Old friends. New friends. Colleagues. Networking with peers. Professional learning. Sharing best practices. Connect. Compare. Collaborate.
See you June 2 – 5, 2015, in Anaheim. Details on NACE15 to come!
So it’s official, I’m now a NACE blogger! For those who don’t know me, I manage corporate and campus recruiting activities for MAXIMUS, a professional services firm in Reston, Virginia. I’ve also been a long-time NACE member (for nearly 15 years). After serving on the Board of Directors from 2011-2013, I will soon be the new Vice President, Employer, starting this July.
As I prepare for these new responsibilities (which you’ll be hearing about in the coming months if you follow this blog), I find myself occasionally reminiscing about my early (aka, clueless) years as a NACE member. So join me for a trip down memory lane to my first official NACE event—the 2001 Conference in Las Vegas—and how it impacted my career.
If you’re a newer member, you might not be aware that up until 2001, the NACE conference was an every-three-years event. Thankfully, the NACE leadership team had the strategic vision to change it to an annual conference (more on a couple of these leaders later).
So just how did these three-days in Vegas change the course of my career?
I established new relationships. Back then, I had just finished my first year of recruiting for Citigroup in NYC, and was busy building relationships with several new schools from which I’d never recruited. One of those schools was New York University, whose career center was headed by Trudy Steinfeld (#nyuwasserboss). To get to know her team a little better, I invited Trudy and her staff to join my team for a “refreshment break” on the first afternoon of the trip.
Obviously, we spent a good deal of our time talking about recruiting initiatives, but we also veered off to more social conversations where we immediately hit it off. That first conversation not only established a connection between my employer and NYU, but also created the beginnings of an invaluable friendship. Today, I can count on Trudy for guidance and advice (and the occasional refreshment break).
I met NACE leaders. This conference was my first exposure to the NACE leadership team. As (lady) luck would have it, I met then-NACE President, Kathy Sims from UCLA right after the opening session. She was so welcoming to me, a relatively new member of NACE. [On a side note, having served on the Board of Directors, I now know the President has a crazy conference schedule, so the time she took to get to know me is even more impressive.]
Kathy asked about my background, my goals for the conference, and when I was going to start recruiting at UCLA (naturally)! And, being a great leader that she is, she asked me if I was interested in becoming more involved with NACE. Flash forward 10 years and Kathy was one of my nominators for the Board of Directors and provided me with a ton of advice and encouragement when I decided to run for Vice President. You may be aware that Kathy has announced her retirement from UCLA, so I have many bittersweet feelings as I write this.
I experienced a range of emotions. I remember the gamut of feelings running through me from the start of the opening session all the way to the end of the conference. Nervousness because I didn’t know many other attendees. Confusion over what sessions to attend. Frustration at not being able to remember the names of everyone I met. Awe of all the learning opportunities. Appreciation for the generosity of my peers as they shared their knowledge. And that was all okay because I got so much out of the experience.
Fortunately that year, what happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas. The networking that took place led to relationships that lasted well beyond the initial three-day conference. So whether you are attending this year’s conference for the first time (or second or third or fourth, for that matter), I hope that you will make the most of your experience. Track me down, tweet me at the conference, or just stop to say hello. If you can’t attend this year, start thinking about next year—trust me, it will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make!
You could say I am relatively new at the career advising world. While I am rounding out my eighth year in higher education, I am only in my second year in career cervices, coming from the admissions department at my current institution, Green Mountain College in Vermont.
The transition has been a perfect transferability of skills and one I feel is a lifelong fit! It was this idea of putting “transferability of skills” into action, that I have started to realize many things about the career advising world—one being that you have to practice what you preach! I have never worked within a field where you are constantly encouraged to step back and focus on your own personal and professional development while encouraging others to do so. If I encourage my students to network for various reasons, then I better have a good anecdote on how it has been beneficial in my own life. It’s the same with a concept like mentoring.
The idea of mentorship, while not a new concept to me in general, was definitely a new concept to me professionally. When I heard about NACE’s mentorship program, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. My department is very small, so although I wear the title of director, I undoubtedly have much to learn.
I was inspired to be able to maintain a steady relationship with another professional who might be able to shed some light on areas I either struggle with, think about, am working to improve, or any other off-the cuff matters that come to mind. Marc Goldman, my current mentor, fits the bill! We have been communicating for about six months on a variety of topics ranging from student engagement, to employer relations, to various resources he has found beneficial over the years. Because of his broad range of experience, I truly value his insight! He is also very candid to speak with, so it makes the conversation flow nicely. By our 3 p.m. phone calls, I am ready for a little comic relief!
I am glad that I have put myself out there to really try to connect through a mentorship program. Not only is it humbling to interact with professionals with such broad backgrounds, but it is also empowering to see mentoring as a great way to give back to your professional community down the line. I hope someday, I will have equally helpful advice to share with new professionals in the career advising field!
Do you need a mentor? Join the Mentor Program!
Time and time again, there are discussions on campus and in the press about the need for and importance of mentors. Sure, students can use the career center and all the wonderful resources, services, and programs at their disposal. Many offices provide informational interview, job shadowing, and employers-in-residence options. More recently, broad-based mentoring programs have begun to spring up at colleges and universities, providing industry-specific career advice and shepherding through a job search and/or onboarding by way of a student’s ongoing relationship with an alumnus or professional from a particular field of interest. Both students and mentors tend to report that the relationships are beneficial and rewarding when all things click and both parties are committed to the relationship. The arrival of all of these niche and large-scale mentor programs has caused me to reflect on my own professional experience with mentors and as a mentor myself. I have certainly benefitted greatly, both early in my career and as a career center leader today, from experienced career services professionals in my sphere of influence, circle of friends, pyramid scheme, or what have you. And I am not ashamed to call them out.
My first mentors were at the University of Maryland at College Park (UMCP), when I was a mere babe in the woods, aka graduate intern. UMCP Career Center staffers like Linda Gast, Becky Weir, Linda Lenoir, and Cheryl Hiller helped me develop my personal framework of career counseling, provided me wonderful opportunities for growth and to contribute to a department, and encouraged me to stay in the field for the long haul. In my first full-time role at Suffolk County Community College, the ever optimistic and genuine Sylvia Camacho showed me how to run a flat office structure to great effect. Let’s not forget my boss of 13 years at NYU, my “Chief,” Trudy Steinfeld, who saw to it that I understood the Game of Thrones—I mean the politics that can occur in higher ed— modeled the fine art of schmoozing for me, and even rented me an apartment for a time. She is still someone I turn to in times of confusion or the need for advice. Her tag- team partner, Manny Contomanolis, has illuminated for me how best to manage up, has introduced me to the subtler ways and maneuvers of a director, and has always reminded me to stay true to who I am. I even have my very own support group or posse of peer directors who I can always count on for feedback and good humor. Presnell, Fredo, Nate, Lisa, and Jason all know who they are, or at least I hope so!
Having learned so much and come so far in part thanks to the presence of mentors in my professional life, when the chance came to serve as a NACE mentor, I seized the day, leaping up on my desk ala Dead Poets Society. (Sorry, I am known to be a bit theatrical.) I am currently in my fourth year of the NACE Mentor Program, and it has been a rich and rewarding experience for me. It has offered me a chance to meet both aspiring and seasoned professionals locally and throughout the country. I have connected with career services directors from large state colleges, small niche and liberal arts schools, faith-based institutions, and proprietary shops. While I hope my mentees feel that they have gained from our year-long relationships, I know that I have learned a great deal about challenges faced on different campuses, in different locations, and with different student populations. The questions I am asked and perspectives I get to share help me reflect on my own past experiences and my current work more frequently than I might normally spend time doing. I am occasionally stumped too. Certainly, not every aspect of our business is in my wheelhouse, but I try my best to offer what insights I can from my 20 years in the field and point in the direction of helpful resources if I am at a loss. Wait, that sounds like something a career counselor might do. Funny!
What I like most about the NACE Mentor Program is that there are many colleagues out there who may not have had the luck I did in having mentors through situational and natural circumstances. And every professional can use input, feedback , or someone to vent to at some level. The NACE Mentor Program helps make that happen, and I am proud to be a part of it.
Become a mentor! Information on the Mentor Program is available.
People seem to like even numbers. Logically, there is no reason why people feel a stronger connection to 100 versus 99 or 101, but no matter, because today marks 100 days until the NACE 2014 Conference in San Antonio. If you are like me, you already have your countdown timer set (see here: http://bit.ly/NACE14_Countdown ) but, if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?
The conference is YOUR opportunity to take an active role in charting the future of our profession. It is your chance to engage and provide your feedback on all the major issues facing our profession (someone once made a GREAT video about that: http://youtu.be/wT1hxrz64R4). There is also NO better time to meet your colleagues than at the conference. It is the BEST networking event of the year. You can look for me, I will be wearing a VERY special hat in honor of my workshop: “Be the Davy Crockett of the LinkedIn Frontier! (My workshop focuses on what you need to know to empower your students to harness the full power of LinkedIn. Learn the inside tricks and tips to identify and engage decision makers who can act as the crucial link to sourcing and employment opportunities for your students.)
You might not want to tell your boss, but having attended numerous conferences, I can also attest that they are a LOT of fun, and there are plenty of opportunities to take in the local sights (although I hope my Chicago Blackhawks will be back in the Stanley Cup Championship, keeping me tethered to the TV at night).
The Early Bird Special ends on March 1. February is that sneaky month with 28 days, so remember that March 1 is tomorrow! Remember the Alamo and sign up today! http://naceweb.org/ConferenceExpo/register.htm
Teaching students to navigate and reply effectively to job postings—whether through internal referral systems or external job sites—is a tenet of most career development curricula. There are valuable skills to teach, from developing pointed, persuasive communication to learning to think from an employer’s perspective.
The question is, do these skills go far enough? Are we preparing today’s emerging graduates to become tomorrow’s passive and complacent job seekers? The trouble with job postings is that they represent only a snapshot of potential opportunities out there. What’s more, they drive large volumes of traffic to a relative handful of jobs, creating instant and intense competition for every role.
When working in private practice with mid-career job seekers, I encourage them to use the 80/20 rule when it comes to postings. That is, to spend about 20 percent of search time replying to advertised opportunities, and the remaining 80 percent using these postings as a springboard to inform a more pro-active approach.
It’s not too early to give our students the gift of this perspective. Beyond first-destination landings, it will empower them to propel their efforts beyond the too-frequent black hole of applicant tracking systems designed to weed out rather than invite in.
Here are three ways to help our students look at and leverage job postings to get ahead of the curve:
1) Target employers of interest. Never mind if there’s not a current posting related to a specific area. If this employer is in hiring mode, more relevant roles may develop at any moment. Encourage your students to follow companies on social media, seeking informal introductions to internal recruiters. This helps the recruiter as well, who is often measured on metrics such as “time to fill” open roles. Having a talent pipeline for tomorrow’s openings is a strategic advantage—and it allows for informal dialogue before a cast of thousands applies to a specific posting.
2) Looks at what’s trending. On Twitter and beyond, the advertised portion of the job market is a researcher’s paradise! For instance, your students can look for common job titles and descriptive language, even in areas outside of their target geography. This gives them the right vocabulary to use when seeking out networking connections as well as to suggest potential titles and skill areas on their own resumes and LinkedIn profiles.
3) Go for the bold. Many students already have a dream company in mind when they come to you for help and guidance. Take a tour together of the company’s website and job listings, Twitter feed, LinkedIn page, etc., and help them learn to identify challenges waiting to be solved by a smart, passionate new graduate. Show them how to put this insight to use with existing institutional resources such as alumni networks as well as their own emerging networks. Sometimes it pays to take a risk and reach out to higher-level individuals—it’s an old hiring tenet that you can get referred down the food chain but rarely up!
Have your students tried these techniques? What are some success stories?
How many times during any given year do you say something like the following statements?
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?