University of Phoenix Builds College Culture Around Career Exploration & Management

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A revolutionary new career services model will have all 4,000 colleges in the United States, if not all 14,000 colleges worldwide, scrambling to catch up!

In my book, The Unemployed Grad, And What Parents Can Do About It, I examined why the culture on college campuses does not focus on careers.  My goal was to help parents understand how dramatically the job search process has changed and what they could do to coach their students to take ownership of their careers from the time they get on campus, so that they don’t run the risk of becoming part of the 53.6% of grads under 25 that are either unemployed or underemployed identified in last year’s Associated Press study.

I wasn’t surprised then, when a survey of 600 career directors late last year, conducted by NACE for the Career Advisory Board showed:

  • 48.1% thought students did not have the knowledge they needed to find a job.
  • 55.7% felt students’ resumes were not professional enough to use for their job searches.

The survey confirmed the pleas I heard in conversations with hundreds of career professionals about the need for colleges to change their cultures to focus on careers to better prepare graduates for the workforce.

University of Phoenix gets this

One college that has rapidly transformed its culture to focus on education that leads to careers and helping their students and alumni find the right careers, as well as providing the right courses that match employers’ needs, is the University of Phoenix. It’s newly launched Phoenix Career Services is a win-win solution designed to help channel prospective and current students to the career paths that best match their interests so they can better position themselves for the open positions that are the right fit for them among the more than 3 million jobs that are available in the U.S.

The University’s transformation is somewhat akin to what Microsoft did when Bill Gates, then CEO, issued a now famous December 7th, 1995 “Internet Tidal Wave” memo that suggested the Internet was going to become the central focus of their products and services, and he urged employees to immediately begin to think how every product and service could be adapted, modified and or delivered by the Internet. Industry experts doubted that Gates could “turn their ship around” and refocus their product development and delivery via the Internet. History proved he could and did!

University of Phoenix is transforming their culture by focusing on two things: students and the companies that hire them.

Focus on students

University of Phoenix decided to put an assessment at the very beginning, prior to the enrollment process, so potential students have a better idea of which career paths they should take. They wanted to help students better identify their career paths before they even applied, so they could then explore possible degree programs and even job postings.

To do this, University of Phoenix created a free, five-minute online assessment tool that is available 24/7 to anyone who wants to use it. Career Interest Profiler helps people identify their professional interests and the related careers to better focus their career search. It’s a valuable tool for anyone considering going to college because it rapidly helps them identify the kind of careers where they will more likely be the happiest and find most success, before they even consider applying to the college.

Career Interest Profiler is interactive and is something a prospective student can explore as much as he or she wants. While the assessment tool might take only 5 minutes, it’s easy to see anyone could spend much, much longer interacting and engaging with the suggestions and data provided. Frankly, it’s the first scalable solution I’ve seen that will give prospective students the knowledge and information they need to identify what they want to do in their careers.

More importantly, it helps them see the types of careers that match their interests, and displays degree programs that University of Phoenix offers that will help them qualify for the right jobs. This tool alone could help prevent students going down career paths that aren’t right for them.

Next, University of Phoenix developed the free Job Market Research Tool to help people identify the education, experience and skills typically required of the jobs and career paths they are interested in, as well as typical salary ranges for those careers. Anyone using this tool can drill down deeper and see companies that are doing the most hiring and learn more about specific skills required for the jobs. For example, if I wanted a marketing manager position, I could see which companies are hiring, and what specialized skills, software skills and basic skills I would need for the job. Plus, I could see the type of career paths individuals have taken moving into and out of those positions.

Armed with the data developed from the person who takes the Career Interest Profiler, the Job Market Research Tool allows potential students to visually see a common career path (from actual data) of successful job candidates. In my marketing example above, I could see the 5 most common types of positions Marketing Managers had prior to getting the position, AND I can see the 5 most common types of positions they had after their Marketing Manager positions ended.

This process gives prospective students more confidence in the fact that the path they are choosing is not only one that best fits their interests and passions, but by analyzing recent job postings, it gives them a better idea of employment options and market demand for their chosen careers.

Finally, for students who choose to pursue an education with the University, Phoenix Career Services offers My Career Plan – a personalized education roadmap that allows students to create their own customized plans for developing the competencies that match the needs of their desired careers. The career plan helps students realize where their coursework directly ties to their careers. Students are also required to take additional assessments to determine strengths and areas to develop including additional skills like teamwork and problem solving that employers demand, as well as participate in activities tied directly to the job hunt such as resume writing, building an online presence, and interviewing skills.

From the moment students visit to take the career assessment on through to graduation, this new career services model is preparing University of Phoenix students to educate themselves about their career paths and, most importantly, what employers are seeking most in new hires.

Focus on companies

Companies have been grumbling for decades that students are not prepared for their first professional jobs. They’ve identified a dozen or so soft skills students don’t have, complain that they have to provide expensive orientation and training programs and lament when, after making that investment, the new hire leaves within 24 months. Yet no one has listened to them… Until now…

University of Phoenix has been actively meeting with and developing relationships with hiring authorities at top employers across the country. They continue to ask employers what they need from their employees and are taking that information into consideration when developing their curricula and academic programs.

Focus on the customers’ needs!

Most businesses fail because they don’t focus on their customers’ needs. University of Phoenix has put additional time and effort into build their culture around the needs of their students, alumni and the companies that hire them, and I expect this strategy will benefit all areas.

How? By building a culture that is focused on outcomes, University of Phoenix is helping more grads find the right careers, which may help reduce hiring costs for companies by providing more qualified candidates. That’s a big payoff!


Note.  I am a spokesperson for University of Phoenix. This article reflects my interest in seeing higher education transform their cultures to produce more successful careers for their grads and alumni.

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Don Philabaum
Love to find ways to use technology help more grads and alumni develop successful career strategies.
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum

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