#NACE17: Meet. Greet. Follow Up!

by Kathy Douglas
Make the most of networking opportunities at NACE 2017!

As career development professionals, we all know how to do this. We advise our students on networking at conferences, events, and career fairs all the time. So I know you know how, and the annual NACE conference is the perfect time to network with peers across the country in a super friendly atmosphere. It’s the proverbial opportunity to practice what we preach. Introverts and extroverts, thinkers and feelers, high and medium EQs alike can prep, reach out, and make the most of networking during #NACE17!

The advance planning

Reach out pre-conference on LinkedIn.  I just posted a discussion in the NACE LinkedIn group asking who is going to the conference, and confirming that my travel arrangements are done!  This can be a great way to get out in front of peers, and start networking well in advance. Once you have access to a list of conference attendees, you will also have the perfect excuse to connect. Update the standard LinkedIn invite: “I see you are going to NACE. I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network, and hope to meet you there!” I did this several years ago for the New Orleans NACE, and did indeed meet up with a few individuals I had pre-connected with on LinkedIn.

Post to the NACE Community discussion board.  I just tried itwill let you know how it goes!  Hopefully I will hear from other conference goers, so I know who to look for in June!

Download, set up, and use the conference app. Conference apps offer some great resources and tools for streamlining social media, allowing messaging with peers, collecting session info and locations in one place, and providing real time information on session changes. Last year’s app included capability of making your own schedule, connecting with conference goers, creating your own profile, and linking to your social media accounts. Make the app part of your world for a few days, and if possible, set it up before you leave home.

Reach out to your established NACE and career services networks before the conference. If you have done MLI, RLI, career coaching, NACE blogging, committee work, or other NACE programs, reach out to peers to meet for coffee or dinner. Last year I was able to physically connect with a good half-dozen cohort colleagues from MLI, and connected with several more I didn’t have the opportunity to meet in person.  Ironically, I was also able to meet current and former colleagues from my own university that I rarely see, even in New Haven. And last but not least, I made it a point to meet NACE’s Social Media and Communities Manager, Claudia Allen, in person after we had been communicating via e-mail and social media for months. I made it a point to stalk her and track her down to say hello in person!

MLI 12 Alumnas meeting for lunch at #NACE16: Julie Labich, Associate Director of Employer Relations at USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, Kathy Douglas, and Ann Garner, Executive Director, Career Center, Johns Hopkins University

The obvious things to do

Tweet and Instagram.  Tag #NACE17. The first time Twitter made any sense to me was during #NACE11. In real time, conference goers were tweeting out take-aways from panels and recommending attendance to peers. I might have shuffled between sessions, hearing about one that sounded really great going on at the same time! It is a brilliant tool for real time communication. I used to feel a little awkward tweeting, thinking I wasn’t paying attention during programs, but have found just the opposite to be true: I listen much more carefully for take-aways to report out to the twittersphere. It’s a quick and easy way to share programs, spark conversations, recommend activities outside of the conference, and o congratulate peers.  And it becomes an historical record, saved indefinitely online.  Check out #NACE16 on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see what you may have missed last year! 

Go where no woman or man has gone before

Don’t always travel with known colleagues during meals. There is comfort in avoiding “cafeteria angst” by meeting and sitting with people you already know, but it limits new connections and conversations.  Be bold and sidle up to a few strangers at breakfast.  Offer to pour someone’s coffee if you see them struggling with a plate and bowl at the breakfast bar. If you are with colleagues, split up at the table. Make the conversation light, talk about the food. Then ask a few questions about the person next to you, their institution or company and their role. Ideally they will ask you about you, too. But even if they don’t, find a follow up. “How is your recruiting going this year?” you might ask an employer rep or colleague. (Warning: Ask college sports-related questions at your own peril.)

Be curious, ask questions, then listen 

We all know that people like to talk about themselves, and genuine curiosity is inviting.  Try to find common ground as well as differences quickly with people you meet. And then ask more questions.  Offer compliments—”I can’t imagine how you manage to provide services to 10,000 students with a staff of 23,” I might say to a colleague from a big-10 school. “How do you do it?  What kind of third party resources do you use? How are you still standing?” Or you may ask anyone questions about activities outside of the conference such as: “Which zip line will you be doing this week?”

Extend the conference dialog

We’re all listening, learning, and discussing ideas, best practices, big picture themes, and new technologies over several days with fabulous keynote speakers. The topics of discussion are endless. Use the conference content for talking points.  During last year’s conference, you might have asked other people what they thought about Leland Melvin’s “orbital perspective,” or Lindsay Pollak‘s comment that McKinsey is now using “young leader” to characterize new recruit cohorts rather than using the terms “millennial” or “Gen Y.”  Have we come full circle?

Introducing two colleagues over breakfast: Alyssa Student, Assistant Director, CDO, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Welsley Thorne, Director of the Career Center at UCLA.

Be generous by introducing people you know or have just met to each other

The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.
Keith Ferrazzi, Author of Never Eat Alone

Be a facilitator at your lunch table, or at the phone charging stations. Be generous and introduce people you know to other people you have just met or colleagues from other schools.  Facilitate group introductions around a table, and ask a good general question for anyone at the table. Once a conversation gets going, sit back and be an active listener.

Try this simple conversation starter

Use the fun NACE name badge ribbons as a conversation starter (and be sure to select a few for yourself!). “I see this is your first conference. How’s it going so far?”  Or “I see you need coffee before speaking to anyone in the a.m.  Me too.  Have you had any yet?”  Or, “Oh, I see you’re presenting.  What’s your topic?”  “What year did you do MLI, and did Manny present?”  Or “I see you’re an MLI alum.  What is MLI?”


Be a career services or industry researcher

Come with questions for your own research, and use them once you learn some basics from a new connection. What do you want to know to help you professionally and to improve your office? Pick a few topics that you can use over the course of the conference. You might poll several people: “Does your office have any diversity and inclusion initiatives?”  “Have you felt the effects of changes in federal hiring for your population?” “How is your office structured, and what are the relationships among the career office, student affairs, admissions and other administrative units?” “Do you provide services for alumni?” “What population is your company recruiting for this fall?” “Does your office offer professional skills workshops, and if so, what are they?”  “What was the best new program you did this year?”

Think about networking as relationship building

One of my favorite quotes on networking comes from Pete Leibman:

Here’s the truth: Networking is NOT all about who you know or who knows you. Networking is all about who likes you and who respects you.
When possible, go beyond the simple exchange of contact information or business cards. Let new connections know something personal about you, even a small thing.  Claudia Allen became my BFF over e-mail once we mentioned our grandchildren. Take a few extra minutes to share a joke, talk about a great bookstore (or comedy show) you found around the corner from the hotel—try to connect on multiple levels.

Taking a break at #NACE16 to celebrate and make some new friends!

Don’t forget to follow up

Follow Up. This is what we all tell our students.  Take quick notes with the gist of any productive conversations and note the follow up you would like to do. “Send so and so that article on salary negotiations for women.” “E-mail a copy of our first advising session checklist.” “Introduce so and so to so and so.” “Thank so and so for great idea and tell them you hope to see them at NCDA.” “Check in about X university’s policy on accepting offers.” I use business cards I collect to write on, and supplement with paper or the notepad function on my phone.
And remember: What happens at NACE should NOT just stay at NACE. Keep the connections alive. Happy conferring!

KKathryn Douglasathy Douglas, Senior Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/douglaskathy
Twitter: @fescdo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Yale-FES-Career-Development-Office/134339426609741
Website: environment.yale.edu/cdo

Programming and Resources for LGBT Students and Allies

by Kathryn Douglas

I was fortunate to attend the NACE presentation by colleagues from the Northeastern Career Development office on Reach (OUT) LGBTQA+ Career Conference, a collaborative program with career services, institutional diversity and inclusion, and LGBTQ resources that received a 2016 National Association of Colleges and Employers “Excellence in Diversity” AwardReach (OUT), in its third year this academic year, focuses on “the perspectives and concerns of queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary, intersex, and asexual students in preparation for co-op, internships, and professional life beyond campus,” and features an evening presentation, one-on-one informational meetings, and a half day of workshops.

I was inspired by the presentation at NACE and the program, and came back to New Haven determined to partner with colleagues on campus to create a two-hour LGBT Career Program open to all students at Yale University.

One of the take-aways from the Northeastern team was to collaborate broadly.  This is important advice for idea generation, locating resources, developing an audience and in effect, uniting student groups, offices, and programs at a de-centralized university.

My goal was to create a dynamic program to provide students with tangible tools to take with them as they enter or re-enter the workforce, and to encourage allies to broaden their understanding of how to be allies as well as the opportunities and challenges LGBT peers encounter in the workplace.  Given the limited time students I work with have, I tried to create a program that was short but impactful, presenting resources that apply broadly to students going into a variety of sectors nationally and internationally, and providing the opportunity for meaningful conversations and networking.

This month, our office was able to successfully collaborate with other career offices, the university office of diversity and inclusion, the LGBTQ staff affinity group, the university LGBT resource office, local community members, and student groups across campus for a two-hour LGBT career program.  Thank you to Northeastern for providing an excellent model!

The LGBT Career Program at Yale this month included:

  • A 20-minute primer on workplace laws and the LGBT Community (national and international laws and protections, or lack of protections) with David Salazar-Austin, attorney, Jackson Lewis PC—a specialist in employment law
  • A 20-minute primer on LGBT workplace affinity groups (what they are, why they are important, how to create one, resources online if working on a small team), presented by the co-chair of the university staff LGBTQ affinity group
  • A moderated leadership panel of alumni and friends covering a range of experience levels, sectors, and identities (developed talking points for panelists that provided structure for talking about individual journeys and helped panelists prepare remarks for common workplace questions and topics)
  • A networking reception with refreshments provided by a local LGBT-owned caterer

Suggested Resources:

KKathryn Douglasathy Douglas, Senior Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/douglaskathy
Twitter: @fescdo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Yale-FES-Career-Development-Office/134339426609741
Website: environment.yale.edu/cdo

Collaboration: More Isn’t Always Better

by Kathy Douglas

Collaboration is taking over the workplace. — Rob Cross, Reb Rebele, and Adam Grant

Teamwork, collaboration, stakeholder engagement—these are all buzzwords in job descriptions where interactions with clients and colleagues are integral to getting work done.   “Over the past two decades,” according to Rob Cross, Reb Rebele, and Adam Grant in their article in the Harvard Business Review, Collaborative Overload, “the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50 percent or more.”

What are the implications of this change in the workplace?  Workloads become lopsided — when “20 to 35 percent of value-added collaborations come from only 3 to 5 percent of employees.”  Women bear a disproportionate share of collaborative work. Top collaborators are in demand by colleagues, and tend to burn out fast. Top collaborators are often not recognized by senior management, and studies show that they have the lowest levels of job satisfaction.

As advisers, we encourage students to enter the work force with enthusiasm and to go the extra mile. Take on additional duties, we counsel. Do an extraordinary job.  But according to Cross, Rebele, and Grant, while “a single ‘extra miler’—an employee who frequently contributes beyond the scope of his or her role—can drive team performance more than all the other members combined…this ‘escalating citizenship’…only further fuels the demands placed on top collaborators.”

Should we then be telling our students a different story?  Should students entering the work force in large companies and organizations temper their enthusiasm when it comes to collaboration, and if so, how?

Part of the answer lies in knowing the nature of collaboration and collaborative resources, which Cross, Rebele, and Grant discuss.

Part of it lies in the corollary to the authors’ assertion that: “Leaders must learn to recognize, promote, and efficiently distribute the right kinds of collaborative work.” Namely, employees (and the students we advise) must also learn to recognize their own work, promote themselves, and create effective boundaries to avoid collaborative overload.

I think the message career advisers convey can still insist on doing a great job and expanding one’s role in ways that are in line with one’s talents and interests.  But I think it’s also important for students, before entering the work force, to develop strategies to avoid collaboration overload and the burn out it can generate.

As Cross, Rebele, and Grant aptly note: “Collaboration is indeed the answer to many of today’s most pressing business challenges. But more isn’t always better.”

Kathryn DouglasKathy Douglas, Senior Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/douglaskathy
Twitter: @fescdo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Yale-FES-Career-Development-Office/134339426609741
Website: environment.yale.edu/cdo

Career Readiness: Exploring Leadership

KKathryn Douglasathy Douglas, Senior Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/douglaskathy
Twitter: @fescdo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Yale-FES-Career-Development-Office/134339426609741
Website: environment.yale.edu/cdo

The effective leader is someone who can communicate rationally, connecting relationally, manage practically and lead directionally and strategically. The head, the heart, the hands and the feet are all effectively engaged in the leadership process.Australian Leadership Foundation

Leadership: Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals, and use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others. The individual is able to assess and manage his/her emotions and those of others; use empathetic skills to guide and motivate; and organize, prioritize, and delegate work.Career Readiness for the New College Graduate, A Definition and Competencies, National Association of Colleges and Employers

 

Most of us lead in unique ways everyday but can’t articulate how. And most people, when asked to talk about their leadership, default to examples of being the top person in charge of a team, of a club, of a project. Students I work with often get stressed if they have not been the captain of a varsity team, served as a board member or been the treasurer for a social club, stating I don’t have any leadership experience.  The majority of people I counsel on this topic think first of charismatic or natural born leaders—the rare individuals with big personalities who motivate others through inspiration.

Leadership as defined by NACE’s Career Readiness for the New College Graduate goes beyond the “natural born leader” definition by focusing on the interpersonal, on empathy for guiding and motivating, on emotional intelligence, and on the ability to organize, prioritize, and delegate. The Australian Leadership Foundation draws from ancient Greek philosophers and the ontology of the human in naming four essential areas of effective leadership: Praxis, Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. A quick google search will provide another host of leadership definitions, theories and models, including:

  • Transactional
  • Transformational
  • Servant
  • Free-Rein
  • Autocratic
  • Democratic
  • Supportive
  • Situational
  • Participative

For the visual learner, a google image search will also uncover an array of colorful charts, graphs and diagrams depicting many current leadership models, theories and styles—a bounty of choices to consider when thinking about how to frame one’s own leadership preferences and style.

Google leadership models

 

What kind of leader are you?

While encouraging a student to do the research necessary to develop their own definition of leadership, I usually suggest that they begin with leadership model images that appeal to them. It is relatively easy to then follow the links to read about theories and types of leadership.

Some questions to think about while researching models:

  • Have I held many official leadership positions in my life so far?
  • Do I tend to foster collaboration? How?
  • Do I prefer to do everything myself, or am I able to delegate?
  • Who is my favorite leader?  Why?
  • Can I describe one specific example of my favorite leader’s leadership?
  • Am I the volunteer note-taker who may go unnoticed but who develops an agenda based on group consensus and sends it out by email ten minutes after the meeting?
  • Which of these models resonate with me?
  • Do I insist on my own compelling strategy and sell it?
  • Do I regularly advise and mentor peers?
  • How do I define effective leadership?

The Importance of Team

As team models are integral to leadership models, I also refer students to the Margerison-McCann Team Management Wheel. With its holistic symbol, the circle, it illustrates the varied and equally important roles required in a group to accomplish goals.  And in many leadership models, these team roles are also leadership roles.  The majority of students I work immediately relate to one or more parts of this wheel—Creator/Innovators, Thruster/Organizers, Controller/Inspectors, Linkers, Concluder/Producers—and are quickly able to articulate their unique leadership style.

This model also helps students recognize peers in new ways. They may realize that a group member they are annoyed with who has trailed off at the conclusion of a project was, in fact, extremely active in the idea generation and organizing phase of the project and has already made a vital contribution. They may recognize that a team member who has not made a significant concrete contribution has actually been actively managing group dynamics and keeping communication lines open (The Linkers).  They might newly appreciate the range of roles and types of leadership on their team, including their own.

Recognizing one’s natural leanings and the roles one typically assumes on a team is key to discovering and articulating one’s leadership style. Likewise, understanding the leanings and roles of others is extremely important.  By delving into specifics, by thinking, talking, and writing about them, we unearth a wealth of interesting material for describing leadership.  When we develop our own definition of leadership, we make a frame.  And in that frame, we can see a concrete illustration of our leadership.

 

Helping Students Find Expertise

KKathryn Douglasathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/douglaskathy
Twitter: @fescdo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Yale-FES-Career-Development-Office/134339426609741
Website: environment.yale.edu/cdo

Words that rhyme with expertise:
Appease, Bhutanese, breeze, cerise, cheese, éminence grise, freeze, journalese, marquise, overseas, Portuguese, seize, sneeze, squeeze, Stockton-on-Tees,
trapeze, valise, vocalese, wheeze – selections from Oxford Dictionary.com

Part of my job is to encourage students going on the job market to think about their areas of expertise. My goal is for them to confidently position themselves as candidates with specialized knowledge—not only as doers with hands-on experience to quantify on their resume with start and end dates, and not only as technical, language, or soft skill wizards with long lists of certifications and skills. Although these elements are important too.

I have read drafts of resumes where I can barely tell that a student has just spent two to six years taking courses, conducting complicated research, and learning broadly and deeply.

And so I ask them about coursework, concepts, areas of expertise.

  • Student: “But I can’t include x on my resume, I don’t have any experience doing it!”
  • Me: “Do you know anything about x?”
  • Student: “Well, yes, [insert impromptu dissertation on x].”

During these impromptu dissertations, I jot down some of the specific, interesting keywords that roll off a student’s tongue—COP21, LCA, renewables, EPI, deforestation free, paw paw, NRDC, camera trap, biophilic, Hotshot, CEQ, ecosystem services, bioswale, carbon neutral, Clean Air Act, systems thinking, Peace Corps, biochar. I might ask for clarification of a few terms, and suddenly there are more keywords. In a career counseling session, students do not have to worry about impressing me. And if I ask the right questions, they reveal that they do know something. And usually it is a lot of something.

It doesn’t matter if I’m working with a career-changing masters candidate with 10 years of work experience or an international student straight out of an undergraduate program—transitioning from student to expert is intimidating. Most students balk when I ask them to tell me about their expertise.

Afterall, students are students. They are learners. Faculty are the experts.

Surrounded by faculty experts and by peers who know a lot of the same things, students tend to think of themselves as:

  • knowing significantly less than others, and
  • not knowing anything special.

While I ask questions to tease out specific knowledge and reflect it back, I suggest the following knowledge scale to help students frame and think more objectively about their expertise:

  • For the past two years I have focused on…
  • I have expertise in…
  • I have thorough knowledge of…
  • I have knowledge of…
  • I am thoroughly familiar with…
  • I am familiar with…
  • I have heard of it.

When an advisee finishes describing the statewide coastal resiliency planning, renewable energy finance mechanisms, or conflict resolution strategies in small rural communities in a developing country they have been focusing on for two years (but failed to mention on their resume because it wasn’t part of their work experience), I hand them a Post-It note (or three) with keywords and concepts I have gleaned.

And then I prompt them with these questions:

  • Are there any areas included here in which you can confidently claim expertise?
  • Can you use some of this language to summarize a two-year academic or professional focus?
  • Can you identify two or three topics from this list in which you have thorough knowledge?
  • Do you have anything to add to knowledge and expertise you haven’t included in your cover letter and resume?

Unpacking knowledge, focus, and expertise is a key process for accurately and strongly presenting oneself.  Once these elements are thought out and well articulated, they can be emphasized on a resume (in a variety of ways including a bullet or bullets under degree of Selected Coursework, Projects, or Focus, or with a separate, brief “Research Interest” or “Special Focus” section), highlighted in a cover letter, and included when answering a range of interview questions.

 

 

 

Assessment Tools and Career Decision Making

KKathryn Douglasathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/douglaskathy
Twitter: @fescdo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Yale-FES-Career-Development-Office/134339426609741
Website: environment.yale.edu/cdo

I regularly get questions about the value of assessment tools from the graduate student populations I work with. The follow question came to me via e-mail:

Q. What do you think about aptitude, personality, and interests tests in helping to guide career decision making? (Examples: Johnson O’ Connor Research Foundation’s aptitude testing program, Myers Briggs, Strong Interest Inventory, etc.). How do I align my interests and background with the results of such tests? And does following these test results really lead to a more satisfying career?

A. In general, a higher degree of self-awareness is always a good thing in terms of career development. Aptitude, personality, and interests tests, or assessments, can help define aspects of yourself that you may not already have a good sense of, and may save years of making less than ideal choices about career direction and focus, i.e. from learning the hard way. Many of us are strongly influenced by supposed-to-be’s, cultural ideals and other external forces. Having a better understanding of one’s proclivities and making career choices accordingly, you are likely to be more directed, satisfied and productive.

In an interview with The New York Times career columnist Marci Alboher, Peggy Klaus, author of The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They’d Learned Sooner, groups self-awareness with other “soft” skills: “The hard skills are the technical expertise you need to get the job done. The soft skills are really everything else—competencies that go from self-awareness to one’s attitude to managing one’s career to handling critics, not taking things personally, taking risks, getting along with people, and many, many more.” Self-assessment tests are a good way to boost your self-awareness as well as to identify areas you might want to work on.

Different assessment tools measure different qualities and leanings, and can be useful in helping to discover strengths, weaknesses, and preferences that you may not be fully aware of or perhaps assume that everyone possesses, i.e., they can help you take a more objective view of yourself. They are part of self-assessment that can help you define and articulate career goals, but are not necessarily going to give you hard and fast answers regarding direction. You are the final interpreter and arbiter of any such tests, but going through the process will likely lead to some personally resonant and new information that can inform your career planning, areas for personal and professional development and goal setting.

To illustrate the application of self-assessment tools to career development, let’s look briefly at the Myers-Briggs personality test, which is based on Jungian psychology and which identifies 16 personality types. In addition to discovering your own type, knowledge of personality types can be extremely useful for navigating interpersonal relationships when you are working on teams, collaborating with colleagues, and interacting on all levels with individuals and groups.

Here is some basic information on the INTJ (Introvert, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging), a rare personality type:

“Hallmark features of the INTJ personality type include independence of thought, strong individualism and creativity. Persons with this personality type work best given large amounts of autonomy and creative freedom. They harbor an innate desire to express themselves; that is to be creative by conceptualizing their own intellectual designs. Analyzing and formulating complex theories are among their greatest strengths. INTJs tend to be well-suited for occupations within academia, research, management, engineering, and law. Differentiating the INTJ personality type from the related INTP type is their confidence. They tend to be acutely aware of their knowledge and abilities. Thus, they develop a strong confidence in their ability and talents, making them “natural leaders.” It is this confidence that makes this personality type extremely rare. According to David Keirsey it is found in no more than 1 percent of the population.” Source: http://www.wikidoc.org/index.php/INTJ

How can this understanding be applied to career choices and personal development?

If you are an INTJ, you might want to be looking for positions where you have a high degree of autonomy and can work creatively on long-term strategic planning, rather than one where you are doing highly energetic short-term management as part of an interdependent team. You might want to focus on organizations that have a reputation for being extremely well-managed, as opposed to one where your role will be to efficiently create order and be a mentor to young people. INTJ’s are often “surprised when others don’t see things the same way.” If this is something you newly understand about yourself, you might spend some time developing the ability to build consensus around your ideas, an area that might not come naturally to you.

This kind of introspective work can certainly help in career development and in other areas of your life, can bring a depth to understandings you may already have about your personality, interests and aptitudes, and can be especially helpful if you find it difficult to accurately assess yourself.

Running A Great Job Trek: Five Top Tips

Kathryn DouglasKathy Douglas, Associate Director Career Development Office, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/douglaskathy
Twitter: @fescdo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Yale-FES-Career-Development-Office/134339426609741
Website: environment.yale.edu/cdo

\ˈtrek\: to go on a long and often difficult journey

I had the opportunity last semester to lead a regional job trek to the California Bay Area—home to the second largest group of alumni (approx. 250) from our professional school, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, with roughly 360 master’s students (and approximately 4,700 living alumni).

I was a little hesitant at first, thinking that the trek would be more effort than I wanted to expend in the beginning of the new year—potentially a “long and difficult journey.”

Ten students, one alumnus (picked up along the way), and one student from our management school (they were in the Bay area on a much larger annual trek) visited six employers over a two-day period. Visits included working sessions, a lunch meeting, tours, afternoon coffee breaks, and an informal networking happy hour. Employers ranged from a private sector tech company with close to 20,000 employees to an international eco-friendly body products startup with a full-time staff of three.

At the end of the day, the event was a tremendous opportunity for the students who attended. They were able to get a broad view of the environmental careers space in the area in a structured, yet informal way, met more than 50 alumni and employers, and networked with fellow trekkers from our business school.

Thanks to our trekkers and follow-up from our career development team, the event resulted in several very positive outcomes:

  • Several internships that resulted directly from trek contacts (non-trek students are benefiting, too).
  • New employer relationships.
  • Several full-time position postings.
  • Alumni connection made between our school and a peer school for joint networking.
  • Solid first-hand knowledge of the environmental careers landscape in the region.
  • Trekkers benefited personally and professionally, contributed by acting as ambassadors representing the school, and paved the way for their peers.

Five Top Tips for Job Treks

The process for hosting or supporting treks will vary by population, but these are some of the top tips I have to offer based on my recent experience:

1. Manage Expectations

  • During the initial interest meeting, printed guidelines were distributed, explaining what a job trek was and what it wasn’t. It was made clear from the beginning that the trek depended on student leadership and that students were required to provide their own funding.

2. Clarify Roles

  • Some clarification on student roles from the guide: “Student organizer(s) have responsibility for gauging student interest and garnering commitments, coordinating with potential employer hosts, reaching out to alumni in the area, and all other logistics.” On the Career Development Office’s role: “CDO is willing to help with employer outreach as needed. We can also provide sample communications, information on best practices, a finalized schedule, and a checklist for participants.”

3. Empower and Guide Student Leadership

  • My goal was for students to take ownership of the trek. All of the participants volunteered or were encouraged by peers to conduct outreach, finalize scheduling, create a resume book for distribution, and organize an alumni networking event. My role was to advise, suggest contacts, provide sample outreach documents, and assist with outreach as needed—in short, to promote shared leadership and provide structure, tools, and encouragement.

4. Provide Selected Administrative Support

  • After students had created their top list of employers, reached out to contacts, and  set up visits and a schedule, I pulled together the schedule and contact information and added strategically timed breakfast meetings to both days—an hour and a half before the first visit. This really helped ensure that everyone was on time for the trek, and was a great opportunity to share information and strategize about the day.

5. Be Open To Employer Preferences

  • One of our employers wanted to arrange lunch and a meeting with the larger team. Another distributed some materials in advance of the trek and gave students an assignment. One employer invited our alumna who works in their Brooklyn office to participate via Skype. By being open to employer preferences, we were able to create a dynamic experience that provided great information, excellent contacts, a high level of good will, and ultimately, several concrete job and internship opportunities.