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Influencing Up

Recently a colleague, Gary Morris Director of Career Services at SUNY Oswego, shared that he had sent a document to the President of his institution that highlighted how students could translate their study abroad skills for an employer. She was impressed by the document and called him to talk about it. As I listened to what Gary shared, it made me think about whether I was doing enough to “influence up” within my own institutional structure.

In our office, we also send documents highlighting key programs and upcoming events to the Vice President for Student Affairs. When our new President came onboard we put together a set of documents to help her become familiar with the office and our role on campus. I think sharing this information is important and can help these leaders better understand what we are doing in career services and provide them the information they need to help champion our efforts.

However, as I thought about what Gary said and what we do in our office to influence up, I also have been thinking about whether sharing information about career services activities is sufficient. Sending information about career services leaders helps to solve one of my problems – campus buy-in related to our programs and initiatives. However, I have to ask myself, am I doing enough to help solve the problems that the leaders of my campus face?

When I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, one story that stayed with me was a story she told about Lori Goler, VP People. Ms. Goler was interested in transitioning to a position at Facebook. She called Ms. Sandberg and asked her “Sheryl, what is your biggest problem and can I help solve it?” Similarly David Bradford, author of Influencing Up, shares strategies for influencing up by asking what are the major needs of organizational leaders and trying to step outside of your role to view the organization and its challenges from their perspective.

What does this advice mean for career services offices? How can we help solve organizational issues for each of our institutions? In a presentation last summer, Christine Cruzvergara Executive Director and Associate Provost for Career Education at Wellesley College, reminded the audience members of the three R’s – Recruitment, Retention, and Revenue – and asked us what we were doing to help increase each of these numbers on our respective campuses.

Currently, I am in the middle of drafting a strategic plan for our office. Gary’s comment reminded me to think about two important things. First, is there appropriate structures to ensure that adequate information is being sent to campus leaders to keep them in the loop related to the activities and other great things happening in our office? Second, have I adequately addressed the three R’s of Recruitment, Retention, and Revenue?

Author: Jill Wesley is the Director of Career Services at the College at Brockport. Previously, she worked in Career Services at Harrison College and Purdue University. She holds a BA (English) from Dartmouth College, and MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a JD from Indiana University-Indianapolis.

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