Career Services: Death Is Not an Option

Kelli Smith Director of University Career Services at the Fleish

Kelli K. Smith, Director of University Career Services, Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, Binghamton University
Twitter: https://twitter.com/drkelliksmith
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellikapustkasmith/

Career services must live! Transform. Perhaps change its name.

If you are in the field of career services, you may have watched Wake Forest’s Andy Chan in a TED Talk, “Career Services Must Die,” recorded nearly two years ago. When Andy Chan and Wake Forest are discussed among colleagues, I hear responses ranging from, “They are doing some great things there,” to “Did you see the size of their staff?,” to “At least now people are actually paying attention to us,” to “Did you know that the university president committed millions of dollars to enhance their career programs before Chan arrived?”

Let me be clear. I have enormous respect for what is occurring at Wake Forest. I am excited about much of the work being done there and what the “Rethinking Success” movement has spurred within our field. I have been particularly inspired by their work in partnering with faculty and other campus entities, and by their commitment to undergraduate students’ professional development and success.

It is a fascinating time within our field. An #Elev8CS movement has begun on Twitter, and some colleagues call this “The Golden Age of Career Services.” It is not surprising to see director roles elevated in title and positional power at institutions as we are finally recognized for our direct link to recruitment, retention, and revenue. At the same time, at nearly all of our professional conferences, an expectation for transformation by campus leadership is clearly the underlying theme. This began to happen before the president’s College Scorecard focus on college outcomes  developed.

It may well be time for the typical name and nomenclature of “career services” to be buried. Yet, I worry the clearly attention-grabbing title of “Career Services Must Die” alone has prompted many in leadership positions at universities, particularly at large universities, to look critically at career services on their campuses without having the slightest idea of what career services does day-in and day-out.

This is the case even though research has indicated “getting a better job” is a top reason among prospective students for going to college.

Prior to Chan’s TED Talk and the College Scorecard initiative, many in our field believed top university leaders gave little, if any, attention to their career centers. It is critical that people understand a major reason why Wake Forest has been so successful in its transformation is that the university’s president made career development a priority, elevated the director role to a vice-president role and a direct report, assigned executive-level compensation to the position, and infused the career services team with millions of dollars to support their transformation effort.

In addition, according to the Rethinking Success website, Wake Forest raised more than $10 million to invest in their “college-to-career” efforts—with one result being the staff size quadrupled. Growing and elevating career services on a campus is much different than expecting departments to do more with less, or even more with the same.

Meanwhile, many of us at large public institutions feel we are being compared to Wake Forest, yet we are in a vastly different situation with regard to resources and positional power to have decision-making and a “seat at the table” granted by university leadership.

While Wake Forest had significant funds to assist in their transformation from the beginning, many public universities operate on very small budgets while serving relatively large populations of prospective students, current students, and alumni. And some have felt a reduction in resources over time, rather than an increase.

While (thankfully) the average career services operating budget has increased since 2012, still some campuses report decreases in in their budget than those reporting increases according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. At the same time, the national average students-per-staff ratio is 2,672 students per staff member; personalized attention for all students is simply not possible in such situations.

The significant focus finally placed our profession’s work within the last couple of years, prompted in large part by both Wake Forest and the College Scorecard, is promising. It has spurred innovation and change. I am convinced preparation of our students to enter the world of work will be bettered, and in the end, that is why those of us in my profession go to work every day.

We are ready for the expectations for change. My hope is that universities—public and private—put  resources behind their desire for transformation. It would not be fair to our students today or tomorrow.

I argue our field does not need to die, but rather needs attention and true support to become a university priority. While not yet ideal, I do feel fortunate for my own situation. In addition to the remarkable student profile of our public institution, a main reason I was willing to move my family across the country was because Binghamton recently built a new, state-of-the-art career center in the heart of campus, made possible by one of our alums. I also have a Vice President for Student Affairs who understands and values our work, supports the changes our team has made, and advocates for additional staffing resources. Stories of others in similar situations are more commonplace, and hopefully this trend will continue for all types of institutions across the country.

What’s happening on your campus?

 

Seeking Minimalism in a World of Clutter: My Office Décor Tour

tiffany waddellTiffany I. Waddell, Assistant Director for Career Development, Davidson College
Personal blog: www.tiffanywaddell.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tiffanyiwaddell
Twitter: @tiffanyiwaddell

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that the life of a career adviser, coach, or counselor (pick your fancy) requires a great deal of organization, balance, and efficiency. Particularly when we, as higher-ed administrators, are called to do and be more with student needs, ideas, and skill gaps—with the same amount of time to use each day. I consider myself a fairly good manager of my time—I am a list queen, of course. As an introvert, I tend to plan my attack on the day long before I get into the office, and I am at my best when I am organized.

However, I am always on a quest for more balance and clarity. For me, that often begins with the physical space around me. How can I maximize my productivity and create a warm and welcoming environment for students who visit my office? How can I create a space that encourages my own creativity and idea generation, but that is still professional and organized? Transitioning into a new role this year gave me the opportunity to try something new with my work space, though it is always evolving.

Here are a few pictures of my work space, and the items that make my home-away-from-home a comfortable space to coach, create, and conquer.  Enjoy!  I hope it inspires you to create a warm, comfortable work space of your own!

globe light

Fun globe light:  Most days I work in my office without the use of an overhead light.  Overhead lights can be rough on the eyes, contribute to headaches, and even make you feel a little blah. It’s not easy to turn off the overhead light when the weather is gloomy, but using lights like these instead help brighten up the room without being too jarring.

 

tissuesHand sanitizer, tissues, and an hourglass: Hand sanitizer and tissues?  Sometimes students and visitors bring flu and cold germs along, so I always recommend having some of both available within arm’s reach.  The hourglass was a fun find. I don’t actually use it to time sessions.  Ha!

 

 

prints

Wall art: Prints courtesy of a Google search. I love to add a splash of color in an otherwise neutral space, because it’s unexpected, vibrant, and allows me to add a bit of my own flavor while still being professional.  The quotes are also two of my all-time favorites.

 

organizer

Workstation organizer: When I arrived, the organizer was already in my office—and I find that it comes in handy to store folders of commonly used teaching tools and handouts (like career assessment access instructions!). This also minimizes the amount of clutter floating around the office space, leaving the tabletop free for project work or program prep.

sound machine

Sound machine: A must have.  It helps calm the space, muffles  outside noise, and (I think) helps minimize noise that travels from my office into the larger office.  Also helpful when I’m writing, because it provides just the right amount of white noise.

 

 

Desk Mantra

Desk Mantra: Speaks for itself.  This is double-sided and serves as a reminder for me …and all of the students and staff who visit.  We can definitely do anything.  But not everything.

Thanks for reading! Please share in the comments below how you jazz up your office space and create a warm, inviting space to counsel and coach clients. I would love to hear from you.

Manage Your Time – Don’t Let It Manage You

Jason Bauer-Clapp

Jason Bauer-Clapp, associate director of Internships & Programs, Smith College, Lazarus Center for Career Development
Twitter: @jason_bc
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jbauerclapp

Whether we’re helping students manage competing priorities and deadlines, or supporting ourselves and our colleagues’ efforts to stay on track with current responsibilities and new projects, most career services professionals are drawn to approaches that enable us to accomplish work more efficiently and effectively.

In this post I’ll share a few of my favorite workflow “hacks”—productivity practices that promote action rather than reaction, which can lead to checking items off our to-do lists more smoothly. This is a topic I have long been curious about, but it wasn’t until a few years ago (coinciding with becoming a parent) that I began actively exploring, practicing, and sharing these strategies.

Effective approaches to managing time—or, more precisely, how we focus our energy and effort during that time—will vary by individual, and I suspect many of these ideas will be familiar for readers. Here are my favorite tips:

Break projects into small action steps. With a large-scale undertaking, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the project’s scope, complexity, and how far it is to the finish line, all of which create resistance. Bypass this reaction by deconstructing a project into micro-steps, each of which will bring us a little closer towards our goal and create momentum. Use action verbs to define each step, and strive to make each action one that can be accomplished in a single sitting.

Externalize to-dos. As amazing as our brains are, they are relatively poor at remembering tasks and lists. By offloading the responsibility of remembering to-dos to a reliable, accessible, and external source (paper or digital), we free up cognitive resources for addressing the tasks. Choose a method that is simple to implement and easily accessed virtually anywhere: You want to be able to capture ideas quickly and have your list close at hand for regular review. I recommend using one integrated list rather than separate lists for home, school, work, and so forth.

Do your most complex work when you’re at your best. What time of day do you tend to be most alert and engaged? Each of us differs: for many it is early- to mid-morning, for others it is late at night. To the extent that is practical for you, reserve this time for your most mentally demanding work, those creative, strategic, or problem-solving tasks that benefit the most from your sustained focus.

Minimize “always on” e-mail. Do you find it difficult to resist checking your inbox when you know new messages are waiting? Few people enjoy being interrupted when immersed in a project or conversation, yet we do this to ourselves when e-mail inboxes are kept open throughout our work days, encouraging a state of constant vigilance and dispersed focus dubbed “continuous partial attention” by researcher Linda Stone. Set aside dedicated times throughout your day to review and respond to e-mail messages; outside of those times, close your e-mail client or inbox tab so you can focus on other tasks.

The list of individuals exploring and offering advice on productivity and time management is lengthy. Some I’ve found particularly helpful (and whose work inspired this post) include Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of The Distraction Addiction; time management expert Elizabeth Grace Saunders; writer and researcher Daniel Goleman; David Allen, creator of Getting Things Done; and Scott Belsky, founder of 99U and author of Making Ideas Happen.

What practices or approaches help you stay productive? What’s missing from this list that you’d like others to know about?

 

Building Stronger Partnerships Between Career Centers and Employers

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

As we begin a new year, it’s a great time to reach out to employers to review 2014. Asking the right questions to see what can be done to improve relationships, meet goals, and place candidates is important to do on an ongoing basis, but especially now. Answers to these questions can then be applied to your 2015 strategy. Career centers can maintain long-lasting employer partnerships by surveying these areas:

How Can I Help Recruiters Meet Their Objectives?

Recruiters collaborate with the career services team for several reasons each semester: sourcing candidates for vacant positions, branding their company, and/or educating students on career-related topics. As career development professionals, we try to make sure the human resource goals are met for our employers when they partner with our office. Before we solicit speakers or attendees, we have to know what the employer’s recruitment goals are for that cycle or even beyond. Asking the right questions at the right time will help employers and the career office make strategic decisions as to whether the event will produce placements, or if the event is to brand and educate…or both. Never assume an employer is hiring. Know ahead of time what the goal is and tap the right student cohort into each program.

What Did the Recruiters Think of the Quality of Students?

Employers gauge the quality of students from a college using many criteria. How students represent themselves in person and in writing matters. Often students are placed in communications and writing programs to develop these needed skills as part of their academic curriculum. Interviews, resumes, and cover letters reflect the university at large. Bad impressions make an employer wonder if the student population is worth hiring from, or if they need to recruit elsewhere. Having employers run career center resume and interview workshops can make some employers feel vested in the student body. Preparing students for career success is a challenge. Not everyone comes into the career center office. Mandating appointments and attendance at career center programs is one way to change that. Webinars and online resources on a variety of career topics help students access resources within their time frames so they can make positive impressions when meeting employers.

What Can I Do to Help an Employer Find the Right Candidates?

An employer’s timeline for recruitment is not always congruent with career center events. Many recruiters have internship programs, rotational programs, and entry-level positions they are looking to fill during every cycle. But hundreds of others simply want a career center to find the right candidate as the need arises. Not being able to offer resumes when a recruiter requests them is bad business, and, if done often enough, it can move schools toward the bottom of lists that capture hiring outcomes. Career centers need contacts within various academic departments, student organizations, and other university offices to collaborate with. Targeted outreach needs to reach the appropriate pool of students. The resume of a student looking for entry-level jobs or internships can be sent out on the student’s behalf as positions are created, until the student is removed from the list of “seeking.” Once an employer-based event is put together it’s essential that the number of attendees that match company needs is high. All departments and organizations on campus (not just career services) should know about the event and encourage participation. There is nothing worse than having an event with an off-campus guest and not having the attendance to make it worthwhile. Student success stories are dependent on making matches happen.

Employers are sourcing candidates on campus earlier than ever and rank universities on quantifiable results. Every college wants successful outcomes for all their graduates, and that starts with collaboration with employers. Many companies have internship programs that they use as a gateway to fill entry-level postings. Employers also host information sessions and networking events to source students. Even if recruiters are on campus to conduct career-related educational workshops, they keep their eyes open for students who can be potential hires. The partnership between employers and career centers is an important one that needs to be nurtured all year long. Now is a great time to assess what worked and what didn’t in the partnerships you rely on.

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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.)

 

Helping Students Navigate Familial Pressure

katie smith at duke university

Katie Smith, assistant director, Duke University Career Center,
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ksmith258/
Twitter: @ksmith258

 

“The most important job of the adviser…is to help students understand themselves, to face and take responsibility for their decisions, and to support and to free them to make choices that are at odds with the expectations other have for them. Students look to mentors—figures ‘more attuned to their rising hopes’—to give them what their parents won’t or can’t: the permission to go their own way and the reassurance that their path is valid,” William Deresiewicz quotes Harvard faculty member Harry R. Lewis comments in his recent book, Excellent Sheep.

The quote is one that many career professionals can identify with, as we often pride ourselves in providing a safe space for students to explore and articulate their interests while helping them to identify a career to fitting to their skills, talents, and needs. If only it was that easy!

Most people who work with college students have encountered a student who is torn between what she wants and what her parents or family members want. This is an incredibly challenging situation for students, mentally and emotionally taxing, often without an easy solution.

As college tuition continues to rise, so does the discussion on ROI. Parents are, understandably, especially attuned to this issue. What will my child study, and what will he be able to do with that? Is it a competitive field? Can she get the “right” experience in classes or internships? How much money will he make?

In short, is it worth it?

For some students, there’s a lot at stake in academic and career decision making. This decision could compromise the financial support of their education, narrow options (particularly in the case of international students), or could injure, or even sever, a relationship between student and their parents or other family members. In many cases, it’s also a decision that could affect a student’s success in school, as well as their well-being throughout college and beyond.

In recent weeks, I’ve worked with a student who studied engineering due his parents’ refusal to assist with his tuition if he pursued another major. Additionally, another student passionate about education is receiving pressure to commit to a more lucrative field, as her family is depending on her for financial support. Both of these students are navigating a challenging path balancing familial pressures, both real and perceived, and their own goals and aspirations.

As counselors, coaches, advisers, and mentors, working with these students can be difficult. Generally, we encourage students to follow their interests, and to choose a field that they get excited about. However, when the field they want to choose doesn’t align with others’ expectations, we carefully venture into new territory. “Is it possible to find the best of both worlds?” We might find ourselves asking. Where do fields such as art history and medicine or computer science and philosophy converge? If the student recognizes that his family’s opinion has a major stake in his decision, is it possible for him to pursue both his interests, and theirs?

For some students, this compromise is a possibility, but for others, this may not be the case. As career professionals, it is our role to help students identify their priorities, and to find a path that maximizes opportunity and fit given the present constraints.

As Deresiewicz quotes an observant student commenting on her mother, “she wanted me to have everything instead of wanting me to have what I wanted.”

The question is, where is the line?

Data Collection Toward a 100 Percent Knowledge Rate

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

Is a 100 percent knowledge rate possible with a first-destination survey? That’s to be determined each year and with each effort. Due-diligence requires universities to extend maximum effort to try to achieve a 100 percent knowledge rate for all our students. The task of collecting and reporting data is a huge undertaking trusted to many career offices. Whether you are trying to meet the NACE deadline for data collection or your own office deadline, creating a systematic approach and incorporating “best practices” into your labor makes capturing career outcomes more manageable.

Lay the Foundation

Its essential to be able to analyze data with ease, as well as know ahead of time what questions to include in your outreach attempts to students. Follow the suggestions outlined by NACE in your database fields and match it to your first destination surveys. Bring in your school’s technology department to help create the database, as well as the electronic surveys that capture the responses fed into it. Once that’s done, a time line for when, where, and how you will collect data can be drawn out. Cap and Gown surveys, employer surveys, surveys to the campus community, classroom visits, social media searches, follow-up student surveys, calls and e-mails have to be systematically laid out on a timeline. Learn assessment best practices by attending conferences and events to know how others are capturing information. Make sure you use the NACE links on the topic and talk to Ed Koc, NACE’s Director of Research, Public Policy, and Legislative Affairs or his great team if you have questions. Koc is offering a webinar on the first-destination initiative in early January for NACE members. A solid foundation and plan of action will serve you well in the long run.

Designate a Point Person

If the college community knows that career outcome information has to be sent to a designated individual within their school, then more outcomes can be captured. Often university staff members possess career outcome information and never pass it onto career services. The human resources and admissions departments within your school may have first-destination information on numerous students who were hired or went onto graduate school at your institution. The designated point person should monitor the first destination survey numbers, solicit information from university sources consistently, and create a strategy for follow-up with graduates. It takes many people, numerous efforts, and even call-centers to capture data for bigger schools. But designate an expert to manage the whole process, set the timeline, and be the “face” of the initiative in order to drive the results.

It’s Not a Career Services Issue, It’s a University Issue

Helping students find opportunities and creating a path for successful outcomes is not just a career services goal. Higher education is a partnership of many units working collaboratively to ensure retention and capture every student’s career outcome. Long before first-destination surveys go out, building relationships with the campus community is where data collection really starts for career services. Meetings with the university community to build bridges, foster relationships, and outline the process is crucial. Students share career outcome information with professors, academic advisers, financial aid representatives, leaders of student organizations, and college staff. These sources become vital in the collection process and have to be included in the journey.

Keep the Community Vested

It is essential to make survey efforts and progress visible to the campus community. Every dean, faculty member, and university staff  member should know what the career office does. Career outcome and knowledge rate information should be displayed in infographics, charts, and reports on a regular basis with college partners. If others understand what goes on behind the scenes and where the numbers are, then they will be more apt to assist with first-destination information. It also keeps departments interested and looking forward to the next update.

Mandate Attendance 

Universities that promote, encourage, or even mandate attendance at career service events and one-to-one meetings with a career counselor can create more successful outcomes. Students that have worked with career offices feel more comfortable sharing career outcomes, and should be told that post-graduate follow-up will take place after graduation. Career services also helps students find pre-professional experience through internships that build resumes and lead to full-time offers. They offer networking opportunities with employers and alumni that have job leads every semester. Increased student engagement with career centers increases the “knowledge rate,” and also increases “outcomes.” Its a simple formula.

Multiple out-reach efforts to capture information throughout the year are made to graduating seniors, college partners, and employers to track career outcomes. I would love to hear your school’s best practices and ideas to reach that “100 percent knowledge rate.” Wishing each of you success in reaching your university’s goal and capturing outcomes.