Is Career Counseling for Everyone?

Melanie Buford

Melanie Buford, Program Coordinator/Adjunct Instructor, Career Development Center, University of Cincinnati
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mebuford/
Website: www.melaniebuford.org

The other day, a colleague posed an intriguing question. I told her about my work in the career center at the University of Cincinnati, and after a contemplative pause, she said:

“Do you think career counseling is for everyone? I felt lost after graduation, but my husband never used career services. He knew what he wanted to do and he’s doing well now.”

I’m sure that most of us don’t find this surprising. Though a great many students come to career services desperate for some sort of post-graduate direction, there are certainly those who have chosen a path and may only want another set of eyes on their resume or some similarly light support. There are still those who never come at all, likely relying on their friends, family, and the Internet to fill in their gaps.

Of course, I can only speak from my own experience, but I believe that there are benefits to one-on-one career counseling that even the most prepared would find helpful. A few of those benefits are:

Career counseling creates space for exploration.

For every student who struggles to choose one career direction, there are those who have prematurely narrowed their options. Students bring different strengths and personalities to the career development process. Decisiveness can certainly be an asset, but so can the ability to tolerate the uncertainty of exploration. The best decisions combine reflection and action, and career counseling provides the space and support to do both.

Career counseling prepares students for a changing job market.

We know that as technology, Millennials, and global communication reshape the world of work, the relevance of today’s positions isn’t guaranteed. If a student chooses to pursue one career today, there is no guarantee that technology may not eliminate the need for that work before that student reaches retirement. With self-driving cars on the horizon, who’s to say what human services we’ll need in another 30 years? Students need to be familiar with current market trends, and the variety of talents and interests they have to offer. This knowledge, combined with the ability to self-promote, will prepare them for the possibility that their career of choice may not always be a viable path.

Career counseling provides frameworks and language for grappling with career challenges yet to come.

A core component of most career development programming is some sort of personality or skills assessment. One thing that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tells you, for example, is whether or not you prefer introversion or extroversion. Those who prefer introversion tend to feel more comfortable in workspaces that allow for independent work and alone time to recharge and develop ideas. Those who prefer extroversion, on the other hand, tend to have a need for collaboration and the ability to work with other people for energy and inspiration.

One of the staff members at the UC Career Development Center tells a story about a young man she counseled a few years ago. We’ll call him David. David was an extremely hard-working student who graduated from UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences with a near-perfect GPA. He was hired by a well-known tech company and was making a six-figure salary as a new graduate. Ostensibly, this was a career success story, and yet, within a few years, David came to us for help. He was shocked to find that despite his interest in the work, he was miserable in his new position. So much so that he reported feelings of exhaustion and hopelessness, classic symptoms of depression.

After a few sessions with David, it became clear that his unhappiness didn’t stem from the work itself, but from the environment. My colleague administered the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and David reported a clear preference for extroversion. During a typical workday, however, he had almost no human contact, from the moment he arrived to the moment he left. Once David had language for interpreting this experience—that he had needed more interaction with people as part of his day—he was able to communicate this need to his supervisor. He was eventually moved to a new role as a sales representative for the product and was much more satisfied.

David knew he was unhappy in his role, but without the language for interpreting these feelings, he struggled to act on them. Even students who are satisfied in their current work may reach a point where their needs are no longer being fulfilled. Career counseling can provide a framework to understand why they aren’t thriving.

As many career development programs at public colleges and universities are being downsized, the relevance of one-on-one counseling will be an increasingly pressing issue. We will need to be innovative as we prepare students for a lifetime of career success, not simply a post-graduate job.

 

 

“How Shall I Wear My Hair?” – Students Navigating Professional Identity Politics

Jade PerryJade Perry, Coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University
Twitter: @SAJadePerry1
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/jade-perry/21/667/b25/
Website: jadetperry.com 

During graduate school, I worked as the diversity program assistant in the primary career services department for a university. I provided programming and advising concerning the ways that our identities influence our career development process. I was asked a myriad of questions on topics that ranged from international visas and sponsorships, to gender in the workplace, to assessing a company’s commitment to inclusivity. But I could always tell that some of my students weren’t always paying attention to the resume/cover letter advice I was giving. They were looking at something else….my hair.

In my professional life, I have chosen to wear my hair naturally. For those that are unfamiliar with the term, this simply means that I wear my hair in the tightly coiled, curly form in which it grows. I work a myriad of styles: voluminous, curly afros, braids, wash-and-go, silky straight, and pompadours. Though the options are endless, these styles include anything that allows me to least amount of manipulation to the way my hair naturally grows.

Now that we’ve gotten definitions cleared, you might be wondering why I’m talking about hair in this particular form. It is because I cannot count the times that my students, particularly women of color, have asked in hushed tones, “So….I’m meeting a recruiter/employer tomorrow and I’m hoping to get a job. I wear my hair naturally. So, what do you do—what should I do—about my hair?”

It is one of my favorite questions, but it is always a loaded one. The trained ear will notice that these students are not just asking for fashion advice. They are trying to figure out how to navigate identity politics. They are looking for understanding on how they might “assert or reclaim ways of understanding their distinctiveness that challenge dominant oppressive characterizations…” as Heyes asserts. They are looking for ways to be authentic in spaces that may be largely homogenous, and in professions that may be largely male. Questions about hair are typically never just about hair.

They saw me sporting worlds of curls, yet would I admit to them how tough it was to get to that point? Would I tell them about the qualitative generational gap between Millennials and a few of the older professional staff of color: some of whom asserted that true professional style was wearing the hair straight and pulled back? Would I tell them about these conversations?

On the subject of hair, a male recruiter that attended a networking dinner for our students declared, “When it comes to your appearance, you do what you have to do to get that job. Your own expression of personal style comes later.” I cringed. A few other recruiters chimed in to admonish women specifically to wear the hair swept off of the face. In other settings, I’ve seen this question posed and witnessed career service professionals gasp at the thought that someone would face discrimination due to choice of hair style, among other things. I’ve witnessed this astonishment give way to awed silence, and students left without an answer. Then, I’ve seen other professionals admonish young women not to change a thing.

Since career services professionals know the concept of appropriate disclosure, I kept these anecdotes to a minimum in appointments. We all want to be taken seriously in our careers. Our students do, as do we. We want to have our personal and professional identity validated in the workplace. For many of us, your students and your colleagues, hair has a lot to do with that professional identity. In light of that, here is what I shared when students posed questions about hair and identity politics in the workplace:

Your experience is valid. Starting there is always a good idea. Students of color, low-income students, and/or first-generation college students are already working through varying intersections of their identities before they come to our offices. Often times, by the time they get here they have been silenced in both subtle and explicit ways. As student affairs professionals, we do well to understand that the career search process does not just involve crafting resumes, writing cover letters, strategizing searches, and so forth. We know that there is an internal process going on that is valid and that holds a variety of implications for their career-search process.

Reflect on your career values and which values you would look for in the workplace. Before an interview, I encourage students to get clear on the values they are looking for in a work environment. For example, it is important to me that I work in a context that is validating to my cultural sense of self (and that includes the natural way in which my hair grows and how I groom it). Typically, I assist the students in brainstorming a few of the values that they hold: large amounts of monetary capital? Cultural validation? Flexibility? Mentorship? Often times, this exercise has been particularly salient for the women of color that I work with. It is their time to decide what they want out of an experience. It often takes a lot of encouragement to sift through the opinions they have received from their community, family, friends, and industry professionals.

For example, a student might say that he or she values authenticity in the workplace that straightening/processing his or her hair feels inauthentic, but they were told by a family member that it should be done to get the job. While they are sifting through these opinions, I ask students to briefly reflect. Through what lens might a student have been given this advice? Does this line up with his or her value of (insert chosen values here)?  What are the salient and non-salient points of the advice a student was given? Posing questions allow career advisers to serve as a guide for students to work through that type of dissonance. It also allows students to understand the thing that they value and begin to explore professional opportunities that reflect those values.

Do your research on prospective employment opportunities. Search for information on the culture of the company / organization. The “culture” of an organization might include anything from organizational structures and reporting lines, spoken and / or unspoken workplace norms, leadership trends and more. Knowing this information helps our students to understand what a company values and can serve as a loose discerning point as to what it might be like to work there. Does this provide a direct answer to the question, “What should I do with my hair?” Not exactly. Yet it provides keen insight for students to make informed decisions on their career journey. For example, I encourage students to ask the questions: Are there any professional affinity groups? Who is in leadership and what does that reflect? What can I perceive about the norms of a particular atmosphere? Do I have enough information? As we reflect on this, I typically pull up the website for the office that I work within. We mine the “data” for the mission, the leadership, the programs, the services and I ask them to work through such questions as What insights does this give you about the culture of this organization? Now, what might that mean for your personal choices in clothing and hair in this atmosphere?

There are times that I have chosen to naturally stretch out/ straighten my hair and pull it back. This was particularly early on in my career path, when I did not feel equipped with enough experience or knowledge about the organization. Moreover, there were times that I decided to do a large bun or a complicated pompadour. Three measurements allowed me to make my decisions about race/gender expression in an interview setting: 1) Do I feel comfortable with the process it took to get my hair this way? 2) Does this style allow ample room to see my face? 3) Will this style hold without touch-ups after arriving to the interview site? This was the practical piece as these measurements allowed me to show strong non-verbal energy and did not require me to compromise my own cultural validity. Typically, my students take these measurements as a rubric that they can use, as well.

Keep it real and “mind the gap.” Brown talks about “the gap” in her book Daring Greatly. The gap is symbolic for the values that we aspire to and what actually exists. In my office, we talk in great detail about “the gap” that our students are navigating; the world as we wish it to be and the world that is. It is a concept that I chat about with my students, as well. Navigating identity politics in the workplace is a complicated thing because of the gap. While we rightly hope for settings in which such cultural expressions of hairstyle are widely appreciated, there is also the reality that in some circles, the appreciation is not there. There are times that our colleagues and our students may be faced with cold stares and uncomprehending eyes. It is inexpressibly tragic that this is the case. Yet, I must prepare them for the world that is. So, I keep it real and talk about what to do if they sense workplace discrimination at the point of their interview.

You may be thinking, “This sounds awfully complex for such a simple question: How should I wear my natural hair for an interview?” And you are right. Navigating through identity politics is inherently complex. Students, particularly women of color, are not asking trite questions about fashion. In these moments, they are looking for our understanding and guidance on the ways we navigate identity in the workplace. Thus, as student affairs professionals, we have to come with a bit more complexity than, “You should wear it off your face.”

End Notes

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York: Gotham Books.

Heyes, Cressida. (2014). Identity Politics, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

Hurtado, S., Milem, J., Clayton-Pedersen, A., & Allen, W. (1999). Enacting diverse learning environments: Improving the climate for racial/ ethnic diversity in higher education. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report Volume 28, No. 8. Washington, D.C.: The George Washington University, Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

Once More a Student: Will an Ed.D. Make Me a Better Counselor?

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.

When I made the transition from executive search to higher-ed career counseling a year ago, I felt pretty sure that my mid-life master’s degree in higher-ed student services completed my formal education. Gaining a foundation in a dozen counseling theories and learning about challenges such as lack of access for underrepresented groups provided important context for my role at an institution that serves many first-generation students. Graduate internships at very different types of institutions—one a religiously affiliated private university, the other of a large regional community college— offered invaluable opportunities for applied learning.

As I continued to apply this learning in my first formal higher-ed role, I realized there was still more to learn and integrate. In a moment of suspended sanity, I applied and was accepted to the higher ed doctoral program at my own institution, a continuation of the master’s degree I earned two years earlier. No one pressured me to do this or suggested that it might make me a better counselor, especially since the program’s focus is on leadership and administration. And yet, here I am a student once again, steeping in the literature, relearning APA-ese, and regaining my appreciation for nighttime caffeine. I can compare notes with my students on writing end-of-term papers, mastering SPSS, and keeping a complicated life in balance.

The past year, I feel like I won the lottery. As my institution’s career liaison to undergraduate liberal arts majors—from history to astronomy to anthropology— I’ve melded pure exploration with hands-on skills development and pulled out my back-in-the-day undergraduate English major when it underscored a point. I’ve also been humbled by how truly difficult it is to be a student today, how different it is from my previous experience when internships were a “nice-to-have” and a decent entry-level job for a hardworking English major was reasonably assured.

Most of my students compete for multiple internships—nearly always unpaid—while juggling at least one “gritty” part-time job, student research, significant community service, half a dozen extracurriculars, and full course loads.  As a group, they are inspiring, appreciative, exhausted—and fearful about the future. In short, they are like so many of the students that we support at our NACE member institutions. As their counselor, I celebrate every milestone with them—a sought-after interview, an offer, a grad program acceptance—and empathize with every disappointment.

In my alternative universe as a student, while two years away from formally starting my dissertation, I have begun to shape a research agenda around the career applications—and implications—of earning a liberal arts degree outside of a small liberal arts college. In this light, the dreaded advanced statistics courses become an avenue to discovering knowledge with the potential to make a difference for both my students and the organizations that might employ them. Will this make me a better counselor?  I certainly hope so.

 

Separating Millennial Myths From Reality

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

As organizations manage employee populations with increasing numbers of retirement-eligible workers, they are investing in hiring the future of the work force. In doing so, most everyone has realized that there’s one group that is particularly important—Millennials.

The competition for this demographic is stiff. Although Millennials participate in the same number of job interviews as candidates from other generations, they receive 12.5 percent more offers. Organizations are using a variety of tactics to attract and recruit the Millennial generation, but how can they sort the Millennial myths from reality?

Understanding the Millennial generation and their preferences is key. CEB recently researched the ways that Millennials undertake a job search and found a few ways that they differ from other generations, and some ways in which they aren’t different at all.
To attract and retain top talent from this generation, there are a few strategies that organizations should implement in their recruiting processes.

1. Use social media – but don’t overestimate it
Unsurprisingly, Millennials are more likely than any generation before them to use social media to learn about organizations. However, fewer than a third actually trust the information they receive through social channels. Job seekers across all generations place the most trust in friends and family when looking for jobs, so traditional channels such as referral programs and careers websites are still a decisive factor.

 2. Tell, don’t sell
Millennials spend less than half as much time as other generations learning about organizations before deciding whether to apply. To give this generation the information they need to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to apply, an organization’s employment brand needs to stand out by using messages that are consultative, not overly promotional.

 3. Emphasize career and personal development
Where their parents prized stability, the younger generation seeks new and varied opportunities—Millennials value career and individual development more than other generations. Because of this, they need to see the potential to learn quickly and make a difference as soon as they start a new role.

However, the top two most important factors in attracting candidates are the same across generations: compensation and work-life balance. As such, organizations should not overlook those attributes in their employment value proposition, but should actively seek ways to include the factors that matter to Millennials.

4. Optimize career websites for mobile devices
Millennials are more likely than other generations to use mobile devices to learn about employers. While the number of people looking at jobs and prospective employers on their smartphones and tablets will continue to grow, two-thirds of companies have yet to optimize their career sites for mobile devices. Ensure that information is easily available to candidates where they are looking for it.

The Bottom Line
Millennials are an important generation for organizations today—they are already quickly rising to be future leaders. While businesses have to compete more for Millennials’ interest than other generations, attracting top talent isn’t impossible. By understanding their preferences, organizations can successfully recruiting the Millennial talent they are looking for.

Building Self-Efficacy in First-Year Students

Jade PerryJade Perry, Coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University
Twitter: @SAJadePerry1
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/jade-perry/21/667/b25/
Website: jadetarynperry.wordpress.com

One of the aspects I love about my job is working with first-year students on career planning and professionalism, through a grant program at DePaul University. While our team works on career skills such as resume writing, cover letter formation, networking, and more, I also ensure that we have an early conversation about self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is a theme that our entire office incorporates into our learning outcomes, programs, and initiatives. However, there is a specific reason why this is particularly salient for first-year students. Bandura (1993), the seminal scholar associated with this theory, asserts that “Effective intellectual functioning requires much more than simply understanding the factual knowledge and reasoning operations for given activities.” So what does that mean for my first-year students? It means that while they can glean factual knowledge from the career skill workshops, assessments, and advising we provide, they also need to build a sense of self-efficacy for these things to have a strong impact.

Self-efficacy includes “people’s beliefs about their ability to exercise control over their own level of functioning and over events that affect their lives.” The career exploration process is one such event / process that affects their lives, and as educators, we are asking them to engage. We are prompting them to create professional documents, build networking skills, attend career counseling appointments to talk about strengths, interests, skills, and more. But self-efficacy determines whether or not they believe they can engage in the ways we know they need to.

Our students will not engage with career planning in their college tenure if they do not have a strong belief that they are capable of engaging with it… and that this engagement will reap benefits. So, opportunities that will build this belief in students should happen on four levels, according to Bandura’s work: a) performance outcomes, b) physiological feedback, c) verbal persuasion, and d) vicarious experiences. Here are some examples specific to professionals working with students on career planning/skill building:

  • Performance outcomes: Within the cohort of first-year students, each student is asked to complete career-related tasks such as scheduling and conducting an informational interview, crafting professional correspondence and going to have documents reviewed, and visiting a career fair. Then, we ask them to reflect on the experience both verbally (discussions within their cohort) and through written work, so that they can assess their performance outcomes with particular attention to what they did well and what areas they’d like to grow in, for future career exploration. Breaking our career counseling / supervisory appointments to focus on specific tasks associated with the career discernment process might enable us to have conversations about what happened / how students are feeling about what they were able to accomplish, in a safe space.
  • Physiological feedback: Have you ever worked with a student to chart out career goal-setting, and you can see their eyes get wide, palms getting a bit sweaty, and other signs of physiological feedback? As educators and counselors, asking questions in one-on-one settings about how career exploration tasks make students feel on an emotional and physiological level can be a helpful tool to mitigate some of these effects.
  • Verbal persuasion: Sometimes, our students just need a pep talk. They have the information. They know what needs to be done. But some encouragement from us can also influences their beliefs about their own capabilities! Many times, these conversations stem from our students perceiving that they have “failed” at something e.g., they didn’t get to the career center on time; they felt too nervous to talk with a recruiter. Reframing these conversations to say, “It sounds like that must have been a rough experience. But you are capable of engaging with the process! How can we brainstorm a plan B together?” might make a huge difference in self-efficacy beliefs.
  • Vicarious experiences: Peer mentors, alumni, and / or professionals in students’ fields of interest are invaluable in providing some of these vicarious experiences. As we build self-efficacy for students, these voices allow them to “see themselves” or receive more information about ways they can engage with the career exploration process through hearing the experiences of others!

Self-efficacy building strategies for first-year students incorporates opportunities for them to listen, learn, go, explore, and implement!

When students come to us, there may be some who are not exactly ready to “go, explore, and implement.” First-year students are transitioning into their collegiate journey and may not feel that they have enough to offer a professional workplace yet. As educators, we want to ensure that they emerge saying: “I can do this!” after engaging in the educational outcomes we have planned for them.  So, having early conversations with students about self-efficacy also allows a point of reference for when students are not “exercise(ing) control over their own level of functioning and over events that affect their lives.”  If we have explained the concept, we can then have intentional conversations to discern: Do they believe that their individual engagement with career exploration is something that they can control (i.e. setting up and attending career advising appointments, attending workshops, taking professional development opportunities)? Or are they primarily waiting for university staff to externally? Do they quit on a project requirement when they face difficulties (“this is out of my control”) or do they seek out help when faced with difficulties (“help-seeking is within my control, and I am capable of that”)? This helps us to understand some of the barriers our students might be facing, and informs how we advise them.

Overall, coaching students through their career exploration with a self-efficacy lens allows students to connect a) what they know, b) how they feel about what they know, c) level of motivation, and d) output of career goals. Setting this foundation in the first year of student’s collegiate journey allows them to have a sense of empowerment as they move through other academic years, make post-college success plans, and apply for jobs!

Resources

Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American psychologist, 37(2), 122.

Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational psychologist, 28(2), 117-148.

 

Helping Students Find “a Good Fit”

dawn shawDawn Shaw, career consultant, MPA Career Services, McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/dawnshaw
Twitter: @Dawn_R_Shaw
Blog: http://dawnreneshaw.wordpress.com/

I had a student come in the other day and ask me “What is a good fit anyway?”  I thought, that is a good question. Many times living and breathing in career services, I take for granted what this means. Especially to a student who has recently been unsuccessful in the job search. So, how do you know if you’re a good fit for a company or if the company is a good fit for you? Here are a couple of ideas I shared with this student:

  • Culture: Think back to all the encounters you have had with a potential employer. Think about the e-mail correspondence. Think about how you felt at the interview; not how you did, not how your performance was evaluated. Also think about how everyone else was acting during the social events.  Did you like the recruiters’ responses?  Did you feel uncomfortable?  If you judged them on their performance, what grade would they get?  Also, keep in mind that office visits can give you further information if the company is a good fit or not; so we encourage you to go to office visits to help you decide.
  • Priorities: Part of finding the ‘right fit’ is knowing your own priorities.  Often times I will ask students to create a priority list before the recruiting process even begins.  Many times when recruiting is in full speed, others’ opinions can influence in ways that were not anticipated.  Therefore, having a list of your priorities can help keep you focused.   So, write down what matters to you.  Flexible schedule?  Location?  Team Culture?  Open to Ideas?  Future Career Opportunities?  Rank them.  Match the ranking against what you think the job can offer you.  Also, be mindful of what you are doing now that affects your future career transitions.
  • Take an Inventory: A right attitude can be the first step in being part of the ‘good fit’.  Do you have a habit of talking about what irks you to whomever will listen?  If so, this could easily disrupt a team dynamic and distract from the work you do.  Consider what you can give before you judge what you get.
  • Ask Real Questions: You have an opportunity in office visits to get as much information as you can before having to make a decision. Do you care about the management style of your direct supervisor? Do you want to know how work is evaluated in the company? Ask!  Many times your authentic questions show your sincerity and real commitment to the potential employer.  And guess what?  That is what the employer looking for!

Perhaps this is refreshing and encouraging to motivate your students too!

(A student version of this article is available to NACE members from NACEweb’s Grab & Go section.)

 

Career Exploration Infographic Activity

Ross WadeCareer Infographic – Ross 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.

As career advisers, assessment is an important part of our job—especially when it comes to helping students explore careers and themselves. As a visual person; adviser for students interested in media, arts, and entertainment; and infographic lover; I’ve been tinkering with ways to make assessment more fun and creative.

So I present to all of you….(drum roll please)…the career exploration infographic activity! I’m sure someone else has already thought of this, but the idea occurred to me recently, and I wanted to share with all of you.

The purpose of this activity is for students to assess and rank their values, interests, Career Infographic - Ross Wadestrengths, and identity (personal or professional) in a creative and graphic way. It could be facilitated during a one-on-one session or as a part of a program or workshop on self-exploration. I used PowerPoint to design my infographic (click on the image to make it larger), but anything could be used, including pencil and paper—the point is to get creative. If you decide to use images from the web, I suggest using Creative Commons to find images that can be legally used on the web and without attribution.

Steps:

  1. Have your student select a picture, symbol, or graphic that represents her/his identity. For example, I’ve worn big, black glasses for a long time, and they’ve become a part of my “look”—they also reflect my love of learning, and my personal culture. Choosing glasses also gave me a clever way of reflecting information visually in pie chart format.
  2. Ask you student to reflect on his/her values, interests, and skills. This could be through a card sort or brainstorm. Once they have their lists completed, have them pick their top three of each. Once their top three are picked, have them rank each one with its own graphic—each graphic will represent 10 percent. For example, creativity, autonomy, and security equal 100 percent of my top values, I used a ladder graphic to represent 10 percent increments, so my values are sorted 50 percent creativity, 30 percent  autonomy, and 20 percent security (equaling 100 percent).
  3. Facilitate a discussion about other things your student would like to have as a part of his/her career—e.g., consider topics such as amount of time with people versus things, time spent in and out of the office. Your student can use his/her personal symbol in creative ways to reflect this information. For example, I used the lenses of my glasses as a very basic pie chart.

What I like about this activity is that it has several applications. It can be used to assess current values, interests, and skills, and bring to light how a student views her/his identity. Doing it multiple times, over four years (or each semester), allows you and your student to see how things have evolved and bring to light great opportunities to discuss why things have changed or what prompted the change. Finally, I think it would be interesting if a parent, friend, or manager/supervisor created an infographic for their students, and then the two—student and other person—compared what they created and discussed. Does the internship supervisor see the same skills and interests as her/his student? Does the on-campus job manager choose an identity symbol close to what their supervisee chose…or are they totally different? Think of all the interesting conversations that could come from this activity about values, skill, interests, self-marketing, and professional identity!

What ideas have you been using with students? Please share them with me and other blog readers in the comments section below.