, but maybe streamline some processes to free up time for team members, yeah.

Rebekah Paré:

Absolutely. Yeah, and I think creating the space to be more creative around that is really important, right? Especially when we think about supporting staff who do really repetitive work. Like resume reviewing or interview practice or whatnot. How can we maybe relieve some of our staff from that full-on repetition and…better utilize them for their strengths, working one-on-one with students and digging into those students’ opportunities and goals.

So I think there’s ways to do that, through communicating and what uConnect does and really kind of creates a ton of different resources and opportunities online that then core centers don’t have to kind of constantly turn away to create, right? So there are ways in which you can leverage technology, absolutely, to kind of move things, reduce workload, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

Meredith Metsker:

Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yep, free up time for some of these valuable other things that just take up so much brain space, so much time.

Rebekah Paré:

That’s right. That’s right.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay. So I think we touched on this a little bit earlier. And in our prep call, you mentioned that in a lot of the time, other departments on campus just don’t know what the career center does. They think career folks just do resume reviews and help students find internships, but we both know there’s way more to it than that, obviously. So how can career leaders address some of those outdated beliefs as they’re going on these listening tours trying to build these partnerships?

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’ll tell you a funny story, so I’ll never forget. I was invited to talk with the leaders of all of our diversity programs. And I was very excited to talk to them about internships. Okay, there’s one of our keywords. But we had a great internship program, we had internship scholarships, and I wanted to work with them to help them understand what it is we were doing so they could help plug their students into that, right?

So I’m doing some sharing of information and listening to understand how to also position our work to best meet their students’ needs. I was interrupted right in the middle. And one of the women raised her hands and she said, Rebecca, you all review resumes? And I’m thinking, yeah, we do. And I couldn’t believe she didn’t know that. I assumed they would at least know that, right? But she didn’t, she had no idea that’s what we did.

And so it’s so interesting to me to think about what do people know and what don’t people know? And I think we assume a lot of our campus partners. And meanwhile, they’re buried in their work, they’ve got a lot of day-to-day responsibilities. They’ve got their own sets of priorities. And we might not know what those are. Just like they don’t know what ours are. So unless we’re out having those conversations and talking about our work, they’re never going to know. They’re just going to assume what they know.

And so I think that’s just some perspective. But another thing to think about, strategic storytelling, and reaching across silos to share information with key partners. I think that can always be useful. But I think really, truly the biggest impact is having these really meaningful partnerships where you’re working together on an event.

So I remember working once with the political science department on doing some alumni networking events. And they’re really excited about this. They’re very active alumni base, but they had trouble plugging those alumni in with their students. So we had a team that focused on that, did an awesome job for this department. One of the alumni walked out and pulled the department chair aside and said, hey, why don’t we talk about some student scholarships? Cause I’d love to be able to sponsor a student. What? Okay.

And that doesn’t happen all the time at these events, but that was like a great start for our relationship. And meanwhile, he saw the way in which we worked with students to get them connected with the alumni, the way in which we supported the alumni, the entire experience that we created. He was like, when can we do this again? Can we do this next semester? Can we do it again? Right? Suddenly he understood what was happening and he got to talk to students on their way out and saw what kind of impact I had on them.

So when you involve people in working on their goals, even if they’re shared goals, the same goals you might have, but helping them achieve their goals in a way that aligns with their mission, they see your work in a new light. They see your work in a new light. And one of the things I talk to career services leaders about is I think you gotta really recognize that all of the people above you have priorities too. Right, your vice presidents, your deans, your presidents, chancellor, whatever you call them, they all have goals, high level goals that they’re being held accountable to.

And so the more that you can be positioned to be aligning with those goals and helping them achieve those, this is sort of in alignment with this campus, same thing with these campus partnerships, right? If you can demonstrate that kind of alignment and that support, it will be noticed because so often, right, so often people don’t want to help anybody else but themselves.

And so the faster that we can work together toward these shared aims, the more that we can make the case for the ways in which we’re supporting our partners and our supervisors above us, the more our work is going to be recognized, can be valued. We’re going to be seen for the impact that we have. And that’s when people take notice and then they start to realize, Oh, that’s what you do. That’s great, love that. We want to do more of that. Yeah, that’s where we want to be. We want more. Yeah, we want more.

So that’s another thing that you’re going to want. It’s going to happen. The more you start these, the more partnerships you have, the more people are going to want from you. So you’re going to be really thoughtful and strategic too about really what work you’re going to take on, how you’re going to take on and why, so that you can be, again, transparently communicating with your stakeholders, what you’re working on, what you’re trying to accomplish, when you can get to what. It’s a really important part of the process.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. We want to partner with you.

Okay. Yeah, it was kind of funny when you were making these last few points. It was reminding me of some things that Manny Contomanolis said in his episode when he was talking about how to become a thought leader on campus and how it’s about knowing what those high-level strategic priorities are at your institution and then figuring out how to align yourself to those.

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, if you’re not aligning to those things, you’re missing big opportunities. And I am 100% in agreement with that, right? And that is the case with our campus partners too, right? We’re trying to create opportunities for students. We’re trying to create places for opportunities to happen. And unless we’re bridging those partnerships and helping people, we’re essentially sparking the imaginations of our partners about what’s possible, what we could do together, when we can get into those places. That’s where sometimes real cool opportunities arrive that we never thought would happen. And yeah, it’s really very exciting.

And so leveraging those partners, leveraging the priorities of the people above you, demonstrating how you’re having that impact, it’s so important, and communicating it out, right? And so those career services leaders need to be ambassadors. That’s what they are. So if you’re a career services leader listening in, thank you for joining us, I would say you gotta wear that hat. And sometimes that’s a hard hat to put on. Sometimes it’s an uncomfortable place to be. Maybe a real shift from the kind of work that you’ve had to do in the past, but that’s where the impact is going to be.

And so you got to be your number one ambassador and then you’re just working around campus and creating, you know, you’re like Pied Piper with all your followers. And so you got to get these people on board with you and you’re going to be able to do that best by really helping them articulate their goals working with them on achieving them. And it’s transformational. It’s transformational.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, this made me think of another question. And obviously I know that this varies widely depending on the career teams, it’s also individual and that’s why you have your consulting business. But are there any patterns or common things that career leaders should keep in mind as they engage in the strategic storytelling? Are there any statistics they should include, just any common elements that they can think of?

Rebekah Paré:

I think I’m going to speak from a place of really always trying to reach into the academic side of our university. Some of us are housed in academic sides and some of us are housed maybe in the student affairs sides or in other places within the university. And the students are in the academic side, no matter how we slice it. So that’s an obvious place to build bridges. So I’m going to kind of think about it from that perspective.

When we think about our academic departments, you think about what our deans are working on. And everyone at the end of the day is trying to make a difference for our students in whatever way they can. And when you can contribute a story about their students, and it just takes sending them an email and just say, hey, by the way, we did this feature of your student who did this internship program with us and got our scholarship and we wanted you to see, that’s cool.

So the more that you can plant those seeds and send those seeds out and be strategic about, okay, we’re going to do some stories. We need some students. Who did we hit last time? Who should we hit this time? Really thinking strategically about the relationships that you’re building and the showcasing that you want to do. You can leverage that to also get other people on board. That’s another thing that’s really awesome. You can say, hey, engineering department this is what we did over here with business. Maybe you want to get on board, right? And when they kind of see that stuff, sometimes that’s motivating.

I think strategic partnerships, our strategic communication, I do think people want more information about outcomes. What are our students doing? Where are they going? What are alumni doing? I was working with one school who was just telling me their alumni association wasn’t sharing a lot of information about the alumni. So they didn’t want to reach out to the alumni to ask for money. They wanted to reach out to the alumni to find out what they do for work. And so there’s more information that folks want and need.

And so through those conversations, you’re able to understand, well, we want to do more with our alumni, but we don’t have access to that information. Oh, we’re thinking about a technology platform where we can connect with alumni. Would that be something that’s beneficial to you? Maybe we could go in on it together, right? Or another conversation about, yeah, we’ve got an academic program review coming up and we have to document our career outcomes. Where do I get that information? I can’t deal with that information, right?

Thinking about the kinds of information people need and why. I love telling the story about happening upon our state relations director one day and having a conversation with her and turns out she’s looking for a bunch of stories on that showcase how the university is contributing to the state’s workforce development and consider talking to us. Of course now I hadn’t really considered talking to her either. We’re sitting there and just having this face to face conversation and I’m like, do you want me to send you some stories? I love some stories.

Now suddenly the stories about our office are not only going to her, they’re going up the channel to the vice president of the university relations and out to every single legislator in the state. Now that’s, I think, a pretty cool place to be in terms of advocacy, right? So that storytelling can do a lot for you. And so talking to your partners, when you have these kinds of stories, how can you leverage this for advancement? How can you leverage this to get more alumni involved? How can you leverage the story to get more employers involved? There’s so many different ways in which you can leverage this information to support those partnerships, continue moving them forward and showcasing your work, and again, gaining more.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, it’s exactly what you were saying earlier. It’s the up and out.

Rebekah Paré:

It’s up and out, right? You gotta get it out. And that’s why being that career services leader who’s an ambassador that has that ambassador hat on is really important. Cause that’s how you get the ball rolling and you inspire people to come along. That’s cool. It’s a great place to be. It’s a great place to be.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, I feel like career services teams in general are just the linchpin of so many things on campus. And they’re not recognized as that nearly often enough, but they are. They’re like the backbone.

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, I completely agree. And I think that that’s one of the big nuggets from the article that I was just talking about earlier, introducing your ROI department, career services. When you really start to think about the different ways and the different challenges that institutions are facing and how we’re positioned to help, we might not be positioned to solve all the problems. Don’t get me wrong. But we are positioned to help. We can step into that space and add value, right?

It’s just an amazing way to be recognized for helping your institution. And I think one thing I do want to say is a caveat, I think one of the challenges about this and thinking and talking this way is that as career services leaders, I think we really see this opportunity, especially when it’s on our doorstep, we see this opportunity. I think we really have to help our staff make the connection because the distance between our priorities and what we’re doing every day for students and for our employers and alumni and whoever we’re working with, the difference between their and the institutional priorities or Dean’s priorities can feel really vast.

And how do we help our teams also make the connection to why that work is important and why aligning will add value to everything that we’re doing? That feels very distant and far away from our staff. And so we really want to make sure they understand that and see that opportunity so they can feel like they’re participating fully authentically. And yeah, helping to draw those connections. So, it’s a topic for another day, Meredith. There’s so many things to talk about.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, yeah, for sure. I know, I keep thinking to myself, we could keep going in all of these different directions. I do want to be mindful of our time here, so I’ll kind of start to wrap this up. Rebekah, you’ve already shared so much great advice, but is there any other advice you have for career services leaders who just want to be more effective and efficient about building partnerships?

Rebekah Paré:

I will just say that you can find a lot of joy in this work and it can also be overwhelming. So don’t hesitate to reach out and get some help. I think navigating a lot of these things, navigating politics, navigating some of the challenges in the context that we’re operating, especially if we’re newer leaders in our work, can be difficult. So you don’t have to take it all on yourself. Find a colleague that you trust, a mentor, coach, whoever it is to help you work through that.

Because I think sometimes the hardest thing is that we just take it all. And so we want to also take care of our own mental health and maintain our own peace. And so that’s an important consideration as we’re doing this work. So if you’re finding yourself getting dug in a little bit and stressed about it, pause and seek some guidance. There’s a lot of resources on a lot of campuses. I can help if people want to talk with me. But I think I tell people all the time, you don’t have to do this alone.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah, that’s great advice for career services, and I think any leadership role, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. That’s why you have a team. That’s why you have partners. Yep.

Rebekah Paré:

You don’t. That’s right. Exactly.

Meredith Metsker:

Well, Rebekah, is there anything else about our topic today that you would like to add before I close us out?

Rebekah Paré:

I think we covered a lot of it. So I think that’s it. Thank you.

Meredith Metsker:

Okay, great. And I will be sure to include links to the article you mentioned, some of those webinars you said you’ve got coming up, your website, things like that. But if people would like to connect with you or learn more from you, where’s a good place for them to do that?

Rebekah Paré:

Thank you. I’m on LinkedIn so I’m creating a great community of career services leaders and followers. We’re having some great discussions, so if you’re not a part of it, come join, come follow me and join us in some good conversations. I’m really enjoying it. So we’ll see you there.

Meredith Metsker:

Cool, I will include a link to Rebekah’s LinkedIn profile as well.

Okay, so Rebekah, to close this out, I like to do this answer a question, leave a question thing at the end of every interview. So I’ll ask you a question our last guest left for you, and then you will leave a question for the next guest. So our last guest was Jenn Tardy of Jennifer Tardy Consulting, and she left the following question for you. What did you want to be when you grew up? And how does that compare to the role you’re in now?

Rebekah Paré:

I wanted to be a piano teacher. And fun fact, I became a piano teacher. It wasn’t enough for me, but I became a piano teacher. And I did love it. I love working with students. And it’s interesting because that passion for music and helping students understand the value, their parents understanding the value of music education is sort of what I do today. It’s taken me through my whole career as an advocate, I would say, for the humanities and the arts and the liberal arts and now even broader with career services and higher education and that’s so thrilling and exciting.

So I see myself as an advocate for career services, for career services leaders, and for higher education now. It’s a very meaningful place to be for me.

Meredith Metsker:

I love that. I can definitely see different patterns that have woven themselves through your career path so far.

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, it’s really cool. It’s fun how that happens.

Meredith Metsker:

Cool. Well, what question would you like to leave for the next guest?

Rebekah Paré:

Well, I think we are now in April and heading into commencement season, which is a time of celebration and accomplishment. And so I’d love to ask the next career services leader, what’s one thing that you’re most proud of in your work as a career services leader?

Meredith Metsker:

Oh, I love that. I’m excited to see the answers. I was even just thinking maybe I’ll post this question in the Career Everywhere community too.

Rebekah Paré:

Yeah, I bet you’ll get some great answers. We don’t talk about that enough. We don’t celebrate accomplishments enough in higher ed.

Meredith Metsker:

I think you’re right, we talk about challenges all the time, but you gotta celebrate the wins too.

Rebekah Paré:

Oh yeah. We gotta celebrate the wins, right? It’s big and small. All of them matter. They all matter.

Meredith Metsker:

Well, there you go. If you’re watching or listening to this episode, think about a win and celebrate it with your team. You deserve it. Get yourself some cake or whatever.

Rebekah Paré:

Little champagne. Whatever works. Ice cream. Yeah.

Meredith Metsker:

Yeah. Whatever floats your boat, a snack, a drink, you do it. Awesome.

Well, Rebekah, thank you so much for taking the time to join me on the podcast today. This was such a fun conversation with so many great actionable ideas that I think our audience is going to get a ton of value from. So thank you so much again for sharing your time and your wisdom.

Rebekah Paré:

Thank you, it’s been my privilege.

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