Getting Ready for the Spring Job Market After Winter Break

by Lisa L. Simmons

Winter break is over at most campuses. Students are returning to classes, and employers are preparing to target them for job and internship openings.

Are your students prepared to engage with employers? The following can help them shake off the winter break cobwebs and RECOVER in time for spring recruiting.

Recruiting System Profile Audit
• Ask students to log into your university recruiting system.
• Have them ensure that their information (GPA, major, graduation date…) is correct.
• Encourage them to complete their profile as thoroughly as possible.

Employment Search Plan
• Ask students to make a list of organizations that are their “Plan A.”
• Encourage students to not limit themselves to the most attractive and in-demand employers where the competition for available positions is substantial. Have them research other organizations that they would also consider. These will be their “Plan B.”
• Ask them to set up search agents on your university recruiting system and other job boards that will help them identify open positions.
• Advise them to research their targeted organizations, the organizations’ industries, and the functional area in which they are interested.

Cover Letter Review
• Encourage them to review their cover letter.
• Advise students to describe what they can do for an organization rather than what they want it to do for them.

Official Transcript Request
• Have students order their latest official transcript from the registrar so they can have it on hand if required by an organization.
• Remind them that they may also need an unofficial transcript in case they must upload it to a system with maximum document size requirements. (Watermarked documents are usually large.)

Visit the Career Center
• Encourage students to touch base with a career coach to review their resume and cover letter, discuss their goals, and iron out their job / internship search plan.
• Provide mock interview (in person or virtual) opportunities so that they will feel comfortable if they are selected for an employer interview.

Expand Network
• If students are not on LinkedIn, ask them to set up an account.
• Advise them that networking can lead to employment.
• Encourage them to look for friends, family, and alumni who are working at their targeted organizations and build a relationship. LinkedIn has a tip sheet that can assist them.

Resume Review
• Have students review their resume
• Tell them to include any experience they may have acquired over break
• Ask them to make any necessary revisions, such as GPA.
• Have students recheck their contact information, and caution them to be responsive to employers, the career center, and employer relations contacts.

Best wishes for a successful spring semester!

(A student version of this blog is available in Grab & Go on NACEWeb.)

Lisa SimmonsLisa L. Simmons, Associate Director, Employer Experience, Wake Forest University
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/llsimmons
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CareerConduit

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 Services Programs that Engage Employers

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

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 pitch. 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 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 to provide some inspiration.

Take the Freshmen Employer Tour

The Company Tour Program was developed specifically for entering freshmen to help tie them into both the UTC and business community very early on 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.

Invite Employers to Lunch

Through Bridge Luncheons, the College of Business invites businesses seeking a way in which 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. Bridge Luncheons are by invitation only based on the criteria set by the sponsoring companies and students receive e-mails requesting an RSVP if they care to attend. It is also an ideal place to practice business meal etiquette.

Jennifer Johnson, 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 beyond assisting students transition from students to professionals, colleges can consider such luncheons as 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 Professionals

The Business Mentor Program is available to sophomore, junior, senior, and graduate students. Experienced professionals support students who are paired in a mentoring relationship based on common professional interests in order to guide students toward best practices for career success. Valued 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 weeks of the semester.

Use Feedback From the Professionals

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 from participating companies a chance provide their professional opinions through a 15-minute resume review while networking one-on-one with these high-impact business people.

Bios of the volunteers are provided to students so they 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 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. Not only do students walk away with invaluable advice on developing a robust resume and interviewing successfully, but they get a chance to ask questions about launching their careers to people with realistic answers. And the hope is, 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!

 

 

Practice Interviews and Anxiety

Kara BrownKara Brown, Associate Director of Career Development, Gwynedd Mercy University
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brownkara
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gmercyucareers

A key issue that I have noticed with the majority of practice interviews that I conduct with students is anxiety. Often during a practice interview I observe symptoms of anxiety including: pressured speech, agitation of hands and feet, sweating, increased heartrate, nervous laughter, and sometimes crying. I am quickly able to identify these symptoms because in addition to my career counseling background, I also am trained in clinical mental health counseling.

While interview anxiety can be uncomfortable and difficult to address with students, I have found it to be extremely important to discuss. In some cases, anxiety can be linked to fear, lack of self-confidence, and/or lack of experience. It is important to address these issues head on before the student goes into an interview.

What can career counselors/advisers do to help?

Address it. Whenever we are in an uncomfortable situation we tend to want to ignore it. However, ignoring the anxiety that a student is experiencing in regard to interviewing could potentially continue to worsen the anxiety. Therefore, address the issue with, “I notice that you seem anxious. Tell me about that.”

Actively listen. Listen to what the student is telling you. For example, I had a student explain that they did not feel qualified for the position that they were applying to. So I went through each job requirement, and asked the student to give an example of how they met that requirement. The student felt more confident because they were able to verbally reason why they were qualified for the position.

Encourage practice. For some students, continuing to practice for an interview can help boost their confidence and decrease their anxiety.

Provide anxiety reducing techniques. There are several techniques that anyone can use to reduce anxiety. This may require a bit of research to find which one would work best for your students. While working with students with interview anxiety, I typically recommend that they use the technique of “being present.” I explain to them that while they are sitting in the lobby prior to going in for an interview, they take a few slow deep breaths, and notice what is going on around them. For example, what does the room look like? What do you smell? What are you feeling? I find that this process helps to lower a student’s anxiety by refocusing their attention on to something else.

Refer. There may be situations in which a student’s anxiety is so severe that they may require counseling services. It is important to have a referral process in place with your university’s counseling service in case these kinds of situations were to occur.
After you have conducted a practice interview with a student, make sure that you follow up with that student to find out how the interview went for them. Ask these students, “What went well? What did not go well? Did anything surprise you?” This kind of follow up allows the student to self-evaluate, and also helps to maintain their connection with your career development center.

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.

 

Finding Your Professional Voice

Jade PerryJade Perry, Coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Student Success at DePaul University
Twitter: @SAJadePerry1
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/jade-perry/21/667/b25/
Website: jadetperry.com

Many times, the word professionalism conjures thoughts and images of workplace dress, norms, and habits. However, there is yet another consideration for people  who speak more than one language and/or have mastered more than one dialect of English. This includes reconciling notions of professional voice.

Given the various dialects of English and the purpose of this article, I will refrain from calling some “proper English” and others “broken English.” These are value statements that detract from how the English language is actively shaped by both context and community. Yet since navigating language depends on context, we also must think about how students and staff negotiate language in the workplace and/or other professional settings (i.e. student meetings with university staff, interviews and interview prep, presentations, etc.)

For example, one afternoon I was chatting with a student in a dialect form that we both shared. (To be clear, this is not slang, catch-phrases, and/or lazy forms of standard English. By shared dialect, I mean “a systematic, rule-governed (form) of English” that we both could navigate well despite regional variations of said dialect; Jones, 2015, p. 404). We had a long conversation about what was happening on campus, goals for the next year, and more, until I was interrupted by a phone call from a colleague. This colleague happened to be able to navigate the dialect we were speaking. However, because it was a colleague, the conversation moved to include more formal / standard modes of English. The student commented, “You’ve got your work voice on!”

This does not just happen in our colleges and universities. We’ve seen this on the stage of arts and entertainment as well. If at all possible, briefly suspend your understandings of Kanye West’s canon of art and/or personality antics, to take a closer look at how he uses language. In recent interviews, Kanye slips into an extremely different mode of English than in his body of music. In the past, this has prompted strong reactions in news publications and on social media about “Who is Kanye trying to be? Why isn’t he using his real voice? Is this Kanye’s ‘interview voice?’ The choices that we make about language in the workplace often hold implications about who we are AND how we are perceived. It’s important to draw students into conversation about some of those things.

Communication and Career Capital

Dr. Tara Yosso (2005) poses an interesting question in her work, Whose Culture Has Capital? A Critical Race Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth. Quite often, when we think of capital, or various forms of wealth, we have limited views and understandings of what these forms of wealth can be. Many of our students hold a great deal of linguistic capital, defined by Yosso as the “intellectual and social skills attained through communication experiences in more than one language and/or style…Reading, literacy, oral histories, cuentos (stories), dichos (proverbs), sophisticated linguistic code switching (2005, p. 78).” This comes in very handy inside and outside of the workplace, as they navigate the different communities that they hold dear. So, when we talk about our modes of communication in interviews, in the workplace, and for career goals, there may also be opportunities to talk with and learn from our students about their understandings of professional voice.

Each day, our students navigate home dialects and standard English workplace/academic dialects. Thus, navigating multiple languages and dialects of language is a part of career capital: What are we saying? How are we saying it, depending on the context?

My “work voice”  and even the work voices of my colleagues can change, depending on how we need to function in that moment. At any given moment, you may hear standard American English (SAE), Spanish and dialects of Spanish, African-American English (AAE, which encompasses various sets of rules, depending on region), and more as we have conversations about student success, retention, persistence, and career capital. In a meeting with executive leadership, we might slip into more standardized dialects of English, due to context and shared understandings. For students finding their professional voice, it’s important to talk through these contexts, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be difficult to do so.

Learning from Creative Reflection

One of my favorite activities to take students through is an auto-ethnography of how they use language and how they are currently developing their understanding of professional voice. It’s easier to do this activity around written language, since they can access that from their phones and/or e-mail accounts. I ask students to observe and reflect on the language they use in the following contexts:

  • Contacting someone from your professional field (for students, this can be any current supervisors they have, mentors, etc.)
  • Contacting a family member
  • Contacting a peer or a close friend
    (you can also add other categories as appropriate)

It’s best if you can show them an example from your own life, to provide a template for the activity. Students may notice themselves code switching: slipping into and out of various languages, different forms of language, and even the use of imagery as communication, i.e. memes, emojis, emoticons. This prompts conversations about when they choose to use standardized/formal English dialects and when they choose to skillfully use various forms, as well. In many cases, this has also prompted conversations about authenticity in the workplace. (What makes someone authentic? How do we communicate in authentic ways, regardless of context?) This is also an activity that you can do with staff, especially if you are in the early stages of understanding. It’s important to stay away from value statements on how students are using language, but to help students to simply reflect on how they are already using language and how they might make sense of their own linguistic and career capital.

Further Reading:
Jones, Taylor (11/2015). “Toward a Description of African American Vernacular English Dialect Regions Using ‘Black Twitter.’ ” American speech (0003-1283),90 (4), p. 403.

Yosso, T.J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth
Wofram. Sociolinguistics Definition from the Linguistic Society of America.

 

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.