Closing the Divide by Going Outside

Kelli Smith Director of University Career Services at the Fleish

Kelli K. Smith, Director of University Career Services, Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, Binghamton University
Twitter: https://twitter.com/drkelliksmith
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellikapustkasmith/

Recently I read, “3 Reasons Why You Should Take Your Work Outside” by Lea McCloud just after having an outside meeting on a lovely spring day with one of our graduate assistants. We had planned to discuss her work interests for next year but had not planned for it to be outside. Why not? What I found interesting is that a staff member later confided how delighted she was to see my Tweet of this impromptu choice since apparently, for her, it represented a major culture shift for our office. Even more interesting is that this particular graduate student and I had discussed our recent culture shift of “going to the students” over the past year and her work to embrace that change.

Last year in the month I started at Binghamton University our staff had a planning retreat. One of the concepts we all agreed we should focus on was getting out of the office more to connect with students, much as is described by Trudy Steinfeld and Manny Contomanolis in “Thriving in the Brave New World of Career Services: 10 Essential Strategies” published one month earlier. Both Manny and Trudy noted the importance of meeting students in their space and to be less place dependent. More specifically, they wrote:

  1. Meet students and stakeholders in their “space”. Career services are increasingly less “place dependent”. Virtual interviews, coaching appointments and program content delivery are critical in today’s world and there are a rapidly expanding array of technical platforms and tools to support working in this way. Equally important is the need to deliver services where your clients are – in their academic buildings, residence halls, and social places. Flexibility is increasingly vital to effective services delivery.

For us it made natural sense. We knew from our survey data that we were not perceived by campus as the most welcoming, and we also had a tradition of an incredibly packed schedule of pre-planned programs throughout the year, requiring significant time and the student to “come to us” for educational assistance. At the same time, we are presented regularly with examples of talented and high achieving students that share they are (or were) too intimidated or overwhelmed to visit our office not because they see our staff as unkind or unhelpful, but because it meant they were facing reality. One might argue we enable that anxiety of such students with our new approach by not requiring them to enter our physical threshold. But like with anything new or overwhelming for us all, a professional nudge on their turf hopefully allows for a more open mindset to post-diploma thinking, and a familiar face may allow for greater confidence and willingness to visit our Center.

As a result, a few relatively small changes we made have had a significant impact. One of our staff members volunteered to host Friday afternoon office hours in a campus residential communities. It was rare that she did not have back-to-back students meeting with her. We changed our program request form to be more welcoming and “easy” for campus, while slightly and strategically lessening some our pre-planned programs with smaller attendance numbers last year. As a result, we went from 58 total requested programs last academic year to 103 this academic year with a total of 2513 “student touches” through those tailored programs. Perhaps one of my favorite outcomes is how it has truly started to become part of our culture. During a staff meeting this April Lexie – our graduate assistant with whom I recently had an outdoor meeting – announced how she had planned a “Games, S’Mores, & More” program at a residential community fire pit in partnership with one of our academic advising departments. She stated her intent was to connect with students in a casual and convenient way and to demonstrate how approachable we are. As a former campus activities staff member, I have long held the belief that programming after spring break is a serious gamble, so even I was unsure whether any students would show. To my delight, 29 students showed up and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Late last fall our Director of Residential Life and Housing arranged a meeting with myself and several others involved with our residential communities which adopted the “Oxford Model” in the 1960s. Each of our six residential communities has a Faculty Master that offices in their assigned community. I did not know in advance the meeting was to propose “The Apartments” community, primarily made up of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, should have a Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development staff person office there rather than a traditional faculty master. To my delight what resulted is us gaining a new staff member that will truly work “where the students are” starting this June. There is no doubt in my mind that this would have happened if we as a staff had not committed last June to meeting students in their space.

Perhaps it is time for us to step outside of the comfort zone of our offices and join the students in their “space.” All across the country there are many innovative approaches to meeting our students where they are – physically and developmentally – and being flexible in our educational design. For the benefit of everyone, I encourage you join in the dialogue to share what you are doing on your campus to meet students and stakeholders in their space or be less place dependent. Successes and challenges are all welcome.

What the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Teaches About Career Success

joe hayes

Joe Hayes, Assistant Director, Employer Relations & Internships, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Twitter: @_JosephHayes
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/josephhayes1

Perhaps you were among the 20-plus million Americans that watched the women’s world cup final between the United States and Japan on July 5. It wasn’t very close. While the lopsided final of the tournament’s biggest game was unexpected, the success of the U.S. team throughout the summer was no accident. Instead, the U.S. team came prepared for work—just like students can—and met success.

Capitalize on second chances

Four years ago, the United States was stunned by Japan, losing the World Cup finals in penalty kicks. In a way, that failure provided extra motivation ultimately leading to an Olympic gold medal in 2012. This year the team came out focused and seemingly on a mission to capture the first World Cup in 16 years.

Second chances may not always be as grandiose as a rematch of the World Cup final. For a student, it could be the ability to retake a course and achieve a higher grade that leads to graduation. It could be a second interview or call back from an employer after, admittedly, under-performing at the first interview. It could be getting off an employer’s blacklist from reneging on a job offer. It could be getting a new project as an intern despite the first project not going so well.

This second chance should viewed as such—a chance to right a wrong or missed opportunity—but also, a chance to learn, grow, and improve. In a sense, capitalizing on a second chance can be easy. There may not be a road map for success, but a road map for failure exists and intuitively that can lead to the inverse—success mapping.

Let go of past accomplishments – focus on the future

The U.S. Women’s National Team has been one of the premier teams in the world over the past quarter century, yet only three times have they won the games most coveted prize—the World Cup. Despite constantly contending and putting fear into opponents based on past success, the team needed to do more than simply show up to win more games. Here the U.S. team needed to let go of past accomplishments and focus on how they could accomplish new feats.

Much like the U.S. team, students shouldn’t get complacent during their career or job search. This means that a student can’t and shouldn’t automatically think their degree sets them up for success. The student shouldn’t assume that because they had a high GPA, they will be employable. The student shouldn’t think that because they had an internship or some form of experiential learning in the past that they are guaranteed an opening with that organization the following year. Instead, the same amount of hard work (and perhaps more) that went into accomplishing past goals will be needed to accomplish future goals.

Timing is everything

In soccer—a game that is played with a running 90-minute clock—successful and strategic team substitutions often decide games in key moments. This is especially important when a team is limited to only three substitutes per match (hence the extreme value of putting in the right player at the right time). This was never more evident than in the semifinal match vs # 1-ranked Germany, when the U.S. subbed in Abby Wambach in at 80 minutes and Kelley O’Hara in at 84 minutes. Moments later both played a role in the clinching goal (Ms. Wambach chasing down the ball and Ms. O’Hara scoring the goal) to put the United States up 2-0 and on their way to the World Cup finals.

Much like the key substitution that occurred right as the German squad was getting tired, students and professionals should think in terms of key moments and strategies that put themselves at the greatest advantage for success at the right time. This could be as simple as drafting a handwritten thank-you note moments after any interview while it’s still fresh in the moment. Or it may be networking with current interns at organizations a year before you are intern-ready (so as to make in-roads with companies before the official recruiting cycle begins).

In other words, one should constantly use time to their advantage.

Organize Your Workflow and Save Paper

Laura CraigLaura Craig, Assistant Director, Internships and Experiential Education, Temple University Career Center
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/lauramn
Twitter: @BuckeyeVirginia

Happy summer semester everyone! Before you can get to the end of the summer, though, do you feel like you can get to your desk? Building on James Marable’s earlier post for the NACE 2015 Conference, I wanted to take a deeper dive into one of the apps he mentioned, Evernote.

Evernote bills itself as “the modern workspace that enables you to be your most productive.” It’s a cloud-based service that allows you to create text, photo, and audio notes across a range of interfaces, combine multiple forms of media into one note that you can share with others, and organize everything in a meaningful way for later use. It has radically changed how I look at productivity, and I hope it can do the same for you!

Here are three ideas from my workflow to help you make the most of Evernote:

Banish a blizzard of paper from your desk: Before Evernote, I planned everything out on paper and gathered more paper for handouts. Then I created physical file folders for all that paper and filed them away. My computer monitor was decorated with a wide array of Post-Its and other scraps of paper that were vitally important, but lacked a permanent home.

Not anymore!

Now, I create a new note with my ideas, and attach any ideas for handouts to that same note so I don’t have to hunt for them in multiple places. I organize individual notes into topical notebooks and tag categories across notebooks. The screenshot below shows you an example of note organization. You see my “Program Planning” notebook with historical/current data around past programs and supporting content I’d like to use for future programs. I’ve highlighted my tag list in yellow. This list allows me to group items by category across notebooks.

craig evernote desktop

I may have notes about how to use the Symplicity Counseling Module within this notebook, but I use the Counseling Module tag, highlighted in orange, to categorize everything I have about it in Evernote. 

To-do lists are also far more dynamic within Evernote. Instead of a list of static items, I can add additional information, updates, and next steps to accomplish each item. Once I complete an item, I don’t have to get rid of it if I don’t want to, making it easy to use it as a recurring to-do list.

Free your inbox from “reference” items: Raise your hand if your inbox contains hundreds or even thousands of items “for reference.” One of the best features of Evernote is that you can e-mail documents into your account and sort them into individual notebooks from the e-mail message. In the screenshot below, you’ll see that I’m sending a meeting agenda into my Temple University notebook, and the note will be tagged “communications.” It won’t get lost once you send it to Evernote because anything that’s in your account is searchable, so give your inbox a break!

craig evernote emailSlay the paper monster: I remember at my first job having folder upon folder of articles and ideas that I wanted to share with students. Did I ever do that? No—I never saw that paper again after I carefully filed it away. Two additional Evernote add-ons have really helped me cut down on the amount of physical paper I retain, making it more likely that I’ll use the paper I have.

Scannable App: This free iOS app allows you to capture high quality scans of any document and share directly into your Evernote account, as well as through other channels. I would call this a must have app to lighten your load!

Doxie Scanner: If you’ve got a bigger paper monster to slay, consider investing in a Doxie Scanner. These scanners are small, easy to use, and have great Evernote integration. The small size makes it easy to use for home and work, and you could also take this to #NACE16. I’ve probably scanned more than 2,000 pieces of paper with my Doxie, so they are quite durable.

Do you already use Evernote? What’s your favorite feature? What organizational project are you tackling at work this summer? Share your ideas in the comments.

 

Developing Career Goals Holistically

Melanie BufordMelanie Buford, Program Coordinator/Adjunct Instructor, Career Development Center, University of Cincinnati
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mebuford/
Website: www.melaniebuford.org

Dan Blank, a career coach who works primarily with creative professionals, offers the following advice in his webinar “Take Back Your Creative Life.”

“Career goals should not be formed in isolation. You must take into account all of your responsibilities (personal and professional), and be sure to account for your own well-being. This includes physical and mental health.” Blank encourages his clients to integrate their career and personal goals in order to set themselves up for success.

Many undergraduate students start their career decision-making process by selecting a major based on the subjects they enjoyed in high school. Students interested in majoring in one of the applied sciences tend to follow this pattern. Several students I’ve worked with tell me they’ve chosen to major in engineering because they were “smart” in high school or strong in math and science, but they don’t know much about the field itself. Time and again, these students arrive at the career development center wondering why they’re not more interested in the engineering coursework and field experiences.

The problem isn’t engineering. The problem is that these students formed career goals in isolation. They didn’t consider the environment they’d be working in, the physical location of their organization, the skills they enjoy developing and want to build on, or the ways they hope to grow as people and as professionals. Fortunately, the University of Cincinnati provides a co-op program that allows engineering students to get full-time work experience before graduation.

Career goals, increasingly, need to be formed holistically. Gone are the days when choosing a career was simply a matter of matching your best school subject to an industry. The market is volatile; new opportunities are being created and other avenues are becoming less viable. A law career isn’t the safe choice it once was, and the nonprofit world has expanded to include diverse organizations tackling new social issues. It’s more common that professionals will relocate to a new city for a job opportunity, and more workers than ever are changing jobs and moving to new sectors over the course of their careers.

We are facing the so-called “paradox of choice.” Research has demonstrated that if we are presented with more opportunities, decision-making becomes more difficult and satisfaction less likely.

When a student steps into a career development office today, they’re faced with a much broader set of options than they would have been 30 years ago. They could go to medical school in their hometown or they could spend two years in the Peace Corps and teach grade school students in Lithuania. They could go to graduate school for computer science or launch a start-up with friends based on their ideas for a new app.

In order to make these decisions, students have to consider not only what talents they have, but what kind of life they want to lead.

It is critical, therefore, that students take a holistic approach to developing their career goals. We encourage them to apply this lens both to themselves and to the field they’re considering. Here are a few questions students should consider during the career exploration process:

What skills do I have and want to develop?

What type of work environment might best fit my temperament?

What type of diversity do I hope to have in my work environment?

How is the industry I’m considering expected to evolve in the next few decades?

What city, state, or country might I want to live in?

What have my career goals been and how have they changed?

What role would I like technology to play in my career?

How important is stability to me and how willing am I to take risks?

Each of these questions will take time to answer as students develop more clarity on their identities and values. Is it any wonder career goals formed at age 18 often feel premature? These are questions we wrestle with throughout our lives.

To me, this only underscores the importance of committing to a continuous career development process, not just for students, but for graduates. Attempting to build your life looking only through a narrow lens of career is bound to work against your happiness. We must support students around this process by acknowledging its complexity and encouraging them to consider the multiple implications of a potential career path.

NACE members can pick up a student-directed version of this blog, Develop Your Career Goals Holistically, in Grab & Go.

Sources:

Blank, Dan. (2015). Take Back Your Creative Life Webinar. We Grow Media.

Cole, Marine. (2014). U.S. Job Market Has Changed Dramatically in 15 Year. The Fiscal Times. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/05/15/How-US-Job-Market-Has-Changed-Dramatically-15-Years

Hedges, Kristi. (2012). The Surprising Poverty of Too Many Choices. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/11/26/the-surprising-poverty-of-too-many-choices/.

 

Is Career Fair Networking Really So Hard? Four Tips for Students

Kathy DouglasKathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/douglaskathy
Twitter: @fescdo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Yale-FES-Career-Development-Office/134339426609741
Website: environment.yale.edu/cdo

If you are in a Google group, are a member of a family, or met someone at your college or university orientation who is still your friend, you already know how to network. We meet, form bonds, text, and call our friends to share good news. As a species, we are natural networkers—our survival depends on it.

Schmoozing at career fairs and events is what most people think of when defining networking—standing out in a crowd or making a lasting impression that will land you a job or internship. The reality for most mortals is, however, that although it is important to practice small talk and have good interpersonal skills, most of us do not exude extraordinarily magnetic personalities.

Working magic in a crowd, in fact, is not the most important part of networking.

Great networkers know what any career fair recruiter will tell you: At the end of the day, recruiters’ feet hurt, their voices are raw, and aside from a few exceptional interactions, they have spoken with so many individuals they don’t remember who they spoke with about what.

This is why the real art of job-search networking comes in after the actual fair—in the follow up.

When advising students on strategies for two major annual career fairs (one for 1,300+ students from eight universities; one for 250 students from two universities), I emphasize four things:

  1. Strategically select top employers to visit: Quick Internet research provides information to help determine which employers align best with your career goals. Arrive early and visit your top choices while you (and the recruiters) are fresh.
  2. Ask good questions: Advanced research will help you prepare smart questions. After a quick introduction, ask a question about recruiting level or specific practice areas to be sure you are not wasting your time or theirs—Are you hiring at the masters level? Are you interviewing for your renewables practice? If you already know what they are recruiting for, start there—“I’d like to learn more about the project areas for the policy internships.”
  3. After discussions, find a place to stop and take notes: Notes don’t have to be extensive. I use business cards and/or a small notebook to write the reason I want to follow up, contact information, and content of conversation.
  4. Follow up within a few days: Decide which leads are of interest and follow up with an e-mail that picks up where the discussion left off. If you have been directed to an online application, complete it, send the recruiter a thank you and let them know you applied. If you connected personally with a recruiter, but there is no immediate opportunity for you, send them a thank you note and a LinkedIn request. There is no need to follow up on every single contact. It’s okay to be strategic.

If you have taken good notes after a productive conversation, it is easy to follow up. And most often you are doing the recruiter a favor. The work you put in to making the recruiter’s job easier, whether it results in an immediate outcome for you or not, is a positive and generous act.

And you never know where follow-up will lead. Through courteous follow up and strategic networking, job seekers get interviews, discover the hidden job market, and learn the inside scoop on organizations.

NACE members can pick up a free student-directed copy of this blog for use online or in publications.

When the Changing Professional Culture Is Challenging

katie smith at duke universityKatie Smith, Assistant Director, Duke University Career Center,
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ksmith258/
Twitter: @ksmith258

Checking the morning e-mail flood, there’s one from Alanthebanisher@email.com*, the alias of a student that I met with recently. He asked how to network appropriately with an alumna who had just sent out a job opportunity.

His question is typical. His e-mail address, not so much. It made me smile, but gave me pause. Is it professionally appropriate?

I have a “bad” resume example that I use when teaching students about resumes, and the group usually giggles over the hotcar2@email.com address. We can agree that it’s not a very professional address, and we all know it’s a pretty tame example.
If this student was looking for an opportunity as a programmer at a small, funky tech company, the gaming reference might be appreciated and I might have let it go. However, since he’s looking into a more conservative field, I decide to bring the e-mail address to his attention, reminding him that some people may not see it as professional. It turns out that the student is surprised I can see his e-mail alias at all—he thought he was communicating through his school-sanctioned account, which is linked to his personal account.

What’s “professional” seems to be an increasingly challenging question for students to navigate. When it comes to communication, traditional advice has retained traction; employers and alumni visiting Duke’s campus consistently share anecdotes about the importance of writing skills, professional e-mail communication, and appropriate uses of social media to represent oneself and one’s company.

We think we know how to advise on writing professional application materials, until a student asks which “Game of Thrones” character she should feature in her short essay, or when another student asks for feedback on the poem he wrote in place of a cover letter—two examples of students responding to company prompts.
A recent job description that came through my e-mail recommended, for example, that students submit: “A resume (if you have one), your year in school, a list of relevant coursework, your favorite movie, a city/country you’ve never been to but want to see, your favorite programming language, and your favorite breakfast. Get into it, I love breakfast.”

It is fun, yes, but it’s confusing. Should a non-breakfast-eating student be honest about his preference? How will that be perceived? What would a student who doesn’t watch “Game of Thrones” say?

As advisers providing feedback on these type of questions, conversations regarding organizational culture and authenticity are often invoked. Students walk a fine line between demonstrating personality and maintaining professionalism.

Gone are the days when we can turn students around at the door of an open career fair because they aren’t dressed professionally. The employers themselves often tend to show up in branded T-shirts, jeans, and even goofy hamburger-shaped hats, and many are seeking students whose casual dress reflects their own organizational culture.
I’ve seen students conduct successful in-person interviews with the top tech companies in the world…while wearing sweatpants. Traditional advice suggests dressing one step above what you expect your employer to be wearing, but what does one wear to a career fair when one target company is wearing T-shirts, and another is wearing a formal business suit? How does one introduce herself when one company is expecting jokes and magic tricks, and another a traditional elevator pitch?

They’re tricky questions.

Students will benefit by knowing that there is never a single “right” answer, and that they can help themselves each step of the way by preparing and conducting research into culture and expectations prior to contact or communication. Career professionals can, and should, do the same. While not everyone is ready to ditch professionalism as it was once known, we do need to be prepared to help students navigate new environments effectively. Having an understanding and appreciation for burgeoning creative, casual, and open cultures will help us all prepare students for the jobs of the future.

*E-mail address has been changed to protect student privacy.

Five Visual Content Tools to Help You Stand Out

Amanda Carchedi

Amanda Carchedi, University of Connecticut Publicity and Marketing Administrator, Center for Career Development
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amandaleigh363
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/amandacarchedi

Anyone who has been tasked with managing social media for his or her organization knows that creating and curating visual content that students will finding engaging and interesting is a full-time job. Unfortunately, not every office is able to have a dedicated social media manager or graphic designer, leaving this time-consuming task as an extra responsibility for a member of your staff or, if you’re lucky, a student worker. However, there are time-saving tools available (for free!) that can help your department create stunning images for your social media and beyond. Whether you are looking for a quick image to post on Instagram or an informational graphic to add to your blog or website, there are ways to simplify these processes. Here are a few tools that can help:

Easel.ly

Easel.ly allows you to create stunning infographics in minutes. Choose from thousands of infographic templates and design elements that can be customized to create visual representations of information and ideas.

Canva

If you don’t have a designer on your team, Canva can help you create designs for web or print. Choose from more than 1 million photos and hundreds of fonts to make the perfect image. The free online program also allows you to easily edit photos and collaborate between staff members.

Iconfinder

Iconfinder is a library of more than 340,000 icons that can be used to spice up any design. Choose from a variety of free options or purchase icons for as low as $1.

Infogr.am

Turn your data into beautiful charts and infographics using infogr.am. Infogr.am allows you to visualize your data using a variety of templates. You can then simply share your images on a website or blog using the provided embedded code.

Pablo

Pablo helps you design engaging images for social media quickly and easily. Choose from the available background photos or upload your own image, and insert the text you would like to appear over your image. Done.

Got a favorite image creation tool? Please share in the comments!