Turning No-Shows Into Teachable Moments

Janet LongJanet R. Long
Founder, Integrity Search
Career Liaison to College of Arts & Sciences, Widener University
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/janetrlong/
Twitter: @IntegritySearch
Blogs from Janet Long.

Do “no-shows” represent a routine annoyance for career centers, or are they teachable moments for students learning about the world of work in all its dimensions?  I’m not thinking about the student with a legitimate last-minute conflict or emergency, or a one-time memory lapse. Rather I’m referring to the students with serial career appointment amnesia.

One school of thought holds that students are just learning time and life management skills, and that we can’t hold them too accountable for a relatively minor transgression liked a missed resume review.

Besides, what would holding “no-shows” accountable really look like in practice? Denying future services? Putting them to the back of the line when they have a critical deadline like a live interview? This would seem to run counter to the very mission of helping students get to that all-important first destination (and candidly, would not help department usability numbers either). 

And yet…by not acknowledging chronic no-showism, practitioners do both their students and themselves a disservice. For students, we are providing a false sense of latitude about the greater world off campus. As a longtime recruiter, I can attest that in the absence of an extreme emergency, being MIA for a job interview is a non starter—and not likely to lead to a second chance.

For career practitioners, enabling no-shows with no consequences also sends the message that we undervalue our own time and services. I would propose that there are ways to help students unlearn poor habits without taking punitive measures that run counter to everyone’s objectives. For example, one might be to hold a (mandatory) workshop for all career center users on the consequences of no-showism in the working world. Bringing in an employer or two as a guest speaker would drive the point home that much harder.

Another might be scheduling a targeted educative workshop for the chronic no-show-ers (think The Breakfast Club without the really mean proctor) in order to retain access to account privileges such as job postings. Talking points might be framed in terms of:

 Empathy: Helping the student see the missed appointment from another’s point of view (say, a good friend who could have been seen in the time slot) or projecting how an employer might feel about being stood up.

 Self-recognition: Asking how the student would feel about being stood up by a faculty adviser, a career coach, or a friend.

 Relating to other on-campus expectations: Asking about the  consequences of missing a class or a deadline without prior communication with the professor.

The point, of course, is not to shame the student, but rather to use no-showism as an opportunity to further what we teach about professional development.

 NACE career practitioners, how does your office handle no-shows? NACE employers, what suggestions can you offer?

Find another article on no-shows on NACEWeb.


3 thoughts on “Turning No-Shows Into Teachable Moments

  1. Here in the Career Center at Indiana Tech, when a student no-shows for a mock interview the student is required to write a letter of apology to the employer and is also required to meet with the Dean of their college to discuss the importance of working with employers. When students sign up for their interview they are required to sign a statement understanding this consequence which usually gives us an opportunity to explain how the employers are volunteers and how no-showing might affect their interest in attending in the future. I’d love to say everyone shows, but despite our process one or two still call in to say they can’t make it. For the most part though, we rarely have a complete “no-call, no-show.”

    I’d love to hear what other campuses do!

    Cindy Price Verduce, Director
    The Career Center & Regional Career Services
    Indiana Tech

  2. On our campus, we use Google for both email and calendaring. When a student contacts our office to set an appointment to meet with a career counselor, the staff creates it on the counselor’s calendar and sends the student a calendar Invite. The student receives the Invite in their email and accepts the invitation. If the student doesn’t show up for the meeting, it is deleted from the calendar and a cancelation notice gets sent to the student. Often this generates a sense of guilt and usually an apology from the student for missing the meeting. We’ve been using this for a while and it seems to be working pretty well on our campus.

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