Career Coaching Notes: Social Networks Beyond Networking

Rayna AndersonRayna A. Anderson, Career Advisor at Elon University
Twitter: @Rayna_Anderson
LinkedIn: www.LinkedIn.com/in/RaynaA
Blog: RaynaAnderson.wordpress.com

We are currently living in the instant information age: a time when we can learn anything with the simple click of a button. But with this more accessible knowledge comes the increased expectation for everyone to actively participate in information sharing. Social media users have become reporters, commentators, and critics of the most recent advances, so it’s no wonder why more and more people are taking to their social network accounts to learn the latest news. 

Not only has technology changed with way we communicate but it has changed the future of the U.S. workforce.  So much so, that it has been estimated as many as 65 percent of grade schoolers will go on to have jobs that do not yet exist. So what better way for college students to stay abreast of industry changes than by engaging in online career conversation! How many photographers would have been better prepared had they known that cell phones would someday include quality cameras? How about social media’s impact on news stations, magazines, and even the hospitality industry?

Beyond the celebrity stalking, hometown gossip, or superficial brown-nosing, social media can greatly impact a student’s chance to kick-start their career. These outlets provide, not only access to professional contacts, but also great opportunities to establish oneself as a knowledgeable and invested professional. Additionally, companies have come to value visionaries that can help keep their businesses afloat in changing tides. Participating in Twitter chats, sharing articles via Facebook, contributing to LinkedIn group discussions, and even blogging can be great ways for students to collect and contribute to useful information.

How often do you encourage students to use social media for career/industry education?

Of Rousseau and Resumes: Helping Humanities Students Gain the Home Court Advantage

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

Collaborating with and supporting humanities students may represent some of the most challenging—and rewarding—opportunities for career advisers.  Outside of applying directly to graduate programs, these students can face challenges because their paths to internships and permanent employment are often not as well defined as those for more career-specific majors.

Yet, as a longtime recruiter (and full disclosure: former English major) who has successfully placed hundreds of one-time English, philosophy, and psychology majors, I propose that the greater challenge may be an initially uncomfortable fit with traditional job-search methods. The philosophy major who has thought far more deeply about Rousseau’s writings than resume writing may not instinctively pivot to a dialogue about “branding” or self-expression through scannable keywords.  For career advisers, the real gold lies not in portraying these tactics as a necessary evil but in helping students discover how their natural strengths and inclinations can best serve them in the search process.

For starters, amid the ongoing debate about the marketability of a liberal arts education, employers say they want the critical thinking skills that are, in fact, the cornerstone of a foundation in the humanities.  In the well-publicized 2013 survey conducted for the Association of American Colleges and Universities more than 90 percent of employers agreed that “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.”

The real question is how to guide our students in applying the well-developed critical thinking muscle to navigating the job marketplace.  Without suggesting a one-size-fits-all approach, here are some places to jump in:

1. Start at the Beginning—Before talking about a student’s resume or a specific job posting, probe for the thought process behind the original selection of a major or course of study—and how that thinking has evolved.  Recruiters like this question too, even for more experienced candidates, because it helps to construct a useful narrative. The reasons are less important than the student’s/candidate’s ability to demonstrate such qualities as self-reflection and an interest in both acquiring and applying knowledge.

2. Open the Floodgates—As West Chester University Assistant Director of Career Development Amanda Mitchell astutely shares, “the key is to help these students understand the capacity of the degree they are pursuing.  Liberal arts students in very specific courses of study may underestimate the breadth of their career options.  For example, while a psychology major could pursue an advanced degree to become a counselor, he or she could also immediately apply an undergraduate degree in a variety of fields, including marketing or business.” As a recruiter, I can validate this perspective:  some of the most impressive candidates I have interviewed for early-career roles in marketing and management consulting have roots in the humanities and social sciences.

By just changing the lens through which they view their major from restrictive to expansive, our students may experience the kinds of “aha moments” that blow their job explorations wide open. You might recommend Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads by Sheila Curran and Suzanne Greenwald for a highly accessible, case-study based approach. The format will also expose your students to the kind of storytelling that will serve them well in job and internship interviews—did you know that Chief Storyteller is an actual corporate job title?!

3. Become a Translator—Help your student demystify jargon-y sounding job-search terms like “branding” and “value proposition.” Draw parallels between these phrases and verbal constructs that are more familiar to liberal arts students.  For example, finding central themes in a work of literature really isn’t all that different from identifying common threads in your student’s academic and co-curricular experience to date.

4. Compare and Contrast—While other students might find the following suggestion the ultimate in geekdom, no one aces the classic compare and contrast exercise like the humanities major.  Leveraging strengths in research, analysis, and written expression, consider encouraging your student to draft a very informal essayor even a steam-of-consciousness-like journal (the actual format is less important than the exercise)examining prospective career options.  For example, a political science major might compare and contrast opportunities in government service versus nonprofit associations and foundations.  You can guide your students to core resources such as  “What Can I Do This Major?” as a starting point, and encourage them to deepen their explorations through online publications, associations and informational conversations with alumni.

Added bonus: Should this process lead to a targeted career direction, your student will already have lots of meaty data to draw on during actual job or internship interviews. Recruiters love to probe for such qualities as sincere motivation and resourcefulness.  What better way for a student to demonstrate these attributes than by walking a recruiter or prospective employer through a thoughtful research process and key learnings about a field or specific organization?

5. Highlight Communication Skills—I may have saved the best for last.  While many humanities students take their strengths in oral and written expression for granted, employers are bemoaning the lack of these skills in the workplace.  As a recruiter, this is probably the number one complaint I hear from employers about recent graduates.

From cover letters to resumes to LinkedIn profiles and electronic portfolios, humanities students have a clear home court advantage. You can help them to recognize this and encourage them to differentiate themselves through the sheer power of the written word. In a future post, I will explore some concrete ways to help them maximize this advantage.

And here’s some really encouraging late-breaking news to share with your students—the Association of American Colleges and Universities just published a survey showing that the long-term return on investment for liberal arts majors, reflected in annual earnings, actually exceeds that for some “pre-professional'” majors.

There is so much more to say about this topic. NACE members, what practices have worked best for the humanities students you advise and support?  Your responses need not be in essay form.

Continuing Professional Development: The Key to Success

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

In today’s microwave culture students have been misguided to believe that great careers are built overnight. It’s true, a decade ago a student could find success by merely completing their academic work and showing up in the career center spring of their last semester and still land a great job. However, in today’s competitive, fast-paced world, the labor force evolves rapidly and students need more than their degree and a few job-search tips to obtain lasting career success. Today’s graduates must embrace life-long learning beyond the classroom in order to reap the benefits of their academic work. Knowing how to develop one’s self professionally and identify the best professional development opportunities is the “new” employability skill for graduating seniors.

In some industries, like information technology (IT), employers have made it clear that education alone will not land you a job with their company. Instead, employers are seeking IT candidates with three attributes: experience, education, and professional certifications. Like IT students, all new graduates who want to thrive in their careers will have to identify the attributes employers in their industry are seeking beyond their degree.

Professional development opportunities are plentiful and include: attending conferences, joining professional associations, registering for MOOCs, reading books, receiving mentoring, volunteering, taking assessments, accepting a leadership opportunity, conducting research, etc. Employability skills are not always learned in the classroom. For instance, attending a conference can teach a student how to network and deliver a professional pitch; becoming involved in a professional association can provide an opportunity to build leadership skills; and reading a book about employability skills or biographies of successful individuals can provide examples and testimonies of successful business behaviors.

Students experiencing barriers to employment can also benefit by working with a career adviser or mentor to create an Individual Development Plan (IDP). An IDP is a great goal setting and professional development tool that can supplement academic learning and increase employability skills. By being proactive, students can gain a competitive edge and remain employable throughout their career.

The Assessment Diaries: The Mystery of the Resume Writing Assessment (Part 1)

Desalina Allen

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

In career services, most of us are used to facilitating workshops that teach our students or alumni skills.  The topic could be leadership, networking, career research, or social media and the job search.  Oftentimes, after these events we send out surveys to determine just how much students learned.  We ask if students feel more comfortable with the topic and understand some of the key take-a-ways. We may even throw in a satisfaction question or two.

Today,  I want you to imagine that you’re getting ready to facilitate one of those workshops and the topic is: Resume writing!  Don’t get too excited….

You know how when you start a presentation, especially one you’ve done often, you pretty immediately get a sense of how the audience will respond?  Sometimes you walk in and students are just waiting for you with that expression on their face that tells you even if Eddie Murphy were giving this presentation they might sleep through the entire thing?

Well, on this day you experience the exact opposite. Students are eager, smiling, even awake. They raise their hand when you ask for input and they actually laugh at your pathetic resume jokes (that you’ve managed to add just to keep yourself interested). You talk about clarity of format, keeping it to a page, customizing it for each position and you look around only to see heads nodding vigorously.

After the presentation you review the post event surveys. Students are giving you high marks across the board: they now understand resume basics, they feel they can apply these concepts to their own resumes, they even write comments about how great of a presenter you are.

That night, you check your e-mail and you have a very sweet request from one of the participants:  She notes that she learned a lot from the presentation but wants to come in tomorrow for a quick resume review just make sure everything is OK before she applies to a position. You reply “Sure!” thinking to yourself, “this should take only 15 minutes.”

Fast forward to tomorrow.  The student is seated in front of you.  As she reaches into her backpack to pull out her resume, your view switches to slow motion.  Suddenly, you catch a glimmer of light bouncing off of the object she’s taking out….

…..wait

…what the

….is that

….is that a staple??  

So, obviously this is a HUGE exaggeration (cue sarcastic snickers), but what went wrong here? Didn’t you talk about page length? Weren’t you clear about editing out non-relevant content? Surely you touched on including pictures. How could it be that after all of your hard work and intuition the student just didn’t get the point?  What about all of your positive survey results? Could they have misled you?

Stay tuned for part 2 of The Mystery of the Resume Writing Assessment where I’ll discuss the post-event assessment.  In the meantime…any guesses, comments, or thoughts on why this approach doesn’t always work? Leave them in the comments section below!

The Best Tip for Last Minute Interview Prep? Power Pose!

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 student e-mails you the day of a big interview. She’s practiced and looked through her notes, studying like she should for a conversation like this. What should she focus on in the last few minutes before she goes into the room? One last look at the company website for any critical updates? A final check over her resume to make sure she has talking points for her experiences?

Maybe the answer is something else entirely. To boost her self esteem, she should spend about two minutes standing in power poses right before she goes into the room. Why? Because it will make her more confident in the interview and a more desirable candidate. That’s what one Harvard professor, Amy Cuddy, discovered in her research on body language.

In the past, scientific studies have proven that when you smile, it triggers changes in your brain and body that can actually make you happier, which then makes you smile. So, maybe Buddy the Elf really was on to something (“I like smiling. Smiling’s my favorite.” – This gets me every time.). Cuddy wanted to know if the same could be said for body language. Body language changes the way others think of us, but can it also change our thoughts on ourselves?

The answer is yes. Cuddy’s research found that standing in confident, positive poses changes the chemistry in your brain, boosting hormone levels related to confidence and decreasing hormone levels related to stress. Taking it a step further, research subjects in one of Cuddy’s studies who were instructed to sit or stand in power poses, making their bodies big and wide, for two minutes prior to an interview performed significantly better in that interview than those who did the opposite. Those who did take the power poses were rated by observers as someone who would be a great hire.

Don’t just take my word for it, check out Cuddy’s TED talk. If you want to skip right to the interview study, start the video at about 10:00. The whole clip is fascinating.

So, NACE blog readers, who’s up for a round or two of power posing at the 2014 NACE conference? I’m starting my practice now.

Don’t Miss Your Chance at NACE Honors and Awards!

Marc Goldman, Executive Director, Career Center, Yeshiva University

Marc Goldman, Executive Director, Career Center, Yeshiva University
Twitter: @MarcGoldmanNYC
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/marcjgoldman

I am a big fan of awards shows on television.  For decades, I have watched the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, Golden Globes, People’s Choice, SAG Awards, and even the occasional Grammys or MTV Video-Music Awards.  Do they even show videos on MTV anymore?  Ah the good old days of MTV when it was hair bands, pop idols, and vee-jays!  But I digress.  When I entered the field of career counseling, I never imagined we would have our very own awards, honoring individuals, schools, and employers who developed groundbreaking and trendsetting ideas, programs, resources, and services.  Well, we do applaud these colleagues, and NACE offers its official recognition through the annual Honors and Awards process, which culminates at the national conference.

One of my bright ideas while working at the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development won a NACE Excellence Award in 2007.  The Wasserman team’s Business Boot Camp for Liberal Arts Students, sponsored by Morgan Stanley, was an exciting program to work on, and it addressed a big need at the time among NYU liberal arts majors who wanted to explore business careers.  We were presented with the award at the New York City NACE Conference (Home field advantage blah blah blah!).  It was truly a proud moment for us all.  There were some nice bonuses as well: recognition on campus by our division colleagues, another selling point to employers regarding partnering with our office, a notation of success on one’s resume for future reference, and awareness of a best practice to discuss with other career services professionals at colleges across the country.

At the most recent NACE Conference, my Yeshiva colleagues and I were finalists for an award for our Women in Business Initiative.  We actually did not expect anything more than being nominated (Hope for the best. Expect the worst!).  When we did not hear our name announced by the dapper emcee, Andrew Ceperley, we took it all in stride and applauded the victor as Jamie Belinne, University of Houston, C.T. Bauer College of Business, strode upon the stage to receive her well-deserved kudos for Career Assessment for Business Students With Diverse Multicultural Backgrounds.

Prior to the awards gathering, for the first time ever, there was an awards showcase. What a great idea, NACE! Akin to what many of us have experienced at a job fair, all of the college and employer finalists were assembled at tables to speak to other NACE Conference attendees about their nominated programs and ideas. The room was buzzing with questions, discussions, and laughter as well. To me, that event eclipsed the awards assembly to come (Maybe, if we won, I would be singing a different tune…nah!). Coming back to Yeshiva, being a finalist was fine in my book.  On our small college campus, people were thrilled with our national recognition and the NACE honor certainly brought an additional air of legitimacy to our shop both on campus and in the eyes of important external stakeholders. Winning! Did I really just do a callback to Charlie Sheen’s oddity phase? Sorry.

This year, I am thrilled to be co-chair of the Honors and Awards Committee.  It has been wonderful working with my colleague Blake Witters and NACE’s very own Cecelia Nader, along with the entire H&A Committee, to refresh the way we look at this topic and present it at the annual conference. Having Dan Black, NACE President and part-time stand-up comic, in our corner is extremely helpful as well.

I cannot encourage you enough to submit something this year. Not only is it always worth a shot, but there are benefits no matter what. Even if you simply submit and don’t get selected, the submission itself allows for self-reflection and the chance to pat yourselves on the back.  And you never know—you might end up on stage with Dan Black in front of 2,000 of your closest career services and employer friends having a grand time in San Antonio!

The January 31 deadline is rapidly approaching. To get the ball rolling, please visit the NACE website at: http://naceweb.org/about-us/awards.aspx?mainindex-recslide3-awrds-01032014.

As Ed McMahon used to say, “You could be a winner.”  Publishers Clearinghouse? Star Search? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Career Coaching Notes: Values and Visualization

Rayna Anderson

Rayna A. Anderson, Career Advisor at Elon University
Twitter: @Rayna_Anderson
LinkedIn: www.LinkedIn.com/in/RaynaA
Blog: RaynaAnderson.wordpress.com

According to Howard Figler’s 1-2-3 counseling method, the following three questions capture the essence of career counseling:

  1. What do you want to do?
  2. What is stopping you from doing it?
  3. What are you doing about it?

For now, I only want to look at the first of these three questions in the context of university career services. Contrary to what we do as career advisers, our students come to us looking for direct answers instead of guidance. Their question is usually, “what should I do?” when it really just depends on what it is they want to do. Furthermore, they often fail to realize that they already have the answers they need. Our job then is, not to impose our opinion, but to drive them toward honest self-actualization.

Should you find yourself grappling with a student that insists that they, “just don’t know” or who feels silly disclosing their deepest career desires, charge them with Figler’s first question. Then consider using two of my favorite methods for helping students define their career goals:

1. Values Assessment: I almost never conduct a career decision-making or assessment appointment without first having the student complete some sort of job or workplace values handout. This exercise allows students to self-select from a list of multiple choices:

  • What they are motivated by (power, recognition, money, enjoyment, etc.)
  • What they’d enjoy spending their workday doing (taking on challenges, brainstorming with others, meeting new people, coaching others, etc.)
  • And, what they want from their workplace (autonomy, supervision, structure, flexibility, etc.)

Once they have identified their desires, have them consider which they are willing to compromise on and which values are their “non-negotiables.” Now that there’s something on paper in front of them, it’s time to let their minds wander.

2. Guided Visualization: Though I don’t ask that students close their eyes or sit in any particular position, I do provide them with an opportunity to carry out an uninterrupted daydream. I prompt this exercise by having the student consider a world where anything is possible and money is of no concern. I then ask the student to imagine arriving at work, parking and getting out of their car, then walking through the front doors of their workplace.

Next, I have them describe what they see, how they feel walking in, what they are wearing, how people around them look, and what these people doing. I conclude the visualization period by telling the student that they are going into their office that day to complete a project, then asking what type of project it might be. This exercise is especially helpful for students struggling to decide between pursing a passion and choosing a less desirable but lucrative career path.

These exercises provide the student with a tangible and intangible basis for setting goals.

After the values assessment and visualization, the student has taken the first step toward choosing a major, deciding the types of jobs or internships to search for, and formulating  questions to ask during interviews. While this process is only the beginning of the career advising journey, it helps establish trust and rapport throughout your partnership.

Our offices should be safe havens; places where students can come in to un-apologetically share their secrets and leave with plans of action. Do your own research, make changes, and make these exercises your own.