NACE Mentor Program Brings Passion to the Profession

ongDavid Ong, Director, Corporate Recruiting, Maximus, Inc. and Vice-President – Employer on the NACE Board of Directors
Twitter: @dtong2565

The concept of mentoring has been on my mind a lot lately. Over the past few months, I’ve found myself reaching out to several of my own personal mentors. These mentors come from many walks of life. One is an old fraternity brother from my college days who always encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone. Another is a former line manager from one of my first recruiting jobs who inspired me to become more creative. And then there are my unofficial NACE mentors who encouraged me for years to get more involved in this organization (admittedly, it took me a few years to follow their advice). Once I began to get more involved, they made themselves available for advice and encouragement whenever I’ve needed it. Truth be told, I know that I wouldn’t be holding my current NACE position were it not for their encouragement. These are relationships that I treasure.

Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate to be a mentor to a number of NACE members. My first interactions as a NACE mentor came about during my first year as a member of the NACE Board of Directors through the NACE Leadership Advancement Program (LAP). Participants in this year-long program are assigned a mentor who is either a current or former member of the Board of Directors.

In a few instances, I had previous dealings with my assigned mentees, while in others, we  formed a relationship from scratch. As a mentor, I was there to provide my mentees with different viewpoints on leadership, opinions about their work challenges, or advice for getting more involved with NACE. I’m especially pleased that many of these mentor/mentee relationships have continued to grow well after the completion of the LAP program, and I know that many of my fellow Board members have had similar experiences.

My most recent mentor/mentee engagements have occurred through the NACE mentor program. There are about 40 NACE members who volunteer to work with members seeking a professional mentor. I only recently volunteered to serve as a mentor for this program and was shocked at how quickly NACE assigned me new mentees.

Within only two weeks of signing up to mentor up to three members, I found myself with a full dance card. I’ve reached out to all three of these individuals (none of which I knew beforehand) in the last few weeks and I’ve been really impressed by the passion that they bring to our profession. These mentees have varied functions (some in university relations, some in career services) and different levels of experience (some are brand new to our industry, others more established). That said, there are several universal themes in their day-to-day challenges that we can all relate to, from feeling under-resourced to seeking stakeholder approval to optimizing business processes, just to name a few.

So by now you might be asking, “What’s in it for the mentor?” To that, I would answer “plenty.” I get inspired at the passion that so many of our newer members display for both NACE and our profession. I get excited talking to people who might be assuming leadership positions within our organization in a few years. And sometimes, I find it therapeutic having offline conversations with people who understand both the joys and frustrations of what we do.

To my fellow members: we need more mentors—we have more mentees than mentors! Please consider volunteering as a NACE mentor. You’ll be glad you did!

Here’s how to get involved: Go to MyNACE and apply through your Account Profile by completing the Mentor/Mentee Information section. Choose to be a mentor or mentee and indicate the type association you prefer and your interests. Matches are made on a bi-monthly basis.



Running A Great Job Trek: Five Top Tips

Kathy DouglasKathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Twitter: @fescdo

\ˈtrek\: to go on a long and often difficult journey

I had the opportunity last semester to lead a regional job trek to the California Bay Area—home to the second largest group of alumni (approx. 250) from our professional school, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, with roughly 360 master’s students (and approximately 4,700 living alumni).

I was a little hesitant at first, thinking that the trek would be more effort than I wanted to expend in the beginning of the new year—potentially a “long and difficult journey.”

Ten students, one alumnus (picked up along the way), and one student from our management school (they were in the Bay area on a much larger annual trek) visited six employers over a two-day period. Visits included working sessions, a lunch meeting, tours, afternoon coffee breaks, and an informal networking happy hour. Employers ranged from a private sector tech company with close to 20,000 employees to an international eco-friendly body products startup with a full-time staff of three.

At the end of the day, the event was a tremendous opportunity for the students who attended. They were able to get a broad view of the environmental careers space in the area in a structured, yet informal way, met more than 50 alumni and employers, and networked with fellow trekkers from our business school.

Thanks to our trekkers and follow-up from our career development team, the event resulted in several very positive outcomes:

  • Several internships that resulted directly from trek contacts (non-trek students are benefiting, too).
  • New employer relationships.
  • Several full-time position postings.
  • Alumni connection made between our school and a peer school for joint networking.
  • Solid first-hand knowledge of the environmental careers landscape in the region.
  • Trekkers benefited personally and professionally, contributed by acting as ambassadors representing the school, and paved the way for their peers.

Five Top Tips for Job Treks

The process for hosting or supporting treks will vary by population, but these are some of the top tips I have to offer based on my recent experience:

1. Manage Expectations

  • During the initial interest meeting, printed guidelines were distributed, explaining what a job trek was and what it wasn’t. It was made clear from the beginning that the trek depended on student leadership and that students were required to provide their own funding.

2. Clarify Roles

  • Some clarification on student roles from the guide: “Student organizer(s) have responsibility for gauging student interest and garnering commitments, coordinating with potential employer hosts, reaching out to alumni in the area, and all other logistics.” On the Career Development Office’s role: “CDO is willing to help with employer outreach as needed. We can also provide sample communications, information on best practices, a finalized schedule, and a checklist for participants.”

3. Empower and Guide Student Leadership

  • My goal was for students to take ownership of the trek. All of the participants volunteered or were encouraged by peers to conduct outreach, finalize scheduling, create a resume book for distribution, and organize an alumni networking event. My role was to advise, suggest contacts, provide sample outreach documents, and assist with outreach as needed—in short, to promote shared leadership and provide structure, tools, and encouragement.

4. Provide Selected Administrative Support

  • After students had created their top list of employers, reached out to contacts, and  set up visits and a schedule, I pulled together the schedule and contact information and added strategically timed breakfast meetings to both days—an hour and a half before the first visit. This really helped ensure that everyone was on time for the trek, and was a great opportunity to share information and strategize about the day.

5. Be Open To Employer Preferences

  • One of our employers wanted to arrange lunch and a meeting with the larger team. Another distributed some materials in advance of the trek and gave students an assignment. One employer invited our alumna who works in their Brooklyn office to participate via Skype. By being open to employer preferences, we were able to create a dynamic experience that provided great information, excellent contacts, a high level of good will, and ultimately, several concrete job and internship opportunities.

Helping Students Make Employer Connections

Irene Hillman

Irene Hillman, Manager of Career Development, College of Business, Decosimo Success Center, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga
Career Services Programs that Engage Employers
College career fairs can feel like a blur. Hundreds of college students, many of them prepared—but just as many of them unprepared, shuffle in and wander from table to table giving employers their pitches. Employers return the favor and point these young professionals to their websites to apply for positions. It’s a way to build visibility on both sides—company and candidate—but creating a meaningful connection simply isn’t in the cards.

So, how can colleges support the authentic engagement needed for both their students to build relationships that will help them launch careers and their employers to gain in-depth access to a targeted and valuable candidate group? Here are some methods being used by the College of Business at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that might provide some inspiration!

Show Students Where They Might Work

The Company Tour Program was developed specifically for entering freshmen to help tie them into both the UTC and business community very early in their college careers. The college develops a schedule of bi-weekly tours for approximately 20 students (lasting one to two hours) into the facilities of the area’s top employers and these students gain access to companies to learn more about the area’s economy, explore potential employers, and network with Chattanooga’s business community in a very familiar and engaging fashion. This encourages students to think about how their degrees can be leveraged and their academic learning can be applied following graduation, motivating them to be better students who are engaged in networking within professional circles of the city.

Connect Students and Employers Over Lunch

Through Bridge Luncheons, the College of Business invites businesses seeking a way to connect with current students, pending graduates, or alumni to sponsor a business meal. This series brings business students and local or regional organizations together in an intimate setting over a served lunch where candid and interactive dialogue can occur. Typically this is used by companies as a recruiting venue for open positions. Such events are an effective means for companies to spend quality time with multiple candidates at once and serves, in many cases, as a first and simple step in the vetting process. The luncheon is also an ideal place for students to to practice business meal etiquette. Bridge Luncheons are by invitation only based on the criteria set by the sponsoring companies. Students receive e-mails requesting an RSVP if they care to attend.

Jennifer Johnson, a UTC Accounting student (Class of 2015), says, “The luncheons have given me an opportunity to connect with local businesses and to build relationships with their owners and employees before joining the work force.”

She adds, “I am very thankful that UTC has provided me with the opportunity to participate in these luncheons because they have helped ease my apprehension interacting with potential employers and colleagues.”

As an additional perk, colleges can consider such luncheons a minor revenue stream since a reasonable flat rate can be charged to companies and remaining funds (after catering and room costs are covered) would be retained to support other career services activities and events.

Pair Students With a Mentor

The Business Mentor Program is available to sophomore, junior, senior, and graduate students. Experienced professionals are paired with students in a mentoring relationship based on common professional interests, guiding students toward career success. Employers are encouraged to nominate a seasoned professional to the Business Mentor Program.

The program provides a great opportunity for professionals to counsel and influence the next generation of business leaders and increase the work force readiness of future recruits. Undergraduates may even engage in the program for academic credit (one credit). The course integrates academic learning with business world application and experiences. Students meet in class for one month to prepare for the mentoring relationship and then pair with mentors for the remaining semester period.

Practices Makes Networking Easy

The semiannual Resume Week and Mock Interview Week events are another way to help recruiters and students engage in effective networking and develop significant dialogue.

During Resume Week, the college seeks out a few dozen professionals (hiring managers or recruiters) whose careers align with the College of Business academic programs and invites them to participate in the event. Students visit the centrally located student lounge with their resumes to give managers and recruiters a chance provide their professional opinions through a 15-minute review while networking one-on-one. Bios of the volunteers are provided to students so students can plan who they want to meet. We encourage students to dress professionally and bring a business card to make a great first impression on our visitors.

Abdul Hanan Sheikh, UTC Human Resource Management and Management student (Class of 2015), summarizes the impact that the Resume Review event has had on his career launch: “By attending this event, I received remarkable feedback, which helped me make adjustments to my resume. This event helped me get more engaged in networking effectively. It was a great opportunity for me to make connections with business professionals from around Chattanooga. Furthermore, I believe these events helped me land my first internship last fall and then my summer internship as well, and those positions gave me the experience I needed in HR to feel confident about finding a great job after graduation. So now I have a strong resume and solid experience!”

A month following Resume Week, the college holds a similarly arranged series of events for Mock Interview Week. Students walk away with invaluable advice on both developing a robust resume and interviewing successfully, but they get a chance to ask questions about launching their careers to people with realistic answers. As a result, a connection is made and networking flourishes between the student and the professionals with whom they have met.

Engaging with employers need not be an awkward or hurried venture that happens once a semester. When students are provided multiple opportunities for directed networking, relationships can unfold in an enriching manner for our students and our employers!



Career Advising for Introverts: Should It Be Different?

Janet LongJanet R. Long
Founder, Integrity Search Inc.
career counselor, Widener University
Twitter: @IntegritySearch
Blogs from Janet Long.

NACE blog team member Chris Carlson wrote eloquently about networking for introverts earlier this year. His piece inspired me to think more deeply about the role of introversion in higher education career services. As both an introvert and the career liaison for the liberal arts student population at my university, I recently began to include material on introversion and extroversion in the semester-length career exploration series I facilitate, The Seekers. To my surprise, student feedback about these sessions has been nothing short of profound. For many students, there is a powerful sense of self-recognition accompanied by relief that they don’t need to reinvent themselves to enter and thrive in the world of work. I began to consider the implications for career advising overall, given that up to 50 percent of the general population describe themselves as introverts.

It often helps to start by defining terms. It can be easy to take for granted my Myers-Briggs training and decades to make peace with my own introversion. In informal polling I have found that most students still associate introversion with shyness or social awkwardness rather than with primary energy source. More disturbingly, they may view introversion as a flaw or deficit that warrants correction.

I like to start with basic MBTI definitions and then pose a classic question that can help students differentiate their preferred style. For example, “If you had an unexpectedly free weekend, would you rather attend several parties or catch up with a couple of friends individually?” I like this question because it challenges the false dichotomy of alone versus with people. Introverts may also prefer to spend time alone (as do extroverts at times). The difference lies in where they gain their main source of energy and how they prefer to recharge.

Our career services office, like many others, offers career fairs, speed networking events, and practice interviews for jobs or internships. With the best of intentions, we teach students to “put themselves out there,” to navigate cocktail/mocktail conversation, to develop compelling 30-second elevator talks, and to formulate responses to both hardball and softball interview questions. This is all helpful and necessary. But the nagging question remains, are there different and potentially more effective ways to broach these topics with students who identify as introverts? Do I as a counselor—albeit an introverted one—jump too quickly to tactics without first acknowledging and exploring how students feel about these processes and their perceptions of what society expects of them? I think that too often we treat introversion as something to be overcome rather than celebrated for its potential contributions.

As one example, last semester in The Seekers, I conducted a mock interview clinic in which we practiced responses in five common question areas. Halfway through the session, one brave student interjected that while she appreciated the tactical advice, none of it helped with trembling hands during actual interviews. Another student, who projected as poised and self-assured throughout the semester, jumped in and offered that the responses made her feel phony. Their comments led to a lively and connected conversation during which the students listened to and coached each other about how to reconcile internal feelings with external expectations. While their concerns were perhaps not unique to introverts, they created an important “aha” for me: that I needed to create more space within the group to be reflective and introspective about professional skills development.

I have recently started to draw on Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution research on introversion, showing excerpts from her TED talk on The Power of Introverts where she laments external pressures to “pass” as an extrovert and helpfully differentiates introversion from shyness. One of my favorite lines is that “the key to maximizing our talents is to put ourselves in the settings that are right for us,” an exhortation to consider work environment and career choices through the lens of temperament as well as talent.

Ms. Cain’s poise and presence in a public speaking situation tends to surprise students and can start conversations about how introverts not only function but thrive in visible and influential positions. Similarly, Wharton professor Adam Grant’s research on effective leadership, The Hidden Advantages of Quiet Bosses, includes the finding that introverted leaders are more likely to engage their teams by encouraging individuals to develop their own ideas. I have found it useful to offer examples of well-recognized role models from all walks of life, from sports to business, who describe themselves as introverts, from Bill Gates, Mahatma Gandhi, and Rosa Parks, to Michael Jordan, Christine Aguilera, and Julia Roberts .

These are some additional strategies that I have found effective in provoking both reflection and discussion:

  • Combining personalized career assessments to give students more self-insight. I have found that StrengthsQuest and MBTI play well together. For example, a student who shows a preference for introversion on the MBTI may also hold “individualization” as a top strength. Integrating a “strengths” perspective into an introversion/extroversion discussion encourages students to move away from a deficit mindset.
  • Designing more intimate networking forums. This semester our office will pilot a home-based gathering for a limited number of students and alumni in selected fields to interact over a leisurely meal. Our hope is that such forums can complement the larger speed-networking formats and that each will each hold appeal for different types of students.
  • Scheduling one-on-one follow-up appointments. While this may sound like a no-brainer, students are typically more inclined to make appointments keyed to specific deliverables rather than more open-ended discussion about areas of discomfort. While not every student needs or wants this type of support, I think it is important to remind students that the suite of career counseling tools available to them goes beyond resume tweaks.

NACE career advisers, are you having these conversations in your offices? It would be interesting to learn more about employer perspectives as well.


You Want Me to Go Where? Coping on my Longest Site Visit

Laura CraigLaura Craig, Assistant Director, Internships and Experiential Education, Temple University Career Center
Twitter: @BuckeyeVirginia

We tell our students to be open to opportunity in many guises, and that it won’t always come when we expect it.  This past summer, I put that advice into practice by joining a group of colleagues to visit Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. (TUJ)  I had one and a half weeks to prepare for a 6,000 mile trip to a place I NEVER expected to visit!

The purpose of the opportunity was experiencing every facet of TUJ’s operation, in order to effectively encourage students to study abroad here.  TUJ has been in operation since 1982, and currently enrolls more than 3,300 students at the undergraduate and graduate level. They also have a sizable academic English program, continuing education opportunities, and a large credit-bearing internship program for all students.

While this was a tremendous opportunity, it didn’t come without nerves.  I’m relatively new at Temple, and didn’t know any of the other participants in my group.  The group consisted of me and academic advisers from our athletics program, school of business, school of tourism and hospitality management, honors program, school of art, and college of liberal arts.  Our work is definitely related, but we hadn’t connected yet in person. I was also nervous about navigating life in a very different culture.  I’ve traveled internationally before, but never to Asia, and also never in such a large group.  Here’s what helped make it a great trip for me:

  • Have an orientation beforehand, even if it’s not required.
    • You don’t want to meet at the airport for the first time.  An orientation, or even meeting for coffee, can help you establish rapport, ensure that your goals are complimentary, and alleviate worries about communication and emergencies.  We were going to a very unfamiliar place, so an orientation helped our group to know the basics about our host and destination, and allowed us to figure out how we would all convene at the airport.
  • Ensure everyone’s technology is up to speed.
    • When traveling and operating as a group in a foreign country, it’s vital to stay in touch.  We need to be concerned with:
      • International data and texting
      • WhatsApp
      • Staying in tune with our flights and transit
      • Using our corporate travel system’s mobile app
      • Keeping everyone’s devices powered up so that we could stay in touch
  • Don’t be afraid to take on a leadership role, but let it flow naturally.
    • When everyone is out of their element, help everyone get settled by choosing a place to eat, helping others change money, figuring out transit options, etc.
  • Share resources among the group and help people attend to basic needs on a long trip.
    • If your institution has a complex reimbursement process, put your heads together to figure out reimbursements in a foreign country and general travel policy knowledge.
  • Embrace new experiences as a group! We had two opportunities for flexible sightseeing in the company of TUJ faculty/staff, and they were the highlights of the trip. Not only did these organized outings save us time and money, they also helped give us genuine insight into the kinds of experiences our students would have at TUJ-exactly the point of our trip!

What’s the farthest business trip you’ve taken with colleagues? Have you spent time in Japan or at Japanese universities?

Developing Career Goals Holistically

Melanie BufordMelanie Buford, Program Coordinator/Adjunct Instructor, Career Development Center, University of Cincinnati

Dan Blank, a career coach who works primarily with creative professionals, offers the following advice in his webinar “Take Back Your Creative Life.”

“Career goals should not be formed in isolation. You must take into account all of your responsibilities (personal and professional), and be sure to account for your own well-being. This includes physical and mental health.” Blank encourages his clients to integrate their career and personal goals in order to set themselves up for success.

Many undergraduate students start their career decision-making process by selecting a major based on the subjects they enjoyed in high school. Students interested in majoring in one of the applied sciences tend to follow this pattern. Several students I’ve worked with tell me they’ve chosen to major in engineering because they were “smart” in high school or strong in math and science, but they don’t know much about the field itself. Time and again, these students arrive at the career development center wondering why they’re not more interested in the engineering coursework and field experiences.

The problem isn’t engineering. The problem is that these students formed career goals in isolation. They didn’t consider the environment they’d be working in, the physical location of their organization, the skills they enjoy developing and want to build on, or the ways they hope to grow as people and as professionals. Fortunately, the University of Cincinnati provides a co-op program that allows engineering students to get full-time work experience before graduation.

Career goals, increasingly, need to be formed holistically. Gone are the days when choosing a career was simply a matter of matching your best school subject to an industry. The market is volatile; new opportunities are being created and other avenues are becoming less viable. A law career isn’t the safe choice it once was, and the nonprofit world has expanded to include diverse organizations tackling new social issues. It’s more common that professionals will relocate to a new city for a job opportunity, and more workers than ever are changing jobs and moving to new sectors over the course of their careers.

We are facing the so-called “paradox of choice.” Research has demonstrated that if we are presented with more opportunities, decision-making becomes more difficult and satisfaction less likely.

When a student steps into a career development office today, they’re faced with a much broader set of options than they would have been 30 years ago. They could go to medical school in their hometown or they could spend two years in the Peace Corps and teach grade school students in Lithuania. They could go to graduate school for computer science or launch a start-up with friends based on their ideas for a new app.

In order to make these decisions, students have to consider not only what talents they have, but what kind of life they want to lead.

It is critical, therefore, that students take a holistic approach to developing their career goals. We encourage them to apply this lens both to themselves and to the field they’re considering. Here are a few questions students should consider during the career exploration process:

What skills do I have and want to develop?

What type of work environment might best fit my temperament?

What type of diversity do I hope to have in my work environment?

How is the industry I’m considering expected to evolve in the next few decades?

What city, state, or country might I want to live in?

What have my career goals been and how have they changed?

What role would I like technology to play in my career?

How important is stability to me and how willing am I to take risks?

Each of these questions will take time to answer as students develop more clarity on their identities and values. Is it any wonder career goals formed at age 18 often feel premature? These are questions we wrestle with throughout our lives.

To me, this only underscores the importance of committing to a continuous career development process, not just for students, but for graduates. Attempting to build your life looking only through a narrow lens of career is bound to work against your happiness. We must support students around this process by acknowledging its complexity and encouraging them to consider the multiple implications of a potential career path.

NACE members can pick up a student-directed version of this blog, Develop Your Career Goals Holistically, in Grab & Go.


Blank, Dan. (2015). Take Back Your Creative Life Webinar. We Grow Media.

Cole, Marine. (2014). U.S. Job Market Has Changed Dramatically in 15 Year. The Fiscal Times.

Hedges, Kristi. (2012). The Surprising Poverty of Too Many Choices. Forbes.


Is Career Fair Networking Really So Hard? Four Tips for Students

Kathy DouglasKathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Twitter: @fescdo

If you are in a Google group, are a member of a family, or met someone at your college or university orientation who is still your friend, you already know how to network. We meet, form bonds, text, and call our friends to share good news. As a species, we are natural networkers—our survival depends on it.

Schmoozing at career fairs and events is what most people think of when defining networking—standing out in a crowd or making a lasting impression that will land you a job or internship. The reality for most mortals is, however, that although it is important to practice small talk and have good interpersonal skills, most of us do not exude extraordinarily magnetic personalities.

Working magic in a crowd, in fact, is not the most important part of networking.

Great networkers know what any career fair recruiter will tell you: At the end of the day, recruiters’ feet hurt, their voices are raw, and aside from a few exceptional interactions, they have spoken with so many individuals they don’t remember who they spoke with about what.

This is why the real art of job-search networking comes in after the actual fair—in the follow up.

When advising students on strategies for two major annual career fairs (one for 1,300+ students from eight universities; one for 250 students from two universities), I emphasize four things:

  1. Strategically select top employers to visit: Quick Internet research provides information to help determine which employers align best with your career goals. Arrive early and visit your top choices while you (and the recruiters) are fresh.
  2. Ask good questions: Advanced research will help you prepare smart questions. After a quick introduction, ask a question about recruiting level or specific practice areas to be sure you are not wasting your time or theirs—Are you hiring at the masters level? Are you interviewing for your renewables practice? If you already know what they are recruiting for, start there—“I’d like to learn more about the project areas for the policy internships.”
  3. After discussions, find a place to stop and take notes: Notes don’t have to be extensive. I use business cards and/or a small notebook to write the reason I want to follow up, contact information, and content of conversation.
  4. Follow up within a few days: Decide which leads are of interest and follow up with an e-mail that picks up where the discussion left off. If you have been directed to an online application, complete it, send the recruiter a thank you and let them know you applied. If you connected personally with a recruiter, but there is no immediate opportunity for you, send them a thank you note and a LinkedIn request. There is no need to follow up on every single contact. It’s okay to be strategic.

If you have taken good notes after a productive conversation, it is easy to follow up. And most often you are doing the recruiter a favor. The work you put in to making the recruiter’s job easier, whether it results in an immediate outcome for you or not, is a positive and generous act.

And you never know where follow-up will lead. Through courteous follow up and strategic networking, job seekers get interviews, discover the hidden job market, and learn the inside scoop on organizations.

NACE members can pick up a free student-directed copy of this blog for use online or in publications.