Spotlight for Career Services Professionals, February 29, 2012
by Gary Alan Miller
Let me share some statistics that might surprise you from a recent study done by Cisco:
- In 2011, there was eight times more traffic on the Internet via mobile devices alone than there was on the entire Internet in the year 2000.
- Two years ago, just one out of every five phones sold was a smartphone. By the end of 2011, it was around 40 percent.
- By the end of this year, there will be more web-capable mobile phones on Earth than there are people.
And that doesn’t even address the tablet computer phenomenon!
What are we, as career center professionals, doing to keep our technology current? While parts of our profession are moving forward—Texas Christian University won last year’s NACE Chevron Award with its iTCU app and CSM by Symplicity launched its mobile interface in the past few months—the majority of us haven’t taken that step.
But, it’s clear that we need to. The statistics and trend lines are just too obvious for us to ignore.
A recent Forbes article makes it clear that it’s much more complicated than asking, “Do I release an app or a mobile version of my website?” Since I assume that most of us are not ready for that level of complexity, let’s live in the app-or-mobile web world for the course of this article.
Apps are fun. Apps have the potential to do interesting things. But, my personal bias is toward mobile-friendly websites over native apps, as I think our students are generally more likely to browse to their career center website than to look for us in their phone or tablet’s app store.
Have you ever looked at your website on a phone or a tablet computer? How does the experience change?
Cameo Hartz, assistant director at Duke University’s career center, notes that she thinks centers need to behave more like media outlets. Take a moment to visit your favorite cable news channel’s website first on your computer, then via your smartphone. It is probably a very different interface!
Having a mobile-optimized version of your site is commonplace in many fields. Educational institutions have been slow to adopt. If we were to perform a SWOT analysis of career services specifically, one of the threats would have to be the pace at which we are adopting technology (mobile and otherwise) in comparison to other sources of career information for our students.
It hurts to acknowledge this, but to many students we are not “the” resource; we are just “a” resource. If we do not make sure our digital front door is compelling and accessible, we will lose credibility.
So, what is the solution? We need to begin the conversation about the future of the career center website, from both a content and user experience perspective. We know our students like to get their information when and where they want it. We know our students like to use their phones.
Let’s make sure that we see the writing on the wall and continue to provide services to students at the high quality that we all strive to reach, perhaps just in a more mobile-optimized environment.
Gary Alan Miller is the assistant director for social media and innovation at university career services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You can follow him on Twitter at @garyalanmiller.