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.

 

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.

New Grads: Ready or Not, Here They Come

Chris Carlson

Christopher Carlson, Director of Talent Acquisition and Diversity, Tennessee Valley Authority
Twitter: @cciCarlson
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ccicrc
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.

Any views and opinions expressed in this essay are attributable to me and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Tennessee Valley Authority or the U.S. government.

 

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
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kathleenipowell/

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
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/dave-ong/0/604/513

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
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/irenehillman
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.
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/borgerding
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.