Career Coaching Notes: A Sunday Well Spent

Rayna AndersonRayna A. Anderson, Career Adviser at Elon University
Twitter: @Rayna_Anderson
LinkedIn: www.LinkedIn.com/in/RaynaA
Blog: RaynaAnderson.wordpress.com

I write this post as the newest member of this fantastic blog team – an exciting opportunity but a bit of an overwhelming one as well.  The semester is winding down and the holiday season is upon us but I am committed to balancing work, professional blogging, and a personal life.

My current state of existence is nothing that the average higher education professional is unfamiliar with. The truth is that we love what we do, but we do a lot and everyone knows that too much of anything can be harmful. Somehow, being in a helping profession has come to mean neglecting the self and endlessly serving others. But our work ethic should not be measured by the number of meals we are forced to skip or who functions the best on three hours of sleep. Burnout is real, so I dare you – dedicated, superhuman, career advising professional – to set aside one day a week to help yourself. And since it’s much easier to prepare for the storm before it hits than it is to respond in the midst of it, I suggest making Sunday your self-care day.

Here are a few things that’ll help you stay afloat:

Get in touch: Whether it’s at a church, mosque, synagogue, or a sacred space in your own home, take some time to tap in to your inner self. No work week will be perfect, so let this quiet time serve as a point of reference that will re-center you when you feel like you’re losing control.

Get ahead: Fill up the gas tank, do the laundry, pick out your outfits for the next couple of days, pack your work bag, and prepare tomorrow’s breakfast or lunch. If you’re like me, rushing or running late in the morning will make you feel as if the day is getting progressively worse. Knocking out some of these menial tasks will minimize the distractions that disrupt your flow. Also, by doing some of these things ahead of time you’ll feel a little less guilty should you want to get a few more minutes of sleep!

Get organized: It’ll be much easier to navigate through your week if your space is de-cluttered. Don’t let old receipts, meeting agendas, and to-do lists pile up. Everything has a place: either in a folder or in the trashcan. Taking just a few moments to tidy up your surroundings will help alleviate some anxiety.

Get lost: Stay balanced by plunging into your favorite hobby and losing track of time. There’s more to you than what you do for a living, no matter how awesome your job is. Doing things unrelated to work will help you maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Get moving: Take a walk, go to the gym for a few minutes, or do those sit-ups right there in your living room. Obviously you’ll feel healthier, but the extra activity will also help you sleep well. Exercise helps control the random flip flop between bursts of energy and fatigue. And speaking of sleep…

Get some rest: I say “rest” because that doesn’t always mean sleeping. Sometimes sitting around and doing nothing can be just as energizing as taking a nap. Prepare for bed by beginning to relax at least one hour earlier than you plan to fall asleep. This means silencing your phone, dimming the lights, lowering the television volume, and not checking emails.

“A Sunday well spent brings a week of content.” You’re no good to the people you help if you don’t take time to help yourself. Your students and colleagues will appreciate the happier, reenergized you!

The Assessment Diaries Poll: Does your office actively seek candidates with assessment-related skills?

Desalina Allen

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

Today, I’m taking a break from sharing my assessment experience and looking to the NACE community for some feedback. I’ve already alluded to some of the skills that are important to develop when working with assessment but have included more details here.

Assessment-Related Skills/Competencies:

  • Familiarity with assessment design, including writing learning goals

  • Experience conducting qualitative research via focus groups , interviews or benchmarking

  • Knowledge of survey methodology and survey software

  • Ability to analyze quantitative information using Microsoft Excel or other statistical software such as SPSS, STATA

  • Comfortable summarizing and reporting qualitative and quantitative research findings to audiences with various backgrounds

These skills and competencies can definitely be learned (I’m still working on them myself) but my guess is that they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Which leads me to my question: Does your office actively seek candidates with assessment-related skills?  This could mean including them in a job description, creating a position with official assessment responsibilities, or screening for these skills via the resume review process.

Please respond and include any comments below:

P.S. I found this really thorough overview of assessment skills via ACPA

Personal Mission Statement: A GPS for Your Career

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A post by NACE Guest Blogger, Pamela Weinberg
Website: www.pamelaweinberg.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/pamelaweinberg/
Twitter: @pamelaweinberg

Most of us have seen corporate mission statements when we have researched employers and industries. Typically corporate mission statements encompass the values of a company; their goals, and their future plans for growth.

Not many of us have seen or created a “Personal Mission Statement,” however, but we all should, as should our students. How helpful to have a short paragraph to guide us in our careers; keep us moving forward and on track. A mission statement not only states your goals, but also lays out the steps needed to reach those goals.

A personal mission statement should be brief. Three to five sentences are sufficient. Tack it up on your computer; save it on your Iphone, stick on your refrigerator. Your mission statement is meant to guide you in your day-to-day activities and help you stay on track to meet your short-term and long-term goals. A mission statement is as useful for job seekers as it is for those who are happily employed. Some tips to keep in mind when creating one:

  • Make sure your mission statement is personal; it should sound like “you” and be authentic.
  • Include skills, character traits, and knowledge that you consider important and would want a potential employer or client to know about you.
  • Describe what you want to focus on and who/what you want to become in this stage of your career.

Sample Mission Statement

Brian W, Graduate Student, Engineering

“To have a successful career at a software engineering company which will utilize my technology skills, leadership abilities and provide a platform for my continued career growth. I will do this by continuing my education in technology; attending conferences in my field to network; and by obtaining a research position at my university within the next year.”

A personal mission statement is not meant to be stagnant. It is meant to change and grow as you do. Once goals are met and milestones are reached, your mission statement should be revised to included new goals. Your statement should help propel you forward in your job search or career.

Coaching Students With Barriers to Employment: Getting to the Truth

Lakeisha MathewsLakeisha M. Mathews, Director, Career and Professional Development Center, University of Baltimore
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/lakeishamathews/
Twitter: @RightResumes_CC

I enjoy coaching students with barriers to employment. Not because they have challenges to accessing the world of work. Rather, I see it as an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life that might otherwise give up on finding their ideal place in the world. Needless to say, I find it interesting and sometimes frustrating that students with barriers often do not share their barrier at the outset of a coaching appointment. I have spent 30 – 45 minutes coaching a student before they disclosed the “real” reason they came to the career center. Examples include the traditional student who wants to be a physician, but does not mention they are failing biology, to the non-traditional student who wants to land a managerial position, but fails to mention that they have held five jobs in the last two years.

With experience I have developed a few strategies to assist students with employment barriers to make the most of the final 10 – 15 minutes of a coaching session when the “real” truth has been revealed:

  1. Asking powerful and direct questions: Asking students clarifying and direct questions helps uncover key information and also allows the student to decipher their real feelings as they explain their own barriers.
  2. Asking why: Disclosure of an employment barrier is not enough to help devise an action plan for moving forward.  Identifying and understanding the root cause of a barrier helps the student take ownership of their employment barriers.  In a safe environment, discussing “why” can also alleviate negative emotions associated with employment barriers such as fear, pride and shame.
  3. Investigating past patterns: Learning what led a student to choose an academic degree program or what career paths their parents chose can uncover unconscious decision-making that negatively impacts future outcomes.
  4. Switching hats: Turning the table and asking the student to become the career coach can force the student to challenge their own beliefs, career decision, and actions.  Instead of providing direction, ask the student what their next steps should be.
  5. Share your own career struggles: Sharing your own academic or career struggles as appropriate, can remind the student that your role is to help and not judge.  Students are more likely to share their barriers with you if they feel the coaching environment is safe.

Unless I can hire a bailiff to swear students in before coaching appointments, I can’t stop them from revealing their “real” career concerns in the last 15 minutes. I can however, make the most of the last 15 minutes by asking the right questions and challenging students to be honest.

The Assessment Diaries: It’s Not Just Data

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 have to admit that I’m pretty left brained when it comes to my work.  In fact, the thought of spending a quiet afternoon in front of Microsoft Excel, coffee in-hand, warms my heart (did I mention that I love coffee?).

photo credit: Shereen M via photopincc

It’s for that reason that when I first started learning about assessment I often equated it with data collection – as I’m sure many others do as well. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to know how many and what types of students are using your services.  But, in addition to those metrics, it’s also valuable to think about demonstrating your offices’ success using qualitative information. Like J.K. Rowling said, “there’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place,” and who wouldn’t want advice from someone who lives in a house like this:

So what exactly is qualitative information? Basically, anything other than numerical data. It’s been on my mind because it seems that lately we have received quite a few requests for student success stories.  This isn’t surprising – stories supplement, support and strengthen the metrics we already share – and, unlike me, not everyone finds joy in looking at pie charts all day.

photo credit: mark.groves via photopin cc

Here are some examples of ways you can collect and organize qualitative information and how these methods support your assessment objectives:

  • Focus Groups or Advisory Boards:  These two methods are great ways to better understand your students’ needs.  They function well if you’ve sent out a survey and want help explaining some of the findings or if you feel (like many of us do) that your students are suffering from survey fatigue and won’t respond to one more request.  Focus groups tend to be groups brought together one time around a specific topic whereas advisory boards could meet throughout the academic year.  In both cases, be thoughtful about who you invite to the table (Do you want students from a particular background or school? Is it open to everyone or might you want to conduct interviews first?).  You’ll also want to think critically about who should be facilitating.  Consider both staff members and unbiased professionals who are specially trained.  Either way, be sure to document the planning, take notes/transcribe, and be ready to plan follow-up actions based on what you learned.

  • Word Association Exercises (Pre and Post):  Have students write down or share words they associate with a particular topic before and after an event or presentation to help measure if your core message came across.  For example, in a seminar on interviewing students may start the session offering words like “scary” or “questioning” and end sharing words like “preparation,” “practice” or “conversation.”  Keep track of the terms shared and use an application like wordle to look at the pre and post results side-by-side.

  • Observation:  You don’t need to bring in a team of consultants every time you need an external perspective.  Consider asking a trusted career services professional to attend your career fair, observe a workshop or review your employer services offerings and provide written feedback and suggestions. Offer your expertise on another topic to avoid paying a fee.  Keep notes on changes you have implemented based on the observation.

  • Benchmarking:  There are many reasons to benchmark.  For assessment purposes knowing what other schools are doing and how they compare to you helps give others context.  Being able to say that your program is the first of it’s kind or that it’s modeled off of an award winning one developed by a colleague may make more of an impact when combined with your standard student satisfaction survey results.

  • Staff:  We all are lucky enough to receive the occasional thank you note or email from a student who has really benefited from the programs and resources provided by the career center.  Come up with a standardized way to be able to quickly track those students.  It could be something as easy as a document on a shared drive or even a flag in your student management system.  Be sure to ask students’ permission, saying something like, “I’m so happy to hear our mock interview meeting helped you land that internship!  We are always looking for students who are willing to share their positive experiences, would you be comfortable sharing this information in the future should we receive a request?”

I’m sure there are many more ways to collect this type of information – please leave your questions and share your own experiences below!

The Importance of Real Life Connections in Recruiting

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”.

In my role at Villanova University’s Career Center, I have the altogether stressful yet enormously satisfying duty of planning our university-wide career fairs on campus.  We wrapped up our first of these earlier in September, and after all the resumes were filed Handshakes: a real life connectionand business cards exchanged, I got to thinking about why events like these are so important.  Our motto for this year’s fairs is “Real Life Connections, Real World Opportunities,” and I think that phrase says it all for me.

I mentioned in a post from the conference that I am a Millennial; part of the “tech-obsessed” and “wildly ambitious” generation that wants to wear flip-flops to work (for the record, I much prefer boat shoes to flip flops, and I’m a fan of professional dress).  I think social media is a great way to communicate, Google Hangouts are amazing and I am blown away by what we can do with virtual meetings, conferences and career fairs.  But, still, there’s nothing better to me than doing something or meeting someone in real life, or “IRL” as I’d say on Twitter.  I think this is key in recruiting, too.

Why do the “real life connections” matter?  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1.) A 2010 New York Times article, “Evidence That Little Touches Do Mean So Much,” mentions numerous studies which demonstrate that physical touch “can lead to clear, almost immediate changes in how people think and behave.”  As we all know, how one appears and sounds are important.  But, that all-important handshake at a networking event is truly all-important.  The physical touch adds another dimension to the communication.

2.) Meeting in real life can inspire more trust between people, one Forbes columnist found in her own research.  It seems there’s something about bringing the connection to life, real life, that makes people more generous toward each other.  I remember when I had my first real “tweetup.”  In 2009, I met Shannon Kelly on Twitter.  We were both running social media accounts for our career centers, and frankly, we were trying to figure out how to make it all work.  We stayed in touch, and eventually I met her in her office at Penn Career Services in 2010.  Did it make me trust her more?  Though I wasn’t measuring that at the time, I believe it did.  It was a step in building a connection and resulting friendship that I value very much now.  Similarly, I see the excitement in students as they get the opportunity to meet with recruiters and professionals after reading about them online.

3.) Sometimes, things you wear or carry are key conversation starters.  An Inc Magazine author commented on the fact that a pink faux ostrich bag she bought has brought her several compliments and started conversations with people.  I doubt that pink faux ostrich would ever look good on me, but I can certainly say that I’ve been surprised when people have commented on my new shoes, new pants, lunch bags, etc. when I had no intention of making a statement with them.  Details like these just might not be captured virtually. There’s another benefit to meeting in person.

Technology is incredible.  Virtual meetings are great.  But, when it comes to making a connection, nothing beats real life.  What do you think, NACE blog readers?

The Assessment Diaries: An Introduction

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






The vampires are doing it….

And even that Carrie from Sex in the City (don’t pretend you aren’t watching)….

So why not chronicle the exciting, interesting and sometimes challenging task of Assessment in Career Services?

Assessment is indeed a hot topic thanks to the increasing pressure on institutions to demonstrate student outcomes and learning coming from parents, students, the media, accreditors, and the government.  Many of us have attended a workshop or presentations providing an overview of assessment or strategies for writing learning goals and objectives.  What happens when you get back to the office and have to put that theory into practice? How do you deal with lack of time, ever-changing technology, and the need to motivate others to help you?

While assessment is formally part of my role at NYU’s Wasserman Center for Career Development, it’s still really difficult to devote time and energy to the medium and long term planning and brainstorming necessary to set up our office for future success.  Student counseling, employer outreach, program planning and daily troubleshooting often seem to be higher priorities when I look at my email in the morning.  But assessment does need to be made a priority and nothing feels better than having accurate information to share when you get that call from a Dean, faculty member, parent or colleague requesting data or a success story.

With this series,  I hope to provide a realistic perspective on what it’s like not only to think about, but to also enact these strategies day-to-day.  The more I learn about and implement assessment strategies, the more I notice ways in which we can improve the way we collect, share and evaluate information. I’ll share my own tips, mistakes and challenges. I may even reach out to professionals in and outside of the career services world for advice and commentary.  I’ll look forward to your comments, feedback and ideas.

photo credit: h.koppdelaney via photopin cc