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.

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!