Building a career development program is an impressive feat, but sustaining that program is an additional challenge. In career development, sustainability entails the ability to grow and innovate programmatically and to exceed the needs of trainees. Cornell University and Rutgers University share methods of achieving sustainability, including intra-university integration, lowering costs, and finding steady revenue streams.

Intra-University Integration

By integrating with the broader university, career development programming becomes an essential part of graduate education. Ideally, career development is institutionalized so as to be indispensable, yet remains independent enough to flexibly incorporate new ideas and meet trainees’ changing needs. Here are a few ways to integrate career development programing with the larger university.

  • Expand programming to a broader audience, such as non-scientific disciplines, underclassmen, master’s degree students, and postdocs if you’re not currently serving them.
  • Arrange with the central career services office to have staff dedicated to doctoral students.
  • Integrate career development programming with supporting academic curricula and departmental events.
  • Utilize university and local media for a steady stream of current communication.
  • Broadcast trainee professional accomplishments and career outcomes data.
  • Strengthen the faculty commitment. For example, make career goals and Individual Development Plans part of faculty mentoring conversations. Or use surveys to give faculty a voice in career development programing.
  • Allow others to embrace career development successes as their own. For example, encourage deans to share career outcomes with trustees and the Council of Graduate Schools.

Lower Costs

Hand over some responsibilities to others – this will give them a sense of ownership and lower programming costs.

  • Establish peer career groups whereby trainees support one another in their career explorations, freeing up career development staff to work on other projects.
  • Give trainees ownership of symposia, speaker recruitment, media outreach, and advisory board facilitation.
  • Partner with other universities and organizations to share resources.
  • Maintain relationships with alumni and local business, and invite them to help with programming and career panels.

Pursue Steady Revenue Streams

Successful career development relies on university integration and a cost-effective program. But to be sustainable, your program will need steady financial support. Here are some suggestions for building capital.

  • Seek long-standing funding at the dean level.
  • Charge for services. For example, provide fee-based programming for other universities, departments, or even undergraduate and master’s students. Or add a line item to graduate program budgets to cover program expenses.
  • Coordinate faculty mentoring and trainee activities in exchange for % effort on T32 and NSF grants.
  • Cultivate relationships with foundations and corporations for program co-sponsorship.
  • Team with recruiters for program support in exchange for easy identification of talented candidates.
  • Creative a culture of giving among alumni.