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?

The Best Tip for Last Minute Interview Prep? Power Pose!

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”.

A student e-mails you the day of a big interview. She’s practiced and looked through her notes, studying like she should for a conversation like this. What should she focus on in the last few minutes before she goes into the room? One last look at the company website for any critical updates? A final check over her resume to make sure she has talking points for her experiences?

Maybe the answer is something else entirely. To boost her self esteem, she should spend about two minutes standing in power poses right before she goes into the room. Why? Because it will make her more confident in the interview and a more desirable candidate. That’s what one Harvard professor, Amy Cuddy, discovered in her research on body language.

In the past, scientific studies have proven that when you smile, it triggers changes in your brain and body that can actually make you happier, which then makes you smile. So, maybe Buddy the Elf really was on to something (“I like smiling. Smiling’s my favorite.” – This gets me every time.). Cuddy wanted to know if the same could be said for body language. Body language changes the way others think of us, but can it also change our thoughts on ourselves?

The answer is yes. Cuddy’s research found that standing in confident, positive poses changes the chemistry in your brain, boosting hormone levels related to confidence and decreasing hormone levels related to stress. Taking it a step further, research subjects in one of Cuddy’s studies who were instructed to sit or stand in power poses, making their bodies big and wide, for two minutes prior to an interview performed significantly better in that interview than those who did the opposite. Those who did take the power poses were rated by observers as someone who would be a great hire.

Don’t just take my word for it, check out Cuddy’s TED talk. If you want to skip right to the interview study, start the video at about 10:00. The whole clip is fascinating.

So, NACE blog readers, who’s up for a round or two of power posing at the 2014 NACE conference? I’m starting my practice now.

Don’t Miss Your Chance at NACE Honors and Awards!

Marc Goldman, Executive Director, Career Center, Yeshiva University

Marc Goldman, Executive Director, Career Center, Yeshiva University
Twitter: @MarcGoldmanNYC
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/marcjgoldman

I am a big fan of awards shows on television.  For decades, I have watched the Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, Golden Globes, People’s Choice, SAG Awards, and even the occasional Grammys or MTV Video-Music Awards.  Do they even show videos on MTV anymore?  Ah the good old days of MTV when it was hair bands, pop idols, and vee-jays!  But I digress.  When I entered the field of career counseling, I never imagined we would have our very own awards, honoring individuals, schools, and employers who developed groundbreaking and trendsetting ideas, programs, resources, and services.  Well, we do applaud these colleagues, and NACE offers its official recognition through the annual Honors and Awards process, which culminates at the national conference.

One of my bright ideas while working at the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development won a NACE Excellence Award in 2007.  The Wasserman team’s Business Boot Camp for Liberal Arts Students, sponsored by Morgan Stanley, was an exciting program to work on, and it addressed a big need at the time among NYU liberal arts majors who wanted to explore business careers.  We were presented with the award at the New York City NACE Conference (Home field advantage blah blah blah!).  It was truly a proud moment for us all.  There were some nice bonuses as well: recognition on campus by our division colleagues, another selling point to employers regarding partnering with our office, a notation of success on one’s resume for future reference, and awareness of a best practice to discuss with other career services professionals at colleges across the country.

At the most recent NACE Conference, my Yeshiva colleagues and I were finalists for an award for our Women in Business Initiative.  We actually did not expect anything more than being nominated (Hope for the best. Expect the worst!).  When we did not hear our name announced by the dapper emcee, Andrew Ceperley, we took it all in stride and applauded the victor as Jamie Belinne, University of Houston, C.T. Bauer College of Business, strode upon the stage to receive her well-deserved kudos for Career Assessment for Business Students With Diverse Multicultural Backgrounds.

Prior to the awards gathering, for the first time ever, there was an awards showcase. What a great idea, NACE! Akin to what many of us have experienced at a job fair, all of the college and employer finalists were assembled at tables to speak to other NACE Conference attendees about their nominated programs and ideas. The room was buzzing with questions, discussions, and laughter as well. To me, that event eclipsed the awards assembly to come (Maybe, if we won, I would be singing a different tune…nah!). Coming back to Yeshiva, being a finalist was fine in my book.  On our small college campus, people were thrilled with our national recognition and the NACE honor certainly brought an additional air of legitimacy to our shop both on campus and in the eyes of important external stakeholders. Winning! Did I really just do a callback to Charlie Sheen’s oddity phase? Sorry.

This year, I am thrilled to be co-chair of the Honors and Awards Committee.  It has been wonderful working with my colleague Blake Witters and NACE’s very own Cecelia Nader, along with the entire H&A Committee, to refresh the way we look at this topic and present it at the annual conference. Having Dan Black, NACE President and part-time stand-up comic, in our corner is extremely helpful as well.

I cannot encourage you enough to submit something this year. Not only is it always worth a shot, but there are benefits no matter what. Even if you simply submit and don’t get selected, the submission itself allows for self-reflection and the chance to pat yourselves on the back.  And you never know—you might end up on stage with Dan Black in front of 2,000 of your closest career services and employer friends having a grand time in San Antonio!

The January 31 deadline is rapidly approaching. To get the ball rolling, please visit the NACE website at: http://naceweb.org/about-us/awards.aspx?mainindex-recslide3-awrds-01032014.

As Ed McMahon used to say, “You could be a winner.”  Publishers Clearinghouse? Star Search? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

525,600 Minutes: How do you measure a year?

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

“Seasons of Love” is a song from the wildly successful Broadway hit, Rent. It’s sung at the funeral of one of the characters and asks the question, how do you measure a year of life? According to the Gregorian calendar year, there are 525,600 minutes in a year. Now that we’re coming to the end of 2013, it’s time to ask, how and what are you measuring?

I find that in business, numbers matter more than anything else. What’s your cost per hire? What’s your interview to hire ratio? What’s your time to fill? While I appreciate the straightforward nature of statistics, they do little to inspire action and even less to answer the question of why? Why did one of your top candidates accept your offer? Why did another reject your offer? Why were you more successful at one of your target campuses than another?

Your employer brand continues to be the greatest weapon in your recruiting arsenal. It’s intended to answer the question of why – why would a talented student want to join your organization over any other? To gauge an employer brand, you have to be able to measure the intangible. It’s hard to quantify feelings, but it isn’t impossible. Here are five tips for measuring a year in the life of your campus recruiting team:

  1. Establish a vision: Statistics reward short-term thinking. And, we all know that recruiting a student is a four-year proposition. If you’re truly looking to impact your presence on campus, you have to create a vision. Your vision is what it will look like when your employer brand is relevant, memorable, engaging and desirable to students on each of your target campuses. It’s the vision that gets people excited. Be certain that leadership and your campus team members are fully aware of your long-term vision.
  2. Create a roadmap: Clarify exactly what you want students to say about your organization. Describe what you want students to feel after they’ve been interviewed. State what you want students to tell others about your company and the people who work there. Be clear, be specific, and don’t make it complicated. Your vision is about creating a feeling and backing it up with a positive experience.
  3. Get people onboard: You have to make certain that leadership and your team believes the journey is worth the effort. Describe what will happen when your vision becomes a reality. A vision is aspirational in nature; however, it has to be something that people believe they can achieve. Describe the many benefits of creating and maintaining a strong and desirable employer brand. Don’t underestimate the power it will have on every aspect of your organization. A strong employer brand is a corporate asset.
  4. Measure what matters: Quantitative research will tell you how many, but qualitative research will tell you why. I advocate using both. Analyze your numbers, but don’t stop there. Conduct focus groups of interns, new hires, and students on your target campuses. If you send out surveys, be certain to include open-ended questions to gather qualitative responses. And, ask each of your team members to record anecdotal feedback throughout the recruiting season.
  5. Expand your reporting: It’s great to be able to announce that you’ve reduced your cost-per-hire by 10 percent. It thrills the accountants. But, it gives people an emotional boost to learn that you hired the top candidate on one of your campuses because of how your organization treated her throughout the job search process.

As humans, we’re both analytical and emotional. So when it comes to measuring your year, report what you did, but be sure to add how you made them feel.

The Assessment Diaries: Beyond Satisfaction Follow-Up

Desalina Allen

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

The results are in!  I recently shared assessment plans for our Dining for Success etiquette dinner.  We moved away from a satisfaction survey to a pre-dinner and post-dinner skills assessment for the first time and, as I shared in my previous post, I was a little nervous about the results.  Here is what we found:

Section One:  Understanding Formal Place Settings

Let’s face it.  We could all use a refresher on how not to steal your future boss’ bread plate, and our students were no different.  Before and after the event they were asked to identify each plate, cup, and piece of silverware in this photo:

Then, at the beginning of the event we had all utensils, plates, and glasses piled in the center of the table and asked each student to organize their place setting. We noticed a bit of uncertainty during the activity and our employer volunteers stepped in often to help, which tells us that students were not completely clear about formal place settings.

This experience conflicts with what we found via the assessment. We didn’t see much of a difference between pre and post results. In fact, most students correctly identified the items (with #6 dinner fork and #5 salad fork being confused just a few times).  We did see a slight drop in the number of blank responses, which could be interpreted to mean that students felt more certain about formal place settings after the event.

Section Two:  Appropriate vs. Inappropriate Table Topics

Students were asked to list three appropriate topics to discuss at mealtime interviews or networking event as well as three topics to avoid.  During the event, we provided employer volunteers with a list of suggestions and encouraged them to supplement based on their experience.

On the pre and post surveys, students were instructed to leave questions blank if they did not know the answer. Comparing responses revealed a significant increase in the number of students who answered these questions after the event.  We also noticed that a wider variety of more detailed topics were listed in the post surveys.  For example, students most often listed “career,” “food,” and “hobbies” in the pre-dinner survey, while post-dinner survey responses included things like “the professional’s background,” “the industry,” “new projects,” and “current events.”

Section Three: Ordering Food

While guests were only offered two entrèe options, employer volunteers were encouraged to share basic guidelines regarding how and what to order during sit-down dinners or interviews.  Almost all of the pre survey responses revolved around not ordering food that is too messy or difficult to eat.  Post survey results again provided more breadth and detail.  Student mentioned avoiding “smelly” food, considering price, and following the lead of the interviewer/host.  One student even suggested not ordering meat if your host is a vegetarian…discuss!

Section Four: Following Up

How should students follow up with an individual after a networking event or meal time interview?  Turns out, most students already understood the basics (insert career counselor sigh of relief here).  On the pre-event survey, many students responded that you should send a follow up thank you via e-mail (or in some cases, USPS), however after the event students included details like “within 24-48 hours” and mentioned LinkedIn for the first time.  

What we learned

Overall, we were happy with the improvements we saw between the pre and post-event surveys.  And, of course, we found that 97 percent of students were satisfied with the event!  Here are a few key takeaways and thoughts regarding the survey for next year’s event:

  • The table setting question may not have accurately measured students’ level of comfort with formal dining before and after the event.  The way the image was laid out may have been too simple.  For future surveys, we are considering having students draw a diagram or place items around a plate to more accurately reflect our table setting activity.

  • Students understand the basics regarding discussion topics, ordering, and following up after events, but the activities and discussions gave them a more broad and anecdotal understanding of how to navigate during mealtime events and interviews.

  • We will consider measuring different skills/content areas each year.  Our event also included activities revolving around introducing yourself and handling sticky situations that were not assessed in the pre- or post-event surveys.  It would be interesting to see how students’ understanding of these topics changed as a result of the event.

Let’s Be Real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Assessment Diaries: Beyond Satisfaction

Desalina Allen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Students will be able to….

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

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

  • List three appropriate discussion topics for a networking event

  • List three topics to avoid discussing during a networking event

  • List appropriate ways to follow up with professionals after events

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

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

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

NACE Flash Poll – Internships

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

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

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

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

New Millennial Attitudes on Technology and Their Future

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

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

The "New Millennials"

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

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

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

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

Image credit: flickr.com

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

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

Phil Dunphy, the ultimate peerent

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

 

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

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

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

Situations where things could get difficult with parental involvement:

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

Situations where I think parental involvement could be great:

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

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

Image source: screenshot from YouTube