NACE17 Is a Success Because of NACE Members

by Kathleen Powell

Whether or not you attended NACE17, it’s clear NACE members are our greatest asset! The message is clear, the capacity of our association is evident!

Yes, the conference is for the members. But, it’s because of the members we had 99 breakout sessions involving hundreds of you sharing your expertise with colleagues:

  • 60 members engaged with the Innovation Challenge,
  • 30 organizations participated in the Professional Achievement Showcase, and
  • 2,500 members gave of their time and talent to network, benchmark, and yes, dance!

And, due to the capacity of what you all bring to the table, the conference attracted colleagues, nearly 70, from 12 countries including sister organizations in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Turkey, the United Emirates, and the United Kingdom. NACE truly has global expanse and our colleagues from around the world have interest in what we are doing as a profession and an association.

The annual conference doesn’t happen in a silo. Many committees come together to support the efforts of our profession.

The 12-member conference committee, with two co-chairs each representing both sides of NACE—college and employer—along with a board adviser and NACE staff adviser, vetted more than 425 proposals for the conference. It’s no easy task to cull through such talent and interest.

And, did you know committees work year round to bring you the best of contemporary thoughts and best practices? The Revised Principles Launch Task Force came together to determine the way forward for the new Principles for Ethical Professional Practice. Not only did the committee roll out the revised Principles at NACE17, but have developed a webinar for all NACE members to hear the context behind the revisions and how the revisions will impact decision making.

If you have interest in advocacy and what is top of mind for the profession, NACE17 offered a session legislative update from the field (scroll down to“Advisory Committee-Federal Update” on Facebook). The NACE Center for Career Development and Talent Acquisition is live on NACEWeb and points to public policy, legislation, and regulations. These are but a few examples of how our members come together to form the association we know as NACE.

One of the many highlights of the conference are the honors and awards that are bestowed on our members for their achievements in the profession. The Honors & Awards Committee, again, all members of NACE, reviewed 155 entries and selected finalists for this year’s eight Excellence Award Winners.

The point is simple. It is the members of our association that create a community of professional practice colleagues. Because of our members, NACE17 offered SmartTalks, Campfire Conversations, Solutions Labs, an Innovation Challenge. Our conference was achievable because of the NACE committees, task forces, mentors, ambassadors, writers, bloggers, presenters, event hosts, vendors, sponsors, and staff. Being one to get it done and the power of WE speaks to the collective work of NACE, our association, supporting our profession,n and the work of the many.

So, thank YOU for all you’ve done to make NACE17 a reality. And, start planning for NACE18, June 5 – 9, 2018, at the Hilton New Orleans in Riverside, Louisiana. The call for proposals is just around the corner. We are a creative bunch and I’m certain the programs won’t disappoint!

Kathleen Powell

Kathleen Powell, Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs, Executive Director of Career Development, Cohen Career Center, William & Mary
President, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Twitter: @powellka
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kathleenipowell/

The Year of Thinking Critically: NACE Career-Readiness Assessment in Action

by Janet R. Long

While critical thinking skills have long been considered a core measure of student learning, critical thinking increasingly appears in the vocabulary of the co-curricular, and notably in the domain of career services. Not only did critical thinking and problem-solving skills rank as the second highest career-readiness competency in the recently published 2016 Recruiting Benchmark Survey, a NACE survey of employers, but the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report also ranked critical thinking as the number 4 in its Top 10 Skills for 2015 and projected it would catapult to second place by 2020, just behind its first cousin, complex problem-solving!

Here at Widener, where I coordinate student learning outcomes for our career services office, critical thinking is top of mind across campus: it is the designated focus area for assessment across academic and administrative units for the current academic year.

As a career services team, we have embraced this focus by challenging our own critical thinking about ways in which we evaluate student learning and success. Here are a few examples:

  • New Approaches: Looking for a way to jump-start the year—and admittedly, to make assessment less dreaded—we held a pilot “data lab,” inspired by the work of University of Richmond Bonner Center for Civic Engagement Director Dr. Bryan Figura. In a data lab, participants evaluate “artifacts” of student learning.

Typically, the process is organized around a theme to make it more engaging and features rotating stations through which participants first review artifacts independently and then come together to reflect and discuss findings. For example, the University of Richmond used a Harry Potter theme to examine student learning in the realm of civic engagement.

For our own office, we selected student career-related writing for our pilot data lab and created a True Crime/CSI theme that had us literally playing detective while examining crime scene “exhibits” such as resumes, cover letters, and reflection papers. As just one take-away from this process, we decided to revise our resume rubric to make student learning outcomes better align with our critical thinking objective. From a programmatic perspective, we also introduced a longer-format interactive resume clinic in lieu of shorter, presentation-oriented sessions.

  • Rubric Audit: We extended our rubric review to student interviewing to ensure that we were truly collecting data that would inform our learning about student learning. Specifically, we revamped the Interview Content section to help both counselors and employers more explicitly rate how well students connect knowledge, strengths, and experiences to their qualifications and competitiveness for specific opportunities. We piloted the new rubric during a week-long event, Mock Interview Mania, and have already uncovered areas for improvement.
  • New Assessment of Existing Programs: As one example, we added a pre/post-test student self-evaluation for Seekers, the semester-long career exploration program that we facilitate for our liberal arts students at Widener, to an existing student reflection requirement. Several of the Likert-scale items pertain directly to the application of critical thinking skills to career-readiness process steps.
  1. I understand how my personal values may impact my career choices.
  2. I can confidently articulate my major strengths and how they connect to my employment or graduate study goals.
  3. I can confidently describe the skills I have learned through liberal arts coursework in language that a potential employer will understand and value.
  4. I can draw from my campus involvement, service, and leadership experiences to develop an effective “elevator speech.
  5. I know how to locate and navigate resources found in the Career Exploration and Professional Development sections of the Career Services Campus Cruiser Office.
  6. I understand how to network to pursue internships, jobs, or graduate programs in a way that leverages my personal style and strengths.
  7. I am confident in my ability to arrange and conduct an informational interview.
  8. I can list my top five targets for jobs, internships, or graduate programs.
  9. I can confidently and professionally use LinkedIn as a tool to connect with Widener alumni in support of my goals.
  10. I can use my critical thinking skills to confidently respond to challenging interview questions.
  11. Overall, I believe that my liberal arts education is preparing me for life after graduation.
  • Unifying the Units: In the most far-reaching initiative to date, our career services office has actively partnered with our peer units within Academic Support Services, including Counseling, Disability Services, Exploratory Studies, Student Success and Retention, and Tutoring. My colleague Jocelyn Manigo, director of tutoring services, and I were asked to co-chair this initiative, starting with aligning language around critical thinking across the six areas. In an upcoming post, I will elaborate on our process and learning to date.

What kinds of assessment initiatives are you piloting in your own offices? How are you getting colleagues to buy into the process?

Janet LongJanet R. Long is a NACE blog contributor and the career liaison to Widener University’s College of Arts & Sciences. She also coordinates student learning assessment for the career services office and co-chairs assessment for the broader Academic Support Services unit in partnership with Jocelyn Manigo, director of tutoring services.

Collaboration: More Isn’t Always Better

by Kathy Douglas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Career Readiness: Exploring Leadership

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Google leadership models

 

What kind of leader are you?

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

Some questions to think about while researching models:

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

The Importance of Team

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

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

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

 

NACE16: Finished, But Not Forgotten!

Kathleen Powell

Kathleen Powell, Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs, Executive Director of Career Development, Cohen Career Center, William & Mary
President-Elect, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Twitter: @powellka
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kathleenipowell/

NACE16 is over, but you’re just getting started! Remember to rekindle your connections, unpack the sessions you attended and share those with your team, and decide what’s next for you as you engage with your professional association. Whether you were a first-timer to the NACE conference or a seasoned expo goer, I think you will agree that the four days in Chicago were robust, thought-provoking, and quite the return on investment. The keynote speakers hit it out of the park. The content of their information aligned well with the work we all do around career readiness, STEAM, generational issues, and life profit! I think we could all use a bit more life profit.

Whether you collected business cards or connected through MLI alumni meet ups, LAP events, or hospitality opportunities, or grabbed lunch or dinner with old or new colleagues, staying connected will keep the information and conversations shared fresh and top of mind. You might remember President Dawn Carter challenging us to meet 50 new people while at the conference? I would echo her challenge and ask you to consider continuing the charge and connecting with members of our association. Did one of the sessions you couldn’t attend spark your interest, but you couldn’t be two places at once? Not a problem, visit NACEWeb and click on the MyNACE tab. Choose “purchase history” and click on the “Actions” arrow next to the conference. You will get a drop-down menu of options, including “View Handouts.” Find the handout for that session you missed. If you have more questions, contact the presenter/presenters. Our association members are excited about their work and willing to share best practices!

Kathleen Powell sparkles at the closing of the conference.

Kathleen Powell sparkles at the closing of the conference.

NACE16 rolled out the First-Destination Survey Results for the Class of 2015 and it was robust! The Advocacy Committee presented the most up-to-date information on FLSA and OPT changes, and discussed the NACE Position Statement on Diversity and Anti-Discrimination. The Career Readiness Tiger Team shared updates on the Career Readiness Toolkits and there was lively discussion around how institutions and employers are aligning and mapping the seven core competencies around career readiness within their work.

The conference provided Techbyte opportunities, SMARTalks, Innovation Labs, and an Innovation Challenge! Members of our organization were recognized for their dedication to the profession and their outstanding work that moves the needle for our association.

There is no doubt NACE16 was a success. That success is shared as there is so much happening behind the scenes that makes the expo hum. It’s our members, who share their time and talent with all of us, that keeps us nimble, informed, and prepared for what’s next to come in our professional work.

Kathleen Powell sparkles at the closing of the conference.

Kathleen Powell, NACE President 2016-17, speaks to the audience at the NACE16 closing session.

So, you might be thinking, “This is all wonderful, but I didn’t attend the conference.” Don’t fret my pets—(one of my grandmother’s favorite expressions)—you can find the Advocacy issues on naceweb.org! Looking for career readiness information, naceweb.org, looking for first-destination information, naceweb.org. Curious about all our association has to offer….naceweb.org!

 

Yes, the conference has come and gone, but the opportunity to engage with other members is just a website away. Don’t miss the opportunity for outreach to your colleagues, learn first hand what is top of mind for the profession, and don’t think the conference is one and done! I encourage you to find those 50 new people and take advantage of Face2Face, roundtables, training opportunities, and webinars! The possibilities truly are ENDLESS!

A Week in the Life of a Career Services Leader

board-christiangarcia

Christian Garcia, Associate Dean and Executive Director, Toppel Career Center, University of Miami LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christiangarcia     Twitter: @christiangarcia

“What the heck do you do all week?” Yeah, I’ve been asked that question here and there (insert eye roll emoji), so here are some highlights from a recent week on the grind. I didn’t include everything because a guy’s gotta have some mystery, right? Oh, and head on over to HireACane.com to learn more about the programs and initiatives I reference below.

MONDAY

8:00 a.m. Doctor’s appointment to get test results from annual physical (aside from a Vitamin D deficiency, all is good).

8:45 a.m. Quick stop at Starbucks on the way into the office: Trenta Iced Coffee with cream and six Equals, oatmeal with nuts and brown sugar. Repeat Tues. – Fri.

9:00 a.m. Toppel huddle, which happens every Monday, is a quick lightning round where each staff member shares what is on their plate for the week. The huddle occurs in the career center lobby (regardless of visitors present) and lasts no longer than 10 minutes. 

10:00 a.m. Strategic planning meeting with my leadership team to discuss where we are currently and next steps. For the past year, the entire Toppel staff has been immersed in the strategic planning process, which kicked off with a visit from career center innovators: Amjad Ayoubi (Tulane), Christine Cruzvergara (Wellesley/previously George Mason), and Joe Testani (U. of Rochester). During Meeting of the Minds, which we dubbed a “modern day external review,” each team within the center presented a pitch of their vision for Toppel in 2025. A number of brilliant ideas were presented and have been molded and shaped since last March, culminating in the soon-to-be-unveiled Toppel 2025: Career Services is Everybody’s Business. That’s all I can share at this point…stay tuned!

Afternoon set aside for planning a presentation to the Parents Council later in the week. The Parents Council, a group of about 80 influential parents, meets a few times a year and I have been invited to share with them my vision for the future of career services. Little do they know that they’re getting one of the first glimpses into Toppel 2025…

TUESDAY

9:00 a.m. Strengthening teams meeting. For the sake of brevity, check out my previous post All Play and No Work?

11:30 a.m. Lunch planning meeting for the 2nd Annual Lavender Celebration. Toppel was a proud sponsor of the inaugural graduation celebration for LGBTQ graduates last year and will continue to support this important event for years to come.

2:00 p.m. One-on-one with my boss, Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education. Discuss recent accomplishments, update on strategic plan, brainstorm topics for his speech to a group of 21 career center directors visiting U.M. next month, and I’m quickly outta there.

3:00 p.m. One-on-one with my Associate Director of Assessment and Communication. This meeting basically consisted of me gushing over all the extraordinary work he and his student intern team have been producing!

WEDNESDAY

11:00 a.m. Skype call with one of my NACE mentees. Jeffrey (College of Brockport-SUNY) knows about my undying love for Madonna and today, he created an agenda that used a different Madonna song for each agenda item. #hegetsme. This year, I hit the jackpot with not just one, but TWO, pretty amazing mentees who I know will be future leaders of our profession! The other one is Ryan from Muhlenberg College. I’m planning a future post all about our experiences in the NACE Mentor Program which is going to be cool!

1:00 p.m. One-on-one with my Associate Director for Career Readiness, who is one of the most genuine and positive individuals I have ever met. And by the way, she’s been talking about career readiness before career readiness was a thing!

2:00 p.m. Run all over the building to make sure it’s clean and tidy. See next entry.

2:15 p.m. Visit from Patricia Toppel. Yes, our namesake dropped by with her son and two granddaughters who wanted a tour of our beautiful building, which would not have been possible without the generosity of the Toppel family. Mrs. Toppel is a class act and I always love when I have the opportunity to see her.

6:00 p.m. Happy hour with our Associate Director, Employer Development, Washington, D.C. Hilary lives and works for us in D.C., but spends two weeks in Miami each semester. As always, the staff gathers for a happy hour in her honor before she leaves. Miss her already!

THURSDAY

9:00 a.m. One-on-one with my Director of Career Education, who is doing a phenomenal job managing his area and empowering his team of career advisers. He led our recent transition to Chaos Theory as our department’s theoretical framework and it’s already transforming the work!

11:00 a.m. Meeting with Gapingvoid, the organization responsible for the amazing artwork at Toppel. Discussed ways to continue our partnership and some exciting upcoming collaborations. Check out our building and artwork here and an article and video about how art has transformed culture at our center here.

3:30 p.m. Retirement party for one of U.M.’s most iconic and longstanding faculty members and administrator (more than 40 years of service).

FRIDAY

9:00 a.m. One-on-one with our Assistant Director of Graduate Student and Alumni Career Programs. We discussed a program she co-leads, Professional Development Academy, which is for juniors and students, and uses NACE’s Career Readiness competencies as its guiding framework. It’s an excellent initiative!

12:00 p.m. Phew…my presentation to the Parents Council was a big hit! They loved the five pillars that encompass the vision for our future of career services at U.M. I also garnered a lot of interest in launching Career Crawls across the country and our first international Crawl to London. Cheerio!

2:00 p.m. Meeting to discuss progress on pilot program to integrate academic and career advising. This has been and will continue to be lots of work but we will get there!

3:00 p.m. Meeting with a vendor regarding a potential partnership on a pretty cool and innovative assessment tool app. That’s all I can say right now…!

4:00 p.m. Video shoot to welcome parents and family to the Toppel Insider: Family Edition e-newsletter. After over 20 takes, I finally nailed it but we have decided to include some bloopers in the final video. Should be interesting!

7:00 p.m. A nice bottle of red wine (Cabernet) is removed from my wine fridge and cracked open to enjoy and ease into the weekend! That’s it. You’re not following me into the weekend!

 

 

Saying Yes to the Global Career Services Summit

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/

A few weeks ago I returned from the inaugural Global Career Services Summit held at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom (U.K.). It was the brainchild of Bob Athwal, Director of Student Experience and Careers at the University of Leicester, and Tom Devlin, Executive Director of the University of California Berkeley Career Center.

The program was the first of its kind and included a group of 68 career professionals invited to participate and some select sponsors from eight countries. The primary focus of the summit was to share best practices, discuss accountability within our profession, examine the global work force of tomorrow, explore new career center models, and provide opportunities for cultural exchange among practitioners. Since it was, perhaps, the most beneficial professional development experience of my life thus far, I wanted to share a few reflections. I was struck most by the fact that we were all dealing with very similar issues. Yes, we have some different terminology. We use the terms “placement” or “career outcomes” where our U.K. friends use “employability.” But I left intrigued by how the challenges we face and the innovations we are attempting are quite comparable. For example, we all face the challenge of our institutions recruiting more and more international students, but our governments restricting their ability to work in our country. In fact, by percentage, our friends abroad face this challenge even more than we do in the United States.

Secondly, we are all acutely aware of federal—and in many cases more so state—pressure on institutions for positive career outcomes. At the same time, our Take the National Student Survey Todaycolleagues in the United Kingdom are dealing with the “DHLE” (Destination of Leavers). We now have NACE standards providing our institutions much needed structure to create an “apples to apples” comparison for parents (as noted in this recent article by Billie Streufert), they have the National Student Survey which was prominently promoted all over the University of Leicester student union area, including large promotions along their walkways.

There are striking similarities in how we are challenged with a barrage of reports about the skills gap our college graduates have. As we know here in the U.S., a National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) task force comprised of representatives from both the higher education and corporate world developed a definition and identified seven competencies associated with career readiness for the new college graduate in 2015.

After being inspired to research a bit more what, for example, the U.K. is facing in this regard, I found an interesting blog from the London School of Economics and Political Science by Steven Ward. This helped me rethink the way I view this perceived gap and how we can add to the conversation in a different way. Without the conference, I would not have discovered this article and had my thinking challenged in that way.

The skills gap holds some new graduates back.It was also striking how we are sometimes responding in similar ways to external challenges. For example, during the tour of our host institution and career center at the University of Leicester, which has approximately 21 thousand students, we examined the efficiency of their appointment model and how they moved from hour-long appointments to 20 minute appointments with significant pre-work assigned to students in advance.

We needed to make similar changes at Binghamton University and moved to a structured amount of time for our walk-in appointments and to 30-minute individual appointments, allowing for us to grow our individual appointment number by 130 percent the following year with the same staffing. However, while we did have “pre-work” assigned to our practice interview appointment students, we have not done what Leicester has with our other appointments So, I plan for our department to examine that concept further.

And while we have dipped our toe into a program to assist in sophomore’s professional and leadership development skills, I liked seeing how Leicester partnered with an external vendor, The SmartyTrain, to create an innovative skills development program called “The Leicester Award.” I predict that we will, over time, see more career centers developing innovative ways to help students develop the key skills we know employers are seeking, rather than only educate students about what the skills are and how to best articulate their skills and strengths.

Marilyn Mackes leading a session

Marilyn Mackes leading a session

Naturally the networking and new friendships made with leaders in our field that I admire was, personally, my favorite part of the conference. It was also noted as being one of the best benefits for others; 66 percent of the participants stressed the importance of networking as being a primary conference benefit. It set the stage for professionals in our field from Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Italy, United Arab Emirates, and the United States. to engage in meaningful relationships, thus opening up opportunities and potential collaborations that may otherwise not occur.

One of my biggest professional takeaways was around an idea that Paul Blackmore from the University of Exeter brought up one night at dinner. We often do not realize how we can get stuck in a systems thinking mindset within our own countries. When we expose ourselves to others outside of our regular connections and cultures, our thinking is challenged and we may take different—and better—approaches to solving challenges that we might not have otherwise even considered. We begin to question our own stereotypes and traditional ways of thinking, as well as aspects of our own culture that were previously unexamined. It all sounds quite similar to what we say our students gain when they study abroad, right?

I also left with some questions…

  • How much do economic conditions affect our profession’s current state of being and initiatives?
  • What would our experience have been with a mix of different countries? It was a great start, but we all agreed there were other countries that would be helpful in the future.
  • How can we continue the momentum and build partnerships with similar institutions as ours around the globe in order to better our service to students and employers?

I arrived home before heading to NASPA with a feeling of being so grateful for the initial invitation to participate. There was never any hesitation on my part since I have never been in a position to travel to Europe and have dreamed of going for years. Plus, the list of attendees was too great to miss. When I received the invitation I knew it would mean being out of the office for nearly three consecutive weeks in March for work and family reasons, plus it would mean flying my in-laws in to assist with our children since my partner would be traveling at the same time.

Reunion of former Indiana University colleagues

Reunion of former Indiana University colleagues

I would be remiss to not add how thankful I also am that Tim Luzader and Marianna Savoca, colleagues from our days at Indiana University, reached to out see if I would like to travel with them a couple days early to see London. Traveling with them was most certainly a highlight I will always treasure, too. The entire experience was, most certainly, one of the best professional experiences I have ever had. Saying “yes” to this invitation was a decision I’ll never regret, and I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity and those that made the summit happen.