The One Thing Underlying Really Good Career Advice

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”.

How many times during any given year do you say something like the following statements?

  • “At the career fair, make the first move and introduce yourself to the company representatives with a smile and strong handshake.”
  • “It’s a good idea to create and manage a great social media presence online: have you made a LinkedIn profile yet?”
  • “Effective networking is one of the most essential elements to a successful job search. You have to put yourself out there.”

The answer is probably “a zillion.”

These pieces of career advice are frequently mentioned around the web and in career centers across the country. For good reason, too—they’re all important messages for any job seeker to hear. In 2013, I started paying attention to them more, and specifically, the resistance felt from the recipients of this advice. What was it that made some people quick to act on these words and others hesitant about it?

There was one theme that struck me most: courage. Courage underlies these pieces of advice. It’s taking action on something even when facing the fear of it.

Take the student whom you know is top notch on paper. You’ve seen her resume: she’s academically stellar with noteworthy experiences in and out of the classroom. But, she’s not one to generate a conversation. Simply advising her to introduce herself to an employer at a career fair might not work. She might need not only the “how to” of proper introductions, but also some time spent building the courage to do it.

Or, how about the student who is interested in journalism? One great piece of advice for him might be to start a blog. Not only would this give him a venue to practice his work, it would also give him the opportunity to invite others to read it. Perhaps it could turn into a portfolio of writing samples for future job applications. Beyond the instructions for setting up a blog and tips on effective posts, it may take some courage building to help him get comfortable with the idea of putting his work out there.

When I’m talking with someone who’s hesitant about following these pieces of advice, I ask them to identify the cause of their nervousness. Once a fear is named, we can create a plan to address it together. Maybe it’s writing a few “blog posts” and e-mailing them only to close family and friends to get experience hearing feedback. It could be setting the goal of initiating one in person introduction per week, even among peers on campus, until things feel comfortable. Experiencing a few small wins can build the momentum to something bigger.

NACE blog readers, what are your thoughts on courage in career conversations?