A Career Counselor’s Story: Law and Order, a Documentary, Three States, Four Coffee Shops, Two Record Stores, and 10 Years Is All it Takes.

Ross WadeRoss Wade, assistant director, Duke University Career Center
Personal blog: http://mrrosswade.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswade
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

I’m a ham. I admit it. I always have been. Remember the kid in high school that sat in the back of the class, cracked jokes, and mimicked the teacher for laughs? That was me. From an early age I was told I was funny and clever and that I should be an actor. That became my identity, and most of my decisions regarding college and career were based on that identity. In college I had seven different majors, but most of my time I spent in the theater department. My sophomore year I auditioned, and got into, the B.F.A. acting program, and for about three years, I spent almost every day with the same 11 students (who are now dear friends). I loved it. My senior year, I got cold feet after hearing “What kind of ‘real job’ are you going to get with a B.F.A. in acting?” too many times to count. My solution? I changed my major, one final time, to communications, with a “media performance” concentration. Almost all of my theater classes transferred over, and I only had to take five communications classes my senior year to graduate with a B.S. in communications.

My first “real job” after graduation? Working at the downtown coffee shop…walking distance from the theatre department. I had no idea what to do with my life. One day a friend visited the coffee shop and asked me if I wanted to move to Chicago. I said, “Sure.”

A week later we were packed in her brother’s van heading to the Windy City. My first job in Chicago? Working at a coffee shop. When not slinging coffee or working at a record and video store (I needed two jobs to pay the rent) I was trying to act in student films. While I enjoyed Chicago as best I could, I was mostly lonely and anxious. Friends were hard to make, and I was in bit of an existential crisis trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. After a year in Chicago, a friend in New York City called and asked if I wanted to move to NYC to sublet his room for a year. I said, “Sure.”

In NYC, I was able to get an internship with a documentary filmmaker and her crew. We spent the summer of 2001 in a small Rhode Island town shooting a film about a wealthy, highly educated, family that learns their wealth came from the slave trade. The film documented the family’s journey from Rhode Island, to Cuba, to Ghana, traveling the route of the slaves their family members bought generations before. I became close to this family and the crew, I loved the tight-knit feeling of working on a small project for a big cause and becoming a part of a community. I liked documentary more than acting, it certainly felt more meaningful to me, but still, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend so much time on location (traveling and away from home) and spending hours and hours researching grants for funding.

I was in Tribeca, about 11 blocks north from the World Trade Center, when the city was attacked on 9/11. I, and thankfully my friends, was uninjured…just terrified, heartbroken, and confused. Most filming in the city was shut down, and in order to make ends meet, I started waiting tables at the World Wrestling Federation restaurant in Times Square (that experience could be its own blog post – ha!). Later I was able to do some freelance work as a production assistant with the show Law and Order, but really, after such a tough year, I wanted to be home with my friends and family. So, that’s what I did. I landed a job back home working in digital media as a production assistant (and then producer) for a small company. We worked very hard, and many long hours, and as a result became extremely close. One day, an intern I worked with told me I should consider being a college career counselor.

“Colleges have career counselors?” As an undergrad, my world was theater 24/7 and I had no idea there were student affairs professionals, like career counselors, that got paid to help students. Crazy! I did some research on careers in student affairs, decided to pursue career counseling, earned my graduate degree, and then landed my first career counseling gig for a school of communications. Finally, I found a job that satisfies my desire for building meaningful relationships, provides community, allows me to help others every day, AND I get to perform (and be a big ole ham!) doing workshops and presentations. It only took me three states, four coffee shops, three record stores, one documentary, a television show, and 10 years to get here!

So you are probably asking yourself by now, “Why is Ross telling this long story. What is the point?” Good questions. I shared my story to highlight a few points that may be helpful to you as you work with your students as they consider “What should I do with my life?”

Identity – it’s about you, not other’s perceptions of you.

Feedback is important, but I frequently tell students not let anyone tell them who they are or what they should do with their lives. Many students get feedback from friends and (especially) family on what to do career wise. Feedback from these folks, while well intentioned, can be based on issues about themselves and their own experiences…not necessarily about the student. I normally ask students to investigate common denominators from past experiences that can shed light on possible career options. For me, though, I love to perform—community and a sense of helping others—is most important in my career. I found evidence of this time and time again as I reflected on why I love theatre, film, and the arts. The art part is fun, but I most valued working hard, as part of a community, towards a common goal.

Just say “sure” and trust your gut – it’s leading you someplace good.

I find myself saying this to students a lot—“If you don’t know what to do, just do something, anything, and that will inform the next thing.” Every time I tell someone my career story, they say “Wow, you’ve landed the perfect job for yourself!” And as I look back, I agree with them. At the time it seemed that my career was chaotic and directionless. But if I had not made that drive to Chicago, then taken that room in New York, and then come back home, I never would be enjoying my job as a career adviser for media, arts, and entertainment students. I was building an incredible resume and didn’t even know it!

Share your story.

Your students need to hear your career story. Pursuing a career is daunting no matter what industry or major. Disclosing some of your accomplishments and failures (yes, I used the “F” word) normalizes fears and confusion, and provides insight students can use as they pursue their goals. When I tell my students I had seven majors, or took a risk and moved to a big city where I really didn’t know anyone, or had to work at a wrestling themed restaurant to pay the bills until I landed another film or TV gig, and was still able to mange to find a career I love it gives them hope (and ideas!). A couple of summers ago, at the career center where I work, the staff did audio recordings of stories reflecting that in which they believe. These personally told career stories are posted on our “staff” web page and available for students to listen to. Our students love this! I’ve had quite a few students make appointments with me specifically because of the story I share about my career journey.

What is your career story? Leave a comment and let me know – I’d love to read it (and I bet others would too)!

Two Ideas for Helping Students Access LinkedIn

Kelli Robinson Kelli Robinson, career counselor, Central Piedmont Community College
Blog: http://blogs.cpcc.edu/careerservices
Twitter: @KelliLRobinson
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kellilrobinson

Social media has revolutionized how people engage in the world around them. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow users to connect with friends, share anecdotes and images, and receive up-to-the-minute information.

LinkedIn is the social media outlet designed to engage users in professionally-focused pursuits. When members create a substantial profile, join professional groups, start making contacts, and conduct a job search, it yields many career-related benefits. Career professionals know this.

At Central Piedmont Community College, the career services staff was having a hard time selling LinkedIn’s value to our students. Students are actively engaged on Facebook and Instagram, but spend little to no time on LinkedIn. We referenced LinkedIn in our Career Guide, distributed to hundreds of students each year. Career counselors spent numerous appointment hours demonstrating and explaining LinkedIn. But students still weren’t bothering.

LinkedIn seems to intimidate students. Creating an Instagram account and posting selfies is much more student-friendly. However, when students go to LinkedIn, they’re being asked to provide a career summary and create a professional headline. What’s a professional headline anyway? Students don’t view themselves as professionals yet. As one student asked, “doesn’t it make more sense to join LinkedIn when I actually am a professional?”

LinkedIn Learning Webinars do a fantastic job explaining how to create a LinkedIn profile and navigate the site. But if students aren’t visiting the site in the first place, they won’t know about the webinars. Additionally, students are more likely to connect with their college than an outside organization.

With this in mind, the CPCC career services team developed two avenues to introduce LinkedIn to our students:

1. Online Panopto video: A career counselor created a nine-minute Panopto video that helps students create a LinkedIn profile and explains LinkedIn’s features. Students can access the video from our website. Additionally, the video was e-mailed to CPCC faculty as a tool to use in their classrooms. When career counselors were invited to give classroom presentations, they showed highlights from the video when appropriate to the topic being presented.

2. Career Services LinkedIn Subgroup: Career services created a LinkedIn subgroup open to students, staff, faculty, alumni, and employers. The group’s purpose is to share career-related information. Much of the content consists of weekly posts from the CPCC Career Services blog, but members are welcome to post any career-related questions or information. The career services office promotes the subgroup through our office website, in classroom presentations, and in career counseling appointments.

Students who viewed the Panopto video and joined the LinkedIn subgroup found both beneficial. We continue to promote these outlets to the college community. If the trend continues, LinkedIn and social media will become a primary way students connect with employers. As I told the student who asked about waiting to join LinkedIn until he was a professional, “to become a professional, the time to start acting like one is now.”

On Thursday, NACE blogger Ross Wade will tackle “The Dreaded LinkedIn Summary” and offer tips to use with students. Find more information on how to use social media effectively with students, see the Social Media Guides on NACEWeb.

Helping Students Grow: Quality Assurance for Career Coaches

Lakeisha Mathews

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

Every career center has a different approach when it comes to helping students in scheduled appointment sessions. The three most frequently used approaches are career counseling, career advising, and career coaching. Each approach has its unique advantages and a distinct set of outcomes. Many career centers have a strong rationale for the helping approach used during scheduled appointments but have not identified the outcomes associated with their methodology. In the data driven culture that higher education has become due to consumer demands and increased focused on graduation surveys we not only need a clear rationale for the method of helping we offer in our centers, but should also have a clear understating of the outcomes associated with our methods.

Consider the following questions:

(1) Do career appointments in your office focus more on transactional information and resource sharing or transformational goal setting and action planning?
(2) What are students supposed to learn from meeting with a “helping” professional in the career center?
(3) Once students leave, is there a follow-up process that assesses their experience and next steps?

At the University of Baltimore we have opted for a coaching approach to student appointments that focuses on goal identification and action planning. We have also developed a feedback system that helps us evaluate each student’s experience and encourages accountability throughout the execution of their action plan. In addition, we have opted to use the GROW coaching model popularized by John Whitmore in the book Coaching for Performance to ensure quality assurance amongst our coaching staff while still providing room for freedom in individual helping styles. To aid in our coaching model development we asked ourselves a few key questions:

(1) Are students satisfied with their coaching experience?
(2) Is there a consistent method of engaging students in office appointments amongst the counseling team?
(3) What are the learning outcomes for student coaching appointments?
(4) What does our coaching after appointment survey tell us about student satisfaction and learning?

Regardless of the helping method used in a career center, the goal is that students are satisfied with the interaction and feel that they are a step closer to achieving their career goals. Coaching, counseling, and advising methodologies all have advantages to us as helpers, but it is the learning and career outcomes that mean the most to our students.

For more information on helping students comprehend the world of work, see this article on Student Learning Outcomes on NACEWeb.

Career Coaching Notes: Career Counseling vs. Career Services

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

I love being a career counselor. I enjoy the long conversations that I get to have with students as they navigate their educational and professional paths. I love running into them on campus and being introduced to their friends as they share stories of how helpful our appointments have been. Most of all, I revel in the e-mails and thank-you notes that I receive after they’ve landed that first job or internship. In a simpler world, I’d wear clogs to the office every day and conduct my appointments from a dimly lit room while sitting on a beanbag chair. But these are not simpler times; there are parts of this job that require much more effort and precision.

Aside from counseling, working in career services includes maximizing the potential of office management software, writing learning outcomes, developing strategic plans, and collecting first-destination data. We shouldn’t have the luxury of disassociating with aspects of the job that we don’t find as fun as one-on-one meetings with students. “I don’t ‘do‘ social media”, or “I’m not big on assessment” are not acceptable responses given the changing needs of students and employers.

We’re no longer in the placement phase of the 1940s, nor are we in the counseling era of the 1960s, 70s, or 80s. We’re in the hyperactive world of virtual resources and global perspectives. We’re in the middle of a war zone, fighting a battle of tradition versus trajectory.

Being a career counselor means being sensitive to student needs; being a career services professional means meeting those needs by any means necessary. Growing your career center staff, partnering with faculty to offer a wide range of career courses, and embedding a career development component in first-year seminars are only a few ways to get on track with current trends.

Are you prepared to join in on the fight? Are you prepared to be a career services professional? Comment below and share with us how your career center is fighting (and hopefully winning) the battle against ineffective traditions!

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

Online Portfolios…Don’t Be Left Dazed and Confused

Ross WadeRoss Wade, assistant director, Duke University Career Center
Personal blog: http://mrrosswade.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswade
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

Creating an online portfolio can be daunting. Traditionally photographers, designers, film/video editors, and other creative types have used portfolios, but I think everyone should have some kind of online portfolio.  Now don’t freak out – ha! Your industry and career goals determine the kind of portfolio you will have and the tools you will use, which leads me to an important point: Not all online portfolios should be the same.

Some answers and ideas to some common portfolio questions:

Do I need a portfolio?

The short answer is…Yes! Whether you are a recruiter, career adviser, event planner, PR specialist, or biomedical engineer, you should consider an online portfolio or some kind of online presence reflecting your work. After all, isn’t an “online presence” a kind of professional portfolio anyway? There are a bazillion different platforms (e.g., LinkedIn, Behance, Instagram, Weebly) to choose from, so you must think strategically (Who is your audience, and what do they need/want?) as to which type is best for you. Portfolios are a no-brainer for some industries and they’re a professional standard. For example, a graphic designer needs a platform that will allow them to show their work in a very dynamic and visual way, while also allowing them to share their work with others. Therefore, Behance or Carbonmade, platforms specifically for visual arts and networking, are a couple of strong platforms worth consideration.  But what about non-artsy-fartsy careers…like, say…a career adviser?

As a career adviser, I have an online portfolio/presence, and yes, there are some visual and artistic pieces, but when determining what platforms to use, I had to consider my audience (students, peer career advisers, employers) and their needs/wants (tools for learning, inspiration for the job/intern search, paths of communication for sharing talent and opportunities). LinkedIn, for me, is a must, as it allows me to share my experience chronologically and visually. My LinkedIn profile is, by all intents and purposes, a virtual resume, but I’m also able to share writing, presentations, and design. I see many of my students and clients not maximizing LinkedIn by adding examples of their work, and I feel like they are selling themselves short. My social media platforms are added to my LinkedIn profile, but in addition, I use About.me as a fun and creative hub for sharing all of my social media. You may be thinking… “Are social media skills portfolio worthy?”…YES! Social media skills (e.g. strategy, writing, curating content) are highly valuable, and should absolutely be a part of your portfolio.

What should I put in my portfolio?

As I mentioned before, think strategically. Who is your audience, and what do they need/want? Portfolios should contain your best work—not all of your work—and be sorted by skill. Spend some time thinking about and writing down all that you do professionally, and then sort by skill and the level of importance to your audience; or try re-organizing your resume by skill. These two exercises will not only clarify the more obvious skills you use, but will also bring to light other skills that you may not have considered before. Even a photographer can breakdown his skills so they are more apparent to his audience. Photography is more than “point and click”—different styles require different skills. The portfolio of a photographer could be sorted into many skills/styles including: journalistic, portraits, landscapes, fashion, and black and white.

Writing, career development programming, poster/flyer design, social media, and presentations are the skills I reflect in my portfolio/online presence. I use LinkedIn to share my presentations and design; WordPress for my writing; Twitter and LinkedIn for content curation; and I bring it all together in one package on my About.me profile.

One tip for reflecting programming or events in portfolios is to have a picture of the event/program and discuss it using a variation of the good old STAR method—challenge, action, result.

Always make sure that you or your student get employer consent prior to posting anything from a past internship or job.

What are some resources for creating an online portfolio?

Don’t recreate the wheel by trying to build your own website from scratch (unless you are a web developer). We want viewers to see your skills and work, and not get sidetracked by a poorly designed and constructed site. There are many free and intuitive resources out there to choose from. Weebly and Wix are good drop and drag resources with templates for creating websites. Carbonmade and Behance are great for design/branding/photography/fashion portfolios. And of course as a recruiter, career adviser, or financial analyst, LinkedIn may be all that you need.

How do I share my portfolio?

There are some basic and more advanced ways of sharing your portfolio and professional work. A couple of basic ways are adding your portfolio link to your email signature, business card, resume header, and LinkedIn profile. More advanced methods include engaging with other professionals through social media. For example, writing a blog post and tweeting it or posting photography on Instagram with strategic tags to draw a greater audience. I’ve had students create portfolios and ask for feedback from professionals through LinkedIn groups or Behance.

A few other thoughts.

Academic portfolios are different than professional portfolios. I understand some universities have, or are in the process of considering, creating a required academic portfolio piece for students. The purpose of this requirement is to assess students’ learning over the course of their college careers. These academic portfolios may include reflections on experiences (e.g. study abroad, service), graded writing from first year through senior year, general professor feedback on assignments, and more. As I mentioned earlier, a professional portfolio reflects your best work (meeting the needs and standards of an industry/employer) while the purpose of an academic portfolio is to show growth of skill and learning within an academic context.

Could academic portfolios be repurposed into professional portfolios? I don’t see why not—in fact I love the idea! I think it would be a wonderful learning experience for students, as they would directly see how their academic and developmental experiences translate to professional skills—connecting college to career. This could also be a great partnership between employers and career services offices and career advisers and faculty.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Employers (from all industries) – what do you think about portfolios? What would you like to see in them?

NACE members can pick up a student-directed article on online portfolios by Ross Wade from the Grab & Go section of NACEWeb.

Challenging the Omniscient Career Adviser Role

Janet R. LongJanet R. Long
Founder, Integrity Search Inc.
Career Counselor, Widener University
Blog: http://inyourownvoice.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/janetrlong/
Twitter: @IntegritySearch
Blogs from Janet Long.
Sometimes life runs in parallels. As I approach month six of in-house career counseling after 20 years as a business owner and executive recruiter, I’m learning that my students are not the only ones navigating new terrain. It is helpful to hold that perspective—and sometimes to share it outright—when encouraging them to push beyond their comfort zone. This makes me less of the all-knowing adviser and more of a human being who can speak to and perhaps model getting to the other side of major life transitions.

As an executive recruiter, even starting out, I often found an automatic presumption of authority and expertise—role power, as a friend and colleague would call it. Role power allowed job candidates to disclose salary and other intimate life and career details to a virtual stranger within minutes. It also positioned me as a trusted confidante and adviser to hiring organizations, and along with that, the one expected to know.

Much earlier, growing up as the daughter of psychologists, I recall that when asking my mother what I should do in a challenging situation, she would often reply, “What do you think you should do?” While this was maddening in the moment, it prepared me to weigh choices from an early age. Her approach sent the message that I was a capable person who could start the thought process on my own.

Putting these experiences together, I’ve been reflecting on the role power inherent in career counseling, and the reflexive temptation to problem solve from a position of expertise. I’m learning to differentiate skills development (resume and cover letter writing, interview preparation, networking strategies) from the leadership that comes more from listening than imparting wisdom.

As an example, I recently advised a midlife student who had just completed an associate’s degree and was torn between continuing on for her bachelor’s in either human resource management or liberal arts. Even as the counselor and huge champion of our traditional liberal arts undergraduates, the recruiter in me admittedly had concerns about short-term employability at a different life stage.

After two in-depth meetings and a series of self-assessments, it became clear that this decision was not a 50/50 proposition. While my student expressed feeling entirely capable of fulfilling the HR program requirements, she voiced much stronger feelings of apathy toward the curriculum. While we had a candid discussion about potential pros and cons, she was powerfully drawn to the liberal arts, and was willing to integrate experiential learning into her already full-time-plus schedule to weave the pieces together.

My student confirmed her decision with her academic adviser shortly thereafter, and copied me on a note that generously described my role as a supportive sounding board. This felt strange at first. Had I done her a disservice by not providing more active advice? What if her decision didn’t lead to the financial security she was also seeking?

Then the realization hit. My role was not to absolutely know what she should do, nor to provide a consultant-like recommendation with supporting bullet points. It was, in fact, to listen and to give her the space to reach her own decision, her own knowing, weighing available data with what already felt true for her.

NACE career counselors, have you confronted this distinction within your own practices and student relationships? What have you learned along the way?

 

Bring More Than Just Jobs to Campus This Fall

Smedstad-HeadshotShannon Smedstad, Employment Brand Director, Global Communications & Engagement Team, CEB
Twitter: @shannonsmedstad
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/shannonsmedstad
Blogs from Shannon Smedstad.

When a company’s core message on campus is simply “WE’RE HIRING,” it can get lost amidst the other noise.  Students may have a difficult time differentiating jobs at one company over jobs at another. This is particularly true if your organization is new to campus, in a highly competitive industry, or relatively unknown.

According to the CEB 2014 Employment Branding Effectiveness Survey, millennials spend more than 50 percent less time than other generations researching organizations before they decide to apply. On average, millennials spent 12.4 hours learning about employers during their most recent job search, whereas other generations averaged 25.9 hours. Now more than ever, employers must think of innovative and “consultative” ways to increase their employer brand awareness to reach this highly sought after demographic.

One way to stand out, while continuing to add value to your overall campus relationships, is to do more than just promote jobs. You’ll also have to do more than just promote your company. Here are several ideas to brainstorm with your teams as you begin your fall planning:

Scholarships and Award Programs

What college student couldn’t use a little extra cash for school? Scholarships and other monetary awards—offered directly to target universities, via student organization partnerships, or through online submission platforms—are a great way to build brand awareness in a more altruistic way.

For example, if your company hires engineering majors, consider offering scholarships to second- and third-year students. This will allow you to identify engineering talent early and learn more about them, while also positioning your organization as a place that gives back.

Real Life Projects and Case Competitions

Years ago, my previous employer partnered with a professor at Penn State on a semester-long capstone project for one of his classes. We sponsored a team of five incredibly bright students as they worked through a real-world IT issue affecting our business. At the end of the semester, the CIO traveled with me to campus to listen to the group’s presentation. He was so impressed by the students that he wanted to make offers on the spot!

This is just one example of how companies can partner with universities to bring value to students’ academic experiences. It was a great way to get executive buy-in for future partnerships and to engage top university talent on a more consultative level.

Internships and Externships

Right now, many companies are in the throes of summer internship programs. The best companies know the value of providing meaningful work experiences to students. Executing a 10-week internship requires time, effort and resources, as well as people with a passion for developing talent. But what happens when summer is over and students are back on campus? By offering a week-long externship during breaks, organizations can continue to foster relationships and stay top-of-mind with key universities, pipeline candidates, and student organizations.

Purposeful Offerings With Business Outcomes

Building up additional programs on top of your existing campus strategy takes a lot of time and effort. Not only are talent acquisition teams expected to fill 50, 100, or 1,000 entry-level job openings, they are now being asked to commit to developing, marketing, administering, and measuring programs. This can be overwhelming to some campus recruiters, and the programs that should be adding value become just one more box to check.

Before rolling out a new program or revamping an existing one, find a champion—someone who’s excited about owning the program and driving results. A well thought-out initiative that is superbly executed can translate into real business outcomes, including:

•    Higher participation in on-campus events
•    Greater brand awareness at tier-one schools
•    Uptick in website traffic and social media engagement
•    Increased internship and/or full-time job applications
•    Increase in quality of hire due to early identification and relationship building

If your organization does not have the resources for add-on programs, another key way to attract students is through the interactions they have with your recruiters and hiring managers. Encourage your teams to take a more consultative approach to their recruiting or interviewing styles, by seeking to build relationships and trust, listen carefully, and foster open lines of communication.

Instead of funneling candidates through the hiring process like a widget on a conveyor belt, teach recruiters to focus on building relationships and creating positive candidate experiences. The CEB survey also states that millennials receive 12.5 percent more offers than other generations, so dedicating extra attention to the candidate experience is likely to help organizations improve their offer to acceptance conversion rates of millennial candidates.

Will your organization take more than just jobs to campus this fall? How are your teams taking a more consultative approach to hiring millennials? Share your insights below.

You’ll find more information on best practices in recruiting on NACEWeb.