Dispelling the Engineering Student Myth: What Career Educators Need to Know

by Amy Brierley

As a psychology alumna and career coach with a soft spot for humanities and social sciences students, I have always thought that engineering students have it all (yes, maybe I’ve been a bit jealous). They possess the technical skills sought after in today’s job market. They have options. They are clear on what they want to do with their life. They are all but guaranteed to get a job.

Seven months ago, I transitioned to working exclusively with engineering students at Stanford. In my first few months of individual appointments with students, I was surprised to find that many of their questions have been the same as social sciences and humanities students: What do I want to do? Where will I fit? How do I compare with my peers? Will I get a job that will give me the future I hope for?

I recently led a five-part job search series entitled, Build Your Engineering Job-Search Toolkit. We created this series thinking that many of our engineering students knew what they wanted to do, but weren’t sure how to get there. However, in the first session, Designing Your Job Search, I asked, “how many of you know what you want to do?” I assumed I didn’t even need to ask this because everyone would know – but I was wrong. Of the 23 mostly masters’ students in the room, only a few raised their hands.

In the series, I hosted alumni speakers who shared their job-search experiences. They talked about their own uncertainties, and how they leaned on their mentors and their network to help them clarify their next steps and find opportunities. As I watched these alumni and students interact, I was reminded of the power of connections and mentoring in our work with students. I realized that these engineering students need models of what’s possible for them in the world of work.

How has my experience thus far changed my approach to engineering students? Instead of assuming that a computer science student wants to be a software engineer, or that a mechanical engineering student wants to work in aerospace, I maintain an open mind that they may not have a clue where they see themselves; they may be interested in a non-traditional track or they may want to do something altogether non-technical. I also don’t presuppose that engineering students only need tools for job searching, so I make it a point to ask powerful coaching questions in my meetings with them – even if it’s for a resume review; questions such as, “If in a year from now, life was great, what would it look and feel like?” or “If you had a magic wand, and you could have the internship you want, what would it look like?” Lastly, I recommend that these students reach out to mentors and alumni, and am planning future programs that foster these connections.

So, the next time you interact with an engineering student, remember that they might be feeling more uncertain about the future than you may think.

What has your experience been with engineering students? How are you helping them find what they want to do? I would love to hear!

amy brierleyAmy Brierley, Assistant Dean of Career Education & Associate Director for Career Communities – Engineering & EarthStandford University
Twitter: @amyb_stanford
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brierleyamy

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

Avoiding a Renege by Building a Relationship

by Susan Brennan

It’s a job seeker’s market for college students, with many returning from a summer internship with a job offer in hand—long before graduation. It’s a rosy scenario, except for the challenges it poses for both sides: Students are against the clock to accept or bow out gracefully, and employers are challenged to hold a new hire’s attention for nine months. But I have seen some creative and smart ways to avoid a renege.

A lot of companies are building retention plans that include multiple touch points from the time of the offer to the time a new employee actually fills the seat. It may be a simple gesture—sending a care package during final exams or a holiday card—or a larger commitment such as a monthly dinner. Either way, it’s about building a welcoming community from day one. Here’s what some of our corporate partners do to keep new hires in the pipeline:

Build purposeful relationships.

At PricewaterhouseCoopers, all new hires and interns are assigned a relationship partner, career coach, and peer coach. The relationship partner develops a trusting relationship with the new hire, provides insight on demonstrating high performance, and communicates the value of the PwC experience. The career coach proactively schedules time to meet with the new hire, provides ongoing career counseling, and communicates the importance of developing leadership skills. The peer coach establishes a relationship with the new hire so the individual can quickly feel comfortable contacting them with questions, supports their productivity by assisting them with tools needed to immediately begin adding value, and helps acclimate the new hire to the firm.

Hold networking events.

Networking programs provide a more casual opportunity to get to know colleagues and other new hires. Bentley students who have accepted or have an outstanding offer from Liberty Mutual, for example, are invited to attend “LMI Peer Connections.” It’s a platform to network and ask questions about career opportunities and decisions. (And free food is always a hit with college students.)

Get social.

Setting up an app or using social media is an easy way to keep candidates in touch with what’s going on at your company, and to allow them to ask questions. (I’ve see this as particularly useful if someone is relocating.) Using technology to bridge the gap is something that students are comfortable with, as they can do it on their own time: in the dorm room, on the bus, or in the cafeteria.

Create experiences.

Today’s candidates care about experiences. When EY has done campus recruiting at my university, for example, they’ve brought along a petting zoo. (Yes, real chicks, bunnies, and even a little pig). Some companies will make an offer over dinner at a nice restaurant. Whenever you get the chance to create experiences—big or small—do it. Taking the time to go that extra mile won’t go unnoticed. 

Be flexible.

If you have your heart set on a new hire, you may need to be willing to accommodate requests. If a candidate wants to accept an offer but already had plans to first spend six months after graduation doing meaningful work like Teach America, for example, perhaps it’s possible to defer a start date. You may even find ways to tie the experience into your company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Now some tips you can pass on to job seekers

Candidates can also follow some simple rules of thumb to help them decide whether an offer is right for them. (These may also be useful for employers to look at the other side.)

Do some soul searching.

At Bentley, our students actually begin the “soul searching” process during freshman year; but it’s still an ongoing, lifelong process. Identify your interests, passions, and personality. What’s going to keep you inspired and getting out of bed each day for work? Differentiate between logistical aspects of a job offer—salary, health benefits—and other opportunities like culture, mentors, educational reimbursement, and professional memberships. (Try to get away from expectations placed on you by family and friends.) 

Review the offer with career services.

Once you get a verbal or written offer, make an appointment with a career services professional at your school. They can review compensation and benefits, address any concerns, and discus appropriate next steps. (They can also guide you on offer etiquette—whether accepting or declining an offer—as most schools have policies on both.) 

Set (or re-set) your priorities.

Just because an employer didn’t pop open a bottle of expensive champagne during your job offer, it doesn’t mean that they don’t value your work. Companies have different policies they need to follow. Step back and think about the big picture: Is the company culture a good fit? Do they offer great benefits? Is there opportunity to grow? 

Ask for an extension.

If you aren’t sure whether to accept or reject an offer, companies are typically sensitive to giving you time to make an informed decision. If you have a month or two, for example, take that time to explore what else is out there. In the end, employers will respect the time you took in making a well-thought decision. But, remember, deadlines are set to give employers time to reach out to other candidates, so the sooner you break the news, the better for everyone. 

Have difficult conversations.

A student came to me with a job offer in hand; he loved the company but not the actual job he was offered. In a case like this, it’s okay to talk with the employer and explain that you would love to work for them, but perhaps in a different role. Just be sure not to wait until the last minute or send an e-mail. Pick up the phone and have a candid, respectful conversation. (A career services professional can guide you through these kinds of conversations.) 

One last note to employers.

In the end, a renege is sometimes unavoidable—and could even be a blessing in disguise: If a new hire has reservations about accepting the job, they will likely show up unhappy and may end up not performing well if their head isn’t in the game. 

The reality is that it’s a new world order and talented candidates are driving corporate strategy. But retaining the best and brightest during these competitive times is possible. Be solutions oriented, and you’ll negotiate a mutual win.

susan brennanSusan Brennan, Associate Vice President for University Career Services, Bentley University

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/susansandlerbrennan
Twitter: @BentleyCareerSB
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/bentleycareer/?fref=ts
Website:  http://careeredge.bentley.edu/

Breaking Away from the Four-Year Career Plan: Implementing a Personalized Career Planning Model

by Amanda Carchedi

This past June, the Center for Career Development (CCD) at the University of Connecticut (UConn) was pleased to receive the 2016 NACE Member’s Choice Award for the program entitled “Breaking Away from the Four-Year Plan: Implementing a Personalized Career Planning Model.” This program, designed by Nancy Bilmes, Amanda Carchedi, Lee Hameroff, and Emily Merritt from the CCD, is a modern resource that provides career development guidance to students while remaining inherently flexible. Working at an institution with more than 30,000 students, the CCD found it critical to provide career guidance that could reach and be applicable to all students. In order to offer structured guidance and action items, and integrate modern techniques for delivery, it was realized that the CCD needed to move away from the traditional, outdated four-year planning model. Piloted within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the UConn Personalized Career Planning Model successfully provides students with an individualized career experience that is customized to their career development needs.

The Original: CLAS Exploration Plan

Our work on Personalized Career Planning has been realized in two stages. First, Emily sought to benefit College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) students by creating and implementing the “Developing a Career Exploration Plan” video and “Next Steps” questionnaire, which helped these students understand the elements of career exploration through a brief Prezi voiceover clip and next steps questionnaire, producing a tailored action plan based on the student’s self-identified career development stages and connecting to resources offered through the CCD.

In its first year of implementation, the CLAS Exploration Plan was piloted with arts and sciences students, as well as introduced to incoming students through career presentations at University Open Houses. One hundred fifty students and alumni used the resource. It was evaluated by requesting informal qualitative feedback from students, and academic advisors who referred students to the resource.  Students said the video helped them learn about resources they were previously unaware of, that they shared the resource with friends, and that it helped motivate them to initiate their next steps. An academic adviser that referred students to the resource said she shared it because it “demystified the concept of vocational development” and helped students develop tangible next steps.

New and Improved: UConn Personal Career Plan

This positive feedback led our department to decide to create a new version of this modernized resource to support all undergraduate students in developing their personalized career plans. We started by creating a new model, the UConn Career Engagement Model, to represent our department’s philosophy of supporting all UConn students in their career exploration, cultivation, and management.

The UConn Personal Career Plan builds off of our new model by guiding students through the career elements of “Reflect & Explore Possibilities,” “Cultivate Career Capital,” and “Manage Career Development.” Students can watch a 90-second introductory video to learn how to start their Personalized Action Plan.

Once watching the “Getting Started” video students can watch one of three clips based on where they are in their personal career development. Currently our webpage gives suggested next steps based on which element they’ve clicked on.

We are in the process of developing a customizable action list where students can identify next steps based on which career element they are within and design their own personal career plan to organize goals and future steps.  This “Action Steps Builder” and the completed UConn Personalized Career Plan will launch in spring 2017 and be promoted to all undergraduate students.

Moving Forward

Once the customizable UConn Personal Career Plan is fully launched, the program will be promoted to academic advisors from all departments as a tool to refer students to the career office. It will ensure that students are coming into the office better prepared to receive personalized coaching and guidance.  The department is committed to integrating the model as a foundation for its counseling, programming, and technology resources and is working to establish a committee to work on the continued expansion and integration of the personalized career planning model and career development process. Ideas for further integration include utilization of the resource during initial counseling appointments to development action plans for subsequent sessions and training of academic advisors to use the resource as a tool for referrals to the CCD.

The Center for Career Development (CCD) at the University of Connecticut (UConn) was awarded the 2016 NACE Member’s Choice Award for the program entitled “Breaking Away from the Four-Year Plan: Implementing a Personalized Career Planning Model.”

NACE is accepting submissions for the 2017 NACE Awards program from December 1, 2016, through January 31, 2017. Finalists for NACE Awards will be notified in the spring, and winners will be announced during the NACE 2017 Conference & Expo in June in Las Vegas.

 

Amanda Carchedi

Amanda Carchedi, University of Connecticut Marketing and Communication Manager, Center for Career Development
Twitter: https://twitter.com/amandalcarchedi
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/amandacarchedi

The Art of Delivering Career Counseling/Advising Virtually

by Kara Brown

University and college career centers all over the country experience challenges reaching their online and satellite campus students. However, these online programs and satellite campuses are incredibly important for students who work full time, are nontraditional, or have other responsibilities that they need to attend to, which makes in-person workshops nearly impossible to attend. While these students are able to gain the knowledge and information that they need to be successful in the classroom, they are missing out on the knowledge and information that they need to be successful in their job search and career development.

While our university is relatively small, we have three satellite campuses and several online programs for our undergraduate and graduate students. We have reached out to these students and requested their feedback about how we can better serve them. The large majority of students explained that they want more access to workshops and presentations because they usually cannot attend on-campus events due to distance or schedules. Our career development center then worked with IT and the satellite campus administration to use Adobe Connect to provide live career development workshops for these students. We are even able to record the workshops so that we can e-mail these workshops to the students who missed them.

Recently, we held our second virtual workshop, and I was given the opportunity to present. Our office decided to present on the topic of resume and cover letter writing. The process of preparing was similar to an in-person workshop or presentation, but it did require e-mailing the link to students and alumni who were interested in attending. Our staff also advertised the event through our social media outlets. Once the evening had arrived, we had more than 60 students and alumni registered for the workshop. This was a huge number in comparison to on-campus workshops that we have held. When the virtual presentation had started there were about 25 students and alumni in the workshop, but this was still a great turnout for us.

Adobe Connect allows the presenter to use live video and audio feed, and I was able to share my computer screen with all of the presenters. Also, workshop attendees can use the chat box to type questions in real time, which is a great function. I have to admit that it felt a bit strange to speak to my computer screen as opposed to actual people, but eventually it felt like any other workshop that I have conducted. Almost minutes after the presentation had concluded, our office received four e-mails from students and alumni requesting services for resume and cover letter reviews. We also sent out a survey requesting feedback, and all of the comments were positive.

While challenges will always exist in trying to reach all of our students, we are excited by the use of technology and software to be able to face these challenges head on. There are a number of positive outcomes to implementing these types of workshops, and we are looking forward to launching more in the future.
If you or your career centers have any questions regarding virtual workshops, feel free to contact me at brown.kara@gmercyu.edu. I would also love to hear feedback about ways that your career centers have successfully reached your online and satellite campus students.
Kara BrownKara Brown, Associate Director of Career Development, Gwynedd Mercy University
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brownkara
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gmercyucareers

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

The Differences Between Working in Higher Education and Corporate America

kelly d. scottKelly Scott, Campus Recruiter at Liberty Mutual Insurance
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellykonevichscott

I never thought I would do anything other than work in higher education. With a background in educational counseling psychology and a job as a career counselor and assistant director within a career center at a Boston-area university, I had no need to look for a life outside the ivy-covered walls. But then an intriguing opportunity presented itself and I made the leap to corporate America. And I now find myself as a de facto spokesperson for corporate America among my higher education friends and colleagues. The information that most piques their interest is: “What are the differences between working there and here?” And I always tell them, while there are differences, the two worlds aren’t as far apart as you might think.

It’s a different kind of fast paced.

I thought there was only one kind of fast paced, but I was wrong. As an assistant director at a career center, I had a lot to do. There were student appointments, large- and small-scale events to plan and facilitate, workshops, class presentations, semester planning, and ad hoc projects. As a recruiter, it is also fast paced with numerous projects to complete, yearly planning, interviews, and regular meetings with various stakeholders across the organization.

So, what’s the difference then? The difference are the deadlines. I can’t speak for all universities because I’m drawing from personal experience, but overall, I had a lot of autonomy when it came to deadlines. “When do you think you could have that done?” was a question I was frequently fielding as a career counselor. Additionally, it was acceptable to spend a semester or two hammering out a new program or idea and generally the only people you were answering to were those in your department and the students.

Deadlines in corporate America are much less fluid. Many of the decisions and projects that I’m working on directly affect a team in a completely different department or business unit. As a result, deadlines are determined by a group and driven by quarterly business needs and recruiting cycle timelines. This creates a different sense of urgency than what I experienced in the higher education sector. Not better or worse, just different.

The private sector is more formal.

This shouldn’t be a shocker: it’s more formal. Working with college students makes for a much more casual environment than working with business leaders in a Fortune 100 company. The casual nature lends itself to forming deep personal connections with co-workers and, in my opinion, is one of its most appealing attributes of working in at a college or university. It wasn’t uncommon to share personal successes and even heartaches and frustrations with your direct co-workers or even your supervisor. Mind you, you’ve got a bunch of counselors sharing feelings, so it’s probably not that unusual, but when you’re in the mix of it, you don’t realize what was going on until you leave.

There’s not so much sharing in the corporate world. While there is a huge emphasis on respect, integrity and development—and my colleagues are incredibly supportive and caring—the mushy-gushy feeling of my last department is gone. I have a few co-workers that I am thankful to have developed very close friendships with over the last year, but corporate culture doesn’t support oversharing the way education does. Again, neither one is better or worse than the other, but there are recognizable differences.

People move around a lot more in corporate.

My personal experience in higher education is that a lot of people stay put or climb the ladder within their particular function or department. My former boss had been at the university for more than 15 years—almost entirely as a career counselor with notable promotions within her department. Her boss was there just as long and on the same path. Many of my co-workers were self-proclaimed “lifers” and stayed within the academic counseling field in some capacity. You get to know your co-workers really well and they have in-depth knowledge about the organization and the department history.

Corporate works a little differently. Since I started a year ago, multiple people have moved to completely different business units and taken on very different roles. My company puts an emphasis on professional development and growth, so it isn’t surprising that there is a lot of movement. In fact, people are encouraged to explore new opportunities that will challenge their professional growth within the organization. The drawback is that people move around a lot and it seems as though as soon as I think I am getting to know somebody, they get promoted or move on to another part of the organization. Definitely all great things, but it is a stark contrast to what I saw working in higher education.

Both the corporate and higher education cultures have their pros and cons and I think it really all comes down to what you value in work and in your career. There are certainly things I miss about higher education (holiday break) and other things I certainly do not miss (freshman orientation). That said, work values and skills change and develop as we grow professionally. Who knows what the next 10 years will bring, but for those of you wondering, corporate is not as scary as you think and has almost as much free food as you get in higher education.