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.

 

 

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.

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).

 

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?