The One Thing Underlying Really Good Career Advice

kevin grubbNACE Ambassador Kevin Grubb
Assistant Director at Villanova University’s Career Center.
Twitter: @kevincgrubb
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevingrubb
Blog: “social @ edu”.

How many times during any given year do you say something like the following statements?

  • “At the career fair, make the first move and introduce yourself to the company representatives with a smile and strong handshake.”
  • “It’s a good idea to create and manage a great social media presence online: have you made a LinkedIn profile yet?”
  • “Effective networking is one of the most essential elements to a successful job search. You have to put yourself out there.”

The answer is probably “a zillion.”

These pieces of career advice are frequently mentioned around the web and in career centers across the country. For good reason, too—they’re all important messages for any job seeker to hear. In 2013, I started paying attention to them more, and specifically, the resistance felt from the recipients of this advice. What was it that made some people quick to act on these words and others hesitant about it?

There was one theme that struck me most: courage. Courage underlies these pieces of advice. It’s taking action on something even when facing the fear of it.

Take the student whom you know is top notch on paper. You’ve seen her resume: she’s academically stellar with noteworthy experiences in and out of the classroom. But, she’s not one to generate a conversation. Simply advising her to introduce herself to an employer at a career fair might not work. She might need not only the “how to” of proper introductions, but also some time spent building the courage to do it.

Or, how about the student who is interested in journalism? One great piece of advice for him might be to start a blog. Not only would this give him a venue to practice his work, it would also give him the opportunity to invite others to read it. Perhaps it could turn into a portfolio of writing samples for future job applications. Beyond the instructions for setting up a blog and tips on effective posts, it may take some courage building to help him get comfortable with the idea of putting his work out there.

When I’m talking with someone who’s hesitant about following these pieces of advice, I ask them to identify the cause of their nervousness. Once a fear is named, we can create a plan to address it together. Maybe it’s writing a few “blog posts” and e-mailing them only to close family and friends to get experience hearing feedback. It could be setting the goal of initiating one in person introduction per week, even among peers on campus, until things feel comfortable. Experiencing a few small wins can build the momentum to something bigger.

NACE blog readers, what are your thoughts on courage in career conversations?

When Does “X” Mark the Spot?

Chaim ShapiroChaim Shapiro
Website: http://chaimshapiro.com/
Twitter: @chaimshapiro
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/chaimshapiro

It is simply untrue, I remember thinking in my graduate school class—more years ago than I care to admit (Jim Leyritz hit a HUGE Home Run for the Yankees in the World Series that year).  All that talk about Generation X and all those things that allegedly described me.

Yes. I did like Speed Racer, but I was convinced that was because Speed’s little brother Spritle and their pet chimp wore, what I thought were yarmulkes. However, just about everything else that was presented as fact about Gen X, simply did not resemble me in any way.

I was at a NACE FACE2FACE in New York a couple of years ago and we were discussing the concept of “Millennials” when a Millennial at my table turned to me and said that he felt like he had just been stereotyped. I told him to mention that to the larger group, but he declined. (So much for the need to be heard!)

Why has the very basic idea of viewing people as individuals, based on his/her own merits and demerits become so hard to understand? People often respond that “theory” is not meant to apply to individuals, and the purpose of generational theory is to provide context to a large group of people.

Of course marketing companies apply “theory” all of the time. (If you want an example Google “Thanksgivikkua.”)  Creating recruitment campaigns and designing programs based on a model does make sense in theory, although it is important to note that placing people into arbitrary groups has not worked out very well over the course of human history.

The real danger is applying generalities to any particular individual.  As much as we like to say we know that theory doesn’t apply to individuals, it becomes hard to see people for who they are whenever we have convenient labels.  It is just too easy to miss the person for the preconceived notion.

We also have to wonder, in a practical sense, how we view that one person who doesn’t fit into our Millennial-based programming? I fear that we may see something wrong with him/her even though their skill set is exactly what we would have wanted if we had applied a different generational label.

To paraphrase Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, I would like a society where people are NOT judged by the era of their birth (I was born in the early 1970’s—just LOOK at the clothes I grew up wearing), but by the content of their character.

I know this perspective is not particularly popular, but I am a risk taker, after all, I DID send my penny to Columbia House for 11 cassette tapes…

Let’s Be Real

sue-keever-wattsSue Keever Watts, owner, The Keever Group
Blog: http://keevergroup.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/sue-keever-watts/0/aa/b60
Twitter: @SueKeever

I began my career in public relations and learned the fine art of “packaging” content. My friends still tease me about my ability to take negative information and turn it into a tidy, if not murky, message. “I hit your car” turns into “While the circumstances of our meeting are less than ideal, I’m so glad we had the opportunity to share our contact information.”

I got out of PR as quickly as I could, but I still recognize BS (business-speak) when I hear it. Unfortunately, most companies still use business-speak on their websites, in presentations, and even during one-on-one discussions with students.  It’s the number one reason why candidates look outside an organization to find out what’s really going on inside of it.

Recently a new radio station was launched in the Dallas area. It was named the best radio station in the city and when I tuned in, found that the reception was a little dicey. I turn it on occasionally and when I tuned in yesterday, I heard the announcer say, “KHYI – if you can’t hear us, then move!” No apologies, no BS – just the truth, but in a humorous way.

A few years ago, I worked with a company that was in the middle of fall recruiting when their CEO announced that the company was being bought. Recruiters wanted to know if they should discuss the merger and how to respond to student questions. The answer was simple. Yes. Bring it up to students, professors, career services and all of your campus contacts because I can assure you that your competitors will be using it to their advantage. Be honest. Avoid using packaged responses. Tell them what you know and admit what you don’t. Showing a canned video from the CEO about the merger won’t cut it. The best way to deliver difficult information is in person.

Keep in mind that you still need to give students a compelling reason to join your organization. Part of that involves giving them the language they need to explain why they accepted an offer with an organization in transition to their parents and friends.  You’ll also need to be prepared to answer the following questions:

  1. What will change and what will stay the same?
  2. Will there be a shakeup of leadership?
  3. Why did the organization decide to merge?
  4. What’s the upside of joining the organization now?
  5. If I join the organization, is there a chance I’ll be laid off after the merger?
  6. Will you be able to keep your job?
  7. Is there a chance that my position, reporting structure or responsibilities will change after the merger?
  8. Will my benefits package, compensation and training/development be impacted (negatively or positively)?

Feel free to use humor or to speak candidly about why you’re staying with the organization. But, whatever you do, leave the BS out of it.

The Assessment Diaries: Beyond Satisfaction

Desalina Allen

A post by NACE Guest Blogger, Desalina Allen, Senior Assistant Director at NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development
Twitter: @DesalinaAllen
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/desalina

I almost waited to write this post until my assessment of our recent Dining for Success (DFS) etiquette dinner was complete.  Almost. I wanted to write about the learning demonstrated via our pre- and post-assessment after I was sure they actually demonstrated students learned something. Then I realized that I promised to provide a realistic overview of what it’s like to work with assessment day-to-day.

You know how sometimes when you start something new, more experienced people say things like “it’s not so scary” or “you’ll get the hang of it in no time”?  I may be guilty of saying these exact things when introducing assessment to others.  But I have a confession: The assessment of this event is scaring me.

Our DFS program has always been a hit with employers and students.  How do we know they like it?  We give out a post event survey that basically measures satisfaction with the event (and allows students to rate their overall learning):

The truth is, how could you not like an event like this? They get a great (oftentimes free) meal at a popular local restaurant, a chance to network, and tons of dining and interview tips. This is why moving away from a satisfaction survey is so scary – students are generally satisfied with our events and it’s rewarding (and easy) to share a summary of these surveys (95% of students reported that they would recommend this event to friends!).   

The problem is that, as educators, satisfaction isn’t all that we care about.  We want students to walk away having learned something from our events and learning can be challenging to measure. So, in an effort to make sure students were actually walking away with new information we prioritized topics of importance, introduced more structured activities to teach these topics, and provided enhanced training for our employers and staff.  

In assessment lingo: we set learning goals!  Here they are:

Students will be able to….

  • Identify the proper table arrangements at a formal dinner (including placement of silverware, bread plate, water and wine glass)

  • List two guidelines regarding what to order during a mealtime interview

  • List three appropriate discussion topics for a networking event

  • List three topics to avoid discussing during a networking event

  • List appropriate ways to follow up with professionals after events

To evaluate these goals, we measured students’ current level of knowledge with a pre event survey sent out with registration confirmations: you can view it here. Then at the end of the event, we had students fill out a nearly identical paper survey and encouraged input from employers and career services staff.  We also asked them ONE satisfaction question (because, hey, satisfaction is also important).

We are still tabulating the students’ responses and it’s nerve wracking.  I’m hoping I can share some really great improvements in their knowledge but there is always a risk that this doesn’t show up clearly in the survey results.  

Being that this is the first time we’ve approached the assessment of this event with pre and post surveys I’m sure there will be changes we need to make to the process.  I’ll be sharing the results and what we learned from this process in a follow up post but would love readers to share their experience setting and evaluating learning goals.  Has it worked for you? Have you evaluated programs this way? Any tips for pre and post surveys? What were the results? Any feedback on the learning goals or survey?

NACE Flash Poll – Internships

kevin grubbA post by NACE Ambassador Kevin Grubb
Assistant Director at Villanova University’s Career Center.
Twitter: @kevincgrubb
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevingrubb
Blog: “social @ edu”.

An issue that’s making national headlines this year is that of internships. In fact, it hit the news recently again: Conde Nast announced that they are discontinuing their internship program for 2014 after two former interns filed a lawsuit over issues of pay.

So, I’m curious: NACE blog readers, what do you think about internships? Vote in the flash poll below and share your thoughts in the comments! (Note: flash poll votes are anonymous)

For more on internships, read NACE’s Position Statements on US Internships and 15 Best Practices for Internship Programs.

New Millennial Attitudes on Technology and Their Future

kevin grubbA post by NACE Ambassador Kevin Grubb
Assistant Director at Villanova University’s Career Center.
Twitter: @kevincgrubb
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevingrubb
Blog: “social @ edu”.

Working in the field of college career services and college recruiting fascinates me. There are many reasons why, but one of the foremost is that speaking with college students keeps me on my toes. With every new class comes a new set of trends to consider.

The "New Millennials"

The “New Millennials” are the next to enter higher education. What trends will they bring with them?

For the past several years and in the next several to come, many of the trends center around Millennials. Viacom, parent company of MTV, VH1, Comedy Central and more, recently released some insightful information about the “New Millennials” – the younger set of Millennials, now ages 13-17. As many of them are the college students of tomorrow, I considered reading this as future-minded professional development for myself. Here are my five most interesting facts from the report:

  1. A large majority of New Millennials are worried that the economy of today will have a negative impact on their future. I see anxiety about getting a job in the “real world” in current students frequently, and this finding makes me wonder what concerns and emotions New Millennials will bring to the table.
  2. The percentage of New Millennials who agree that “My parents are like a best friend to me” is up 10 percent (now to 68 percent) since 2010. I am reminded instantly of the “Bring Your Parents to Work” day idea discussed already on the NACE blog.
  3. 70 percent of New Millennials report that “I learn how to do things on YouTube” or “I go to YouTube for DIY videos.” Confession: YouTube helped me learn how to tie a necktie. So, maybe this goes for us “old Millennials,” too. The finding also makes me glad we’ve already been working on our YouTube presence in our office.
  4. 80 percent of New Millennials say that “Sometimes I just need to unplug and enjoy the simple things.” This just makes me happy. I have a group of Millennial friends that I get together with on Sundays for breakfast. All of us are in education, whether primary, secondary, or higher, and we often talk about how we hope students will break from technology from time to time. I hope this continues.
  5. A key finding of the report is that New Millennials are increasingly finding private ways to share things on social media. On the flip side, I read recently that Facebook is now requiring all users to be available in a Facebook search. I hear discontent with Facebook often from students and friends. Will this shift be another notch against the world’s largest social network?

NACE blog readers, what’s your take on Millennials and trends in our work?

Image credit: flickr.com

The Next Recruitment and Retention Strategy: Bring Your Parents to Work Day?

kevin grubbA post by NACE Ambassador Kevin Grubb
Assistant Director at Villanova University’s Career Center.
Twitter: @kevincgrubb
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevingrubb
Blog: “social @ edu”.

Phil Dunphy, the ultimate peerent

“Modern Family” star Ty Burrell plays the ultimate peerent, Phil Dunphy.

 

There was “bring your daughter to work” day. There was “bring your dog to work” day (and, for many employers, dogs are welcome all the time). Now, “bring your parents to work” day? Yes, as noted in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Should You Bring Mom and Dad to the Office?” Some employers are already doing it. I can’t help but immediately think of Phil Dunphy of Modern Family fame, a strong advocate for “peerenting,” who would probably love this in a hilarious, awkward and endearing kind of way that only he could.

Numerous generational experts and studies have noted that Millennials, the college students of today, have a much closer relationship with their parents than generations past. Anecdotes supporting this are easy to find. Why the change? Often cited reasons are new technology keeping the generations in constant communication mixed with the conventional parenting wisdom of the generation prior. Whatever the cause, some employers, like Google, Northwestern Mutual and PwC, are embracing this shift. All three are mentioned in the WSJ article and are employing strategies to thoughtfully involve parents in the work environments of their employees.

Parental involvement in the career development and recruiting process needs to be carefully handled, to say the least. As a Millennial in this field, articles like this especially make me reflect. I thought of the following:

Situations where things could get difficult with parental involvement:

  1. Bringing parents to a career fair or networking event. Even though everyone might have the best intentions in mind, adding a parent to the dynamic of the conversation could get complicated.
  2. Parents sitting in on an interview. Same as above.
  3. Parents negotiating offers for candidates. As Jaime Fall, Vice President of the HR Policy Association, notes in the article, there could be privacy issues that prevent employers from sharing offer information with parents.

Situations where I think parental involvement could be great:

  1. Candidates asking parents for advice about a career transition. Very few people have quite the long-range view of an individual like parents do, and they, being a generation older, may provide some useful insight.
  2. Employees bringing parents to a work function that, for whatever reason, encouraged invitations to parents and/or family. If: (a) it is part of the culture and (b) the employees can trust themselves and their parents to act appropriately and respect boundaries, then I think this could be fun.

What do you think, NACE blog readers? Are we going to see more “Bring Your Parents to Work” days?

Image source: screenshot from YouTube