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.

An Insider’s Look at First-Destination Surveys

Vanessa Newton

Vanessa Newton, Program Analyst, University of Kansas
Twitter: https://twitter.com/vlnewt
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/vanessaliobanewton
Blog: www.wellnessblogging.com

 

(Part 1 of 4 on early adoption of the NACE First-Destination Survey Standards.)

When the NACE First-Destination Survey Standards and Protocols were released early this year, I went through the continuum of emotions. Happiness? Check. Worry? Yup. Frustration? You betcha! I had all the feelings. But, when I settled in to figure out how to implement these new standards and protocols, I learned a few things along the way. So, today is the first post in a four-post series written by me and my colleague, Katrina Zaremba, communications coordinator, giving you an inside look as to how the University Career Center at the University of Kansas (KU) is implementing these new standards.

First things first—no, this isn’t a reference to a slightly annoying song—if you have not read the standards and protocols, I would highly recommend you do that first. I’ll wait. Go on…oh you already read them? Well then… Ok, let’s get into the top three things that we changed/implemented at KU based off the standards and protocols, shall we?

One of the first things I did was change our survey. Previously, we just asked if graduates were employed full-time or part-time, attending graduate school, seeking employment, or not seeking employment. The additions that were made to this question excited me greatly. I loved the phrasing of “continuing education” versus “attending graduate school” since some of our graduates were not going on to graduate school, rather just getting additional schooling or a certificate. It was an easy change to add the additional categories and I think it will be interesting to see the data we get back and how it differs from previous years.

The second thing I needed to do was change how we defined our graduating class. We previously defined them as December, May, and August graduates, and now we define them as August, December, and May graduates. I’ll admit, it is a small change and a relatively easy one to make, but I really appreciated that the standards defined the graduating class. Small change, big impact, in my opinion.

Finally, we implemented “knowledge rate” last year, but we now have a very intense goal to reach to get to a 65 percent knowledge rate. We had a ~19 percent response rate from the surveys we sent to students and then bumped up our knowledge rate to ~40 percent with gaining information from LinkedIn and other reputable sources (a.k.a. some of our staff knew the graduates or the university paper wrote a story on where graduates go after they leave KU—two out of the three hadn’t responded to the survey and we couldn’t find them on LinkedIn…success!). We have been active and alert for any information regarding graduates and where they are going after they leave.

So there it is. Changing the survey, defining our graduating class, and implementing knowledge rate plus keying into ways that you can achieve that 65 percent. These are small changes/steps that you can take to ease into implementing the standards and protocols at your school.

Stay tuned for more posts from Katrina and me—we have a great series planned, giving you an inside look at our marketing, data analysis, and reporting, and providing some after thoughts once the first destination season has finished.

Feel free to use the comment section to leave your feedback and tips as well. Let’s open the conversation and share our stories! If there is interest, we may even do a bonus Q & A post in regard to first-destination surveys!

For more information on first-destination surveys, see the Advocacy section of NACEWeb.

 

The Dreaded LinkedIn Summary…Some Tips for Students

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.

Students understand more and more the power of LinkedIn, and the importance of not only being on LinkedIn, but also actually using it to successfully market themselves and connect with professionals. I feel like I’ve worked with a gazillion students on how to create an effective LinkedIn profile, and the one section that causes my students the most problems is that dang summary section! In advising sessions the following questions always come up: “Do I use first or third person?” “How long should it be?” “Should I discuss my passion for baking?” “Should I list skills…isn’t that redundant since there is that ‘Skills & Endorsements’ section already in my profile?” “Do I really even need a summary?”

Yes! Students should totally take advantage of the summary section!

Earlier this year I was talking to an employer representing an international management consulting firm, and I asked him on what criteria he selected students for on-campus interviews. He said something like, “Well…most of the resumes looked exactly the same—the same GPA’s, classes and projects, extracurricular activities, and degrees. So, I looked for athletes.”

Really? That was the deciding factor? It kind of blew my mind, as a non-athlete (I’ve always been a “husky” fella…and I was always kind of artsy) I knew, if I had been in the resume pool as an undergrad, I would have been out of the race. What I took from that conversation is that students need to leverage their “real life” and interests in the job search as well, and include them in their self-marketing documents and strategies (like their LinkedIn summary).

So, I’ve been trying to come up with a formula to help students construct their LinkedIn summaries (I work with a lot of engineers…and they LOVE formulas). My formula is basically strengths/skills + interests + tie-in to industry = a good LinkedIn summary. This technique allows students to show they have the skills required for an industry in a personalized way, making them unique from other candidates (like how the athletes were stand-outs for that management consulting employer). I also ask students to only write one sentence per topic (e.g., interests), to keep their summary concise.

I’ll use myself as an example. Currently I work with STEM students, but don’t have an ounce of STEM professional experience. My background is in documentary, TV, digital media, strategic communications…and counseling. How would this background inspire confidence in my STEM students? How could I leverage my past experience and skills to suit the career needs of STEM students? Let’s break it down with my formula, shall we?

Strengths/skills (hard and soft skills/strengths) – marketing, advertising, media, social media, telling stories, design, presenting, breaking down difficult information into digestible and understandable bits, advising/counseling, student development, motivating, inspiring, humor, strategic, empathic, activator. (Are you recognizing some of these StrengthsFinder terms? I love this assessment!)

Interests – design, music, photography, the history of my hometown (Durham, NC), Sci-Fi (Yes, I’m a nerd.), acting, documentary and hearing the stories of others, social justice, equality, anything vintage, learning/education, learning about other cultures.

Tie-in to industry (STEM students) – Storytelling is the underlying theme…teaching students to successfully tell their professional stories to employers. Education and social justice is another theme…especially in my work with international students and helping them find work in the United States.

Summary (with “Specialties”) – Storytelling is the heart of my career development and employer relations philosophy. Using my background in strategic communications and documentary, along with my experience in career services, I share the professional stories of my students with employers to create and grow meaningful relationships. I teach my students how to understand and share their stories with employers successfully to find careers they care about. I work with students from all over the world to help them better understand who they are, how they want to change the world, and how to create a strategy to make it happen. 

Specialties: Social media and job-search strategies, professional relationship development and maintenance, resume and cover letter writing, networking, job interview preparation, professional development, assessment application and review (StrengthsQuest, Strong Interest Inventory, MBTI), workshop facilitation, and assisting international students in navigating the American job-search process

See how that works? I maximize that non-traditional media/storytelling background to help me stand out from other career counselors.

My typical answers to student questions about the LinkedIn summary:

  • First or third person? Either one is fine. Students should decide based on what professionals in their chosen field are doing. A creative writing student’s summary will more than likely be written in the first person and more conversational, whereas the summary of a finance student may be in the third person and much more professional.
  • How long should the summary be? Not too long. I suggest four to six sentences (or fewer).
  • Discuss an outside passion (e.g., baking)? Sure, if your student can somehow tie it in to their chosen industry and prove it gives them a unique point of view, lens, or ability to do their job in an innovative way.
  • List specialties in the summary? Sure. Your students’ profiles are basically word banks, and we want to make sure it is peppered with as many industry key words as possible…we want employers to find our students as they search LinkedIn for talent.

What ideas do you have for creating killer LinkedIn summaries? Share your summary and expertise with us!

For more information on using social media in the job search, see the Social Media Guides on NACEWeb.

 

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.

 

Helping Students Grow: Quality Assurance for Career Coaches

Lakeisha Mathews

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

Every career center has a different approach when it comes to helping students in scheduled appointment sessions. The three most frequently used approaches are career counseling, career advising, and career coaching. Each approach has its unique advantages and a distinct set of outcomes. Many career centers have a strong rationale for the helping approach used during scheduled appointments but have not identified the outcomes associated with their methodology. In the data driven culture that higher education has become due to consumer demands and increased focused on graduation surveys we not only need a clear rationale for the method of helping we offer in our centers, but should also have a clear understating of the outcomes associated with our methods.

Consider the following questions:

(1) Do career appointments in your office focus more on transactional information and resource sharing or transformational goal setting and action planning?
(2) What are students supposed to learn from meeting with a “helping” professional in the career center?
(3) Once students leave, is there a follow-up process that assesses their experience and next steps?

At the University of Baltimore we have opted for a coaching approach to student appointments that focuses on goal identification and action planning. We have also developed a feedback system that helps us evaluate each student’s experience and encourages accountability throughout the execution of their action plan. In addition, we have opted to use the GROW coaching model popularized by John Whitmore in the book Coaching for Performance to ensure quality assurance amongst our coaching staff while still providing room for freedom in individual helping styles. To aid in our coaching model development we asked ourselves a few key questions:

(1) Are students satisfied with their coaching experience?
(2) Is there a consistent method of engaging students in office appointments amongst the counseling team?
(3) What are the learning outcomes for student coaching appointments?
(4) What does our coaching after appointment survey tell us about student satisfaction and learning?

Regardless of the helping method used in a career center, the goal is that students are satisfied with the interaction and feel that they are a step closer to achieving their career goals. Coaching, counseling, and advising methodologies all have advantages to us as helpers, but it is the learning and career outcomes that mean the most to our students.

For more information on helping students comprehend the world of work, see this article on Student Learning Outcomes on NACEWeb.