“I’m not sure this internship will be a good fit. Should I apply?”

Jason Bauer-Clapp Jason Bauer-Clapp, associate director of Internships & Programs, Smith College, Lazarus Center for Career Development
Twitter: @jason_bc
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jbauerclapp

Have you met with students reluctant to apply to promising internships because they are unsure that the internship will “look good” or that they’ll be the best candidate? Students who apply only to what they perceive as sure-thing experiences can miss out on a broader set of great opportunities, while those who accept an internship by default (with few or no other opportunities for comparison) may find themselves in unsatisfying roles that turn out to have limited educational value.

It is useful to remind students that while applying for any position requires time and energy, it isn’t a commitment. Rather, it’s an indication of interest, a snapshot of the applicant’s knowledge and skills, and a request for an interview. While I wouldn’t encourage haphazardly applying to any opportunity that comes along, students who set overly stringent standards on what they will consider applying for are essentially ending conversations before they’ve begun.

To help students manage those uncertainties and feel comfortable applying to a broader range of opportunities, I regularly share the following:

Read between (and above and outside) the lines. Organizations that offer internships are increasingly skilled at crafting messages that resonate with potential applicants, and some organizations have the benefit of a long-established brand cachet among students. However, there are still times when a great internship opportunity doesn’t “read” as such in a job posting or in recruiting messages. Look beyond the few paragraphs (if that) in your school’s internship database. Review the organization’s website and consider how it presents itself to clients/constituents/users. Reflect on its mission and how it aligns with your values and interests. Speak with people familiar with the organization’s work.

The best applicant may not be the most qualified. Internships are learning and development experiences, so having little direct experience in a field isn’t necessarily a limiting factor. Show familiarity with and genuine interest in the field and the organization, share ways you’ve already engaged in related topics, use the experiences you’ve had (work, academic, internships, volunteer, extracurricular) to demonstrate your strengths and knowledge, and communicate your excitement to learn.

Make interviews mutual learning opportunities. To prepare for interviews, candidates tend to focus on developing their stories and rehearsing good answers. Preparing thoughtful questions for the interviewer may be a halfhearted afterthought, done only because the candidate “is supposed to ask questions.” Students who report having had truly great internship experiences often mention the high quality relationships they had with supervisors and staff. A person-to-person interview can give internship candidates rich insight on the people and the environment: who the student would be working with, opportunities to interact with organizational staff, and the structure of training, supervision, and evaluation.

I love it when students follow their curiosity and step outside of their comfort zones when seeking experiential education opportunities such as internships. This means moving forward when the end result is uncertain. It is wise to have questions about an internship’s potential, but when there’s a spark of genuine interest and curiosity, it’s often worth applying. Ask for that conversation: you may be surprised to find a great opportunity hidden in plain sight.

Top 5 Tips for Using Career Services

Candace LambCandace Lamb, career coach, University of Louisville Career Development Center
Twitter: @candace_lamb
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/candacelamb1
Blog: www.theproactiveprofessional.com

I often hear complaints from new college graduates that career services didn’t get them a job. Something many students don’t understand is that career development centers are not placement organizations. Career services professionals are there to help provide students with the tools to figure out what they want to do professionally and how to best market themselves for the job search. With that being said, here are the top tips I give students to effectively using the career services.

Keep in mind: career service professionals are not there to give you a job or place you in a job.

Consider this: if you wanted to get married in the next few years, would you really want a dating service to handpick your future spouse, or even give you a half dozen people to choose from? Perhaps that sounds better than going out on dozens of blinds dates, but think it through. Before you can have a successful relationship, you must have a deep understanding of who you are (your likes, dislikes, needs, deal breakers, future goals, etc.) as well as the necessary tools to make a relationship great (trust, open communication, intimacy, etc.).

In the same way, career development offices are here to help you figure out the kinds of careers you’re interested in based on your values, interests, and personality, and how to pursue those careers.

Think about what you’d like to get from your meeting with career services staff before the appointment. 

Many times, I’ve had students come in and ask for their resumes to be critiqued.  Twenty minutes later, they admit that they’re unsure of their major or feel they need practice interviewing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having several needs, but it will make easier for everyone if you consider what those needs are before heading into your career coaching session. We don’t always realize we have more than one issue and that’s completely fine. If you can, though, consider how you’d like your career adviser to help and what areas you feel need the most attention.

Realize that career development is a process.

I think of our lives as being in a constant state of evolution. Our wants, needs, and goals change based on our experiences and the things we learn about ourselves.  The mistake I see so many people (not just students!) make is feeling like a failure for changing their career plans. It is not uncommon to realize you don’t fit in with the culture of a company or professional field. It is not strange to figure out that you don’t have the skills necessary for the job your friends or family are pressuring you to take (an example of this would be an artistic student realizing that they have no skills or interest in the field of medicine). You are not a failure for realizing a career path is wrong for you in your senior year. You are not useless because you don’t know what you want to do with the rest of your life as a college freshman.

Come back for multiple sessions.

In the same way that career development is a process, the job search does not end when you submit your resume. The career path does not stop when you figure out your major. Career services can help you edit your resume, prepare for interviews, understand your personality type, and deal with the stressors that come with choosing a profession. Develop a relationship with a career coach and maintain it through your time in college.

Don’t be afraid to call on alumni career services for help

Most colleges and universities have programs, career advisers, and assistance for alumni. Sometimes these services cost money, but they can help you tailor your resume to the different organizations or career fields you’re pursuing and help you learn to be a proactive professional.

Bonus Tip:

If you meet with a career adviser and don’t feel like they are listening to you, or you don’t feel comfortable speaking openly with them, ask for another career adviser! Every student and every adviser is different–sometimes one person isn’t the right fit for you and that’s okay.

Finding the right career can be one of the most rewarding things you do in life. Many students believe that college is a time to go to class, go to parties, and be involved in student organizations. While these can be great experiences and teach you so much about yourself, don’t forget to plan for your career. We spend so much of our lives at work—it is my opinion that figuring out what you want to do with your life is as important as knowing who you want to marry or the kind of person you want to be. Career advisers help you make the journey from college to career a rewarding one. Take advantage!

Is “Follow Your Bliss” B.S.?

Ross WadeRoss Wade, assistant director, Duke University Career Center
Personal blog: http://mrrosswade.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswade
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

I don’t have a “passion” or “bliss” to follow. I just don’t. I really enjoy a lot of things—photography, writing, listening to music, design, real estate, and documentary—but do I love them enough to sacrifice everything to pursue one of them professionally? Nope. Maybe my passion is routine, security, and a little artsy fartsy on the side? Jeez…that sounds lame.

As a career adviser who doesn’t necessarily believe in bliss or passion, I feel like a traitor to my vocation—like I need to keep my views on this topic “in the closet.” Does anyone else feel this way? I think some of you do. I know some of my students do. I’ve had countless students, literally whisper to me in sessions, “Ross…I don’t think I have a passion. Is that okay? What do I do if I don’t have a passion? How can I find one? How can I choose a major or career if I don’t have a passion?!”

It appears to me the “passionless” are really stressed out…and I totally get it! Most of what we hear about on the news, television, music, and literature is the only way to be happy and successful is to follow your passion. But I’ve got to ask…is this a healthy and realistic philosophy? Does it cause more harm than good?

I became a victim to this one size fits all philosophy, and for years it caused me a lot a grief. I was trying to find my passion, but was trying to fit it in to what I thought it was supposed to be—based on what others (e.g., media, peers, family) told me it should be. It was pretty miserable. I think some of our students are feeling the same way. Now, in my 30s, I’m finally feeling comfortable with my own career philosophy. It took me a long time to piece it together, and seems rather simple. Hunter S. Thompson said it best: pick the kind of life you want and build everything else around it.

What do I do when a student “comes out” to me that s/he has no burning passion to pursue? I reply, “I don’t have a passion either. In fact, most of the students I meet with don’t, but they feel like they are supposed to. Being passionless is ok.”

Students seem shocked and relieved to hear me say this. Next, I normally say “Let’s forget about passion and career, and talk about the kind of life you want. Tell me about that.” This tends to get them talking…it is more nuts and bolts, and basic values, but it gives us a starting point. I know this doesn’t seem like an innovative or energizing type of session, but I think it is really important. Students need to be able to be released from this passion myth, so they can start thinking about a real life, rather than trying to live up to some (nearly impossible) cultural standard. They need to know, and be taught by us, that they can create their own career philosophy—that’s what I wish someone had taught me.

Don’t get me wrong, some folks really do have a passion, and they by all means should pursue it—but that standard or philosophy shouldn’t be universal. Let’s empower our passionless!

10 Must-Read Books for Career Professionals

Lakeisha Mathews

Lakeisha M. Mathews, Director, Career and Professional Development Center, University of Baltimore
Twitter: @RightResumes_CC
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/lakeishamathews/
Blogs from Lakeisha Matthews.

One aspect of the career development field that keeps me excited is the constant need to develop professionally and keep up with changes in the labor market, higher education and career coaching. Over the course of my career I have obtained several certifications, attended conferences and webinars, enrolled in a counseling program, joined and gotten involved with several associations, and read tons of books.

One thing I’ve learned is, there is no single resource that can teach you everything you need to know about being a good career development professional. However, when I am working with professionals new to the industry there are several books that I share with them as essential reads. This includes books that gave me a solid framework of career coaching, career development, and career centers. Below I share my top 10 list of must reads in no particular order for every career professional:

1. The Career Counselor’s Handbook (Richard Bolles)
2. No One is Unemployable (Debra Angel and Elisabeth Harney)
3. What Color is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers (Richard Bolles)
4. The Three Boxes of Life (Richard Bolles)
5. Discover Your Career in Business (Timothy Butler and James Waldroop)
6. The Extraordinary Coach (John Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett)
7. Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads: Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career (Sheila Curran and Suzanne Greenwald)
8. Counseling Adults in Transition: Linking Schlossberg’s Theory with Practice in a Diverse World (Mary Anderson, Jane Goodman, and Nancy Schlossberg)
9. Ten Steps to a Federal Job (Kathryn Troutman)
10. Resume Magic (Susan Whitcomb)

Honorable Mentions:
11. Bring Your “A” Game: The 10 Career Secrets of The High Achiever (Robert McGovern)
12. How to Plan and Develop a Career Center (Donald Schutt Jr.)

Of course the list could go on. There are plenty of additional books that have impacted how I coach students, the types of programs I design, and how I manage the career center at the University of Baltimore. My list is also impacted by the student populations I have spent most of my career working with which includes adult learners, graduate students, and career changers in addition to traditional college students.

I am interested in knowing which books have impacted you as a career development professional and helped you to sharpen your skills. Comment on this blog and share your favorites.

How Do You Help Students Avoid the Quarter-Life Crisis?

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Pamela Weinberg
Website: www.pamelaweinberg.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/pamelaweinberg/
Twitter: @pamelaweinberg
Blogs from Pamela Weinberg.

I have had the pleasure and disappointment of meeting with a slew of young professionals in my career coaching practice of late. It is a pleasure, because I enjoy connecting with these bright, interesting and thoughtful Millennials. It is disappointing, however, that so many of them are unhappy with their post-college career choices. A few years out of college, they are experiencing some of the symptoms of a so-called “quarter-life crisis.” There has been much written about the quarter-life crisis affecting recent the college graduate starting out a career and living on his or her own for the first time. These young adults may be faced with their first crisis of confidence and feel adrift. Many feel dissatisfied with their job choices and/or chosen career path and don’t know where to turn for help.

How we can help prevent young alumni from falling into a quarter-life crisis? One way to mitigate these issues for the next slew of college grads is for colleges and universities to take a more active role in preparing students for the workplace. Those students majoring in one of STEM fields or who are pre-med most likely have a more direct and focused career path than an English major with a degree that opens him or her up to dozens of potential job or career possibilities. But just what are those possibilities and how is a student to know about them? Without exposure to a myriad of careers and a sense of which skills/aptitudes are needed to succeed at which jobs, it is a challenge for students to find their perfect fit post-graduation. Ben Carpenter’s recent op-ed in The New York Times has received a lot of attention as he brings this issue to the fore and calls on colleges and universities to offer courses in “career training” which would begin freshman year and end senior year.

Others seem to agree. In a new book entitled Aspiring Adults Adrift sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa speak about colleges and universities “focusing too much on students’ social lives at the expense of strong academic and career road map.” The authors go on to recommend programs that “facilitate school-to-work transitions, in terms of internships, apprenticeships and job-placement programs.”

Career services offices at colleges and universities have always been the student nexus for career- and job-search advice—but as we know, not all students take advantage of the resources there. In championing the idea of four years of career training for college students, Ben Carpenter cites Connecticut College which offers a career training program that has proven quite successful. According to Carpenter, one year after graduation, 96 percent of Connecticut College alumni are employed or in graduate school. That is in stark contrast to the numbers from a recent job poll conducted by AfterCollege, the online entry-level job site. According to the poll, 83 percent of college seniors graduated this year without a job.

The letters to the editor of The New York Times, which followed the Carpenter piece, were squarely split. Most educators were against schools offering career training programs, while most parents were for it. It seems however, that there is more that can be done to prevent recent alums from floundering a few years post-graduation. However, whether these are offerings from career services or through other academic departments is a topic up for debate.

I would love to hear your comments, thoughts, and suggestions on the topic!

Career Fairs and How to be a ‘Match’

BlessVaiBless Vaidian, Pace University Career Services and Founder, Career Transitions Guide
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/blessvaidian
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BlessCareers
Blog: http://careertransitionsguide.com

 

With on-campus recruitment and career fairs in full swing, Bless Vaidian offers advice and insight to share with students.

Career fairs showcase match making between employers and job seekers. Numerous screening interviews take place under one roof and in under a few hours. If a student is not a fit, he or she will not be selected by the recruiter for the next round. Only those that “match” proceed.

College campuses are an ideal place to find job and internship fairs. I have worked on and managed career fairs over the years. Those students that are serious about getting a job or internship need to follow this advice: 

Prep You cannot walk into a career fair and wing it if you are serious about finding employment. Just as research is key to interview success, it’s also crucial for the fair. Find out ahead of time what organizations will be attending. Then check out the websites of your target companies, view their job postings, read their latest articles/tweets, and find out if you know anyone in your extended circle that works there. Saying you will “take anything,” shows you are not prepared. And, you will wind up with nothing.

Pre-Screening Recruiters at job and internship fairs have two piles of resumes. Your goal is to make it to the pile that passes the recruiter’s filter. Fill out online profiles ahead of time so that when an employer asks you if you filled out their online application, you can say yes. Make sure the resume you bring to the fair is free of errors, has an easy-to-read format, and highlights exactly what you want it to highlight. Job descriptions should be quantified with metrics, accomplishments, and keywords that are relevant to the industry and posting.

Spotlight Is On The human resource representatives at career fairs are viewing you even before it’s your turn to talk to them. Anything inappropriate you say or do in that room or while waiting on line will be noticed. Be on your best behavior. You should be dressed in interview attire, wearing a smile, and engaging those around you while you wait for your turn. You have only a minute to shine in the spotlight, but remember the spotlight is always on.

Answer the Question: Why You? If you are looking for an internship or job, you should have a pitch. Your pitch answers the question: “Why an employer should hire you.” You can’t think of what to say to that inquiry on the day of the fair. You need to know what skills make you a good candidate. If you don’t know why an employer should hire you, then they won’t. Those that tailor their pitch to match the industry, position, and employer get selected.

More than a Resume What gets you a follow-up meeting after the career fair is more than a resume.  It’s the combination of a good resume and your package presentation: speech, expressions, handshake…etc. Anything that would make the recruiter think you cannot represent their organization, clients, or products will move you into the do-not-pursue pile of applicants. Your communication skills, positive attitude, and energy need to come across the minute you step foot in front of the hiring representative. That is just as important as your resume.

The great thing about career fairs is that those seeking employment can have face time with dozens of recruiters. Hiring professionals that have posts to fill can meet hundreds of applicants.  It’s a win:win situation for both groups. Be the match an employer is looking for by taking your next career fair seriously and taking my advice.

I love to get feedback from recruiters as to what matches were made. When I look through the room of job seekers, I know who is making the cut. Can you spot the students who will do well at the career fair? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Conversation With a Career Center Rose

Smedstad-HeadshotShannon Smedstad, Employment Brand Director, Global Communications & Engagement Team, CEB
Twitter: @shannonsmedstad
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/shannonsmedstad
Blogs from Shannon Smedstad.

As someone who’s made a transition from being on the ground as a college recruiter to a behind the scenes role in employer branding, it’s not often that I get back on campus. However, when I do, it’s a rush of excitement! And, I make the most of those times by observing and talking to as many people as I can (career fairs are great “wells of inspiration” for blog posts).

Recently, I had the privilege of traveling to the University of Pennsylvania’s career fair in Philadelphia. From liberal arts to STEM and Wharton school majors, the students were prepared and exemplified a sense of pre-professionalism. I sat down with the director of Penn Career Services, Patricia Rose, to learn more about her 34 year career in helping to connect students with employers.

What is the role of career services?

Career services is a connector, we’re not a gatekeeper. We don’t have a monopoly on students; for us to be effective in this role as connector, we need to provide obvious value on both sides, to students and employers.

We also have new students coming in every year, and some that do not hear our messages until it’s of greatest importance to them. Therefore regular messaging is important—we have to continue to message over and over again. We have to be the place that has the right information for students.

What has been the greatest change that you’ve seen in career services?

The greatest change is the use of technology. It is easier now for students to get information on employers and easier for employers to get information on students, using LinkedIn, social media, and other tools.

What hasn’t changed?

There are some employers who continue to come on campus once per semester and do not keep us (career services) informed. It can’t be “one and done.” Employers who are successful are the ones that are committed to establishing a presence and make the effort.

How can employers best work with career services?

Work with us and keep us informed. If you are here, hosting a major event or bringing someone from your C-suite to campus, let us know; we can help you get an audience. The summer is a great time to meet with us or invite us to your location, so that we can have a conversation and talk about the best ways to work together.

Also, I would say to be open to students beyond the obvious majors. There are great students in non-business fields, across all majors and school boundaries.

What is your biggest employer pet peeve?

When employers impinge on another company’s “real estate” during career events. And, when companies put undo pressure on students into making offer decisions. They are taking their time to interview with other companies and to make thoughtful decisions. Don’t hound our students!

Read the Reasonable Offer Deadline Guidelines on NACEWeb.