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.



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!



Top Three Things Employers Can Do to Hire and Keep the Best Employees

Tom BorgerdingTom Borgerding, President/CEO, Campus Media Group, Inc.
Twitter: @mytasca

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the most important things to college students when making a decision about where to work. Let’s step back again and evaluate the challenge most companies face.

When we see stories about the “The Secret Sauce of College Recruiting” or “What Students Want” or “Do You Have What Students Want?”, it can cause discomfort in who we are as representatives of companies.

Do we need to offer more education options, be more inclusive, provide more benefits, add tracks through the company, provide more mentoring, etc.? There are so many recommendations floating around out there these days. There seems to be a top 10 list for just about everything.

What do we do with all of this? We take a deep breath, revisit our company mission, values, and purpose, and look at what’s most important to achieve the goals the company has set. If we don’t know why (mission, values, purpose) we are in business, it can be very hard to determine what’s most important. Before we all jump off the deep end with the “latest and greatest,” let’s become great at what is most important.

Be authentic. Students—and really all of us—want to work for a company and with a group of people who are authentic and focused on the same ultimate goals we are. We understand the reason we work somewhere. It’s not because our company has a cool logo or interesting office design. Ultimately what is going to win and keep people is the direction of the business, leadership, the people we work with, and the work we do.

Help them make an impact. We all want to make an impact in this world. No one wants to be stuck in a dead end job where they don’t feel like they matter in the organization and are known as a number rather than by their name. Let people volunteer, donate, and get involved on teams where they can make an impact on the business in more ways than their job description states. Provide those opportunities.

Listen. Before we go out to add all the new things to the company we are told we need, listen to what our current employees want. If someone comes into an organization being promised one thing and when they arrive they find out it’s not actually what they were promised, they will likely quickly move on to another employer that keeps promises. We need to care about others and what they care about to find success. It’s not about “me,” but about what others are concerned with. The only real way to find out what matters to others is to ask them. Ask the tough “why” questions so that what you do can truly help those around you and your organization succeed.


What the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Teaches About Career Success

joe hayes

Joe Hayes, Assistant Director, Employer Relations & Internships, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Twitter: @_JosephHayes

Perhaps you were among the 20-plus million Americans that watched the women’s world cup final between the United States and Japan on July 5. It wasn’t very close. While the lopsided final of the tournament’s biggest game was unexpected, the success of the U.S. team throughout the summer was no accident. Instead, the U.S. team came prepared for work—just like students can—and met success.

Capitalize on second chances

Four years ago, the United States was stunned by Japan, losing the World Cup finals in penalty kicks. In a way, that failure provided extra motivation ultimately leading to an Olympic gold medal in 2012. This year the team came out focused and seemingly on a mission to capture the first World Cup in 16 years.

Second chances may not always be as grandiose as a rematch of the World Cup final. For a student, it could be the ability to retake a course and achieve a higher grade that leads to graduation. It could be a second interview or call back from an employer after, admittedly, under-performing at the first interview. It could be getting off an employer’s blacklist from reneging on a job offer. It could be getting a new project as an intern despite the first project not going so well.

This second chance should viewed as such—a chance to right a wrong or missed opportunity—but also, a chance to learn, grow, and improve. In a sense, capitalizing on a second chance can be easy. There may not be a road map for success, but a road map for failure exists and intuitively that can lead to the inverse—success mapping.

Let go of past accomplishments – focus on the future

The U.S. Women’s National Team has been one of the premier teams in the world over the past quarter century, yet only three times have they won the games most coveted prize—the World Cup. Despite constantly contending and putting fear into opponents based on past success, the team needed to do more than simply show up to win more games. Here the U.S. team needed to let go of past accomplishments and focus on how they could accomplish new feats.

Much like the U.S. team, students shouldn’t get complacent during their career or job search. This means that a student can’t and shouldn’t automatically think their degree sets them up for success. The student shouldn’t assume that because they had a high GPA, they will be employable. The student shouldn’t think that because they had an internship or some form of experiential learning in the past that they are guaranteed an opening with that organization the following year. Instead, the same amount of hard work (and perhaps more) that went into accomplishing past goals will be needed to accomplish future goals.

Timing is everything

In soccer—a game that is played with a running 90-minute clock—successful and strategic team substitutions often decide games in key moments. This is especially important when a team is limited to only three substitutes per match (hence the extreme value of putting in the right player at the right time). This was never more evident than in the semifinal match vs # 1-ranked Germany, when the U.S. subbed in Abby Wambach in at 80 minutes and Kelley O’Hara in at 84 minutes. Moments later both played a role in the clinching goal (Ms. Wambach chasing down the ball and Ms. O’Hara scoring the goal) to put the United States up 2-0 and on their way to the World Cup finals.

Much like the key substitution that occurred right as the German squad was getting tired, students and professionals should think in terms of key moments and strategies that put themselves at the greatest advantage for success at the right time. This could be as simple as drafting a handwritten thank-you note moments after any interview while it’s still fresh in the moment. Or it may be networking with current interns at organizations a year before you are intern-ready (so as to make in-roads with companies before the official recruiting cycle begins).

In other words, one should constantly use time to their advantage.

Organize Your Workflow and Save Paper

Laura CraigLaura Craig, Assistant Director, Internships and Experiential Education, Temple University Career Center
Twitter: @BuckeyeVirginia

Happy summer semester everyone! Before you can get to the end of the summer, though, do you feel like you can get to your desk? Building on James Marable’s earlier post for the NACE 2015 Conference, I wanted to take a deeper dive into one of the apps he mentioned, Evernote.

Evernote bills itself as “the modern workspace that enables you to be your most productive.” It’s a cloud-based service that allows you to create text, photo, and audio notes across a range of interfaces, combine multiple forms of media into one note that you can share with others, and organize everything in a meaningful way for later use. It has radically changed how I look at productivity, and I hope it can do the same for you!

Here are three ideas from my workflow to help you make the most of Evernote:

Banish a blizzard of paper from your desk: Before Evernote, I planned everything out on paper and gathered more paper for handouts. Then I created physical file folders for all that paper and filed them away. My computer monitor was decorated with a wide array of Post-Its and other scraps of paper that were vitally important, but lacked a permanent home.

Not anymore!

Now, I create a new note with my ideas, and attach any ideas for handouts to that same note so I don’t have to hunt for them in multiple places. I organize individual notes into topical notebooks and tag categories across notebooks. The screenshot below shows you an example of note organization. You see my “Program Planning” notebook with historical/current data around past programs and supporting content I’d like to use for future programs. I’ve highlighted my tag list in yellow. This list allows me to group items by category across notebooks.

craig evernote desktop

I may have notes about how to use the Symplicity Counseling Module within this notebook, but I use the Counseling Module tag, highlighted in orange, to categorize everything I have about it in Evernote. 

To-do lists are also far more dynamic within Evernote. Instead of a list of static items, I can add additional information, updates, and next steps to accomplish each item. Once I complete an item, I don’t have to get rid of it if I don’t want to, making it easy to use it as a recurring to-do list.

Free your inbox from “reference” items: Raise your hand if your inbox contains hundreds or even thousands of items “for reference.” One of the best features of Evernote is that you can e-mail documents into your account and sort them into individual notebooks from the e-mail message. In the screenshot below, you’ll see that I’m sending a meeting agenda into my Temple University notebook, and the note will be tagged “communications.” It won’t get lost once you send it to Evernote because anything that’s in your account is searchable, so give your inbox a break!

craig evernote emailSlay the paper monster: I remember at my first job having folder upon folder of articles and ideas that I wanted to share with students. Did I ever do that? No—I never saw that paper again after I carefully filed it away. Two additional Evernote add-ons have really helped me cut down on the amount of physical paper I retain, making it more likely that I’ll use the paper I have.

Scannable App: This free iOS app allows you to capture high quality scans of any document and share directly into your Evernote account, as well as through other channels. I would call this a must have app to lighten your load!

Doxie Scanner: If you’ve got a bigger paper monster to slay, consider investing in a Doxie Scanner. These scanners are small, easy to use, and have great Evernote integration. The small size makes it easy to use for home and work, and you could also take this to #NACE16. I’ve probably scanned more than 2,000 pieces of paper with my Doxie, so they are quite durable.

Do you already use Evernote? What’s your favorite feature? What organizational project are you tackling at work this summer? Share your ideas in the comments.