New Grads: Ready or Not, Here They Come

Chris Carlson

Christopher Carlson, Director of Talent Acquisition and Diversity, Tennessee Valley Authority
Twitter: @cciCarlson
Co-chair: 2015-2016 Career Readiness Toolkit Tiger Team

In 2007, there was a preeminent report put out entitled “Are They Really Ready to Work?”  This report was the culmination of work by The Conference Board, Partnership for 21 Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Society of Human Resource Management. It served as a catalyst for understanding the knowledge and skills gaps that existed with new college grads entering the work force. It has sparked a number of additional studies and surveys. Today, more than eight years later, companies are still reporting that many new graduates are not ready.

In 2014, Sam Ratcliffe, then President of NACE, established a Career Readiness Committee to formalize NACE’s position as a thought leader on this important topic. He noted then that our association, made up of both employers and university career services, was the logical group to provide insights and best practices. I had the pleasure of co-chairing that committee made up of some really smart people—honestly, I was not an expert in the topic other than reading the 2007 report. I was really glad that Sam had the leadership courage to put this topic on the agenda. The more the group researched, the more opportunities I personally saw for NACE to weigh-in on this topic.

When Dawn Carter took the reins as President in 2015, she extended the committee as a Tiger Team to address the development of a framework for two overall toolkits—one each for employers and colleges. Once again, I have the privilege of being a co-chair.  Although I’m still not sure that I am the smartest person on this topic as evidenced in the thought leadership assembled to tackle our charge, my appreciation for the effort has grown even more.

From our work, NACE has established a concise definition of career readiness and a list of key career readiness competencies, and recommended opportunities for NACE to connect with and expand its influence on this topic through strategic partners. In a few short months, we hope to roll out the toolkits, designed to provide tools and best practices for both employers and colleges. I am most excited because through our research and efforts, we found much about the problem, but not a lot of information about the solution.

This blog is the first of many to share with you the work of these committees. My hope is that you will hear from my fellow committee colleagues sharing their perspectives and that we will hear from you your best practices.

I challenge all of you to engage on this topic, and we welcome your best thinking and/or best practices that you are willing and able to share.  You can e-mail them to me or Donna Ratcliffe at Virginia Tech.

I want to share a special thank you to the 2014-2015 Committee – Board Adviser Adrienne Alberts, Co-Chair, Christine Cruzvergara, Marcy Bullock, Donna Ratcliffe, Toni McLawhorn, Cyndi Rotondo, Jennifer Arnau, Joseph DuPont, Norma Guerra Gaier, Justine Ramsey, Gary Miller, Jean Papalia, Markel Quarles, Espie Santiago, Scott Maynard and Marilyn Mackes (NACE Staff Adviser). I also want to thank this year’s Tiger Team for their great insights and efforts in building the Toolkit – Board Adviser, Sam Ratcliffe, Co-Chair, Donna Ratcliffe, Jennifer Arnau, Marcy Bullock, Fred Burke, Scott Maynard, Toni McLawhorn, Jean Papalia, Markel Quarles, Justine Ramsey, Cyndi Rotondo, Matthew Brink (NACE Staff Adviser) and Erin DeStefanis (NACE Staff Adviser).

Stay tuned for more as we delve into the world of career readiness over the coming months.  Ready or not, the students are graduating and joining the workforce.  We have the opportunity to ensure that the next generation makes a smooth transition and becomes the leaders of tomorrow.


Presenting is Perfect for Professional Practice!

Kathleen Powell

Kathleen Powell, Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs, Executive Director of Career Development, Cohen Career Center, William & Mary
President-Elect, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Twitter: @powellka

It’s time to share your knowledge and expertise! You don’t know of what I speak? Check your inbox. On October 29, NACE announced the “Call for Proposals” for the 2016 Conference & Expo in Chicago! It is NACE’s 60th-year  celebration and there is no better way to showcase your talent with the profession. You have until November 23 to submit your proposal, so don’t delay. That was my commercial to you and next I’m going to share what I know from personal experience!

If you’re like me, you might be thinking how do I start? What would I want to present on or about? Or, you might be thinking, “I’m sure everyone has a similar program to mine/ours.” Believe it or not, that may not be the case. If you want to contribute to the profession and build your professional portfolio, submitting and presenting at the conference will do the trick. I know, just because you submit a proposal doesn’t mean it will be accepted. But you won’t know if you don’t try. I know firsthand what it feels like to have your proposal accepted and rejected. So, here are a few tips to get you started on that proposal.

First, your title should be clear and grab the attention of the audience. Remember, there is a committee reviewing all proposals and if the committee doesn’t understand the message you are trying to convey, the membership may not either!

Second, make sure your topic is relevant, you clearly address the level of the audience, and that your objectives appeal to the group you are targeting.

Third, learning objectives should be clear and descriptive. What is your “hook” to entice attendees to your session? Write your objectives from the perspective of the learner.  What would I as an audience member/participant get out of this session? Consider objectives that are action or results oriented. Words like apply, analyze, discuss, develop, and the like are more enticing then learn, understand, and know. When you read your own proposal, are you excited? Share what you’ve written with others, especially those who have an interest in your topic. During their review, if they have questions, see typos, or need clarification, you’ve already taken the first steps to rocking your proposal!

Fourth, show what you know! Don’t be shy. Your colleagues want to know who you are, what experience you have around the topic you’re presenting, and that you have the answers and solutions to the questions or issues that will be top of mind during your presentation. In other words, make your bio speak to your talents, experiences, and knowledge of your practice. Remember, colleagues want to know you are qualified to do the presentation and the content is solid.

You’ve got this. NACE has made it amazingly easy for you to develop your framework for your proposal. Check out the 2016 NACE Conference site, follow the design to submitting your proposal and you’ll find all the resources you need. There are 80 spots to fill for the 2016 Conference. One of them could be yours!  Way better chances than Publisher’s Clearinghouse!



NACE Mentor Program Brings Passion to the Profession

ongDavid Ong, Director, Corporate Recruiting, Maximus, Inc. and Vice-President – Employer on the NACE Board of Directors
Twitter: @dtong2565

The concept of mentoring has been on my mind a lot lately. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself reaching out to several of my own personal mentors. These mentors come from many walks of life. One is an old fraternity brother from my college days who always encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone. Another is a former line manager from one of my first recruiting jobs who inspired me to become more creative. And then there are my unofficial NACE mentors who encouraged me for years to get more involved in this organization (admittedly, it took me a few years to follow their advice). Once I began to get more involved, they made themselves available for advice and encouragement whenever I’ve needed it. Truth be told, I know that I wouldn’t be holding my current NACE position were it not for their encouragement. These are relationships that I treasure.

Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate to be a mentor to a number of NACE members. My first interactions as a NACE mentor came about during my first year as a member of the NACE Board of Directors through the NACE Leadership Advancement Program (LAP). Participants in this year-long program are assigned a mentor who is either a current or former member of the Board of Directors.

In a few instances, I had previous dealings with my assigned mentees, while in others, we  formed a relationship from scratch. As a mentor, I was there to provide my mentees with different viewpoints on leadership, opinions about their work challenges, or advice for getting more involved with NACE. I’m especially pleased that many of these mentor/mentee relationships have continued to grow well after the completion of the LAP program, and I know that many of my fellow Board members have had similar experiences.

My most recent mentor/mentee engagements have occurred through the NACE mentor program. There are about 40 NACE members who volunteer to work with members seeking a professional mentor. I only recently volunteered to serve as a mentor for this program and was shocked at how quickly NACE assigned me new mentees.

Within only two weeks of signing up to mentor up to three members, I found myself with a full dance card. I’ve reached out to all three of these individuals (none of which I knew beforehand) in the last few weeks and I’ve been really impressed by the passion that they bring to our profession. These mentees have varied functions (some in university relations, some in career services) and different levels of experience (some are brand new to our industry, others more established). That said, there are several universal themes in their day-to-day challenges that we can all relate to, from feeling under-resourced to seeking stakeholder approval to optimizing business processes, just to name a few.

So by now you might be asking, “What’s in it for the mentor?” To that, I would answer “plenty.” I get inspired at the passion that so many of our newer members display for both NACE and our profession. I get excited talking to people who might be assuming leadership positions within our organization in a few years. And sometimes, I find it therapeutic having offline conversations with people who understand both the joys and frustrations of what we do.

To my fellow members: we need more mentors—we have more mentees than mentors! Please consider volunteering as a NACE mentor. You’ll be glad you did!

Here’s how to get involved: Go to MyNACE and apply through your Account Profile by completing the Mentor/Mentee Information section. Choose to be a mentor or mentee and indicate the type association you prefer and your interests. Matches are made on a bi-monthly basis.



Running A Great Job Trek: Five Top Tips

Kathy DouglasKathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Twitter: @fescdo

\ˈtrek\: to go on a long and often difficult journey

I had the opportunity last semester to lead a regional job trek to the California Bay Area—home to the second largest group of alumni (approx. 250) from our professional school, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, with roughly 360 master’s students (and approximately 4,700 living alumni).

I was a little hesitant at first, thinking that the trek would be more effort than I wanted to expend in the beginning of the new year—potentially a “long and difficult journey.”

Ten students, one alumnus (picked up along the way), and one student from our management school (they were in the Bay area on a much larger annual trek) visited six employers over a two-day period. Visits included working sessions, a lunch meeting, tours, afternoon coffee breaks, and an informal networking happy hour. Employers ranged from a private sector tech company with close to 20,000 employees to an international eco-friendly body products startup with a full-time staff of three.

At the end of the day, the event was a tremendous opportunity for the students who attended. They were able to get a broad view of the environmental careers space in the area in a structured, yet informal way, met more than 50 alumni and employers, and networked with fellow trekkers from our business school.

Thanks to our trekkers and follow-up from our career development team, the event resulted in several very positive outcomes:

  • Several internships that resulted directly from trek contacts (non-trek students are benefiting, too).
  • New employer relationships.
  • Several full-time position postings.
  • Alumni connection made between our school and a peer school for joint networking.
  • Solid first-hand knowledge of the environmental careers landscape in the region.
  • Trekkers benefited personally and professionally, contributed by acting as ambassadors representing the school, and paved the way for their peers.

Five Top Tips for Job Treks

The process for hosting or supporting treks will vary by population, but these are some of the top tips I have to offer based on my recent experience:

1. Manage Expectations

  • During the initial interest meeting, printed guidelines were distributed, explaining what a job trek was and what it wasn’t. It was made clear from the beginning that the trek depended on student leadership and that students were required to provide their own funding.

2. Clarify Roles

  • Some clarification on student roles from the guide: “Student organizer(s) have responsibility for gauging student interest and garnering commitments, coordinating with potential employer hosts, reaching out to alumni in the area, and all other logistics.” On the Career Development Office’s role: “CDO is willing to help with employer outreach as needed. We can also provide sample communications, information on best practices, a finalized schedule, and a checklist for participants.”

3. Empower and Guide Student Leadership

  • My goal was for students to take ownership of the trek. All of the participants volunteered or were encouraged by peers to conduct outreach, finalize scheduling, create a resume book for distribution, and organize an alumni networking event. My role was to advise, suggest contacts, provide sample outreach documents, and assist with outreach as needed—in short, to promote shared leadership and provide structure, tools, and encouragement.

4. Provide Selected Administrative Support

  • After students had created their top list of employers, reached out to contacts, and  set up visits and a schedule, I pulled together the schedule and contact information and added strategically timed breakfast meetings to both days—an hour and a half before the first visit. This really helped ensure that everyone was on time for the trek, and was a great opportunity to share information and strategize about the day.

5. Be Open To Employer Preferences

  • One of our employers wanted to arrange lunch and a meeting with the larger team. Another distributed some materials in advance of the trek and gave students an assignment. One employer invited our alumna who works in their Brooklyn office to participate via Skype. By being open to employer preferences, we were able to create a dynamic experience that provided great information, excellent contacts, a high level of good will, and ultimately, several concrete job and internship opportunities.

Are Happy Faces in Professional Communication So Bad?

Lee DesserLee Desser, career and academic adviser, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

To smiley or not to smiley: that is the question. My first year out of graduate school I became involved in a heated debate around, of all things, smiley faces. As a summer program coordinator for George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program, I was in charge of overseeing ~25 students as they worked on consulting projects for various nonprofits in the northern Virginia area. As part of the program we held several sessions on professional communication.

We brought on a guest speaker who was serving as a consulting intern at Deloitte. She said, “There’s a space for happy faces in communication: texts, Facebook posts, and the like, but they should never be included in professional e-mails.” I had no idea the furry that would come as a result of this statement. One of our rowdy environmental studies students chimed in, “I disagree. Happy faces show approachability. They can help you connect with your colleagues and show appreciation of their hard work. There’s nothing unprofessional about them!” A public policy student said, “I agree! My teammates like a little winky. What’s the harm there?”

To this the consultant said, quite definitively, “No. Smileys shouldn’t be included in e-mails. It makes you look immature and unprofessional. It’s best not to include them.” At this point it was summertime in Virginia and about 80 degrees outside and we were drinking Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and eating white powdery donut holes. I thought they were going to fly across the room. OK maybe that’s an exaggeration! But I think both sides made solid points: Is it appropriate to include any emojis in e-mails? I wouldn’t want my lawyer to include them in briefs or my doctor in medical evaluations: Her cancer is in remission : ) That’s surely not appropriate…

However, I’ve struggled with this from time to time thinking, “Maybe it lessens my professional image by putting smileys in my e-mail” to “This e-mail totally calls for a smiley (maybe even two!).” What does it come down to? Ultimately, I think it’s somewhat industry (and office!) dependent. While certain conservative industries, such as finance and accounting, may be less accepting to a dose of smiley fun, other ones, especially creative and artistic industries and even education, are more accepting of personal vehicles of expression.

Ted Bouras, the Dean of Advising, Career, and Student Services at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, introduced me to the M.B.A. students in this way: “Lee’s first day was yesterday and she will shortly send a note to students about her availability on Zocalo. Until then you still have to put up with me as your adviser : ).” Notice the smiley? Was it absolutely necessary? No, but I thought it was a nice touch, especially for a summer e-mail.

So for me, to the question of whether to smiley or not to smiley to students in emails, I’ll smiley : )


Helping Students Make Employer Connections

Irene Hillman

Irene Hillman, Manager of Career Development, College of Business, Decosimo Success Center, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga
Career Services Programs that Engage Employers
College career fairs can feel like a blur. Hundreds of college students, many of them prepared—but just as many of them unprepared, shuffle in and wander from table to table giving employers their pitches. Employers return the favor and point these young professionals to their websites to apply for positions. It’s a way to build visibility on both sides—company and candidate—but creating a meaningful connection simply isn’t in the cards.

So, how can colleges support the authentic engagement needed for both their students to build relationships that will help them launch careers and their employers to gain in-depth access to a targeted and valuable candidate group? Here are some methods being used by the College of Business at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that might provide some inspiration!

Show Students Where They Might Work

The Company Tour Program was developed specifically for entering freshmen to help tie them into both the UTC and business community very early in their college careers. The college develops a schedule of bi-weekly tours for approximately 20 students (lasting one to two hours) into the facilities of the area’s top employers and these students gain access to companies to learn more about the area’s economy, explore potential employers, and network with Chattanooga’s business community in a very familiar and engaging fashion. This encourages students to think about how their degrees can be leveraged and their academic learning can be applied following graduation, motivating them to be better students who are engaged in networking within professional circles of the city.

Connect Students and Employers Over Lunch

Through Bridge Luncheons, the College of Business invites businesses seeking a way to connect with current students, pending graduates, or alumni to sponsor a business meal. This series brings business students and local or regional organizations together in an intimate setting over a served lunch where candid and interactive dialogue can occur. Typically this is used by companies as a recruiting venue for open positions. Such events are an effective means for companies to spend quality time with multiple candidates at once and serves, in many cases, as a first and simple step in the vetting process. The luncheon is also an ideal place for students to to practice business meal etiquette. Bridge Luncheons are by invitation only based on the criteria set by the sponsoring companies. Students receive e-mails requesting an RSVP if they care to attend.

Jennifer Johnson, a UTC Accounting student (Class of 2015), says, “The luncheons have given me an opportunity to connect with local businesses and to build relationships with their owners and employees before joining the work force.”

She adds, “I am very thankful that UTC has provided me with the opportunity to participate in these luncheons because they have helped ease my apprehension interacting with potential employers and colleagues.”

As an additional perk, colleges can consider such luncheons a minor revenue stream since a reasonable flat rate can be charged to companies and remaining funds (after catering and room costs are covered) would be retained to support other career services activities and events.

Pair Students With a Mentor

The Business Mentor Program is available to sophomore, junior, senior, and graduate students. Experienced professionals are paired with students in a mentoring relationship based on common professional interests, guiding students toward career success. Employers are encouraged to nominate a seasoned professional to the Business Mentor Program.

The program provides a great opportunity for professionals to counsel and influence the next generation of business leaders and increase the work force readiness of future recruits. Undergraduates may even engage in the program for academic credit (one credit). The course integrates academic learning with business world application and experiences. Students meet in class for one month to prepare for the mentoring relationship and then pair with mentors for the remaining semester period.

Practices Makes Networking Easy

The semiannual Resume Week and Mock Interview Week events are another way to help recruiters and students engage in effective networking and develop significant dialogue.

During Resume Week, the college seeks out a few dozen professionals (hiring managers or recruiters) whose careers align with the College of Business academic programs and invites them to participate in the event. Students visit the centrally located student lounge with their resumes to give managers and recruiters a chance provide their professional opinions through a 15-minute review while networking one-on-one. Bios of the volunteers are provided to students so students can plan who they want to meet. We encourage students to dress professionally and bring a business card to make a great first impression on our visitors.

Abdul Hanan Sheikh, UTC Human Resource Management and Management student (Class of 2015), summarizes the impact that the Resume Review event has had on his career launch: “By attending this event, I received remarkable feedback, which helped me make adjustments to my resume. This event helped me get more engaged in networking effectively. It was a great opportunity for me to make connections with business professionals from around Chattanooga. Furthermore, I believe these events helped me land my first internship last fall and then my summer internship as well, and those positions gave me the experience I needed in HR to feel confident about finding a great job after graduation. So now I have a strong resume and solid experience!”

A month following Resume Week, the college holds a similarly arranged series of events for Mock Interview Week. Students walk away with invaluable advice on both developing a robust resume and interviewing successfully, but they get a chance to ask questions about launching their careers to people with realistic answers. As a result, a connection is made and networking flourishes between the student and the professionals with whom they have met.

Engaging with employers need not be an awkward or hurried venture that happens once a semester. When students are provided multiple opportunities for directed networking, relationships can unfold in an enriching manner for our students and our employers!



Career Advising for Introverts: Should It Be Different?

Janet LongJanet R. Long
Founder, Integrity Search Inc.
career counselor, Widener University
Twitter: @IntegritySearch
Blogs from Janet Long.

NACE blog team member Chris Carlson wrote eloquently about networking for introverts earlier this year. His piece inspired me to think more deeply about the role of introversion in higher education career services. As both an introvert and the career liaison for the liberal arts student population at my university, I recently began to include material on introversion and extroversion in the semester-length career exploration series I facilitate, The Seekers. To my surprise, student feedback about these sessions has been nothing short of profound. For many students, there is a powerful sense of self-recognition accompanied by relief that they don’t need to reinvent themselves to enter and thrive in the world of work. I began to consider the implications for career advising overall, given that up to 50 percent of the general population describe themselves as introverts.

It often helps to start by defining terms. It can be easy to take for granted my Myers-Briggs training and decades to make peace with my own introversion. In informal polling I have found that most students still associate introversion with shyness or social awkwardness rather than with primary energy source. More disturbingly, they may view introversion as a flaw or deficit that warrants correction.

I like to start with basic MBTI definitions and then pose a classic question that can help students differentiate their preferred style. For example, “If you had an unexpectedly free weekend, would you rather attend several parties or catch up with a couple of friends individually?” I like this question because it challenges the false dichotomy of alone versus with people. Introverts may also prefer to spend time alone (as do extroverts at times). The difference lies in where they gain their main source of energy and how they prefer to recharge.

Our career services office, like many others, offers career fairs, speed networking events, and practice interviews for jobs or internships. With the best of intentions, we teach students to “put themselves out there,” to navigate cocktail/mocktail conversation, to develop compelling 30-second elevator talks, and to formulate responses to both hardball and softball interview questions. This is all helpful and necessary. But the nagging question remains, are there different and potentially more effective ways to broach these topics with students who identify as introverts? Do I as a counselor—albeit an introverted one—jump too quickly to tactics without first acknowledging and exploring how students feel about these processes and their perceptions of what society expects of them? I think that too often we treat introversion as something to be overcome rather than celebrated for its potential contributions.

As one example, last semester in The Seekers, I conducted a mock interview clinic in which we practiced responses in five common question areas. Halfway through the session, one brave student interjected that while she appreciated the tactical advice, none of it helped with trembling hands during actual interviews. Another student, who projected as poised and self-assured throughout the semester, jumped in and offered that the responses made her feel phony. Their comments led to a lively and connected conversation during which the students listened to and coached each other about how to reconcile internal feelings with external expectations. While their concerns were perhaps not unique to introverts, they created an important “aha” for me: that I needed to create more space within the group to be reflective and introspective about professional skills development.

I have recently started to draw on Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution research on introversion, showing excerpts from her TED talk on The Power of Introverts where she laments external pressures to “pass” as an extrovert and helpfully differentiates introversion from shyness. One of my favorite lines is that “the key to maximizing our talents is to put ourselves in the settings that are right for us,” an exhortation to consider work environment and career choices through the lens of temperament as well as talent.

Ms. Cain’s poise and presence in a public speaking situation tends to surprise students and can start conversations about how introverts not only function but thrive in visible and influential positions. Similarly, Wharton professor Adam Grant’s research on effective leadership, The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses, includes the finding that introverted leaders are more likely to engage their teams by encouraging individuals to develop their own ideas. I have found it useful to offer examples of well-recognized role models from all walks of life, from sports to business, who describe themselves as introverts, from Bill Gates, Mahatma Gandhi, and Rosa Parks, to Michael Jordan, Christine Aguilera, and Julia Roberts .

These are some additional strategies that I have found effective in provoking both reflection and discussion:

  • Combining personalized career assessments to give students more self-insight. I have found that StrengthsQuest and MBTI play well together. For example, a student who shows a preference for introversion on the MBTI may also hold “individualization” as a top strength. Integrating a “strengths” perspective into an introversion/extroversion discussion encourages students to move away from a deficit mindset.
  • Designing more intimate networking forums. This semester our office will pilot a home-based gathering for a limited number of students and alumni in selected fields to interact over a leisurely meal. Our hope is that such forums can complement the larger speed-networking formats and that each will each hold appeal for different types of students.
  • Scheduling one-on-one follow-up appointments. While this may sound like a no-brainer, students are typically more inclined to make appointments keyed to specific deliverables rather than more open-ended discussion about areas of discomfort. While not every student needs or wants this type of support, I think it is important to remind students that the suite of career counseling tools available to them goes beyond resume tweaks.

NACE career advisers, are you having these conversations in your offices? It would be interesting to learn more about employer perspectives as well.