About RaynaAnderson

Career Coach, Student Affairs Professional, & Happiness Activist

Career Coaching Notes: How Are You Meeting Student Needs?

Rayna Anderson

Rayna A. Anderson, career counselor, University of Houston
Twitter: @Rayna_Anderson
LinkedIn: www.LinkedIn.com/in/RaynaA
Blog: RaynaAnderson.wordpress.com
Blogs from Rayna Anderson

Many of today’s college students are bold, hungry, and pressed for time. They have high expectations and want to be connected with the best opportunities in the fastest way possible. So is the traditional, one-hour appointment the most effective way for your staff to use its time? Not always.

You’ve seen it before: a student comes in for their scheduled appointment, but their cell phone keeps buzzing and they seem to be very preoccupied. They nod you along hurriedly as if to say, “Yeah, yeah. Just get to the good stuff already!” This behavior reflects several research findings that suggest that the average American attention span is getting shorter.

As professionals in a helping field, we get teased about the “fluffy” nature of our work and that we spend too much time on “touchy, feely” discussions. But in today’s world of easy access and instant gratification, the reality is that not every student needs a hug.

(Find tips and best practices in career counseling and coaching on NACEWeb.)

So, is your staff able to shift gears based on students’ needs? Are we acknowledging the difference between counseling and coaching and then adjusting our services accordingly? Or, have we made hour long appointments our standard? These longer appointments are great when a student has career concerns that require in-depth attention but in other cases, students just need quick and specific advice. Answer the poll and comment below; let us know your opinion on appointment duration and the need for a change of pace in career services!

Career Coaching Notes: Dream Job Activity

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

Sometimes, students are clueless on where they should begin their job or internship search. They may not be able to think past the obvious words associated with their course of study, like: finance, psychology, or business. So before they begin to look for opportunities based on these broad terms, I require them to have a bit of fun with the search.

First, based on the student’s expressed interests, assessment results, or current major, I have them conduct an ordinary search using a major job board. I don’t give them any special instructions, other than to look for a position that they could not realistically apply for right away; they simply need to find a job that really excites them. Once they have found their “dream job” posting, we use it as a motivational tool and guide for what jobs or internships they may actually qualify for.

Dream Job for Career Planning/Motivation:

For this portion of the exercise, the “education” or “experience” sections of the dream job description will be most helpful. This information gives the student insight into what skills or credentials they might be lacking, and in enough time for them to start acquiring them. By conducting a gap analysis, they can identify some differences between what they have to offer and what the employer is looking for. The dream job posting is a tangible reminder that with the right planning, they could someday have a position like this.

Student Self-Assessment:

  1. Am I on the right academic path to someday qualify for this job?
  2. What experience can I get now to better prepare me?

Dream Job as a Search Guide

Based on the “job duties “or “skills” sections of the dream job posting, the student should highlight words that they are naturally drawn to. This might include keywords such as: “patient,” “direct,” “counsel,” “analyze,” “create,” or “research”. Now, the student is ready to combine some of these specific words with broader terms to find internships or entry-level jobs that they actually qualify for.

Student Self-Assessment:

  1. Which of these job duties am I most excited to perform?
  2. Are their entry-level jobs that include some of these same skills and responsibilities?

By having the student first find a dream job posting, they are able to identify their instinctive interests and where they’d want to be in a few years. This way, even if they fall short of securing this type of position, they are further along than they would have been if they’d never began planning their education and professional development based on their ideal job!

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Career Coaching Notes: 7 Powerful Questions

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

Considering that our job is not to give answers, but instead is to guide others toward self-discovery, powerful questioning can make all the difference in an advising session. The list below is a short compilation of questions I’ve collected over time, and concludes with my most recent favorite:

  1. What do you daydream about the most?
  2. What have been some of your proudest moments?
  3. If you wrote a book that could improve the world, what would it be about?
  4. If you had to go back to school tomorrow, what would you major in?
  5. What do you want to be known for after you retire?
  6. If you didn’t have to go to class/work tomorrow but still had to work, what type of work would you do?
  7. What excites you?

The last question was taken from The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. In the book, Ferriss states that, “Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all.” He argues that most people will never know what they want and that this question is a more precise alternative that reflects the actual objective. If you have any powerful questions that you often use with students or clients, comment and share below!  

Read more from Rayna Anderson.

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?

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.

Career Coaching Notes: A Sunday Well Spent

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

I write this post as the newest member of this fantastic blog team – an exciting opportunity but a bit of an overwhelming one as well.  The semester is winding down and the holiday season is upon us but I am committed to balancing work, professional blogging, and a personal life.

My current state of existence is nothing that the average higher education professional is unfamiliar with. The truth is that we love what we do, but we do a lot and everyone knows that too much of anything can be harmful. Somehow, being in a helping profession has come to mean neglecting the self and endlessly serving others. But our work ethic should not be measured by the number of meals we are forced to skip or who functions the best on three hours of sleep. Burnout is real, so I dare you – dedicated, superhuman, career advising professional – to set aside one day a week to help yourself. And since it’s much easier to prepare for the storm before it hits than it is to respond in the midst of it, I suggest making Sunday your self-care day.

Here are a few things that’ll help you stay afloat:

Get in touch: Whether it’s at a church, mosque, synagogue, or a sacred space in your own home, take some time to tap in to your inner self. No work week will be perfect, so let this quiet time serve as a point of reference that will re-center you when you feel like you’re losing control.

Get ahead: Fill up the gas tank, do the laundry, pick out your outfits for the next couple of days, pack your work bag, and prepare tomorrow’s breakfast or lunch. If you’re like me, rushing or running late in the morning will make you feel as if the day is getting progressively worse. Knocking out some of these menial tasks will minimize the distractions that disrupt your flow. Also, by doing some of these things ahead of time you’ll feel a little less guilty should you want to get a few more minutes of sleep!

Get organized: It’ll be much easier to navigate through your week if your space is de-cluttered. Don’t let old receipts, meeting agendas, and to-do lists pile up. Everything has a place: either in a folder or in the trashcan. Taking just a few moments to tidy up your surroundings will help alleviate some anxiety.

Get lost: Stay balanced by plunging into your favorite hobby and losing track of time. There’s more to you than what you do for a living, no matter how awesome your job is. Doing things unrelated to work will help you maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Get moving: Take a walk, go to the gym for a few minutes, or do those sit-ups right there in your living room. Obviously you’ll feel healthier, but the extra activity will also help you sleep well. Exercise helps control the random flip flop between bursts of energy and fatigue. And speaking of sleep…

Get some rest: I say “rest” because that doesn’t always mean sleeping. Sometimes sitting around and doing nothing can be just as energizing as taking a nap. Prepare for bed by beginning to relax at least one hour earlier than you plan to fall asleep. This means silencing your phone, dimming the lights, lowering the television volume, and not checking emails.

“A Sunday well spent brings a week of content.” You’re no good to the people you help if you don’t take time to help yourself. Your students and colleagues will appreciate the happier, reenergized you!