Help Your Students Find Their “Calling”

Andres TraslavinaAndres Traslavina, director of Global Recruiting, Whole Foods Market
Twitter: @traslavina
LinkedIn: http:www.linkedin.com/in/traslavina

 

There are fundamental differences between a job and a calling. From the moment students are looking initially for a position to finally accepting an offer, there are creative ways to help them find a sense of purpose in what they will do. Considering the amount of time they will spend working, aiming for a calling may provide them with the best path to happiness.

Key Points:

  • Help students spend time identifying their unique attributes. Look for employers and positions that allow students to work on activities that will make them feel “in the flow.”
  • Collaborate with your study abroad office to help students broaden their horizons by gaining new experiences, such as traveling the world and spending time working with communities and people from different backgrounds.
  • Direct students to look for positions with descriptions that sound more like creative invitations to join a company, and invite employers to your campus that clearly outline their mission, vision and values.
  • Inspire students to become a part of something larger than themselves.

After spending five years interviewing and working with senior leaders, I found that many executives take several years understanding their personal mission and aligning that with their true calling. For some, that moment never arrives. Maintaining a job without purpose leads to poor decision-making and challenges related to relationships and health.

  • People who perceive their work as a job are motivated by the paycheck. They look forward to Fridays and vacations.
  • People who perceive their work as a career are more motivated by salary gains and the prestige involved with career advancement. They look forward to the next promotion.
  • People who perceive their work as a calling are motivated by the tasks and goals themselves. They mirror who they are, and are aligned with their personal values and interests. Their expectation is to make the world a better place and they look forward to more work.

I have personally been on the search for a calling for awhile, and now I am convinced that this is a life-long process. Realistically, some people may have to transition or take smaller steps to identify their true calling starting with a one-dimensional job followed by a career. Fortunately I feel Whole Foods Market has been the channel I needed to do what I love, with people I want around me, as part of something much bigger than myself, and where I can continue to help others find their true calling.

If your students are fortunate enough to land a calling right after graduation, or decide to open their own enterprise, congratulations! But for the majority, the least we can do is to encourage them to keep searching for meaningful work and not just settle for a job.

You can provide insightful advice to students using the following key points about searching for a calling:

  1. Spend time identifying your strengths. Scientifically validated assessments are the best way to understand your strengths by comparing yours to those of top performers. When I work with candidates seeking career advice, I suggest to them to start by asking themselves the following question: What activities are those which make you feel “in the flow”? This concept was introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It happens when your use your talents, skills, and abilities to push yourself to work through a challenge that you can handle well, so when you are in flow you feel in synch while learning and perhaps discovering new talents.
  1. Travel the world. There is no better learning tool than the world itself. By going out of your comfort zone, you may find environments, people, and places where you gain insight about yourself and truly determine your strengths and joys. Consider factors such as weather, population, lifestyle, activities, etc. By traveling you may find your dream place and you should start working toward moving there or to a city similar in qualities. For some careers, this may be more restrictive,  however, the world is a big place and if you open your search criteria you may be pleasantly surprised.
  1. Be selective when seeking work. Look for position descriptions that sound more like creative invitations and have the potential to match your calling. Understanding a company’s mission, vision, and core values is essential to determine the right fit for you.
  1. And finally, look for opportunities to join organizations that allow you to become part of something bigger than yourself. Find informal moments to learn, teach, and help others, which will identify activities that match your calling. Getting involved in volunteer committees, social groups, and charitable causes are also some ways in which you could start transforming your job into a calling.

Thank you for reading. I have noticed that this blog has limited participation from the audience, and one of my goals is to help you get your thoughts out in front of relevant networks. Please feel free to share your response to one or all of the below questions. Your participation is what makes our discussions meaningful. Your comments will inspire others to learn from best practices.

  1. What are the moments within the career development function that allow you to experience “flow”?
  2. In what other ways you have helped students find a calling?
  3. As career services professionals, what can we do to do more of the things we love and enjoy?

NACE and the Power of Engagement

Dan Black

Dan Black, Americas Director of Recruiting, EY
Twitter: @DanBlack_EY
LinkedIn: Dan Black

“I’m engaged!!” I can still remember my (now) wife uttering that phrase over and over the night that I proposed to her more than 15 years ago. It was a wonderful feeling: listening to the excitement in her voice as she spoke to what seemed to be everyone she knew—and maybe even a few people she didn’t—to share the happy news. I, too, was caught up in the euphoria of the moment, recounting the story and reflecting on our joyous new relationship status and the promise of wonderful things to come. It’s an experience and a feeling that I will never forget.

As I reflect back on my year as NACE President, I’m once again finding myself in awe of the power of engagement, and the bright future that it is securing for our association. NACE Board service provides a unique purview into many aspects of the organization: the strategic planning, the tireless work of the NACE staff, and the focus on innovation, to name a few. But above all, it gave me a new appreciation for the variety of opportunities available to our members to make a real, tangible impact on our organization and the profession; the chance to be truly engaged. One of my fellow past presidents and colleagues, Andy Ceperley, describes engagement as “feeling the commitment, believing that our contributions are important, and caring deeply about advancing a cause or a body of work.” I think that’s the perfect definition, and gets to the heart of what I experienced and observed: the most engaged members were those who found ways to make their involvement personal. For some, that means serving in leadership roles on the Board, committees, or task forces. But for many others, it means contributing in ways that may seem less “official” on the surface, but are every bit as critical to the success of the association. Countless members advance our mission by hosting events, imparting valuable leading practices, delivering content, or sharing their NACE experience.

Other members reached out to me, personally, to provide input in the form of innovative suggestions, real time feedback on NACE offerings, and offers to assist with new initiatives. The creation of the new NACE Ambassador program at the end of my term provided the opportunity for members to truly customize their involvement while assisting with member outreach and inclusion. Together, these opportunities provide a powerful platform for engagement. And, it’s taught me to appreciate the fact that when individual members feel empowered to contribute in a variety of ways, the membership as a whole truly reaps the benefits.

Before I close, let me draw one last parallel. NACE engagement, like any serious personal commitment, requires a conscious and deliberate effort on behalf of the individual. I would encourage each of you to actively seek out ways to make a contribution in a way that is meaningful to you. I can tell you from experience that there are countless ways to get involved and that the rewards—much like those I’ve enjoyed ever since I said “I Do”—are immeasurable.

“I’m not sure this internship will be a good fit. Should I apply?”

Jason Bauer-Clapp Jason Bauer-Clapp, associate director of Internships & Programs, Smith College, Lazarus Center for Career Development
Twitter: @jason_bc
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jbauerclapp

Have you met with students reluctant to apply to promising internships because they are unsure that the internship will “look good” or that they’ll be the best candidate? Students who apply only to what they perceive as sure-thing experiences can miss out on a broader set of great opportunities, while those who accept an internship by default (with few or no other opportunities for comparison) may find themselves in unsatisfying roles that turn out to have limited educational value.

It is useful to remind students that while applying for any position requires time and energy, it isn’t a commitment. Rather, it’s an indication of interest, a snapshot of the applicant’s knowledge and skills, and a request for an interview. While I wouldn’t encourage haphazardly applying to any opportunity that comes along, students who set overly stringent standards on what they will consider applying for are essentially ending conversations before they’ve begun.

To help students manage those uncertainties and feel comfortable applying to a broader range of opportunities, I regularly share the following:

Read between (and above and outside) the lines. Organizations that offer internships are increasingly skilled at crafting messages that resonate with potential applicants, and some organizations have the benefit of a long-established brand cachet among students. However, there are still times when a great internship opportunity doesn’t “read” as such in a job posting or in recruiting messages. Look beyond the few paragraphs (if that) in your school’s internship database. Review the organization’s website and consider how it presents itself to clients/constituents/users. Reflect on its mission and how it aligns with your values and interests. Speak with people familiar with the organization’s work.

The best applicant may not be the most qualified. Internships are learning and development experiences, so having little direct experience in a field isn’t necessarily a limiting factor. Show familiarity with and genuine interest in the field and the organization, share ways you’ve already engaged in related topics, use the experiences you’ve had (work, academic, internships, volunteer, extracurricular) to demonstrate your strengths and knowledge, and communicate your excitement to learn.

Make interviews mutual learning opportunities. To prepare for interviews, candidates tend to focus on developing their stories and rehearsing good answers. Preparing thoughtful questions for the interviewer may be a halfhearted afterthought, done only because the candidate “is supposed to ask questions.” Students who report having had truly great internship experiences often mention the high quality relationships they had with supervisors and staff. A person-to-person interview can give internship candidates rich insight on the people and the environment: who the student would be working with, opportunities to interact with organizational staff, and the structure of training, supervision, and evaluation.

I love it when students follow their curiosity and step outside of their comfort zones when seeking experiential education opportunities such as internships. This means moving forward when the end result is uncertain. It is wise to have questions about an internship’s potential, but when there’s a spark of genuine interest and curiosity, it’s often worth applying. Ask for that conversation: you may be surprised to find a great opportunity hidden in plain sight.

Top 5 Tips for Using Career Services

Candace LambCandace Lamb, career coach, University of Louisville Career Development Center
Twitter: @candace_lamb
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/candacelamb1
Blog: www.theproactiveprofessional.com

I often hear complaints from new college graduates that career services didn’t get them a job. Something many students don’t understand is that career development centers are not placement organizations. Career services professionals are there to help provide students with the tools to figure out what they want to do professionally and how to best market themselves for the job search. With that being said, here are the top tips I give students to effectively using the career services.

Keep in mind: career service professionals are not there to give you a job or place you in a job.

Consider this: if you wanted to get married in the next few years, would you really want a dating service to handpick your future spouse, or even give you a half dozen people to choose from? Perhaps that sounds better than going out on dozens of blinds dates, but think it through. Before you can have a successful relationship, you must have a deep understanding of who you are (your likes, dislikes, needs, deal breakers, future goals, etc.) as well as the necessary tools to make a relationship great (trust, open communication, intimacy, etc.).

In the same way, career development offices are here to help you figure out the kinds of careers you’re interested in based on your values, interests, and personality, and how to pursue those careers.

Think about what you’d like to get from your meeting with career services staff before the appointment. 

Many times, I’ve had students come in and ask for their resumes to be critiqued.  Twenty minutes later, they admit that they’re unsure of their major or feel they need practice interviewing. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having several needs, but it will make easier for everyone if you consider what those needs are before heading into your career coaching session. We don’t always realize we have more than one issue and that’s completely fine. If you can, though, consider how you’d like your career adviser to help and what areas you feel need the most attention.

Realize that career development is a process.

I think of our lives as being in a constant state of evolution. Our wants, needs, and goals change based on our experiences and the things we learn about ourselves.  The mistake I see so many people (not just students!) make is feeling like a failure for changing their career plans. It is not uncommon to realize you don’t fit in with the culture of a company or professional field. It is not strange to figure out that you don’t have the skills necessary for the job your friends or family are pressuring you to take (an example of this would be an artistic student realizing that they have no skills or interest in the field of medicine). You are not a failure for realizing a career path is wrong for you in your senior year. You are not useless because you don’t know what you want to do with the rest of your life as a college freshman.

Come back for multiple sessions.

In the same way that career development is a process, the job search does not end when you submit your resume. The career path does not stop when you figure out your major. Career services can help you edit your resume, prepare for interviews, understand your personality type, and deal with the stressors that come with choosing a profession. Develop a relationship with a career coach and maintain it through your time in college.

Don’t be afraid to call on alumni career services for help

Most colleges and universities have programs, career advisers, and assistance for alumni. Sometimes these services cost money, but they can help you tailor your resume to the different organizations or career fields you’re pursuing and help you learn to be a proactive professional.

Bonus Tip:

If you meet with a career adviser and don’t feel like they are listening to you, or you don’t feel comfortable speaking openly with them, ask for another career adviser! Every student and every adviser is different–sometimes one person isn’t the right fit for you and that’s okay.

Finding the right career can be one of the most rewarding things you do in life. Many students believe that college is a time to go to class, go to parties, and be involved in student organizations. While these can be great experiences and teach you so much about yourself, don’t forget to plan for your career. We spend so much of our lives at work—it is my opinion that figuring out what you want to do with your life is as important as knowing who you want to marry or the kind of person you want to be. Career advisers help you make the journey from college to career a rewarding one. Take advantage!

Is “Follow Your Bliss” B.S.?

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 don’t have a “passion” or “bliss” to follow. I just don’t. I really enjoy a lot of things—photography, writing, listening to music, design, real estate, and documentary—but do I love them enough to sacrifice everything to pursue one of them professionally? Nope. Maybe my passion is routine, security, and a little artsy fartsy on the side? Jeez…that sounds lame.

As a career adviser who doesn’t necessarily believe in bliss or passion, I feel like a traitor to my vocation—like I need to keep my views on this topic “in the closet.” Does anyone else feel this way? I think some of you do. I know some of my students do. I’ve had countless students, literally whisper to me in sessions, “Ross…I don’t think I have a passion. Is that okay? What do I do if I don’t have a passion? How can I find one? How can I choose a major or career if I don’t have a passion?!”

It appears to me the “passionless” are really stressed out…and I totally get it! Most of what we hear about on the news, television, music, and literature is the only way to be happy and successful is to follow your passion. But I’ve got to ask…is this a healthy and realistic philosophy? Does it cause more harm than good?

I became a victim to this one size fits all philosophy, and for years it caused me a lot a grief. I was trying to find my passion, but was trying to fit it in to what I thought it was supposed to be—based on what others (e.g., media, peers, family) told me it should be. It was pretty miserable. I think some of our students are feeling the same way. Now, in my 30s, I’m finally feeling comfortable with my own career philosophy. It took me a long time to piece it together, and seems rather simple. Hunter S. Thompson said it best: pick the kind of life you want and build everything else around it.

What do I do when a student “comes out” to me that s/he has no burning passion to pursue? I reply, “I don’t have a passion either. In fact, most of the students I meet with don’t, but they feel like they are supposed to. Being passionless is ok.”

Students seem shocked and relieved to hear me say this. Next, I normally say “Let’s forget about passion and career, and talk about the kind of life you want. Tell me about that.” This tends to get them talking…it is more nuts and bolts, and basic values, but it gives us a starting point. I know this doesn’t seem like an innovative or energizing type of session, but I think it is really important. Students need to be able to be released from this passion myth, so they can start thinking about a real life, rather than trying to live up to some (nearly impossible) cultural standard. They need to know, and be taught by us, that they can create their own career philosophy—that’s what I wish someone had taught me.

Don’t get me wrong, some folks really do have a passion, and they by all means should pursue it—but that standard or philosophy shouldn’t be universal. Let’s empower our passionless!

10 Must-Read Books for Career Professionals

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.

One aspect of the career development field that keeps me excited is the constant need to develop professionally and keep up with changes in the labor market, higher education and career coaching. Over the course of my career I have obtained several certifications, attended conferences and webinars, enrolled in a counseling program, joined and gotten involved with several associations, and read tons of books.

One thing I’ve learned is, there is no single resource that can teach you everything you need to know about being a good career development professional. However, when I am working with professionals new to the industry there are several books that I share with them as essential reads. This includes books that gave me a solid framework of career coaching, career development, and career centers. Below I share my top 10 list of must reads in no particular order for every career professional:

1. The Career Counselor’s Handbook (Richard Bolles)
2. No One is Unemployable (Debra Angel and Elisabeth Harney)
3. What Color is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers (Richard Bolles)
4. The Three Boxes of Life (Richard Bolles)
5. Discover Your Career in Business (Timothy Butler and James Waldroop)
6. The Extraordinary Coach (John Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett)
7. Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads: Finding a Path to Your Perfect Career (Sheila Curran and Suzanne Greenwald)
8. Counseling Adults in Transition: Linking Schlossberg’s Theory with Practice in a Diverse World (Mary Anderson, Jane Goodman, and Nancy Schlossberg)
9. Ten Steps to a Federal Job (Kathryn Troutman)
10. Resume Magic (Susan Whitcomb)

Honorable Mentions:
11. Bring Your “A” Game: The 10 Career Secrets of The High Achiever (Robert McGovern)
12. How to Plan and Develop a Career Center (Donald Schutt Jr.)

Of course the list could go on. There are plenty of additional books that have impacted how I coach students, the types of programs I design, and how I manage the career center at the University of Baltimore. My list is also impacted by the student populations I have spent most of my career working with which includes adult learners, graduate students, and career changers in addition to traditional college students.

I am interested in knowing which books have impacted you as a career development professional and helped you to sharpen your skills. Comment on this blog and share your favorites.

How Do You Help Students Avoid the Quarter-Life Crisis?

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Pamela Weinberg
Website: www.pamelaweinberg.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/pamelaweinberg/
Twitter: @pamelaweinberg
Blogs from Pamela Weinberg.

I have had the pleasure and disappointment of meeting with a slew of young professionals in my career coaching practice of late. It is a pleasure, because I enjoy connecting with these bright, interesting and thoughtful Millennials. It is disappointing, however, that so many of them are unhappy with their post-college career choices. A few years out of college, they are experiencing some of the symptoms of a so-called “quarter-life crisis.” There has been much written about the quarter-life crisis affecting recent the college graduate starting out a career and living on his or her own for the first time. These young adults may be faced with their first crisis of confidence and feel adrift. Many feel dissatisfied with their job choices and/or chosen career path and don’t know where to turn for help.

How we can help prevent young alumni from falling into a quarter-life crisis? One way to mitigate these issues for the next slew of college grads is for colleges and universities to take a more active role in preparing students for the workplace. Those students majoring in one of STEM fields or who are pre-med most likely have a more direct and focused career path than an English major with a degree that opens him or her up to dozens of potential job or career possibilities. But just what are those possibilities and how is a student to know about them? Without exposure to a myriad of careers and a sense of which skills/aptitudes are needed to succeed at which jobs, it is a challenge for students to find their perfect fit post-graduation. Ben Carpenter’s recent op-ed in The New York Times has received a lot of attention as he brings this issue to the fore and calls on colleges and universities to offer courses in “career training” which would begin freshman year and end senior year.

Others seem to agree. In a new book entitled Aspiring Adults Adrift sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa speak about colleges and universities “focusing too much on students’ social lives at the expense of strong academic and career road map.” The authors go on to recommend programs that “facilitate school-to-work transitions, in terms of internships, apprenticeships and job-placement programs.”

Career services offices at colleges and universities have always been the student nexus for career- and job-search advice—but as we know, not all students take advantage of the resources there. In championing the idea of four years of career training for college students, Ben Carpenter cites Connecticut College which offers a career training program that has proven quite successful. According to Carpenter, one year after graduation, 96 percent of Connecticut College alumni are employed or in graduate school. That is in stark contrast to the numbers from a recent job poll conducted by AfterCollege, the online entry-level job site. According to the poll, 83 percent of college seniors graduated this year without a job.

The letters to the editor of The New York Times, which followed the Carpenter piece, were squarely split. Most educators were against schools offering career training programs, while most parents were for it. It seems however, that there is more that can be done to prevent recent alums from floundering a few years post-graduation. However, whether these are offerings from career services or through other academic departments is a topic up for debate.

I would love to hear your comments, thoughts, and suggestions on the topic!