A Career Counselor’s Story: Law and Order, a Documentary, Three States, Four Coffee Shops, Two Record Stores, and 10 Years Is All it Takes.

Ross WadeRoss Wade, assistant director, Duke University Career Center
Personal blog: http://mrrosswade.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswade
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

I’m a ham. I admit it. I always have been. Remember the kid in high school that sat in the back of the class, cracked jokes, and mimicked the teacher for laughs? That was me. From an early age I was told I was funny and clever and that I should be an actor. That became my identity, and most of my decisions regarding college and career were based on that identity. In college I had seven different majors, but most of my time I spent in the theater department. My sophomore year I auditioned, and got into, the B.F.A. acting program, and for about three years, I spent almost every day with the same 11 students (who are now dear friends). I loved it. My senior year, I got cold feet after hearing “What kind of ‘real job’ are you going to get with a B.F.A. in acting?” too many times to count. My solution? I changed my major, one final time, to communications, with a “media performance” concentration. Almost all of my theater classes transferred over, and I only had to take five communications classes my senior year to graduate with a B.S. in communications.

My first “real job” after graduation? Working at the downtown coffee shop…walking distance from the theatre department. I had no idea what to do with my life. One day a friend visited the coffee shop and asked me if I wanted to move to Chicago. I said, “Sure.”

A week later we were packed in her brother’s van heading to the Windy City. My first job in Chicago? Working at a coffee shop. When not slinging coffee or working at a record and video store (I needed two jobs to pay the rent) I was trying to act in student films. While I enjoyed Chicago as best I could, I was mostly lonely and anxious. Friends were hard to make, and I was in bit of an existential crisis trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. After a year in Chicago, a friend in New York City called and asked if I wanted to move to NYC to sublet his room for a year. I said, “Sure.”

In NYC, I was able to get an internship with a documentary filmmaker and her crew. We spent the summer of 2001 in a small Rhode Island town shooting a film about a wealthy, highly educated, family that learns their wealth came from the slave trade. The film documented the family’s journey from Rhode Island, to Cuba, to Ghana, traveling the route of the slaves their family members bought generations before. I became close to this family and the crew, I loved the tight-knit feeling of working on a small project for a big cause and becoming a part of a community. I liked documentary more than acting, it certainly felt more meaningful to me, but still, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend so much time on location (traveling and away from home) and spending hours and hours researching grants for funding.

I was in Tribeca, about 11 blocks north from the World Trade Center, when the city was attacked on 9/11. I, and thankfully my friends, was uninjured…just terrified, heartbroken, and confused. Most filming in the city was shut down, and in order to make ends meet, I started waiting tables at the World Wrestling Federation restaurant in Times Square (that experience could be its own blog post – ha!). Later I was able to do some freelance work as a production assistant with the show Law and Order, but really, after such a tough year, I wanted to be home with my friends and family. So, that’s what I did. I landed a job back home working in digital media as a production assistant (and then producer) for a small company. We worked very hard, and many long hours, and as a result became extremely close. One day, an intern I worked with told me I should consider being a college career counselor.

“Colleges have career counselors?” As an undergrad, my world was theater 24/7 and I had no idea there were student affairs professionals, like career counselors, that got paid to help students. Crazy! I did some research on careers in student affairs, decided to pursue career counseling, earned my graduate degree, and then landed my first career counseling gig for a school of communications. Finally, I found a job that satisfies my desire for building meaningful relationships, provides community, allows me to help others every day, AND I get to perform (and be a big ole ham!) doing workshops and presentations. It only took me three states, four coffee shops, three record stores, one documentary, a television show, and 10 years to get here!

So you are probably asking yourself by now, “Why is Ross telling this long story. What is the point?” Good questions. I shared my story to highlight a few points that may be helpful to you as you work with your students as they consider “What should I do with my life?”

Identity – it’s about you, not other’s perceptions of you.

Feedback is important, but I frequently tell students not let anyone tell them who they are or what they should do with their lives. Many students get feedback from friends and (especially) family on what to do career wise. Feedback from these folks, while well intentioned, can be based on issues about themselves and their own experiences…not necessarily about the student. I normally ask students to investigate common denominators from past experiences that can shed light on possible career options. For me, though, I love to perform—community and a sense of helping others—is most important in my career. I found evidence of this time and time again as I reflected on why I love theatre, film, and the arts. The art part is fun, but I most valued working hard, as part of a community, towards a common goal.

Just say “sure” and trust your gut – it’s leading you someplace good.

I find myself saying this to students a lot—“If you don’t know what to do, just do something, anything, and that will inform the next thing.” Every time I tell someone my career story, they say “Wow, you’ve landed the perfect job for yourself!” And as I look back, I agree with them. At the time it seemed that my career was chaotic and directionless. But if I had not made that drive to Chicago, then taken that room in New York, and then come back home, I never would be enjoying my job as a career adviser for media, arts, and entertainment students. I was building an incredible resume and didn’t even know it!

Share your story.

Your students need to hear your career story. Pursuing a career is daunting no matter what industry or major. Disclosing some of your accomplishments and failures (yes, I used the “F” word) normalizes fears and confusion, and provides insight students can use as they pursue their goals. When I tell my students I had seven majors, or took a risk and moved to a big city where I really didn’t know anyone, or had to work at a wrestling themed restaurant to pay the bills until I landed another film or TV gig, and was still able to mange to find a career I love it gives them hope (and ideas!). A couple of summers ago, at the career center where I work, the staff did audio recordings of stories reflecting that in which they believe. These personally told career stories are posted on our “staff” web page and available for students to listen to. Our students love this! I’ve had quite a few students make appointments with me specifically because of the story I share about my career journey.

What is your career story? Leave a comment and let me know – I’d love to read it (and I bet others would too)!

Four Lessons We Can Learn From Business Leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Ideas for Helping Students Access LinkedIn

Kelli Robinson Kelli Robinson, career counselor, Central Piedmont Community College
Blog: http://blogs.cpcc.edu/careerservices
Twitter: @KelliLRobinson
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kellilrobinson

Social media has revolutionized how people engage in the world around them. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow users to connect with friends, share anecdotes and images, and receive up-to-the-minute information.

LinkedIn is the social media outlet designed to engage users in professionally-focused pursuits. When members create a substantial profile, join professional groups, start making contacts, and conduct a job search, it yields many career-related benefits. Career professionals know this.

At Central Piedmont Community College, the career services staff was having a hard time selling LinkedIn’s value to our students. Students are actively engaged on Facebook and Instagram, but spend little to no time on LinkedIn. We referenced LinkedIn in our Career Guide, distributed to hundreds of students each year. Career counselors spent numerous appointment hours demonstrating and explaining LinkedIn. But students still weren’t bothering.

LinkedIn seems to intimidate students. Creating an Instagram account and posting selfies is much more student-friendly. However, when students go to LinkedIn, they’re being asked to provide a career summary and create a professional headline. What’s a professional headline anyway? Students don’t view themselves as professionals yet. As one student asked, “doesn’t it make more sense to join LinkedIn when I actually am a professional?”

LinkedIn Learning Webinars do a fantastic job explaining how to create a LinkedIn profile and navigate the site. But if students aren’t visiting the site in the first place, they won’t know about the webinars. Additionally, students are more likely to connect with their college than an outside organization.

With this in mind, the CPCC career services team developed two avenues to introduce LinkedIn to our students:

1. Online Panopto video: A career counselor created a nine-minute Panopto video that helps students create a LinkedIn profile and explains LinkedIn’s features. Students can access the video from our website. Additionally, the video was e-mailed to CPCC faculty as a tool to use in their classrooms. When career counselors were invited to give classroom presentations, they showed highlights from the video when appropriate to the topic being presented.

2. Career Services LinkedIn Subgroup: Career services created a LinkedIn subgroup open to students, staff, faculty, alumni, and employers. The group’s purpose is to share career-related information. Much of the content consists of weekly posts from the CPCC Career Services blog, but members are welcome to post any career-related questions or information. The career services office promotes the subgroup through our office website, in classroom presentations, and in career counseling appointments.

Students who viewed the Panopto video and joined the LinkedIn subgroup found both beneficial. We continue to promote these outlets to the college community. If the trend continues, LinkedIn and social media will become a primary way students connect with employers. As I told the student who asked about waiting to join LinkedIn until he was a professional, “to become a professional, the time to start acting like one is now.”

On Thursday, NACE blogger Ross Wade will tackle “The Dreaded LinkedIn Summary” and offer tips to use with students. Find more information on how to use social media effectively with students, see the Social Media Guides on NACEWeb.

Turning No-Shows Into Teachable Moments

Janet R. Long

Janet R. Long
Founder, Integrity Search Inc.
Career Counselor, Widener University
Blog: http://inyourownvoice.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/janetrlong/
Twitter: @IntegritySearch

Do “no-shows” represent a routine annoyance for career centers, or are they teachable moments for students learning about the world of work in all its dimensions?  I’m not thinking about the student with a legitimate last-minute conflict or emergency, or a one-time memory lapse. Rather I’m referring to the students with serial career appointment amnesia.

One school of thought holds that students are just learning time and life management skills, and that we can’t hold them too accountable for a relatively minor transgression liked a missed resume review.

Besides, what would holding “no-shows” accountable really look like in practice? Denying future services? Putting them to the back of the line when they have a critical deadline like a live interview? This would seem to run counter to the very mission of helping students get to that all-important first destination (and candidly, would not help department usability numbers either). 

And yet…by not acknowledging chronic no-showism, practitioners do both their students and themselves a disservice. For students, we are providing a false sense of latitude about the greater world off campus. As a longtime recruiter, I can attest that in the absence of an extreme emergency, being MIA for a job interview is a non starter—and not likely to lead to a second chance.

For career practitioners, enabling no-shows with no consequences also sends the message that we undervalue our own time and services. I would propose that there are ways to help students unlearn poor habits without taking punitive measures that run counter to everyone’s objectives. For example, one might be to hold a (mandatory) workshop for all career center users on the consequences of no-showism in the working world. Bringing in an employer or two as a guest speaker would drive the point home that much harder.

Another might be scheduling a targeted educative workshop for the chronic no-show-ers (think The Breakfast Club without the really mean proctor) in order to retain access to account privileges such as job postings. Talking points might be framed in terms of:

 Empathy: Helping the student see the missed appointment from another’s point of view (say, a good friend who could have been seen in the time slot) or projecting how an employer might feel about being stood up.

 Self-recognition: Asking how the student would feel about being stood up by a faculty adviser, a career coach, or a friend.

 Relating to other on-campus expectations: Asking about the  consequences of missing a class or a deadline without prior communication with the professor.

The point, of course, is not to shame the student, but rather to use no-showism as an opportunity to further what we teach about professional development.

 NACE career practitioners, how does your office handle no-shows? NACE employers, what suggestions can you offer?

Find another article on no-shows on NACEWeb.

 

Challenging the Omniscient Career Adviser Role

Janet R. LongJanet R. Long
Founder, Integrity Search Inc.
Career Counselor, Widener University
Blog: http://inyourownvoice.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/janetrlong/
Twitter: @IntegritySearch
Blogs from Janet Long.
Sometimes life runs in parallels. As I approach month six of in-house career counseling after 20 years as a business owner and executive recruiter, I’m learning that my students are not the only ones navigating new terrain. It is helpful to hold that perspective—and sometimes to share it outright—when encouraging them to push beyond their comfort zone. This makes me less of the all-knowing adviser and more of a human being who can speak to and perhaps model getting to the other side of major life transitions.

As an executive recruiter, even starting out, I often found an automatic presumption of authority and expertise—role power, as a friend and colleague would call it. Role power allowed job candidates to disclose salary and other intimate life and career details to a virtual stranger within minutes. It also positioned me as a trusted confidante and adviser to hiring organizations, and along with that, the one expected to know.

Much earlier, growing up as the daughter of psychologists, I recall that when asking my mother what I should do in a challenging situation, she would often reply, “What do you think you should do?” While this was maddening in the moment, it prepared me to weigh choices from an early age. Her approach sent the message that I was a capable person who could start the thought process on my own.

Putting these experiences together, I’ve been reflecting on the role power inherent in career counseling, and the reflexive temptation to problem solve from a position of expertise. I’m learning to differentiate skills development (resume and cover letter writing, interview preparation, networking strategies) from the leadership that comes more from listening than imparting wisdom.

As an example, I recently advised a midlife student who had just completed an associate’s degree and was torn between continuing on for her bachelor’s in either human resource management or liberal arts. Even as the counselor and huge champion of our traditional liberal arts undergraduates, the recruiter in me admittedly had concerns about short-term employability at a different life stage.

After two in-depth meetings and a series of self-assessments, it became clear that this decision was not a 50/50 proposition. While my student expressed feeling entirely capable of fulfilling the HR program requirements, she voiced much stronger feelings of apathy toward the curriculum. While we had a candid discussion about potential pros and cons, she was powerfully drawn to the liberal arts, and was willing to integrate experiential learning into her already full-time-plus schedule to weave the pieces together.

My student confirmed her decision with her academic adviser shortly thereafter, and copied me on a note that generously described my role as a supportive sounding board. This felt strange at first. Had I done her a disservice by not providing more active advice? What if her decision didn’t lead to the financial security she was also seeking?

Then the realization hit. My role was not to absolutely know what she should do, nor to provide a consultant-like recommendation with supporting bullet points. It was, in fact, to listen and to give her the space to reach her own decision, her own knowing, weighing available data with what already felt true for her.

NACE career counselors, have you confronted this distinction within your own practices and student relationships? What have you learned along the way?

 

Carpe NACE!

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

One of my favorite experiments when speaking in public is to ask the audience how many of them know the name Elisha Gray (without Googling him)?  To date, I have had some weird guesses (no, it wasn’t the guy who dated your roommates’ sister in college) but no correct answers.

I follow up that question by asking how many know the name Alexander Graham Bell.  As you can imagine, everyone is familiar with the name and replies that he is the man who invented the telephone.  That is a well-known fact that we all learned in fourth grade, right?

Only it is not that simple.  The truth is that a man named Elisha Gray filed a patent for a working telephone two hours after the patent was filed by Alexander Graham Bell!

Just 120 minutes, BUT those few moments were the difference between being a household name, forever ensconced in our collective memories, and being regulated to the dustbin of history.

I’m sure you will Google this now, and the story is a bit more complicated than that, but fundamentally, two hours made the difference between historical immortality and being an answer to a trivia question only known by the biggest of US history geeks (I confess).

Obviously this is a rare example, but I think it teaches an important lesson about the value of time.  Wasted time is a commodity we can never recover.  Chances are few, if any, of us will be remembered in perpetuity, but that doesn’t diminish the value of our time.

I can hear you asking, what’s your point (yes, I know you are taking TIME to read this)?  My point is carpe diem.  But don’t just seize the day; seize the moment, because we never know the full impact of any of our actions (or inactions). 

NACE is a great way for all of us to seize the moment.  I know there are great ideas out there, but unless we take the time to share them, they will be lost.  We all have the opportunity to take a leading role in shaping the future of our profession.  Don’t pass up on that!

None of us can hide behind the excuse that we are not well known or part of the NACE leadership because I can personally attest that NACE is open to the thoughts and ideas of all of its members, irrespective of job title.  Leadership and great ideas can come from anyone and at any time (my wife hates when I hop out of bed to write down an idea in the middle of the night).

So don’t hesitate.  Attend a NACE event, register for the annual conference, volunteer your time, join a committee or just share your thoughts with NACE and you WILL become an active part of charting the future.

Ironically, you don’t even have to use Bell (or Gray’s) invention to do so with e-mail, because phone calls are SO last century!

Chaim was a co-chair of the 2013-2014 NACE Principles for Professional Practice Committee and successfully completed NACE’s 2012-2013 Leadership Advancement Program. Find a listing of NACE committees on NACEWeb.

Career Development, the U.S. Job Search, and International Students: Lack of Understanding the U.S. Job Search (Post 2)

Ross WadeRoss Wade, assistant director of career services, Duke Engineering/Professional Master’s Programs
Personal blog: http://mrrosswade.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswade
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

Greetings career professionals! I wanted to focus this post (and the next couple of posts) on common challenges I assist my international students with, and provide some strategies and ideas that you can use in your practice.  I’ve even added a couple of ideas that could be a part of your office’s employer outreach strategy.

 CHALLENGE: Lack of understanding the U.S. job search.

I see it over and over again. Students from across the globe begin their U.S. college experience thinking that the job-search process will be just like it is in their home country. Most of the time that process is something like: make great grades, study hard for the final test, and the higher your test score (and grades), the better job you get. And the employers will come to you! It is all about grades, and working toward being top of your class. There is little to no focus on networking or getting hands-on experience (though many of my Chinese students acquire a one month “internship,” which is more like an observational externship experience). Many international students have no idea about the U.S. job search, and that it is focused more on professional experience and relationships than grades.

Sharing this, and having students understand this, is your first and most difficult step. Some students will feel uncomfortable approaching or cold calling professionals to connect, thinking that it is rude or disrespectful; aligning these students with others from their home country that have successfully found careers in the United States normalizes networking…and they can get the scoop on the step-by-step of networking and how their peer or “senior” successfully did this without feeling like they were being disrespectful.

 IDEAS & RESOURCES

  • Create a book club or U.S. job-search working/accountability group for international students that meets every couple of weeks. Daniel Beaudry, has written a wonderful book about the U.S. job search for international students called “Power Ties.” He does a fantastic job of explaining the process of the U.S. job search and networking, while explaining the visa process and all of the “players” such as hiring managers, HR, etc.
  • Teach students how to connect with international alums that were able to find jobs in the United States. Most institutions have an alumni database, but did you know the LinkedIn “Find Alumni” tool is FANTASTIC for this?! I work with graduate students, and have them access the tool (LinkedIn > Network > Find Alumni), and search for alumni of their undergraduate institution (back in their home country), click on who is living in the United States, and sort by industry. Not only does this give them a list of alums they can connect with, but shows the companies and industries most likely to hire international talent. If you are working with undergraduates, have them search under popular universities in their home country (they’ll still be able to access the alums!).
  • A lot of my international students are obsessed with all the big-brand companies (e.g. Deloitte, Google, Exxon), and don’t consider smaller companies. I remind my students that pursuing a big brand company is fine, but don’t forget that a gazillion other international students will be doing the same thing. Smaller companies may have less competition and be less rigid in considering hiring international talent, and accessing hiring managers may be easier. Consider this idea which incorporates educating students and employers (here’s the employer outreach idea I mentioned earlier); do a webinar or panel with employers (that have successfully hired international talent in the past), an immigration lawyer, visa services, and international alums working in the United States to share their insights and experiences from the employer and student point of view. You could invite international students and smaller companies/employers in your area to learn more about this process (a great professional development opportunity for them, and a way to get them interested in your students).
  • Find a mentor or colleague with experience working with international students to help you. This could be someone from your school’s visa services office, international house, or counseling center. I’ve been so lucky to have incredibly smart and experienced colleagues (Carrie Hawes, Jenny Johnson, Bridget Fletcher) help me grow my skills with international students along the way – I’m so grateful to them!

In my next blog posts I’ll discuss the sponsorship process, and address all of the confusion and anxiety many international students face when networking.

What ideas do you have for helping international students better understand the U.S. job search?

Did you miss part one? Read it here, and watch for Ross Wade’s next blog in this series! Coming soon.