Career Coaching Notes: 7 Powerful Questions

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

Considering that our job is not to give answers, but instead is to guide others toward self-discovery, powerful questioning can make all the difference in an advising session. The list below is a short compilation of questions I’ve collected over time, and concludes with my most recent favorite:

  1. What do you daydream about the most?
  2. What have been some of your proudest moments?
  3. If you wrote a book that could improve the world, what would it be about?
  4. If you had to go back to school tomorrow, what would you major in?
  5. What do you want to be known for after you retire?
  6. If you didn’t have to go to class/work tomorrow but still had to work, what type of work would you do?
  7. What excites you?

The last question was taken from The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. In the book, Ferriss states that, “Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all.” He argues that most people will never know what they want and that this question is a more precise alternative that reflects the actual objective. If you have any powerful questions that you often use with students or clients, comment and share below!  

Read more from Rayna Anderson.

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.

NACE Flash Poll – Are We Placement Officers?

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 hotly debated term in career services is “placement.” Are first-destination surveys reports on “placements” of students? Should career services offices take on the role of being “placement” officers? Especially with the college “return on investment” talk heating up, this is something I hear many discussing.

So, career services professionals, what do you think? Vote in the flash poll below and share your thoughts in a comment! (Note: flash poll votes are anonymous.)

 

For more on first-destination surveys (sometimes called “placement” surveys), read NACE’s Position Statement on First-Destination Surveys. First-destination surveys will be one of the topics discussed at the Advocacy Mashup for Career Services on January 31, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

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!

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 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?

Fixated on “First Destinations”

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

 That’s my official meditation for today at the NACE conference.  This morning, I attended a session hosted by the NACE First Destination Task Force where we discussed what’s been happening at the association and beyond with our increasingly critical surveys about where our graduates go after they leave our institutions.  With national attention being paid to these data and the numbers in the spotlight more often than ever, there’s no doubt this is a hot topic for career services attendees at the conference.  Here’s a breakdown of the session and some commentary by one of your faithful bloggers.

NACE has already released a position statement about these First Destinations surveys in July 2012, and we kicked off the session with a review of the principles laid out in this statement.  The short version of that is:

  • Post graduate success is the mission of entire institution, not just career services
  • All graduates of institutions should be tracked in these surveys
  • Career services should have central role in collecting this information
  • Outcomes should be inclusive, not just about immediate employment
  • Human subject & institutional research protocols should be observed when collecting information
  • Data may come from various reliable sources
  • Data collection should be on-going, with the final collection efforts completed by 6-9 months from graduation
  • Data should be reported in aggregate and should protect individual confidentiality
  • Outcome data should consider: response rates, academic program breakdown of data, job titles, employers, salary data, further academic study (what program and what institution)

The NACE Task Force is working on a version of a standardized first destination survey which can be used by all institutions.  The Task Force’s plan is to have all institutions be using this survey for the graduating class of 2014.  So, with that in mind, the Task Force needed to do quite a bit more beyond what has been set forth in the position statement.  Namely:

  • There would need to be a core set of questions to be asked universally and consistently
  • There would need to be establish definitions for standard measures (i.e. defining what “full-time employment” really means)
  • There would need to be an agreed upon appropriate time frame for data collection
  • There would need to be suggested response rate requirements to ensure that the data reported is statistically valid and reliable

This is all no small order.  What about entrepreneurs?  What about graduates in the summer, the fall, or schools on different academic calendars?  How can we standardize all of this?  Questions about the intricacies of this are abundant, and rightfully so.

The Task Force was ready to share a bit about where they are in the process, so here’s what was learned.

New Language for First Destination Surveys

  • Perhaps we can lay the “p” word to rest?  The suggestion is to call it “career outcomes” rather than “placement.”
  • Recognizing that information about post graduate career outcomes comes from various sources (not just our surveys), the suggestion is to consider “knowledge rates” rather than “response rates.”  For instance, say a faculty member or employer lets a career services office know a student was hired and reports job title & employer information.  That’s knowledge, not a “response.”
  • When the data collection period ends, we can “close the books.”  Ongoing data collection can and should happen after graduation, and the profession should consider counting early, mid and later in academic year graduates (not just traditional “Spring” grads).  However, knowing that spring graduation is the largest for a majority of institutions, we can consider closing the books six months after that date, which is approximately December 1.  NACE would consider reaching out for information by the end of December, and then could share aggregate data in January to legislators, those involved in public policy, and those in trends reporting.

Suggestions for type and amount of information to collect

  • The Task Force suggested a knowledge rate range between 65% and 85%.  This is to serve as an initial guidepost for us, and should help us find a workable range that is achievable, valid, and reliable.  Over time as we develop this, the suggested knowledge rate range may increase
  • The outcome measures to be provided include information such as (this is not the whole picture here): percentage of graduates employed full-time, those pursuing further study, those still seeking employment, and those not seeking employment.  While information should be collected for graduate and undergraduate students, there should also be separate information for the undergraduate and graduate levels as well
  • For the employment category, examples of information to collect include: job title, employer, salary (both base salary & guaranteed first year compensation, which includes signing bonuses)
  • For the further study category, the name of the academic program and institution name should be collected
  • If a student is working and pursuing further study, it is suggested that the data be categorized by the graduate’s primary pursuit.

A few more dimensions the Task Force is considering:

  • A way to measure a graduate’s satisfaction with their outcome?  Meaning: is this where they wanted to be?
  • For those who are reported as being employed full-time, is the employment related to their degree?
  • For now, the further study category is intended for those who are pursuing a graduate degree.  What about other types of study?  Certification programs?  Those who want to earn another undergraduate degree?

Suffice it to say, there are still many questions about this process yet to be answered.  But, I think I can safely say there is agreement that this is important work which needs doing.  It’s a challenge, no doubt.  Life doesn’t fit into defined categories easily, and so it follows that neither does one’s career plans.  At a time when many want to know, “is college worth it?,” these first destination data points can be key indicators of a piece of the puzzle that is an answer to that question.

Career Services Competencies, Predictions for the Future, and Hugs

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

 If I had to sum it up what happened today at the NACE conference for me in as little words as possible, there you’d have it.  Let me cut right to the chase and tell you some of what I have learned today in my sessions, mixed in with some commentary on my part.

Career Services Competencies

This morning, members of a NACE task force on career services competencies, Laura Melius and Sam Ratcliffe, debuted the association’s career services competencies.  What a cohesive, thorough document.  It describes, from basic to intermediate to advanced, the skill set needed to be successful in career services.  There’s no way I could possibly explain it all in a blog post, so let me tell you where to find it right now: on your mobile device, download the NACE conference app.  From the home screen, click on “More” in the bottom right corner.  Then, click on “Resources,” and then click on “Career Services Competencies.”  There you’ll have it!  NACE will also be releasing this on their website soon.

What I definitely can share with you is all of the ways our group thought the competencies would be helpful in our everyday practices.  Here’s just a little bit of what we brainstormed:

The competencies can help us…

  • With the performance management process and staff development, using the competencies as a benchmark to start from
  • Create and change job descriptions of positions within offices to match what is needed at a college or university
  • Demonstrate where staff or the office needs to get resources, to improve budgets for professional development and staffing
  • Show senior leadership at our institutions what we do and what we need to do
  • In the recruiting process for our offices: we can assess candidates’ competencies in interviews

And where do we see the competencies going from here?  Sam made it clear that this is a “living document” – one that we should consider for revision and review regularly.  As our jobs and the career services landscape continues to evolve, so should the competencies.  There will be a feedback form on the NACE website with the document for us all to add our voices.  In addition, NACE plans to build a continuum of learning & resources based on this competency guide.  There is talk of creating a certification program based on the competencies, though that will take time to properly develop.  After looking at the document myself, I am excited to see where this could lead us.  Take a look!

The Future of Career Services

One of my afternoon sessions was this one, led by Tom Devlin, Tom Halasz, and Marilyn Mackes.  I’ll start off by saying – this was packed!  Here’s a quick shot of the room which does not do it justice (I tried):

Tom, Tom & Marilyn put together a thought-provoking, conversation-starting, and funny presentation.  Smart & funny is a combination I think of like cookies & milk – they are good alone, and even better together.  Each of these three had that mix of both.

The presentation centered around three major points, and I’ll the cliff notes version here to help you get a flavor of it.  Would love to hear your thoughts on the future of career services, too, so please share in a comment!

The higher education landscape is dramatically changing.  Colleges & universities have limited resources and revenue.  The growth period for high school graduates is officially over, and will be in a decline for the next 10-20 years.  MOOCs, social media, and other technologies are shifting how work gets done and the expectations of students.  On top of that, there are several initiatives at the state and federal level that seek to define the outcomes or “ROI” of higher education.

Sounds pretty grim, yes?  I almost hid under my chair (…kidding).  In challenge, lies opportunity, and that’s there we, career services, come in.  Cue emphatic and uplifting trumpet sounds.

Now, we have the opportunity to define ourselves as campus-wide career services leaders, partnering with faculty who may need us more than ever.  For many, we may want to consider focusing on more than just the first-year experience, but consider the sophomore experience.  How are we providing support to students at a critical time in their academic lives – when many choosing or honing in on majors and some of the tough decisions?

Where could this all be going?  Tom Devlin provided some of his thoughts going forward, which included: online appointment scheduling with an interactive and customized response to the appointment scheduler’s needs.  So, when a student consider pre-med enters that in to their appointment notes for the counselor, a sort of “road map” for exploring pre-med options appears and suggests ideas for the student.  Tom suggests we may be focusing as much or more on internships as we are right now on post-graduate opportunities.  They are becoming the “first job” for everyone.  Perhaps we will develop better relationships with third-party providers who can help us perform some tasks we need to complete, but are not as high on our list of priorities.

What I thought was most interesting about this session was that Tom, Tom, and Marilyn opened up the floor to hear our thoughts and “predictions” for the future.  I’ll share mine and hope that it allows you to share yours on this blog in a comment.

One of my specialties is definitely social media.  Yes, I am a millennial, but no, I don’t spend all day on it – I promise.  Anyway, I teach a 1 credit class I created at Villanova on how students can use social media in their job searches.  What I am noticing from that, when I reflect on the bigger picture of a lot of their questions and concerns, is this.  We need to help students jump this psychological hurdle of looking at themselves as students to begin considering themselves as professionals.  With social media, the “personal” and “professional” world collide, and it happens for students faster and sooner than ever before.  Whereas one funny, perhaps not most impressing moment was private before, now it might be public and online for unknown others to view via social media.  If we can help students understand themselves, their skills, and their experiences as professional and valuable, they are much more likely to feel proud and confident talking about all of this online.  Then, they attract others with similar professional interests to them, and thus become better networked and viewed more favorably by those in seats of recruiting.

At the end of the first full day at the conference, the only other big reflection I have is that today there was so much hugging.  Hugs and warm greetings around every corner I turned, and I am actually not exaggerating.  So, if I can send you one non career services or recruiting related item from Orlando, it’s a hug from everyone at the NACE conference.