07/17/2013 02:27 pm ET Updated Sep 16, 2013

A Career Development Vision

I was surprised when the tenured professor didn't know who ran Career Development at the well known, prestigious university. Then, it happened again at another school. And another.

It reminded me of the years working employee engagement, management training and executive coaching when one of my clients deep in the middle of a sale, service, or employee issue would say, "Oh yeah. HR. Who is it I'm supposed to contact in HR to help me? I forgot their name."

Respecting the cultural and operational differences of academia and business is of course a key first step in untangling exactly what it means to be successful in career management in these troubled times.

Collecting the best practices of both business Talent Management operations and educational Career Development groups is also essential.

Just as job search, as discussed in Finding Work When There Are No Jobs, is an individual effort with no one right, magic path; there is no one right solution for every school or talent management operation in navigating these troubled times.

The need is to develop strategic principles. Guidelines, not rules. Made to be malleable, shaped and put into action by the individual and the institution. From those guidelines comes a vision. Your picture of the way things should be,

Career Development professionals today are paid to build operations that go beyond the kinds of transactions that used to be the measures of success. Assessments given, programs delivered, counseling sessions held, and of course placements. Today the need isn't simply for transactions, the need today is for transformation. How do we reshape that college to career experience in a time when there are no jobs?

A clear call for transformative thinking.

The Six are starting points for that Career Development transformation. Guiding lights to start building your school's vision, your picture of what career development should be in these troubled times.

The Six

Adapt a Talent Language. The danger here is that this sounds so simple. "Of course we hire based on talent. Doesn't everyone?" But before you dismiss this strategy, ask yourself, "Am I sure we're not screening out talent? Do we use the degree or the candidate experience as a short cut or proxy for talent? If we do, how's that working out? Turnover costs going down? The resistance to talent based hiring is massive. It's routed in our culture. Talent based hiring is radical. It's harder to do. Much easier to check off boxes. But the key to getting started on the thinking that generates talent based hiring is the language. Because the language is the starting point that will define the transferrable strengths and talents that will give the artist or the simply creative, critical thinking graduate and the hiring authority the basis of dialogue essential to finding work. A talent language starts a meaningful dialogue.

Celebrate your Customer. Career Development Organizations have most often seen the student as their customer. So serving and celebrating the customer has always focused on the student. But in these troubling times of no jobs, what if the Career Development Group began to celebrate business, government, education, and the full spectrum of folks with hiring power as the customer? What would change? The grad would be the "product." That would require some changes. But in the end, wouldn't those changes be in the best interest of the grad?

Embrace the Individual. There are no common levers to pull that pop out jobs. And every single hiring authority sees their needs as most important. So, how do we make the operation about the individual?

Push Beyond the Basics. For generations, career development has focused on the basics of self presentation. None of which is wrong. The problem is the omission of perhaps the most important question in all the liberal arts: What if? How does the grad think differently about finding work?

Build Higher Ground Communities. Even the time honored technique of "knowing someone," has lost strength in this era of instant and frighteningly superficial communication. Networking has been weakened by a lack of clear definition. The need now has become engagement in community building. Whether its volunteering, a religious or community group, or any kind of community; the key question now is not, "Who do I know?" It's "Who has seen my talents in action?" Why "higher ground?" Because involvement in personally chosen higher causes provide a springboard for talent to emerge. A perfect entrée for career development operations to reach out to partner in community building far and wide.

Measure Goals. New challenges mean new scorecards. Scorecards that measure goals or aims and not simply activity. Again, this will mean something different at every school. And the measuring must not get in the way of the work. But a new vision calls for new measurement.

Building one's own new vision of Career Development in troubled times will be a team sport. There will be stops and starts -- because this is new.

But imagine the rewards of this new vision in action. A school that finds work for graduates even when there are no jobs.

Sound impossible? Use The Sixto prompt your vision.

Where would you start?