The Future of We Is Intrapreneurship: Leading Change From Within

By Jennifer Mobley posted 01-22-2019 07:27


An interview with Andy Chan, VP for Innovation and Career Development at Wake Forest University

This year, The Future of We Task Force is launching a special series on the NACE blog on the Future of We. Each month, we will be featuring in-depth interviews with senior executives and leaders in career services, university relations, and recruiting on the future of work. What are the macro trends impacting career services and university relations and recruiting professionals on a global and national level? What shifts in perspective and direction do these trends in the future of work require us to make? What can you and your organization do this year to help navigate these changes and position yourselves for the future? 

Our first interview features  Andy Chan, Vice President for Innovation and Career Development at Wake Forest University. As a national leader in reconceptualizing the college-to-career experience, Chan has been at the forefront of transforming the traditional concept of “career services” into a college-to-career community designed to prepare students to live lives that matter for a lifetime, not just secure a first job after graduation.

Chan is known for delivering the prophetic proclamation in 2013 that “Career Services Must Die,” a popular TEDx talk that continues to be widely discussed and debated. Hyperbole aside, Chan elevated a national conversation on the importance of career services in higher education and advocated for a new model where the institution is taking responsibility and being accountable for teaching students how to live purposeful lives. 

Now, more than five years since the TEDx talk, Chan notes that while we have seen increased interest from senior leadership in higher education to think differently about how to tackle the future of work and educational agility, he notes that out of 4,000+ colleges in the United States, perhaps fewer than 100 are seriously investing significant new resources and leadership in these efforts.   

As Chan states, “Sadly, few have done much to address it in a transformative way. There are too many constraints: traditional academic culture, siloed organizations, inflexible budgets, other institutional priorities, and fires to address.” 

Amid these challenges and constraints, is there a way that career services leaders can help their institutions make this strategic shift in investment and lead this necessary change? 

According to Chan, training and coaching in intrapreneurship are essential. Intrapreneurship borrows from the principles of entrepreneurship. Whereas entrepreneurship is the act of spearheading a new business or venture, intrapreneurship is the act of initiating new programs, products, services, and innovations within your organization. “The person who leads the career office has to be a systems thinker, a strategic communicator, an effective people and change manager, a persuasive, diplomatic speaker, and a courageous yet patient and politically savvy leader,” Chan states. This is indeed a tall order, but these skills and attributes are at the heart of intrapreneurship. Career services professionals need to invest in their ongoing development to hone these skills, whether that be listening to Jeff Selingo and Jeff Horn’s podcast FutureU, attending NACE’s training and events, or hiring an executive coach to help them hone their intrapreneurial mindset and skill set.

Here are Chan’s three key suggestions on how career services professionals can cultivate an intrapreneurial mindset and skill set as they seek to lead and inspire change this year: 

Find ways to learn about innovation and change from outside higher education.

Consider how innovations in other sectors are being implemented and how you can apply those techniques to improve processes and outcomes in your office and at your organization. By looking at how design thinking can inform and invigorate career development, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans’ best seller Designing Your Life is a compelling example that illuminates the power of this kind of application. 

Get comfortable with data and technology.

Leverage data and technology to articulate a persuasive story that resonates with your stakeholders and gain more institutional buy-in for greater impact. Finding the right data is one step, but translating your data into language that others can understand, is how you can really make a difference.  Handshake’s user groups and NACE’s training on data analytics are a great place to start. 

Pilot new ways to scale career education, including online and less 1:1.

As students become more engaged in the career development process, this creates pressure on career services staff, particularly career coaches. Develop new ways to teach, coach, and motivate students beyond the traditional 1:1 advising appointment by using group teaching/coaching as well as online tools and resources to tap into the transactional desires of students as well as reduce constraints or limitations within your campus or organizational strategies. 

Moving beyond simply paying lip service to the importance of career services and towards truly transforming the college-to-career experience is indeed a call for bold change, change that could take a decade or more and requires skillful intrapreneurial leadership. But Chan believes colleges are ready for it. And most importantly, our students need it now more than ever. 

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