525,600 Minutes: How do you measure a year?

sue-keever-wattsSue Keever Watts
Owner, The Keever Group
Blog: http://keevergroup.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/sue-keever-watts/0/aa/b60
Twitter: @SueKeever

“Seasons of Love” is a song from the wildly successful Broadway hit, Rent. It’s sung at the funeral of one of the characters and asks the question, how do you measure a year of life? According to the Gregorian calendar year, there are 525,600 minutes in a year. Now that we’re coming to the end of 2013, it’s time to ask, how and what are you measuring?

I find that in business, numbers matter more than anything else. What’s your cost per hire? What’s your interview to hire ratio? What’s your time to fill? While I appreciate the straightforward nature of statistics, they do little to inspire action and even less to answer the question of why? Why did one of your top candidates accept your offer? Why did another reject your offer? Why were you more successful at one of your target campuses than another?

Your employer brand continues to be the greatest weapon in your recruiting arsenal. It’s intended to answer the question of why – why would a talented student want to join your organization over any other? To gauge an employer brand, you have to be able to measure the intangible. It’s hard to quantify feelings, but it isn’t impossible. Here are five tips for measuring a year in the life of your campus recruiting team:

  1. Establish a vision: Statistics reward short-term thinking. And, we all know that recruiting a student is a four-year proposition. If you’re truly looking to impact your presence on campus, you have to create a vision. Your vision is what it will look like when your employer brand is relevant, memorable, engaging and desirable to students on each of your target campuses. It’s the vision that gets people excited. Be certain that leadership and your campus team members are fully aware of your long-term vision.
  2. Create a roadmap: Clarify exactly what you want students to say about your organization. Describe what you want students to feel after they’ve been interviewed. State what you want students to tell others about your company and the people who work there. Be clear, be specific, and don’t make it complicated. Your vision is about creating a feeling and backing it up with a positive experience.
  3. Get people onboard: You have to make certain that leadership and your team believes the journey is worth the effort. Describe what will happen when your vision becomes a reality. A vision is aspirational in nature; however, it has to be something that people believe they can achieve. Describe the many benefits of creating and maintaining a strong and desirable employer brand. Don’t underestimate the power it will have on every aspect of your organization. A strong employer brand is a corporate asset.
  4. Measure what matters: Quantitative research will tell you how many, but qualitative research will tell you why. I advocate using both. Analyze your numbers, but don’t stop there. Conduct focus groups of interns, new hires, and students on your target campuses. If you send out surveys, be certain to include open-ended questions to gather qualitative responses. And, ask each of your team members to record anecdotal feedback throughout the recruiting season.
  5. Expand your reporting: It’s great to be able to announce that you’ve reduced your cost-per-hire by 10 percent. It thrills the accountants. But, it gives people an emotional boost to learn that you hired the top candidate on one of your campuses because of how your organization treated her throughout the job search process.

As humans, we’re both analytical and emotional. So when it comes to measuring your year, report what you did, but be sure to add how you made them feel.

Advising Nontraditionals: Do Age and Life Stage Matter?

Janet R. LongJanet R. Long
Principal, Integrity Search Inc.
Blog: http://inyourownvoice.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/janetrlong/
Twitter: @IntegritySearch

What if your Mom walked into your career center, resume in hand, and that deer-in-the-headlights look? As a boomer recruiter and career counselor, I’ve been thinking lately about multiple generations co-existing, not just in the workplace, but in the campus career centers on the front lines of providing advice and counsel. Advising students a generation or two ahead of the traditional 18- to 22-year-old range is becoming more commonplace every year – and not only in community college settings.

With the National Center for Education Statistics projecting that students over aged 35 will top 4.5 million by 2021 at degree-granting institutions, the trend is undeniable.

But when it comes to best practices in career advisement, do age and life stage really matter?

How can a campus career center designed with the traditionally-aged student in mind extend its reach? This is a prickly topic, and as Chaim Shapiro wisely noted in this space, we have to be careful about overgeneralizing based on generational labels.

Consider these ideas for starting off on the right foot:

1. Acknowledge the elephant in the room, especially if the student or alum in front of you really could be your Mom! One of my advisers as a mid-life grad student asked me outright if our age difference (about 20 years) might present a problem for me. It didn’t – but just having someone ask the question spoke volumes about his style and put me at ease.

2. Value past experience. When talking about resume formats, interview preparation, etc., emphasize that while styles may have changed, the student already knows more than she or he may realize.

3. Probe for fears. Don’t assume it’s technology or social media — it might be fear of age discrimination, old-fashioned in-person networking, or feeling rusty about interviewing. Maybe all of these! Before pivoting to tactics, get buy-in on a plan that addresses these concerns to the best of your ability.

4. Manage expectations. You may need to do some educating as well. One four-year institution found through an annual survey that some non-traditionally aged students viewed the career center as a direct placement agency.

5. Create connections. Help your student navigate a targeted alumni database search, keeping life stage in mind. Provide links — and direct contacts, if possible — to local chapters of relevant professional associations. If there is sufficient demand and critical mass, consider forming a student group(s), for peer-to-peer support and job-lead sharing.

NACE blog readers, what practices for advising nontraditionals have worked well in your experience?

The Assessment Diaries: Beyond Satisfaction Follow-Up

Desalina Allen

Desalina Allen, Senior Assistant Director at NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development
Twitter: @DesalinaAllen
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/desalina

The results are in!  I recently shared assessment plans for our Dining for Success etiquette dinner.  We moved away from a satisfaction survey to a pre-dinner and post-dinner skills assessment for the first time and, as I shared in my previous post, I was a little nervous about the results.  Here is what we found:

Section One:  Understanding Formal Place Settings

Let’s face it.  We could all use a refresher on how not to steal your future boss’ bread plate, and our students were no different.  Before and after the event they were asked to identify each plate, cup, and piece of silverware in this photo:

Then, at the beginning of the event we had all utensils, plates, and glasses piled in the center of the table and asked each student to organize their place setting. We noticed a bit of uncertainty during the activity and our employer volunteers stepped in often to help, which tells us that students were not completely clear about formal place settings.

This experience conflicts with what we found via the assessment. We didn’t see much of a difference between pre and post results. In fact, most students correctly identified the items (with #6 dinner fork and #5 salad fork being confused just a few times).  We did see a slight drop in the number of blank responses, which could be interpreted to mean that students felt more certain about formal place settings after the event.

Section Two:  Appropriate vs. Inappropriate Table Topics

Students were asked to list three appropriate topics to discuss at mealtime interviews or networking event as well as three topics to avoid.  During the event, we provided employer volunteers with a list of suggestions and encouraged them to supplement based on their experience.

On the pre and post surveys, students were instructed to leave questions blank if they did not know the answer. Comparing responses revealed a significant increase in the number of students who answered these questions after the event.  We also noticed that a wider variety of more detailed topics were listed in the post surveys.  For example, students most often listed “career,” “food,” and “hobbies” in the pre-dinner survey, while post-dinner survey responses included things like “the professional’s background,” “the industry,” “new projects,” and “current events.”

Section Three: Ordering Food

While guests were only offered two entrèe options, employer volunteers were encouraged to share basic guidelines regarding how and what to order during sit-down dinners or interviews.  Almost all of the pre survey responses revolved around not ordering food that is too messy or difficult to eat.  Post survey results again provided more breadth and detail.  Student mentioned avoiding “smelly” food, considering price, and following the lead of the interviewer/host.  One student even suggested not ordering meat if your host is a vegetarian…discuss!

Section Four: Following Up

How should students follow up with an individual after a networking event or meal time interview?  Turns out, most students already understood the basics (insert career counselor sigh of relief here).  On the pre-event survey, many students responded that you should send a follow up thank you via e-mail (or in some cases, USPS), however after the event students included details like “within 24-48 hours” and mentioned LinkedIn for the first time.  

What we learned

Overall, we were happy with the improvements we saw between the pre and post-event surveys.  And, of course, we found that 97 percent of students were satisfied with the event!  Here are a few key takeaways and thoughts regarding the survey for next year’s event:

  • The table setting question may not have accurately measured students’ level of comfort with formal dining before and after the event.  The way the image was laid out may have been too simple.  For future surveys, we are considering having students draw a diagram or place items around a plate to more accurately reflect our table setting activity.

  • Students understand the basics regarding discussion topics, ordering, and following up after events, but the activities and discussions gave them a more broad and anecdotal understanding of how to navigate during mealtime events and interviews.

  • We will consider measuring different skills/content areas each year.  Our event also included activities revolving around introducing yourself and handling sticky situations that were not assessed in the pre- or post-event surveys.  It would be interesting to see how students’ understanding of these topics changed as a result of the event.

Make Your Resolution to Join the Advocacy Revolution

Marilyn MackesMarilyn Mackes, Executive Director
National Association of Colleges and Employers
Twitter: @NACEMarilyn
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/marilyn-mackes/8/210/a70

Before we know it, we will be reliving our holiday festivities through our phone camera pics and will be making New Year’s resolutions for 2014. Hmmm—choosing a new diet plan? Practicing the latest exercise regimen? Expanding the reading list?

Advocacy Mashup for Career ServicesI recommend creating an impact on our profession and the specific work we do by being a part of NACE advocacy initiatives. And there is one really great way to get started.

On January 31, 2014, NACE will host the Advocacy Mashup for Career Services in Washington, D.C. Those attending this one-day event (space is limited to the first 120 people registered—as of this writing we are filling up fast!) will participate in three focused sessions:

  1. First-destination surveys,
  2. Unpaid internships, and
  3. International students and immigration reform.

I know all of us engaged in career services recognize these as “hot topics” that directly touch the students and employers we serve. And they surface MANY questions for which we need answers.

So here’s my list of why attending this event should be one of your resolutions for the New Year:

  1. As lawmakers and institutional leaders place more emphasis on outcomes and “scorecards,” we need to know the what, how, and when for collecting data about our graduates. NACE’s First-Destination Task Force has released preliminary guidelines for career centers and institutions to deliver reliable and comparable outcomes data. (Federal agencies and legislators are already interested in these guidelines, so what better way to be prepared than to join us at the Mashup!)
  2. There has been much debate about the practice of unpaid internships—“valuable” work experience vs. “free” labor. You will gain information about the role of career services in the context of this issue and engage in discussion about current regulatory guidelines.
  3. Advising international students continues to challenge career services as current hiring restrictions limit their ability to gain employment. You will learn what proposed immigration legislation entails and how this could impact your services to students.
  4. Overall, you will hear from Washington experts from federal organizations and public policy groups addressing the issues that matter to you and your institution.
  5. This could be a great way to engage others at your institution that care about these issues, your vice-presidents and institutional research administrators in particular. Together you can get first-hand access to federal perspectives.

For more details about the event and to register, visit www.naceweb.org/events/advocacy-mashup.aspx

One last thought regarding your New Year’s resolution: Your voice counts, so whether it’s at the Advocacy Mashup or other advocacy initiatives that lie ahead, GET ENGAGED! To learn more, check out the information provided on NACEWeb.

Finally, though a bit early, I wish you all a very happy new year … and huge success with your resolutions!

Note: An employer-focused relations and recruiting mashup is planned for late March. Watch NACEWeb for details.

NACE Flash Poll – Are We Placement Officers?

kevin grubbNACE Ambassador Kevin Grubb
Assistant Director at Villanova University’s Career Center.
Twitter: @kevincgrubb
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevingrubb
Blog: “social @ edu”

A hotly debated term in career services is “placement.” Are first-destination surveys reports on “placements” of students? Should career services offices take on the role of being “placement” officers? Especially with the college “return on investment” talk heating up, this is something I hear many discussing.

So, career services professionals, what do you think? Vote in the flash poll below and share your thoughts in a comment! (Note: flash poll votes are anonymous.)

 

For more on first-destination surveys (sometimes called “placement” surveys), read NACE’s Position Statement on First-Destination Surveys. First-destination surveys will be one of the topics discussed at the Advocacy Mashup for Career Services on January 31, 2014, in Washington, D.C.