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)!

Four Lessons We Can Learn From Business Leaders

BlessVaiBless Vaidian, Pace University Career Services and Founder, Career Transitions Guide
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/blessvaidian
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BlessCareers
Blog: http://careertransitionsguide.com

1) The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. – Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder

Mark started Facebook in his Harvard dorm room. Was it risky to venture out as an entrepreneur? Yes! It’s risky to start or try anything new. Whether you are in college or a professional with years of experience, our career choices are often masked with uncertainty. Industry leaders will tell you that it’s because they were not afraid of taking risks, that they are successful today.

2) You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. – Walt Disney

A few months ago, Business Insider published an article with a list of 23 successful people who failed at first. “Learn from life’s lessons and move on” was the underlying theme in all their stories. Don’t let failure keep you down. Sometimes when we don’t get what we want, another door opens. A mistake young college students make is to think that successful people never hit a rough patch. In fact successful people hit many obstacles, but keep moving forward.

3) We’re living at a time when attention is the new currency…Those who insert themselves into as many channels as possible look set to capture the most value. Participate or fade into a lonely obscurity. – Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable

Those people that are well branded and popular on social media outlets, and those with a wide circle of connections get job offers. Have your circle built so that when the time comes, your job search will be much faster than those that live in “obscurity.” The clients and students I work with that have a wide list of connections, attend events, and have a well-loved personality find jobs much faster. I work with hundreds of recruiters every year. They attend events to target candidates for open positions and to keep resumes on file for when there is a vacancy. If you are not getting out of the house and if you are not networking online, be prepared for a longer job search.

4) Technology empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential. – Steve Ballmer, Former CEO of Microsoft

When reading a job description, the skills required are clear. A college degree does not guarantee employment. But having all the skills required in a recruiter’s job posting does make you more marketable. Apply to jobs only after you acquire the skills. This way you will not waste the recruiter’s time or get discouraged when you don’t hear back from human resources. You can learn almost anything using online resources or by partnering with the right technology tools.

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.

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!

Why Recruiters Ignore Students’ LinkedIn Invitations

Andres TraslavinaAndres Traslavina, Director of Global Recruiting, Whole Foods Market
Twitter: @traslavina
LinkedIn: http:www.linkedin.com/in/traslavina

I receive a number of daily invitations from people I don’t know, including students, who want to connect on LinkedIn.

My first reaction when I see such invitations is to ignore and delete. However, I changed my views on this a while ago based on my understanding of the fundamental differences in people’s relationship talent and circumstances.

Personalizing an invitation is one common “tip” or advice provided by recruiting and networking professionals.  So why do people keep sending me impersonal invites?

Here are my theories:

  • They have not received or read anything that implies this is bad practice. In addition, LinkedIn makes it easy to ignore what would, under other circumstances, be a bad practice. LinkedIn’s objective is to continue to grow their user base.
  • They simply want to quickly grow their network and want to spend the least amount of time doing it.
  • Success for the sender depends on building as many connections as possible.
  • People’s circumstances and perspectives are very different: Active candidates, networkers, passive candidates, happy employees, sales professionals, etc.

Naturally, I am compelled to connect with those who have interests in common with me. In recruiting, this natural ability helps me discover commonalities between me, or the brand I represent and the potential job candidate.

All recruiters know how to research candidates, and often use their available social channels to accomplish this. If you truly enjoy this process, you are a natural recruiter. If you enjoy the process of “hunting” for people without necessarily feel eager to connect and you are great at it, you are a natural sourcer.

These are two different sets of talent. Can you have both? Absolutely.

My point is that for individuals like me, a non-personal invitation will not likely “push” the right button. In summary, my advice coincides with most recruiting professionals: “Personalize your invitation, it takes one minute.”

However, the next time you receive an “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” think about their circumstances and the differences in our natural abilities to connect with others.

Follow Andres on Twitter @traslavina or connect with him on LinkedIn (just make sure it’s personalized).