Making Technology Decisions

by Kelli Smith

I love my job. I mean, I genuinely love my job. Knowing our area is making a positive impact on our students every single day is incredibly rewarding. I especially love the constant change we have in our department and the significant growth we have had in our programs and staff. I see it as a challenge and relish in it.

But it is no secret to my staff and close colleagues that my least favorite part of being a director is vendor solicitations. There are emails from vendors every single day. A mentor and former director of mine, Dr. Larry Routh, once said that he thought an essential skill needed for directors in the future is vendor management. He was correct; it is an important part of the job. Some really enjoy this part of our work, and there is no shortage of very interesting products to research and keep a person busy. It is just that I have a zillion other things competing for my attention.

We all need to be astute at deciding on new products and technologies. For me, the following are some of the questions I ask myself when deciding upon new products:

  1. Is this a wise use of budget dollars and really needed? It is important to consider departmental goals and align spending accordingly. Additionally, I have a particular sense of fiduciary responsibility working for a public institution. While none of my operating budget is from state dollars, we do get some student fee money and salaries are supported through the state. Always in the back of my mind is whether my budget choices and use of staff time are ones that stakeholders would generally support. I also look at the ROI. For example, for one product that we are considering to help offload the number of resumes we review in person, I calculated the cost for paying peer assistants (students) to the quoted product cost for the same amount of work. It was roughly the same, if not less expensive to students giving individualized assistance, plus we know the value of providing students with meaningful experience is great. The return on investment for the new product was weak in comparison, but gives me a strong negotiating point with the vendor.
  2. What FTE support will be needed to implement and manage it? While not operating budget dollars, I tend to automatically calculate the FTE time required to manage a new offering. Staff time is precious and scarce. Spending time on implementing a new technology, as well as ongoing staff training and support, takes away from a different priority. So the time it will take for staff and how it fits into our strategic plan is something I tend to automatically weigh early.
  3. Have we sought input from our students, employers, and campus partners, and does it meet our needs? While I truly love the dialogue around disruption and change in our field, my own approach to big technical changes considers many factors, including thoughtful consideration of stakeholders and whether the product meets the needs of campus. We recently explored a new platform for our job and internship posting system. A major consideration is that we manage one of the largest academic internship programs out of a career center in the country, and the program manager created a paperless system for it last year. Along with that program and some other factors, we decided at the time the vendor was not quite ready for us. We also had to consider stakeholders beyond our own program needs. Student input is a major factor for us. It is not the only one but, for us, it weighs a bit more heavily than others. We are fortunate to have a team of 50 student staff that help give us input and we rely upon it pretty heavily for new products. When a new technology also involves our employers, we naturally seek their input, too. And like so many institutions, we have taken the campus-wide approach that “career services is everyone’s business”; as a result, some of our technologies for which we are primary managers have become intertwined with other offices and career centers on campus. We have made collaboration a top priority, so seeking and respecting their input on new technology is also key, now more than ever.
  4. Does this duplicate technology we already have, and if so, is it better? We know we can be really good at adding new tools, especially if it is a hot new product offering. It is important to do an environmental scan of both one’s office and other offerings on campus. For instance, we recently explored software to better connect our students with alumni for mentoring. A different office on campus serving our largest college (liberal arts) already had a contract with a vendor, but we were interested in a newer one that we thought could be better and much less costly. We worked with that office to explore the new product with us, and they fortunately agreed it was a better option for all and that we would eventually be the primary administrator (and they would manage a module just for their college) for the product since we serve all students on campus. In addition to saving money for the campus, our relationship with that office was strengthened.
  5. Is this the right timing? When hired nearly three years ago, I was charged with completely reinventing how we served students, our campus reputation, partnerships, and significantly strengthen our employer services. While I am very fortunate to have an incredibly dedicated and hard-working staff and campus leadership that helped in our successful transformation, leading a culture change takes time. There is a new vendor on the market with great product but I am so glad we did not choose to implement a couple years ago. This is because while that business has been crazy successful, I know several early adopter directors shared they were on the phone with the vendor almost daily with issues in that company’s first year. Back then, I did not have that time while trying to build an office and campus culture. We had also recently switched to a new system that we branded and were so successful in implementing that our b-school career office finally decided to forgo a separate portal and instead let us manage the platform, making it much easier for both our students and employers. So to switch again so quickly would not have been a wise move on our part. We are now in a significantly better place and were much better positioned to make a change.
  6. What is the business model and approach of the vendor? The business model is an important consideration for me. This may be a hangover from surviving the dot-era which many of us recall. Companies with visions that seem to be in it for the long haul get bonus points. Naturally we need to do all we can to also ensure the use of student data is adhering to all applicable laws. Another thing that I have learned in the last year is how much I value the transparency of businesses. There are some well-known vendors on the market that do not have a standard pricing model and are, in part, pricing their product according to (what they think) is the name recognition of the career center’s institution. I do not blame career centers that have benefitted from such a pricing model in the least; I would fully take advantage myself. But I find it surprising that vendors do not realize we are a highly connected field and talk about what we are each paying for contracts. When I realize that a vendor is not being upfront or is quoting us a significantly higher price than my friends at other institutions – whether they have better name recognition or not, larger or smaller, or of the same or differing rankings – it is does sit well. For example, a peer here in New York was recently quoted a price of $25,000 for a product we are really wanting to implement. In my view it could be a game changer. But I also know a colleague at a well-known, larger, and fairly elite public school is paying exactly half of that cost for the same product. It ends up feeling as some centers are subsidizing what other career centers (often with already healthy budgets) are being asked to pay. So while not always a primary factor, transparency is one I consider. Lastly, with regard to approach, customer service is a critical consideration. We recently made a major decision this month and this was a factor that became a tipping point. Remember the concern we had about how our academic internship program would be managed? It was addressed by the vendor without us even being a committed client. The vendor we are moving to responded the same day in multiple instances when we had questions of any kind, and made improvements to their products based on our input with what felt like a quick turnaround.
  7. What is the “why”? I am a fan of Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2011). If you have not read it or watched his Ted Talk, you may want to. It resonates with me when I am needing to gain support for new initiatives with others across campus. But I also know it is important to consider the “why” for a new technology. My hope is that when making such choice we have addressed the considerations mentioned earlier, such as whether it fits with our strategic plan, and not that we are merely trying to be seen as a “disruptor” or other similar motivation. While I am one that thrives on change and being cutting edge for the sake of our students – and I most certainly do hope we are seen as a positive change agent by our campus – I am also at times just fine with others being the canary in the coal mine with new technologies. One can benefit from the lessons learned from others, and it thoughtful, careful decision-making does not need to be at the expense of being cutting edge.

Wise choices with technology can be game changers for how we serve students better and more efficiently. Our profession is full of some of the most innovative people I know and, while needing to remember my campus context may different, I regularly lean on many for input when making vendor decisions. What other factors do you consider when making such choices?

Kelli Smith Director of University Career Services at the Fleish

Kelli K. Smith, Director of University Career Services, Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, Binghamton University
Twitter: https://twitter.com/drkelliksmith
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellikapustkasmith/
More blogs by Kelli Smith

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

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.

Helping Students Make Employer Connections

Irene Hillman

Irene Hillman, Manager of Career Development, College of Business, Decosimo Success Center, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/irenehillman
Career Services Programs that Engage Employers
College career fairs can feel like a blur. Hundreds of college students, many of them prepared—but just as many of them unprepared, shuffle in and wander from table to table giving employers their pitches. Employers return the favor and point these young professionals to their websites to apply for positions. It’s a way to build visibility on both sides—company and candidate—but creating a meaningful connection simply isn’t in the cards.

So, how can colleges support the authentic engagement needed for both their students to build relationships that will help them launch careers and their employers to gain in-depth access to a targeted and valuable candidate group? Here are some methods being used by the College of Business at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that might provide some inspiration!

Show Students Where They Might Work

The Company Tour Program was developed specifically for entering freshmen to help tie them into both the UTC and business community very early in their college careers. The college develops a schedule of bi-weekly tours for approximately 20 students (lasting one to two hours) into the facilities of the area’s top employers and these students gain access to companies to learn more about the area’s economy, explore potential employers, and network with Chattanooga’s business community in a very familiar and engaging fashion. This encourages students to think about how their degrees can be leveraged and their academic learning can be applied following graduation, motivating them to be better students who are engaged in networking within professional circles of the city.

Connect Students and Employers Over Lunch

Through Bridge Luncheons, the College of Business invites businesses seeking a way to connect with current students, pending graduates, or alumni to sponsor a business meal. This series brings business students and local or regional organizations together in an intimate setting over a served lunch where candid and interactive dialogue can occur. Typically this is used by companies as a recruiting venue for open positions. Such events are an effective means for companies to spend quality time with multiple candidates at once and serves, in many cases, as a first and simple step in the vetting process. The luncheon is also an ideal place for students to to practice business meal etiquette. Bridge Luncheons are by invitation only based on the criteria set by the sponsoring companies. Students receive e-mails requesting an RSVP if they care to attend.

Jennifer Johnson, a UTC Accounting student (Class of 2015), says, “The luncheons have given me an opportunity to connect with local businesses and to build relationships with their owners and employees before joining the work force.”

She adds, “I am very thankful that UTC has provided me with the opportunity to participate in these luncheons because they have helped ease my apprehension interacting with potential employers and colleagues.”

As an additional perk, colleges can consider such luncheons a minor revenue stream since a reasonable flat rate can be charged to companies and remaining funds (after catering and room costs are covered) would be retained to support other career services activities and events.

Pair Students With a Mentor

The Business Mentor Program is available to sophomore, junior, senior, and graduate students. Experienced professionals are paired with students in a mentoring relationship based on common professional interests, guiding students toward career success. Employers are encouraged to nominate a seasoned professional to the Business Mentor Program.

The program provides a great opportunity for professionals to counsel and influence the next generation of business leaders and increase the work force readiness of future recruits. Undergraduates may even engage in the program for academic credit (one credit). The course integrates academic learning with business world application and experiences. Students meet in class for one month to prepare for the mentoring relationship and then pair with mentors for the remaining semester period.

Practices Makes Networking Easy

The semiannual Resume Week and Mock Interview Week events are another way to help recruiters and students engage in effective networking and develop significant dialogue.

During Resume Week, the college seeks out a few dozen professionals (hiring managers or recruiters) whose careers align with the College of Business academic programs and invites them to participate in the event. Students visit the centrally located student lounge with their resumes to give managers and recruiters a chance provide their professional opinions through a 15-minute review while networking one-on-one. Bios of the volunteers are provided to students so students can plan who they want to meet. We encourage students to dress professionally and bring a business card to make a great first impression on our visitors.

Abdul Hanan Sheikh, UTC Human Resource Management and Management student (Class of 2015), summarizes the impact that the Resume Review event has had on his career launch: “By attending this event, I received remarkable feedback, which helped me make adjustments to my resume. This event helped me get more engaged in networking effectively. It was a great opportunity for me to make connections with business professionals from around Chattanooga. Furthermore, I believe these events helped me land my first internship last fall and then my summer internship as well, and those positions gave me the experience I needed in HR to feel confident about finding a great job after graduation. So now I have a strong resume and solid experience!”

A month following Resume Week, the college holds a similarly arranged series of events for Mock Interview Week. Students walk away with invaluable advice on both developing a robust resume and interviewing successfully, but they get a chance to ask questions about launching their careers to people with realistic answers. As a result, a connection is made and networking flourishes between the student and the professionals with whom they have met.

Engaging with employers need not be an awkward or hurried venture that happens once a semester. When students are provided multiple opportunities for directed networking, relationships can unfold in an enriching manner for our students and our employers!

 

 

Career Development, the U.S. Job Search, and International Students: Lack of Understanding the U.S. Job Search (Post 2)

Ross WadeRoss Wade, assistant director of career services, Duke Engineering/Professional Master’s Programs
Personal blog: http://mrrosswade.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswade
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

Greetings career professionals! I wanted to focus this post (and the next couple of posts) on common challenges I assist my international students with, and provide some strategies and ideas that you can use in your practice.  I’ve even added a couple of ideas that could be a part of your office’s employer outreach strategy.

 CHALLENGE: Lack of understanding the U.S. job search.

I see it over and over again. Students from across the globe begin their U.S. college experience thinking that the job-search process will be just like it is in their home country. Most of the time that process is something like: make great grades, study hard for the final test, and the higher your test score (and grades), the better job you get. And the employers will come to you! It is all about grades, and working toward being top of your class. There is little to no focus on networking or getting hands-on experience (though many of my Chinese students acquire a one month “internship,” which is more like an observational externship experience). Many international students have no idea about the U.S. job search, and that it is focused more on professional experience and relationships than grades.

Sharing this, and having students understand this, is your first and most difficult step. Some students will feel uncomfortable approaching or cold calling professionals to connect, thinking that it is rude or disrespectful; aligning these students with others from their home country that have successfully found careers in the United States normalizes networking…and they can get the scoop on the step-by-step of networking and how their peer or “senior” successfully did this without feeling like they were being disrespectful.

 IDEAS & RESOURCES

  • Create a book club or U.S. job-search working/accountability group for international students that meets every couple of weeks. Daniel Beaudry, has written a wonderful book about the U.S. job search for international students called “Power Ties.” He does a fantastic job of explaining the process of the U.S. job search and networking, while explaining the visa process and all of the “players” such as hiring managers, HR, etc.
  • Teach students how to connect with international alums that were able to find jobs in the United States. Most institutions have an alumni database, but did you know the LinkedIn “Find Alumni” tool is FANTASTIC for this?! I work with graduate students, and have them access the tool (LinkedIn > Network > Find Alumni), and search for alumni of their undergraduate institution (back in their home country), click on who is living in the United States, and sort by industry. Not only does this give them a list of alums they can connect with, but shows the companies and industries most likely to hire international talent. If you are working with undergraduates, have them search under popular universities in their home country (they’ll still be able to access the alums!).
  • A lot of my international students are obsessed with all the big-brand companies (e.g. Deloitte, Google, Exxon), and don’t consider smaller companies. I remind my students that pursuing a big brand company is fine, but don’t forget that a gazillion other international students will be doing the same thing. Smaller companies may have less competition and be less rigid in considering hiring international talent, and accessing hiring managers may be easier. Consider this idea which incorporates educating students and employers (here’s the employer outreach idea I mentioned earlier); do a webinar or panel with employers (that have successfully hired international talent in the past), an immigration lawyer, visa services, and international alums working in the United States to share their insights and experiences from the employer and student point of view. You could invite international students and smaller companies/employers in your area to learn more about this process (a great professional development opportunity for them, and a way to get them interested in your students).
  • Find a mentor or colleague with experience working with international students to help you. This could be someone from your school’s visa services office, international house, or counseling center. I’ve been so lucky to have incredibly smart and experienced colleagues (Carrie Hawes, Jenny Johnson, Bridget Fletcher) help me grow my skills with international students along the way – I’m so grateful to them!

In my next blog posts I’ll discuss the sponsorship process, and address all of the confusion and anxiety many international students face when networking.

What ideas do you have for helping international students better understand the U.S. job search?

Did you miss part one? Read it here, and watch for Ross Wade’s next blog in this series! Coming soon.