Finding A Career That Reflects All of Who We Are

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

Each semester I teach a course for undecided students to help them narrow their career interests in order to declare a major. Over and over, I see a recurring pattern. The pressure to find the “perfect” career has many students choosing one of two costly paths: they change majors multiple times, often adding time and expense to their undergraduate degrees, or they avoid the matter entirely until they’re forced to engage with it post-graduation. The culprit, for many, is that their values, skills, interests, and material needs can rarely all be neatly captured by a single occupation.

Of course, this isn’t limited to Millennials or college campuses. In her book “One Person/Multiple Careers,” Marci Alboher highlights the “slash career” phenomenon— simultaneously wearing multiple career hats that more thoroughly capture the complex identity of a professional. Accountant/Yogi/Internet Mogul and Educator/Entrepreneur are just a few examples of the “slash career” phenomenon taking hold of the modern world of work.

The phenomenon of slash careers is about more than just the titles that appear on your LinkedIn profile. As we call for an expansion of the categories of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and the many other ways that we identify, we are also pushing for inclusiveness in our work. In time, I’m confident that our organizations and institutions will reflect these new priorities.

For now, here’s my advice for those who want to build a slash career:

Set clear intentions for your roles and then let them evolve.

Think about the type of slash career you want and then begin developing the skills required for each role. If your slash career is Accountant/Poet, then you may want to start out as an accountant while writing poetry in your spare time. You might get a degree in accounting, follow that path through graduation, and find a full-time job as an accountant. Then, once you’re feeling comfortable in that role, your first goal toward becoming a poet may be to take a writing class at your local community center once per week. This will allow you to support yourself financially while moving toward your slash role.

The people you meet will push you to expand and refine your goals. The instructor in your poetry class may be so impressed with your work that she asks you to write something for a poetry collection she’s created. That project may inspire you to start writing longer pieces and you may move into nonfiction writing. After you’ve set your goals, allow them to evolve over time.

While you won’t get there overnight, I encourage you to start thinking of yourself right now as the slash career you hope for. You don’t have to wait until you’ve published six novels to consider yourself a writer. Titles can be aspirational.

Be realistic about the details.

Conduct careful research on each role to decide how to balance your time. You don’t want any nasty surprises that could have been avoided by an hour of research. Different occupations have different schedules, projected growth rates, salary ranges, and requirements. You want to make sure you’re familiar with these so that you can choose two or three roles that fit together. O*NET is one of many sites that provide this information.

Through your research, you want to identify a suitable full-time or part-time career that will allow you to launch another role on the side. Writing and other work that can be done remotely are excellent supplements to a full-time, in-person commitment.

Leverage the time management skills you already have.

Continue to use those organizational skills you’ve refined in school or at home. Slash careers require the ability to proactively identify opportunities and to manage your time. Invest in a planner, a calendaring system (or several) so that you can keep the goals and tasks for each role separate and organized. This will be especially important as you’re starting out and learning about each career.

Use technology to support your efforts—something as simple as integrating the calendar on your smart phone and laptop can help to streamline your work. There are a wide variety of free productivity apps for smart phones and tablets that help keep projects organized. Try creating an Excel spreadsheet to track your freelance projects. This will allow you to organize client contact information, pay rates, and deadlines, all in one spreadsheet.

Remember the importance of baby steps as you accept new opportunities. There is a limit to how many projects you can take on and continue to produce high-quality work. Establishing a good reputation in these fields is key to making network connections and developing your skills. Don’t sacrifice quality to rush toward a goal.

Use the support networks around you.

A slash career is an inherently creative endeavor, so path finding will inevitably be part of the process. Learn from the great work that’s already being done. Look to people who are working toward the slash careers you’re interested in. An informational interview will provide you with the opportunity to find out what their individual career evolution looked like.

To those who are in school, use your administrative departments—career services, tutoring, student life—to support your work. To recent graduates, get in touch with your career development offices. Many of them will work with alumni, aware that career development is a life-long process.

Reflect on your journey as it’s happening.

I always recommend keeping a career journal to track your evolving interests and goals. It can also be a great way to manage the complexity, and occasional ambiguity, of doing something unique. Ask yourself what you enjoy about each role, what you find challenging, and what other skills you may want to develop. You’ll see patterns in your journal over time that will give you ideas about how your slash can evolve.

My own slash career evolved from a career journal I began in AmeriCorps. Over time, I saw that I needed the right mix of independent, analytical work, and social, helping work to feel like I was using all of my skills. Simultaneously working in career development at a university and doing my own creative writing allow me to accomplish both of these goals.

As a Millennial myself, I certainly understand the drive toward engaging work. I also see professionals in other generations pushing for this same fulfillment. We’re ready to take on complexity in our work, just as we grapple with complexity in our political and economic landscapes.

NACE members can pick up a free, student-directed version of this blog for their websites on NACEWeb.

Establishing Annual Team Goals—The Three Legs of Career Services

Jennifer LasaterJennifer Lasater, Vice President of Employer and Career Services at Kaplan University
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenniferlasater
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenniferlasater

Whenever someone asks me how to build a team that is successful and provides great service, I always mention an analogy of a three-legged stool.  (Here’s where the team says: “Oh here she goes again about that stool.”)  I’ve had the opportunity to help various career services (CS) teams throughout my  16-year career in career services and whenever there is an “issue” with services delivered or performance issues, it seems that one (or more) of the legs of their three-legged stool is broken or not receiving the time and attention it deserves.

Leg One—Students: What is the message your team sends to students? Are they open and flexible to meet with students or does it take weeks/months to set up an appointment? Are there self-service tools available for students to use if your office is closed? Is the team empowering the student body with knowledge and resources or building a dependency? This group and can also include alumni, parents, and prospective students depending on the structure of your university.

Leg Two—Employers:  What is your relationship with the employers that hire your graduates? Do you make working with your CS team a pleasure or do you sense some dread when calling an employer? It is easy for an employer to share a job lead or do they have to enter each and every job lead into an antiquated job board system with the hope that a student might look at it? How do you promote sending job leads to students/alumni? What is the experience like for an employer that participates in an event with your university?

Leg Three—Faculty and Staff: Do other teams at your university know what the career services team does on a regular basis? Do you share feedback from employers with faculty, department chairs and deans? Do you get invited to present in the classroom on career issues?  Do you work on projects with advising, student affairs, admissions, or financial aid?

In order for us to keep our “three legs” firmly planted and have a successful team, we meet in the first two months of the year to review all that we’ve accomplished over the previous year and start to brainstorm goals that enhance our relationships with students, employers, and faculty/staff. Everyone on our CS team is encouraged to join a working group that analyzes current relationships, brainstorms new goals to further the relationships, and builds metrics for achieving the goals. The working groups (one for students, one for employers, and one for faculty/staff) present their top three or four goals to the CS leadership team and we’ll discuss it as a group using SMART criteria. From there the team receives a “menu of goals” where they are encouraged to pick at least one from the student category, one from the employer category, and one from the faculty/staff category for their performance goals for the year. We review these goals mid-year with the teams to keep them all on track and set a deadline for completion at the end of the year. By creating this structure, the team feels that they have a role in their performance metrics goals and we build something together that we all feel is achievable. This will be our third year with this goal structure and I love to see our team get excited about it each and every year.

Jennifer Lasater is the vice president of Employer and Career Services at Kaplan University, serving more than 35,000 online students. She has 16 years of experience in higher education, specifically in the career services sector. Additionally, Jennifer is currently serving on the Board of Directors of NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers as a Director-College.  The views expressed are solely her own.

 

The Things We Don’t Think About

Jade PerryJade Perry, Coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University
Twitter: @SAJadePerry1
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/jade-perry/21/667/b25/
Website: jadetperry.com

Janet* came into my office as a senior in college and as per usual, I asked her how she was doing. However, at this particular meeting, she seemed a bit more nervous and on edge.

“How’s it going? What have you been up to as far as your professional development goes?” At the point of this meeting, I was no longer working in career services (though I had at a previous institution), but I always checked in about my students’ professional progress.

“Well… I don’t know. I’ve gotten really involved here at the university and have really explored my identities. I’m a peer mentor at the LGBTQA Resource Center. I’ve joined the Latino Caucus and more. I’d like to think that future employers will count that as positive, but…”

She cast over a knowing glance. “I guess what I’m really asking is… should I list things on my resume that may inform employer’s perceptions about my identity? How can I really assess a company’s culture of diversity? How do I know if they are inclusive?”

After exploring what her previous steps had been (she’d gone to a career counselor, asked a few mentors, etc.), we spent some time searching employer websites, identifying her LinkedIn contacts to discern:

  • If EEO statements were prominent,
  • Where information about professional affinity groups and spaces were,
  • Company organizational structure, and
  • Different levels of diversity (i.e. structural diversity in number AND how equitable staff hiring practices were through networking contact info).

And then some…

After about 15 minutes, the student was able to come up with a few concrete things she would be looking for. But one of her comments really struck me,”When I’d asked this same question before to another adviser I was told, ‘That’s interesting… We never thought about that.’ ”

Although that sounded like an isolated incident, I couldn’t help but reflect on the times many of my students, particularly students who held marginalized socio-cultural identities, told me they’d gotten a similar answer. For example:

Q: “How should I wear my natural hair in the workplace? I’ve heard accounts of natural hair not being professional and being stereotyped as not as groomed?”
A: We’ve never thought about that before! You should talk with ______.

Q: “I regularly wear my traditional cultural and/or religious garments, jewelry, or head wraps. But when I look at what many have told me professional dress is, I’m feeling like maybe I won’t fit in. How should I deal with this in the interview process and beyond?”
A: You should talk with _____________.

Q: “I am a first generation college student and I am from a working class background. I’ve been looking at average salaries for my field and my family and I have been talking about what it means for me to potentially make more than them. I’m wondering how I can have that conversation with my family in ways that doesn’t make them feel further marginalized or make me feel isolated”.
A: “I’ve never thought about that before…”

It’s simple to pinpoint, “Advisers probably shouldn’t verbalize that they hadn’t thought about that before…” (which is a fair statement). But what’s helpful is to reflect back on how not thinking about these things impacts our overall ability to serve students in a well-rounded way.

There are career decisions that happen at the intersections of race, gender, class, sexuality/sexual identity, and more. While we may love to believe that we are sending our students into an altogether equitable and just world, we understand that this is not always the case. They are relying on us to assist them as they think through how their sociocultural identities show up, are perceived, and are received in the workplace. While we may have colleagues that specialize in these areas, it’s insufficient for us to operate without basic levels of understanding in these areas.

One of the things that is integral to student affairs, and particularly career services/career discernment programs, is continual, professional development. In order to serve all of our students, we need to grow in cultural competencies that allow us to see how personal identity intersects with professional identity. Directors of career centers, those who have the power to institute learning benchmarks and policy, also have the power to ensure that our students are being served by our own professional development and learning toward cultural competencies and how that impacts career decisions.

Another important piece is the art of referring. While we do have institutional experts in these areas and can call on their expertise, we also need to have a full understanding of what our colleagues do. This way, we serve our students by making intentional referrals, instead of deferring to whom we think might assist that student based on a title or a name.

Lastly, we have to take an important look at who we have as staff and leadership in our career centers. In his work on overcoming stereotype threats, Claude Steele identifies as concept called “existence proof,” which I think is also helpful in this context. Steele explains that fostering the sense of belonging in an academic space and/or professional space requires both positive mentoring from that space’s community members AND role models who may share similar sociocultural identities as the student. This is existence proof. As we look at our staffing choices, we are also making statements (even if they are unconscious ones) about who belongs in that space, who we serve in that space, and who is left out of that space (intentionally or unintentionally).

As practitioners and professionals, we are called to expand our consciousness, learning, and growing so that we can always be in tune with what our students need. As we think about our goals for the year, let’s also think about how we can better serve our students at the intersections of their needs!

Resources:
Steele, Claude. (2010) Whistling Vivaldi and other clues to how stereotypes affect us New York : W.W. Norton & Company

Morell, K., & McCune, B. (2011, December 11). Interview with Dr. Claude Steele. Retrieved January 20, 2016, from http://depts.washington.edu/trio/triotrain/topics_steele.php

 

 

Coding Interview Prep for the Career Adviser Who Doesn’t Code

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

As a career adviser who works primarily with undergraduate students in the STEM fields, I meet frequently with engineering, computer science, and other students who are preparing for technical interviews. Technical interviews are used in a variety of fields and can vary significantly between industries, companies, and even individual interviewers. For the purposes of this post, the focus will be specifically on a certain type of technical interview, the coding interview.

Let’s start with a confession. I’ve never taken a computer science course. I’ve watched some online videos, but the only programming I do involves room and food reservations and facilitating presentations, not algorithms and data structures.

Without knowing how to code, helping students prepare for programming interviews can be challenging, and even a little intimidating. However, coding interviews aren’t so different from other types of interviews, so don’t overlook the skills you have as a career adviser!

Here are some tips for helping students prepare:

Don’t forget the traditional questions

Many technical interviews include traditional interview starters such as “Tell me about yourself.” “What do you know about our company?” and “Why are you interested in this position?” These are great ways to warm up when helping a student prepare, as students should always anticipate these questions.

Practice communicating and decision making

To succeed in coding interviews, students must know how to talk through problem solving. Interviewers present a question or scenario, and expect students to ask questions, consider responses and possibilities, weigh options and ideas, and make decisions, all aloud. It’s less important for students to come up with the right answer than for them to show a clear thought process, an ability to problem solve, and strong communication skills.

Ask questions and pay close attention to your student’s response. Does he ask further questions to better understand the target client (age, needs, interests), any restrictions (such as materials, budget, timeline), and resources available? Does she think creatively about client needs and how to address them? Does he weigh his ideas and mention why he chooses to go in a particular direction? Does she present something innovative? Does he address how he’d approach building the model he suggests?

Your student doesn’t need to invent the next piece of technology and regardless of your level of technical knowledge, you should be able to both ask and provide feedback on answers to basic design questions.

Types of questions that I’ve found to be particularly useful for this type of conversation are open-ended brainteaser, design, and scenario.

Some examples:

  • How many basketballs are there in the state of North Carolina?
  • How many quarters would it take to create a stack as tall as the Empire State Building?
  • Design a phone for an avid traveler.
  • Design a new voting system for a college student government election.
  • Design an alarm clock for a person who is deaf.
  • If you were to create an app for students who want to see and sort all events on campus, how would you go about that process?
  • How would you learn more about the technical needs of students with disabilities on your college campus?

Do you have recommendations of other types of interviews or examples of process-oriented interview questions to use in helping students communicate problem solving? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Consult technical resources

There are plenty of resources online for students to take advantage of for practicing specific technical questions. Leetcode.com helps users prepare for coding interviews by presenting practice questions and allowing users to submit their code for review. A wide range of other sites have programming questions to use for practice, including: Programmerinterview.com, Career Cup, and Geekinterview.com, which feature technical questions for a variety of other engineering fields as well.

A simple search of “coding interview” on YouTube will result in a wealth of interesting videos with experts speaking on the coding interview process, as well as some individuals sharing examples of walking through coding interview questions.

Several books worth checking out are Cracking the Coding Interview and Cracking the PM Interview both by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, and Elements of Programming Interviews: The Insiders’ Guide, by Adnan Aziz, Tsung-Hsien Lee, and Amit Prakash. Revisiting foundational textbooks on programming and algorithms can also a good way for students to brush up on the basics.

Recommend practice, practice, practice

Tell student you recommend they find a practice buddy. Students who are preparing for coding interviews will be more prepared and have a richer learning experience if they are practicing with a peer who can offer additional ideas and feedback.

As an additional point, students in a coding interview should anticipate coding on a piece of paper or a whiteboard instead of a computer, a skill they’ll want to get plenty of practice in before it becomes time to interview, and also a good one to practice with the feedback of a knowledgeable buddy.

In an in-person interview, students should expect to write code on a blank sheet of paper or on a whiteboard. This can be challenging since, prior to interviewing, most students have done all of their programming using a computer. Coding by hand will take some getting used to, and students who invest the time practicing prior to an interview will be glad they did.

Notably, if the interview is conducted over the phone or virtually, the student may be asked to code on a shared online document, viewable by both the candidate and the interviewer.

Collaborate with your partners

Does your office partner with a faculty member in computer science? Do you have active student organizations with student leaders who have successfully navigated coding interviews? How about an employer at a technical company eager to connect with students?

Last year, a conversation at a networking event turned into a local engineer generously visiting our (Duke University) campus to give a presentation on coding interview tips for students, a program that had a huge turnout for both undergraduate and graduate students. The engineer gave advice on approaching the interview process and specific technical topics that far exceeded my own technical knowledge, a great benefit for all attendees.

Share the programming love

Most interviewers leading technical interviews are engineers and programmers themselves, and they’re the perfect audience for geeking out. Engineers tend to enjoy swapping programming stories and challenges with others who share their interests. Engineers love asking and hearing about students’ technical experience, specific projects, why they enjoy programming, and interesting challenges or bugs they’ve encountered and overcome. Students should prepare to give specific examples of why they enjoy coding, how they’ve developed the interest over time, and interesting challenges or bugs they’ve encountered, and how they found, diagnosed, and fixed them.

Show your work!

Have your students been working on an app, a website, or other accessible code or technology? Taking out a phone or computer during an interview may go against just about every piece of advice we typically give, but showing examples of projects during an interview can show evidence of skills while leading to a rich conversation about challenges and ideas.

Students should check with their interviewer to ensure this is appropriate, and only do so if they are given approval. They should also be sure everything is already opened and readily accessible, with all other apps and programs turned off.

Don’t forget about testing

Several employers have mentioned that students rarely bring up testing in an interview setting, but those who do tend to impress their interviewers. When students write code for class or projects, it often does not undergo the same testing and maintenance necessary in industry, and not all students will think to bring this up. Students should think not only about writing the code, but how to check it as well.

In sum, you don’t need to know how to code in order to help your students prepare for coding interviews. Work collaboratively with your students to understand the coding interview process, and what they can expect.

Appear More Confident and Approachable: Wear Makeup at Work?

Lee Desser

Lee Desser, career and academic adviser, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lmdesser

“Honey, can I ask you something and I promise I won’t get mad?” (This is always a risky starter sentence).

“Sure. What is it?” My significant other looks at me. What could it be? Is he in trouble?

“Can you tell whether or not I’m wearing makeup right now?” It’s brunch and I simply can’t fathom stroking my lashes with black mascara (at least not before my coffee).

“Honestly? No, I can’t.”

So there it is. After 10-plus years of wearing makeup, I guess it doesn’t make any difference. I looked at him wondering, “Does he really mean that or is he just trying to spare my feelings?” Futhermore, am I mad? Am I pleased? I can’t tell. Maybe I look like a washed-out “has-been actress” without makeup and he doesn’t want to be punished. But then I spend more time with him and realize something: he really could not tell. Shocker! He was telling the truth!

Since that time, I’ve been in a perpetual “should I or shouldn’t I” conflict with myself. Here’s the gist of it: is it really worth spending 10-plus minutes a day, hours watching YouTube makeup tutorial videos, and hundreds of dollars a year primping and priming when it doesn’t really matter? Or is it just that it didn’t really matter to him and other people can tell? Why should I bother highlighting this and concealing that when this is who I am and shouldn’t people be fine with that?

Two things: 1) How different do I actually look with and without makeup? and 2) Is there anything I really need to cover? Is there anything “wrong” with my face?

I remember I was shocked when I read a New York Times article a few years back about a study that came to the conclusion that makeup, “increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence, and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness, [and] also confirmed what is obvious: that cosmetics boost a woman’s attractiveness.” The strange thing is that I actually consider women who wear less makeup to be more confident, as they’re not trying to cover up anything.

A professor rebutted these findings (thankfully!): “’I don’t wear makeup, nor do I wish to spend 20 minutes applying it,’ said Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University who wrote The Beauty Bias (Oxford University Press, 2010), which details how appearance unjustly affects some workers. “The quality of my teaching shouldn’t depend on the color of my lipstick or whether I’ve got mascara on.” It seems obvious to me that the color of someone’s lipstick, or the amount of pigment in their cheeks, or the intensity of someone’s eyeshadow shouldn’t affect their performance, right? Yet, at the same time, apparently it does, so what are we to do about that?

I’m sick and tired of reading all these articles about all the things women should do or shouldn’t do: leave behind the upspeak, stop using the word “just” in e-mails, and negotiate their salary. It’s not so much that any of these are bad suggestions—to be clear they aren’t—it’s that there’s too many of them. There are so many demands placed on women about what they should do and shouldn’t do with their life (No kids after 35! Don’t wear form-fitting yoga pants at night!) and I don’t need Internet articles “shoulding” me! So for now I’m wearing makeup when I feel like it and not wearing it (surprise, surprise) when I don’t want to—that’s my liberation.

Note: “In a study, women were photographed wearing varying amounts of makeup. Viewers considered the women wearing more makeup to be more competent.” Read more here.

Tips for Networking as an Introvert

tiffany waddellTiffany I. Waddell, Assistant Director for Career Development, Davidson College
Personal blog: www.tiffanywaddell.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tiffanyiwaddell
Twitter: @tiffanyiwaddell

So… being an introvert does NOT mean you don’t have social skills. As career development folks, we all know this, right? Right. However, it does mean that for many of us, being around lots of people at one time can be draining. I am what you might consider an “expressive” introvert, so I am often mistaken as an extrovert. While both preferences have strengths and weaknesses, I love the fact that I am introspective— I enjoy real conversations [read: no small talk]—and can still make connections in a myriad of contexts. However, given that my day-to-day professional life requires me to talk to many different people, and I am fairly involved in our state association, I thought it might be helpful to share my top 10 networking tips that work for me, for readers who are still polishing their networking skills.

Find the refreshments! It’s always a great idea to position yourself at a healthy distance from the refreshments. Many people start there when they get to a networking event in order to take a break from a potentially overwhelming space. You can easily strike up a conversation as people turn around with a drink or food in their hands.

Set reasonable expectations. When attending an event, prep yourself mentally for what you are there to do. Is your goal to meet more people? Is it to learn more about the organization’s culture? Is it to meet one or two specific people? Make sure you set reasonable expectations before hand, so that you have a goal in mind. It is a great way to keep you from getting overwhelmed, too.

Start a conversation with a loner. It’s usually easier to start a conversation with someone who is standing alone, because they will most likely be happy to have someone to talk to—and as a result, are often more personable and easier to connect with.

Avoid barging into groups. A cluster of more than four people can be awkward—and tough to enter. Join the group on one side, but don’t try to enter the conversation until you’ve made eye contact with each person at least one time. Usually, people will make room to add you to the “circle” of conversation, and you can introduce yourself then!

“Look mom, no hands!” Keep at least one hand free at all times! This means no eating and drinking at the same time if you are at a networking mixer or conference reception. Leaving one hand free menas you can still shake hands with people without being awkward and fumbling around.

Be yourself. Networking events are meant as starting points for professional relationships. If you can’t be yourself—and you aren’t comfortable in your own skin—then the people you meet will be connecting with someone you’re impersonating, and not the real you. Be genuine. Authenticity tends to attract much of the same.

Be present and engaged. Ever talked to someone that acts like you’re the only person in the room? Someone who listens and makes you feel like everything you are saying is important? I love those people! They really make you feel heard. Keep eye contact and lean in or tilt your body toward people when you talk to them.  (Not in a creepy way. In a “I’m listening to you, and I’m fully present” kinda way.)

Treat people like friends. Unless, of course, you are a terrible friend. Would you go to a friend and interrupt their conversation, hand over a business card, and walk away?  No. Networking events are not transactions. Treat new people as you’d treat your friends—build a rapport, be trustworthy, and then talk shop.

72-hour rule. After a conference or networking event, you have about 72 hours to follow-up with a person on LinkedIn or via e-mail. Reference something that you talked about and ask what the best way to stay connected might be. After 72 hours—they might have forgotten you.

Practice makes perfect. Well, not really perfect. Progress is always better than perfection! The point here is that networking is a skill, like any other professional skill.  It is a muscle that you have to develop and grow. While others may look like born networkers, they are more than likely just more experienced with it. Mistakes may happen, but the only way to learn is to get out there and do it!

What tips and advice do YOU have that have worked for you when networking?  Are you an introvert?  Tell us more in the comments below!

Encourage Students to Tolerate Uncertainty and to Take Risks

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

It’s amazing how the title of Jullien Gordon’s TED Talk, “How to graduate college with a job you love and less debt” resonates with students.  Their enthusiasm is all the more remarkable in its rarity. Most of my students are attending the University full-time, while simultaneously supporting themselves with at least one part-time job. They come to my class already exhausted, so when they ask me if they can stay late just to finish Gordon’s talk, I am always equal parts shocked and gratified. Clearly, this is a subject students are interested in.

Jullien Gordon is a kind of Millennial whisperer. He travels around the country speaking not only to students, but to staff, parents and faculty about how to engage Millennials in higher education. One of the things I appreciate about Gordon is that he’s direct. He doesn’t try to soften the truth about career by promoting college completion as a magical key to success. In fact, within the first few minutes of his talk, he challenges students to re-think what success really means – to them, to society, to their parents, friends and teachers. He encourages Millennials to redefine achievement so that they’ll be motivated to make the most of their college experience.

When I last showed his talk, I engaged the class in a discussion about the pros and cons of letting someone else make your major and career decisions for you. One first-year student summed it up perfectly: “you lose freedom, but you don’t have to deal with uncertainty!” After this speech, he put his head down on his desk. I asked for a show of hands. How many of them enjoy the feeling of uncertainty? No hands went up. They gave me pained looks. I imagine this might be why they’ve registered for a class on career decision-making.

I empathize. Taking responsibility for your own success or failure is difficult enough. Having to make choices about what your success will look like, at 18, is more difficult still. It’s a big ask, but I think students appreciate when we’re honest with them about what’s expected. They resonate with Gordon’s transparency. They understand the concept of competition, and the signs on the wall, even in school, are increasingly clear.

If someone asked me to name the most important role a career counselor plays in the life of a college student, I wouldn’t talk about major requirements, or internships, or resume and cover letters, or even preparing for the long weeks of the job search. The most challenging, and important, part of my job, is encouraging students to tolerate uncertainty and to take risks. These skills are critical in our current job market, where technology is transforming entire fields in a space of a few years.

As Gordon implies, risks often mean sacrifices. Students may not be able to graduate with the perfect major, have a 4.0 GPA, lead three student organizations, and get the internship experience they need to be successful. No one can do it all. But if a student has a passion for travel, it may be more important for them to study abroad than to have a perfect GPA. These risks may pay off in unexpected ways, but they take courage in the short-term.

Career professionals have the opportunity to help students strategize as they decide where and how to take risks in school. Success in college is about more than just completion, it’s about preparing for the realities of post-graduate life.