Author Archives: Sarah M (Careers)

Self service or on-line booking does it really give the best experience?

appnt-locationMany Careers Services and other appointment based services such as your GP have been using on-line booking for a while.  But are we really getting or giving a better experience?

Has anyone done any analysis of satisfaction among on-line bookers vs those who were triaged?

In an ideal world where there are unlimited appointments and everyone understands exactly what they need and how to get it, then yes perhaps it’s the most convenient way to allow access to your services.

However….

  • Many users are not really sure what they need
  • People don’t read explanations of what is available
  • Some people find accessing technology difficult
  • Appointment availability is not unlimited

In my experience…

We have been using on-line booking for our simplest service “Applications Advice” for about 5 years now.

You would think it was fairly simple “advice on applications”, the page on the website and on the booking system states what this includes and what to bring. But more often than not these instructions are ignored.

It’s so easy to book,  users often book multiple appointments without meaning to, or have no real intention of attending, leading to high numbers of no shows.

On the plus side: It’s high volume so on-line booking stops people having to queue at 8am in the morning to get a chance of an appointment. It also frees up the phone lines a bit.

We recently started making some other types of appointment available on-line too, and certainly they get booked, but it’s clear some students have no real understanding of what they have booked or why.

Booking in person has benefits.

When a student comes in or rings up, we use diagnostic questioning to find out what help they need and how prepared they are.  This enables us to help them there and then, or if necessary refer them to an appointment. The help we give them makes them more prepared for the appointment and we are able to check that they understand what they need to do.  The personal approach makes students more likely to attend too.

Of course it’s time consuming but perhaps that time spent helping is actually well spent.  Benefiting both the student who is able to discuss their needs and get a tailored service, and the institution in terms of better satisfaction and less time wasted in non attendance.

Yes it means that you can’t book an appointment at 4 am in the morning, but is that actually the most important thing?

We are not alone

It’s clear that the NHS has been having the same thoughts, at my Doctors surgery alone they have clearly tried a few things… First there was the queue, then there was telephone booking, then there was on-line booking, and then there wasn’t! Now there is telephone triage where you speak to a doctor or nurse who decides if you need to come in or if they can quickly help you by phone. I have to say this latter approach seems pretty effective!

Is there a middle road?

I’m not sure I want to go back to the mad panic every morning on phones and queues waiting for an appointment.Do we have the time to talk to every student who wants to get advice on their CV to ensure they are ready for an appointment? Perhaps we do if it means that they need less appointments overall, it’s just a shift in staffing provision. Some systems may provide ways of unlocking appointment types after an initial consult and this could be a really good compromise.

I’m hopeful that improvements in on-line booking systems will prompt users into selecting the correct options, (if they know what they need).  However, I don’t think there is a substitute for talking to someone as part of the information & advice process before you get to advice & guidance.

What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

New ways of interacting with students. The role of Careers information staff

Well really it’s not so new it’s just chatting, finding information and answering questions. But how we do that,  is it really changing?  I think it’s starting to.

It’s not what we are saying that’s changing, it’s how we are communicating that seems to be shifting and what our role as information staff is.

A couple of case studies:

  1. A friend posts a short notice vacancy on my non-work Facebook page.  I post it on a student Facebook group.  Within an hour a student asks a question on the group about it. I contact my friend via messenger to get the information and get back to the student. Meanwhile another student seeing the conversation asks another question – and on it goes.  All without opening my mouth to speak.
  2. The other day I chatted to students face to face, by phone, by email, via twitter and using live chat on our website.  I also blogged, posted info on Facebook and edited the website.  Didn’t touch a piece of paper other than a post-it note!

So what is the role of the information professional?

In the world of Careers the role of information staff is blurry at best and can differ enormously depending on other staff roles.

  • A researcher – someone who can find the right information for a clients needs, and can find opportunities and information they didn’t know they needed.
  • An information architect – someone who can create a website or publications, that are structured in a clear & logical way
  • A facilitator – someone who can help students to access opportunities.
  • A communicator – someone who can take the information and make it assessable by using appropriate methods to disseminate it and appropriate language.
  • A critical friend – someone who can support students and be there to answer questions and point them in the right direction
  • An advocate for students – to ensure their needs are considered when planning service delivery.
  • A trouble shooter – someone who will take an issue and run with it.

Who’s changing is it us or them?

It seems to me that we are seeing a cohort of slightly different students, with slightly less straightforward aspirations. They may seem a little tentative or shy about coming forward but they are coming.

  • Is student engagement actually working are we bringing this new student type out of the woodwork?
  • By using different modes of communication are we showing that we are accessible and not scary?
  • Is our language and the way we present ourselves changing? Are we more understanding of students who need more support and encouragement.
  • Is it the more buoyant labour market?  Commercial jobs are out there, there’s lots of them so do some students feel able to stand back and take a look at a different path rather than feeling pressured?

…as usual a lot of questions and few answers.

…and back to social media

A while back I was musing on social media and where we are going with it. Turns out that was a can of worms, leading to looking at a whole communications strategy and really thinking about what we are trying to achieve as a service.

Where, how and what we communicate is really key to this. Students may choose not to talk to us openly on social media, and that’s ok, perhaps just showing that we are there and not too threatening is enough.

 

Social media what’s new, what’s working and how do we evaluate it?

It’s been a while since i’ve been here in musing mode so you can guess we are reviewing something at the moment! Yes you guessed it Social Media!

We started with a blog many years ago (and then a revamped blog), then ventured into Facebook and jumped into Twitter.  They all seemed to have a purpose and be used, but fads come and go (as do students). Perhaps we need a bit of time to assess what we are doing and why?

Young people seem to be all snapchat and whatsapp, intagramming like their lives depended on it. Is facebook old hat?  Was pinterest a passing fad? What’s around the corner?

What do students use and do they want us there?

When you ask students what they use they say Facebook and increasingly Twitter.

Using, as far as a student is concerned seems to be seeing the information in their news feed, not actively participating much.  If you are lucky they may click on a link.  For us that doesn’t really help – no nice metrics to evaluate, if you don’t like our posts or talk to us how do we know that you are even looking!  We feel unwanted and might even give up using something if we can’t measure its use!

So we ask students again what do you use and the answers are the same, and yes they seem to value what we post there but it’s not cool to interact with us. (Fair enough!)  Secretly I bet they are all snapchatting but don’t want us getting involved!

So here’s where you my information colleagues come in!

  • Has anyone done a social media review – were there any findings or trends you could share?
  • What is worth evaluating?
  • Is anyone using Twitter lists successfully?
  • How are you working with recruiters who want you to post on social media about them?
  • Do you have one Twitter or Facebook account or many for different purposes?
  • What’s new? Anyone using something that really seems to encourage students to interact with each other and you?

Any intel leave a comment here or on the LinkedIn discussion or Tweet me @MallenSarah

 

 

What’s in a name and do your users really care? Careers and proud!

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_ImageWe keep being told that the word Careers is scary and people don’t like it.

I get this, no-one wants to be reminded that there is a future and that they have to engage with it,  it’s uncertain, and its going to take some hard work and possibly some knockbacks.

I also get that careers advice before University can be sketchy at best, often entirely absent or just downright inadequate. Yet EVERYONE remembers it. AND NOT IN A GOOD WAY!

So we are battling against the image of something that is scary and something that could be pretty bad. OH GREAT!

So let’s re-brand, change the name, change our image and completely fool everyone that it’s a new sexy thing that they have never encountered before and that they want  to engage with it and make it part of their life.

So how many of you out there have changed your name, only to find that when people ring up the first thing they ask is ” is that the Careers Service?” Facepalm!
Careers Service, Careers and employability, Career development centre, etc etc etc WHATEVER you want to call it our users aren’t stupid they know a Careers Service when they see one.

So I’m torn – do you re-name it or reinvent it?

If you can make this “Future planning – career – thing” something that everyone wants to be involved in a that’s obviously a good idea.   This needs some kind of engagement strategy and possibly some kind of stick to make people do it  (the carrots clearly are not working!)

If you can make everyone take responsibility for their actions and take action earlier – then perhaps you don’t need so much Career Service type intervention at University? This needs a change in education generally!

So who will teach young people how to navigate the unchartered waters of the internet and to differentiate good advice from bad.  If it’s not going to happen at school then it still becomes an issue once at University and who is going to deal with that?  Oh I guess that would be the Careers Service. #circularargument

So there we have it back to the same dilemma!

There are so many issues to contend with is what you call it really the biggest issue?

Careers & proud!
Building a good reputation with satisfied customers is generally agreed to be the best thing to build your brand in a commercial environment.

Your brand is CAREERS  don’t throw it away.  Make it visible so that students associate a good experience with your brand.  If they choose to use other providers of careers information or advice it is their choice – but we can try to make our offer visible and accessible and attractive.

The down side of this is if you succeed how will you cope with the extra demand?

*No answers & no magic bullets included in this post – just some musings!

 

 

 

 

 

What do users want out of a website?

newwebjul14I started this journey earlier this year when we were told that we needed a new website by September.  With over a 1000 pages of web content not a mean feat!

Fortunately the web team had prepared some new templates to drag us into the mobile enabled world so we had a pretty good idea of what the website could do and the limitations.

So I asked students what they wanted….

“A website that gives us a job” was the overall response from the focus group.

We know students are focussed on the end goal and tend to miss out on the stages in between and this was held up by the focus group.  They tended to dive into the vacancy database and ignore the whole website.  (Groans!)

Basically they don’t want to read reams of information unless it’s the information they need.  This is why everyone googles – why bother reading the bits of the website you don’t need!

Management needs

It was suggested we produce content for year groups to talk to the students at their level.  Not as simple as you might think as people take decisions and need to know things at different speeds. BUT we implemented it.

The university style

Changed overnight a few months after we produced the beta version of the new website. Our templates can not replicate this style of website but we can make it look a bit closer to it by changing some navigation on the home page.

Staff needs

Information and guidance staff use the website in 1-1 interactions with students and they tend not to always be intuitive users, they learn where information lives and how to get there. Like driving the same route to work each day – changing the route tends to invoke panic.  So making any changes was not going to be popular.

So on to usability testing

We produced a beta version based on all the needs above and asked some usability testers to take a group of students and evaluate their experience.

It was pretty much what I expected – that doesn’t mean it was good, just expected!

  • Too much information
  • Change to action based navigation not year groups.
  • Change the names of things.
  • and a whole load of things that are not possible to implement in the templates we have.

Happy days!

So what next…

  1. Draft a new beta version based on student requirements and the new university style.
  2. Back to staff with some questions.  Turns out they all have different opinions, fine, that’s representative of the general population.
  3. Try to find a middle ground around what most staff and students want.
  4. Short consultation period via email (by now i’m pretty sure everyone is sick of it!)
  5. Make the changes on the live website and wait….

and then what?

  • Monitoring usage using google analytics
  • Looking at SEO

…. but in the mean time before we all get too obsessed 5 tips for librarians using web metrics is a good place to start!

 

 

 

 

Is it Geeky to use your careers service?

Recently a student was overheard calling another student a geek for talking to Careers staff.  It was probably a lighthearted comment amongst friends but it rather illustrates a PR problem.

It’s just not cool to be seen getting help from Careers, or probably from anyone amongst certain demographics.

Stealth tactics are needed!

This year we were asked to put on an employability week, no problem!
Apart from the fact that the research showed that students don’t like the words employability or careers.  The word future though, was apparently less dull or scary!

The upshot was MyFutureFest, a week of events around looking at future options centred around a giant Teepee.

Cunning isn’t it, no mention of careers and the lure of a festival vibe.  Marketing was primarily done via social media but to be fair you could hardly miss the Teepee!

The Teepee was packed, the freebies went like hot cakes and the lure of free coffee and cake in exchange for a few conversations with the people in the tent seemed to work a treat.

We had a # tag for the event to monitor chatter – though to be fair it was mainly us chatting. We did get a few nice comments though:

  • FREE CAKE 😀 and a cool teepee x
  • HAPPINESS : defined ! @ organised by I appreciate my Careers Service efforts at Uni. 🙂

The fringe events did well too and we saw a steady trickle of referrals up to Careers.

Overall effectiveness, well it’s hard to tell any long-term effects, but we hope the “do something” message came across.

Now we need to apply some creativity to our other marketing to make students take careers information, and even more importantly read it and take appropriate action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile enabled sites – chicken and egg!

websiteWe are in the process of moving all the content on our website to new templates which will enable mobile device users to have a better experience of our website.

There is no denying that every year more people buy smart phones and use tablets so we need to ensure that they have easy access to our web-based information. However, our surveys and analytics tell us that very few of our users actually use the careers website on a mobile device actually only about 15%.

Is this because it’s currently not mobile enabled so it makes it harder to use? Or is it because information rich websites are not best viewed on the bus!

Our users tell us that they may pick up alerts or look up quick bits of information while out and  about but when they want to look at in-depth information, researching a job or career etc they do this on a laptop or desktop at home or in the library.

It’s a bit of a quandary….

To write a mobile enabled site takes a lot of rewriting and consideration. But if actually 85% of our users are using our website on a desktop or laptop how much effort should we put into writing in a completely new way that might actually be to the detriment of desktop users?

It made me realise why many commercial sites create mobile sites and apps to perform specific functions, while giving you the option of the desk top site for the full experience (or the bit they hadn’t thought anyone would want to do on their phone!)

It’s not an option for us to have multiple websites or apps so how do we strike the right balance?

  • It’s got to be google friendly – people use navigation less and rely on search results
  • Make it obvious what the page is about from the title – mobile users might not even see your navigation so they are going to google in and quickly assess if they are in the right place or not.
  • Get to the point quickly.  But if its in-depth information that needs to be delivered it’s ok to be lengthy just make sure its clear so that users can decide whether to read it or not.
  • PDFs can be useful for lengthy user guides or e-books but your mobile users may curse you if its taken 10 minutes to download and doesn’t deliver what they wanted.
  • Get rid of unnecessary images your mobile users may not see them anyway.
  • Think about what your mobile users see on their device, if sidebar information all gets removed or shoved to the bottom then anything vital here may be lost.
  • Think about whether new pages should open in a new window or tab or in the same page.  Different devices will handle this differently. On the whole do users of your site need to flip between several pages at once?

Once usage of your site gets to 50/50 then It’s probably another story but by then i’m sure there will be new software, devices and protocols for us all to take on board.

So if we make it mobile friendly will more people be tempted to engage?