Continuing Professional Development: The Key to Success

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

In today’s microwave culture students have been misguided to believe that great careers are built overnight. It’s true, a decade ago a student could find success by merely completing their academic work and showing up in the career center spring of their last semester and still land a great job. However, in today’s competitive, fast-paced world, the labor force evolves rapidly and students need more than their degree and a few job-search tips to obtain lasting career success. Today’s graduates must embrace life-long learning beyond the classroom in order to reap the benefits of their academic work. Knowing how to develop one’s self professionally and identify the best professional development opportunities is the “new” employability skill for graduating seniors.

In some industries, like information technology (IT), employers have made it clear that education alone will not land you a job with their company. Instead, employers are seeking IT candidates with three attributes: experience, education, and professional certifications. Like IT students, all new graduates who want to thrive in their careers will have to identify the attributes employers in their industry are seeking beyond their degree.

Professional development opportunities are plentiful and include: attending conferences, joining professional associations, registering for MOOCs, reading books, receiving mentoring, volunteering, taking assessments, accepting a leadership opportunity, conducting research, etc. Employability skills are not always learned in the classroom. For instance, attending a conference can teach a student how to network and deliver a professional pitch; becoming involved in a professional association can provide an opportunity to build leadership skills; and reading a book about employability skills or biographies of successful individuals can provide examples and testimonies of successful business behaviors.

Students experiencing barriers to employment can also benefit by working with a career adviser or mentor to create an Individual Development Plan (IDP). An IDP is a great goal setting and professional development tool that can supplement academic learning and increase employability skills. By being proactive, students can gain a competitive edge and remain employable throughout their career.

Career Coaching Notes: Values and Visualization

Rayna Anderson

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

According to Howard Figler’s 1-2-3 counseling method, the following three questions capture the essence of career counseling:

  1. What do you want to do?
  2. What is stopping you from doing it?
  3. What are you doing about it?

For now, I only want to look at the first of these three questions in the context of university career services. Contrary to what we do as career advisers, our students come to us looking for direct answers instead of guidance. Their question is usually, “what should I do?” when it really just depends on what it is they want to do. Furthermore, they often fail to realize that they already have the answers they need. Our job then is, not to impose our opinion, but to drive them toward honest self-actualization.

Should you find yourself grappling with a student that insists that they, “just don’t know” or who feels silly disclosing their deepest career desires, charge them with Figler’s first question. Then consider using two of my favorite methods for helping students define their career goals:

1. Values Assessment: I almost never conduct a career decision-making or assessment appointment without first having the student complete some sort of job or workplace values handout. This exercise allows students to self-select from a list of multiple choices:

  • What they are motivated by (power, recognition, money, enjoyment, etc.)
  • What they’d enjoy spending their workday doing (taking on challenges, brainstorming with others, meeting new people, coaching others, etc.)
  • And, what they want from their workplace (autonomy, supervision, structure, flexibility, etc.)

Once they have identified their desires, have them consider which they are willing to compromise on and which values are their “non-negotiables.” Now that there’s something on paper in front of them, it’s time to let their minds wander.

2. Guided Visualization: Though I don’t ask that students close their eyes or sit in any particular position, I do provide them with an opportunity to carry out an uninterrupted daydream. I prompt this exercise by having the student consider a world where anything is possible and money is of no concern. I then ask the student to imagine arriving at work, parking and getting out of their car, then walking through the front doors of their workplace.

Next, I have them describe what they see, how they feel walking in, what they are wearing, how people around them look, and what these people doing. I conclude the visualization period by telling the student that they are going into their office that day to complete a project, then asking what type of project it might be. This exercise is especially helpful for students struggling to decide between pursing a passion and choosing a less desirable but lucrative career path.

These exercises provide the student with a tangible and intangible basis for setting goals.

After the values assessment and visualization, the student has taken the first step toward choosing a major, deciding the types of jobs or internships to search for, and formulating  questions to ask during interviews. While this process is only the beginning of the career advising journey, it helps establish trust and rapport throughout your partnership.

Our offices should be safe havens; places where students can come in to un-apologetically share their secrets and leave with plans of action. Do your own research, make changes, and make these exercises your own.

Resume Ramblings: The Objective

Marc Goldman, Executive Director, Career Center, Yeshiva University

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

Throughout my 20-year career in this business, I have reviewed more than my share of student and alumni resumes.  At the beginning of my career, an objective statement was a fairly common element on resumes and one suggested by many career counselors.  Over the past two decades, I have heard great debate over this brief introductory statement.  And today, it is viewed by some as the appendix (non-vital organ reference) of the resume.  Some counselors and employers opine that it should never be included.  Others say it can still be helpful to the job seeker to kick off their application document.  And of course, the more astute professionals (or fellow alumni of my Psych 101 course at Cornell), will put forth, “It depends.”

Here at Yeshiva University, my team has volleyed this bouncing ball of confusion back and forth many times.  We decided to take it to the street, so to speak, and survey some of our partner employers to solve this elusive mystery once and for all.  What did we learn from this quickie survey of a small sampling of employers?

  • 43 percent responded that they are fine with an objective that is a one-line statement of the targeted goal of the resume
  • 11 percent responded that they are fine with an objective that is a longer statement including specific candidate qualifications
  • 18 percent responded that they are fine with an objective that is more of a detailed summary of the resume
  • 27 percent responded that they did not want to see an objective on a resume at all

Basically, we noted a diversity of opinions in our survey results, which mirror the myriad views on the subject I have encountered over time.  Where do I stand at this point in my career?  No more stalling, Goldman.  Fess up and proclaim to the World Wide Web your thoughts on the objective.  Here goes nothing…

The objective is – wait for it – OPTIONAL.  I have always believed that and still do to this day.  There are situations when it can be helpful and effective for an applicant, and there are times when it is useless and pure fluff.  Here are a few points related to my philosophy on this “important” topic:

1)      An objective can provide a resume with direction when it might not otherwise have a clear one.

2)      An objective can note the target of a career transition when the resume content only details transferable skills from indirectly related experience.

3)      An objective can help the student with extremely limited experience demonstrate a goal in mind to prospective employers.

4)      An objective can provide the introduction you need when a contact is passing along your resume as a referral to another contact and so on and so on.  Did I just date myself with this obscure shampoo commercial reference?

5)      An objective is unnecessary when there is a strong clear theme to one’s resume.

6)      An objective is unnecessary when you are sending a cover letter in which you discuss your intentions as an applicant.  (Alas, the devil’s advocate in me voices the opinion that many employers don’t read the cover letter, so maybe an objective is still needed.  Ah, the cover letter.  A tale for another blog entry!)

7)      IF an objective is used on the resume, please be specific.  I actually saw one recently that I shall paraphrase as the following, “Looking for a position in the working field.”  Okay, that’s a bit extreme, but you get my meaning.

What does all of this signify in the greater job search scheme of things?  Will the objective or absence of one make or break one’s shot at that dream opportunity?  All I can tell you is that the objective is something quite subjective.