ORL to PHL: Luggage, Knowledge, and Appreciation

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”.

 Despite the tropical storm that made its way up the east coast on Friday, my plane arrived safely back in Philadelphia that afternoon.  What came with me on the flight from Orlando: luggage, knowledge, and appreciation – and I only had to check one of them at the gate, even though I’m sure the knowledge and appreciation weighed more.

In my previous two blog posts, I did my best to offer up what was learned in some of the sessions I attended at the NACE conference this year.  My goal was to bring you there, to save you a seat next to me and the power outlets.  For this last post, I wanted to step back from the sessions and talk a little bit “bigger picture” about the conference itself.  So, pull up a seat one more time and let’s talk.  (As I write this, I am picturing Linda Richman from “Coffee Talk” on Saturday Night Live.  “Placement Surveys are not ‘placement’ and not always ‘surveys’… Discuss.”)

For me, the NACE conference this year was about three things: bravery in uncertainty, solidifying relationships, and planning for randomness.

Bravery in Uncertainty

In my other two posts, covering the future of career services and first destination surveys, I tried to capture not only the content but the essence of those sessions: higher education & career services are changing.  That change of pace is rapid and is continuing to grow due to pressures from many of our constituents.  There are still unanswered questions and uncertain times ahead.  That is, admittedly, nerve-wracking and exciting all at once.

I am choosing to acknowledge both sides of that coin, and in the category of “practicing what I preach,” I am reminded of counseling students who are about to graduate and are not sure what lies ahead for them.  They know they are about to leave a whole world they created for themselves, and they’re not sure how much of it they can take with them.  They know change is coming swiftly, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it.  They take it head on.  And so must we.  At the NACE conference this year, it was clear to see the profession taking this change head on, and I look forward to seeing more of it in the months and years ahead.

Solidifying Relationships

It took place on plane rides, in hotel restaurants, on ottomans in the lobby, at coffee shops – everywhere there were conversations with great people.  If we’re talking MBTI types, I am almost completely an “E” for extravert (pause for stunned response), and so a conference center full of people is energizing for me.  Besides the opportunity to learn in the sessions, the greatest benefit of attending the NACE conference is the opportunity to build relationships with people.  I enjoyed the chance to connect with both career services and recruiting colleagues, new and old.  I remember at last year’s conference, a veteran in the field told me that she’s met not only great colleagues but great friends in this field.  I see why.

For me, the connections weren’t always made in the most “buttoned up” situations.  Some of the most memorable connections I made were over the following: a somewhat problematic yet hilarious story about leaky hotel rooms, the best mobile apps to help you stay in shape, whether you’d consider yourself an appetizer or dessert person (dessert all the way), and more.  By allowing ourselves to get a little more personal, we deepened the relationship.  Building trust and bonding over even silly things can translate to better business and working together.  While of course it’s important to keep things appropriate, I try to keep the personal side in mind throughout the year.  We’re professionals, yes. We have a job to do, absolutely.  But, we’re people, too.

Planning for Randomness

Back to the MBTI talk for a second, I am also quite strongly a “J” for judging.  Not to be mistaken for judgmental, the “J” translates to someone who likes structure and to make decisions.  In fact, my first guest post for the NACE blog was on how I was preparing for the conference.  So, planning ahead is a part of me, and I say this with admiration and respect for all of my “P” for perceiving friends (those who are often described as spontaneous or more flexible).

One thing I should have mentioned in that post is to make plans, but also to allow for something in the moment to change your course.  You just never know whom you’ll bump into at the conference or when a lunch conversation turns into a best practice discussion session.  I’ve heard it said and said it myself: some of the best moments of a conference are those that occur between sessions.  Perhaps there’s a professional lesson nestled in there, too.  Some days, plan for randomness.  Have lunch with someone and don’t fill the agenda.  Have a meeting with yourself and let it be your creative time.  Take a different turn or two in a walk around your building or campus.  That’s at least some of how I’m interpreting it.  Making room for chance.

And so, with empty bags, a retired out of office email auto response, and much gratitude, I say thank you to everyone who organized the NACE conference this year and everyone who was a part of it.  This includes you, blog readers.  Here’s to San Antonio in 2014!

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.

How I’m Getting Ready for NACE 2013

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”.

 

It’s officially Spring in Pennsylvania. I can tell because of the things you’d expect to notice in Spring: the sun is shining, the trees are blooming, and it’s still light outside even when I’m eating dinner.  But, I can also tell because all over campus at Villanova, backpacks are overflowing, notes are being taken at furious pace, and laptops are needing charge at all hours of the day.  I’ve been there myself, and I’d know this look anywhere: it’s finals season, for sure.

As I start to think ahead to a quieter campus after the academic year concludes, I can’t help but get excited about one of the high points of summer: the NACE 2013 conference.  I’ve been fortunate to attend the NACE conference twice since my start in the field of career services, and I’m looking forward to making the third time the charm.

It’s an honor to be a guest blogger for the NACE conference this year, and I solemnly swear to do my best to provide valuable tips, notes, and ideas I learn in my posts.  In the spirit of that, I thought I’d kick things off by sharing some of the ways I’m preparing myself for the trip this year.  To start, I offer you NACE’s conference website (pictured below), which is full of info to help you get moving.

The NACE 2013 Conference home page

The NACE 2013 Conference home page

And here are some of my specific to dos (some completed, some yet to be done):

  • Tweeted that I’ll be attending the conference and used #NACE13 to see who else might be going in my network (and to see who I might meet in person!)
  • I already looked the conference schedule of events to make sure I booked my flights accordingly, but I’m looking again now to familiarize myself with everything
  • Read up on the keynote speakers – after watching his video, I am particularly excited for Jeremy Gutsche, but to be honest they all look interesting
  • Begin to determine who I’d like to visit in the Exhibitors area at the conference.  I’ve gotten to meet some people I’ve only spoken with on the phone and learn about some really useful products at the NACE conference.  But, just like I tell students about career fairs, it’s important to have an idea of who I really want to see so I don’t get overwhelmed in the room.
  • Review the list of conference Workshops and pick some of my favorites, specifically the “must haves.”  Sometimes, I pick workshops because they are directly related to my role or work in the office, and sometimes I pick one or two because they will stretch me professionally.  At the conference, I like to have a mix of being both a conversation contributor and an observer in awe.  Picking the right workshops is a strategic move for me.
  • Look up something fun to do in Orlando!  I always have fun while I’m at the conference, and looking up some evening activities will make it even more enjoyable.  It’s not quite a “vacation,” but maybe something in between.  A “vayconference” perhaps?

So, that’s where I’ve started.  How are you preparing for NACE 13?  I’d be interested to hear your tips, too.