Building the bridge: a forward looking approach to employer engagement for careers delivery

Sarah Leach, Henley Careers Consultant, contributed to MBA World in April. We thought that we’d re-post it here in case you didn’t get the chance to see it there:

“Does a business school’s version of success match that of the student and the employer? I wonder how many business schools proactively think about engaging their students in the world of work to support and transform the way they think about themselves? Dare we even think about what the employer wants? What if we don’t like what we hear? Success, however you view it, will not be achieved if we don’t go some way to aligning all of our needs.

As someone relatively new to the careers space with a background in coaching and leading change in organisations, I can feel the sand shifting.

Business schools are starting to recognise the importance of early employer engagement in multiple forms, as well as encouraging students to embrace the world of work from the curious lens of an explorer. After all, opportunity and abundant new life may grow in what appears at first glance to be the darkest of corners!

A blended approach to careers delivery, where the gap between employer and business school becomes less of a giant leap and more of a small shuffle, feels like something we should all be aiming for.

The world of work is constantly changing and competition is fierce. So how can career providers continue to bridge the gap between academia and real life? They need to, connect businesses with prospective employees who understand the dilemmas of working in fast-paced, informationally dense, globalised, sometimes face-less, multi-cultural organisations. At the same time they need to help businesses to see the value that their students can bring.

So business schools are opening their doors wide to employers who want to participate in academic life; finding new and innovative ways to enable the student and employer to connect multiple times and in multiple ways. From employers hosting information sessions or site visits, to “Dragon’s Den” type events, to Q&A panels, to participating in business school conferences or hosting breakfast meetings! The opportunities for businesses are endless in terms of keeping up with the latest thinking, having access to a ready supply of talented resource, proactive brand building and networking, and opportunities to give-back to their local communities. The challenge for employers is being able to clearly articulate the type of student they are looking for and secondly being able to “notice” them in a crowd of talented MBAs!

And for the student? A well thought through career plan where decisions are made through conscious choice. More awareness of where they can add value and why. Knowing where they are likely to have the most impact and which organisations they are most likely to thrive in, too. And of course, the opportunity to engage with employers through ready-made connections, the chance to explore in a safe environment, and to find new opportunities for stretch, challenge and creativity.

To capitalise on these benefits, career providers must start to bridge the gap between employer and student, addressing the challenges of the new future of work together, from both an employer and student perspective.

Businesses are time poor and overloaded, so too are our students, so finding ways to make life easier by providing the mechanism for engagement in one place at one time, through collaboration and partnerships across business schools and employers could prove both time and cost effective for all concerned.

Let’s start challenging the traditional boundaries. Embrace the opportunities to collaborate more, and work smarter, not harder, and together to reach each of our goals.