Supporting Students in the Race for Talent

by Heather Tranen
It’s  no secret among college campuses that recruiters are investing in talent earlier and earlier every year. I half expect the big banks will soon reach out to my two-year-old for a milk chat to discuss his advanced color identification skills. As the arms race for talent becomes more competitive and the talent pools become younger, how do career services professionals support their students?

1) Help them with their FOMO (fear of missing out). Niche industries have the capacity to recruit en mass early in the recruiting season. Many students may feel they should forego valuable life experiences such as studying abroad to avoid fear of missing out at home during on-campus recruitment. I meet with a lot of students reconsidering their decision to study abroad. Once I do some digging, beneath the surface of their fears I find only a lukewarm interest in the fields recruiting during their time away. I explain to them that they can still have informational interviews with alumni, do research on potential career interests and organizations, and even participate in some sort of experiential learning opportunity in between classes and traipsing the globe during their semester abroad. Once they become educated on the recruitment process and discover ways to remain productive in their career development while away they feel much more empowered and confident in their decisions.

2) Provide support resources. As students get recruited earlier in the process, it’s important that we adjust our services to meet their needs and to ensure they are prepared for the professional world. To be competitive, it will be crucial that students develop their interviewing and professional skills. This means tailoring programs earlier in their college experiences to cover these topics, create awareness among students of resources, and shed light on different internship opportunities available to them. Networking with alumni can be a valuable experience so offering venues for students to meet alumni in a less intimidating, non-recruiting environment can give them the insight they need to make good decisions during the recruitment process. Sometimes just hearing another person’s story can put students’ minds at ease.

3) Offer up offer advice. Students are making big decisions about their careers early in their college experiences. This can lead to rash decision making without the necessary strategic thinking. It’s important for us as career services professionals to ensure students are making good decisions for themselves. We want to avoid the dreaded reneging, which harms the reputations of both the individual student and the university at large, and foster mature and thoughtful career decisions. Brainstorming the right questions students can ask to get the most information about the potential internship experience helps them to consider which is the right opportunity for them. Additionally, working collaboratively with recruiters to create fair and firm offer guidelines helps us protect our students and  ensure a positive experience for the employers.

Many of us will venture into uncharted territory as we during campus recruitment next semester (conveniently, I will be on maternity leave so…..let me know how that all goes). As with all the changes we experience in higher education, it’s important to be flexible, open-minded, and share best practices with each other.

Heather Tranen
Heather Tranen,
Associate Director, University of Pennsylvania Career ServicesLinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heathertranen
Twitter: @htranen

Developing Career Goals Holistically

Melanie BufordMelanie Buford, Program Coordinator/Adjunct Instructor, Career Development Center, University of Cincinnati
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mebuford/
Website: www.melaniebuford.org

Dan Blank, a career coach who works primarily with creative professionals, offers the following advice in his webinar “Take Back Your Creative Life.”

“Career goals should not be formed in isolation. You must take into account all of your responsibilities (personal and professional), and be sure to account for your own well-being. This includes physical and mental health.” Blank encourages his clients to integrate their career and personal goals in order to set themselves up for success.

Many undergraduate students start their career decision-making process by selecting a major based on the subjects they enjoyed in high school. Students interested in majoring in one of the applied sciences tend to follow this pattern. Several students I’ve worked with tell me they’ve chosen to major in engineering because they were “smart” in high school or strong in math and science, but they don’t know much about the field itself. Time and again, these students arrive at the career development center wondering why they’re not more interested in the engineering coursework and field experiences.

The problem isn’t engineering. The problem is that these students formed career goals in isolation. They didn’t consider the environment they’d be working in, the physical location of their organization, the skills they enjoy developing and want to build on, or the ways they hope to grow as people and as professionals. Fortunately, the University of Cincinnati provides a co-op program that allows engineering students to get full-time work experience before graduation.

Career goals, increasingly, need to be formed holistically. Gone are the days when choosing a career was simply a matter of matching your best school subject to an industry. The market is volatile; new opportunities are being created and other avenues are becoming less viable. A law career isn’t the safe choice it once was, and the nonprofit world has expanded to include diverse organizations tackling new social issues. It’s more common that professionals will relocate to a new city for a job opportunity, and more workers than ever are changing jobs and moving to new sectors over the course of their careers.

We are facing the so-called “paradox of choice.” Research has demonstrated that if we are presented with more opportunities, decision-making becomes more difficult and satisfaction less likely.

When a student steps into a career development office today, they’re faced with a much broader set of options than they would have been 30 years ago. They could go to medical school in their hometown or they could spend two years in the Peace Corps and teach grade school students in Lithuania. They could go to graduate school for computer science or launch a start-up with friends based on their ideas for a new app.

In order to make these decisions, students have to consider not only what talents they have, but what kind of life they want to lead.

It is critical, therefore, that students take a holistic approach to developing their career goals. We encourage them to apply this lens both to themselves and to the field they’re considering. Here are a few questions students should consider during the career exploration process:

What skills do I have and want to develop?

What type of work environment might best fit my temperament?

What type of diversity do I hope to have in my work environment?

How is the industry I’m considering expected to evolve in the next few decades?

What city, state, or country might I want to live in?

What have my career goals been and how have they changed?

What role would I like technology to play in my career?

How important is stability to me and how willing am I to take risks?

Each of these questions will take time to answer as students develop more clarity on their identities and values. Is it any wonder career goals formed at age 18 often feel premature? These are questions we wrestle with throughout our lives.

To me, this only underscores the importance of committing to a continuous career development process, not just for students, but for graduates. Attempting to build your life looking only through a narrow lens of career is bound to work against your happiness. We must support students around this process by acknowledging its complexity and encouraging them to consider the multiple implications of a potential career path.

NACE members can pick up a student-directed version of this blog, Develop Your Career Goals Holistically, in Grab & Go.

Sources:

Blank, Dan. (2015). Take Back Your Creative Life Webinar. We Grow Media.

Cole, Marine. (2014). U.S. Job Market Has Changed Dramatically in 15 Year. The Fiscal Times. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/05/15/How-US-Job-Market-Has-Changed-Dramatically-15-Years

Hedges, Kristi. (2012). The Surprising Poverty of Too Many Choices. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/11/26/the-surprising-poverty-of-too-many-choices/.

 

Redefining Professional Development for Career Advisers

Ross WadeRoss Wade, Assistant Director, Duke University Career Center
Personal blog: http://mrrosswade.wordpress.com/
LinkedIn URL: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosswade
Twitter: @rrwade
Blogs from Ross Wade.

Does professional development for career services staff need an update? Is the model of “go to a conference or do an assessment training” still as relevant as career services is changing so much and so quickly? What can we do to grow as professionals, connect more with employers and alumni, and gain credibility with our students and other stakeholders? I think it is time to consider redefining what professional development for career services staff means, and how it is done. I’m not talking about ditching annual conferences, they are of great value, what I’m saying is I think it is time to add a few more options.

In July of 2014, Farouk Dey and Christine Y. Cruzvergara, co-authored an article called “10 Future Trends in College Career Services.” Number 10 in their inspiring and thought provoking piece, “New Breed of Professionals,” resonated with me—especially the statement, “To be successful, career center staff must become agile content experts and network catalysts who will lead communities and develop meaningful connections among their constituents.” In my experience, in order to gain credibility with students, having experience in the field in which I advise (media, arts, and entertainment) is very important. When I tell students that I’ve worked in documentary and digital media, and know of some great companies that could be a good fit for them (based on my personal experience) I get student buy-in very quickly.

My ideas for tweaking career services staff professional development options involve creating opportunities for gaining industry experience; generating and growing relationships with employers, alumni, faculty, and staff; and serve as a means for staff to gain some “street cred” (with students, employers, and faculty).

The concept of career staff having the option to do some form of industry internship during the summer is very exciting to me. The internship doesn’t have to be full-time; it could be eight to 10 hours a week over four to six weeks. The internship could be hands-on, or more observational and include informational interviews. Regardless of the specifics, this experience would give staff a chance to understand industry skills and trends as well as positions and roles within specific industries and companies, and the chance to connect with experts and HR professionals.

For example, there is a wonderful art start-up in my area connecting artists to consumers via social media and storytelling—I’d love to intern there, creating content, connecting with artists, and growing the art scene in my community. Think of all the connections I’d make and skills I’d learn. My improved knowledge of this industry and number of contacts in art I’d make would generate credibility with faculty and students.

Approaching employers with the idea of hiring an “adult”/career staff intern may at first raise some eyebrows, but just as we tell our students, if one creates a pitch and plan (with a timeline, tasks, and goals), that is brand new or a modified version of an existing internship program, what could we lose? Don’t want to intern at company? Try an internship at another office at your institution.

For example, it would be a great opportunity to intern with the communications office at my home institution, or in the multicultural center. Think of the new connections to be made and opportunities to find points for future collaboration! Is research your thing? Approach a faculty member focused on an industry or topic of relevance to career development, and pitch a research idea. Spend 10 or so hours a week during the summer researching and writing. Career staff doing research with faculty – whaaaat?! It may sound crazy, but I think it is a wonderful idea, and I bet it is already happening at institutions across the country.

Other benefits include staff cross training opportunities after the internship or research is completed, heightened staff engagement and excitement, and great content (e.g. photos, blog posts, interviews with professionals) to share across campus via social media to generate interest in career services. What ideas do you have? I’d love to get employer thoughts on this. How would you redefine professional development for career services staff?

25 Short, Sweet Tips for Summer Interns

Sarah SteenrodSarah Steenrod, Director, Undergraduate Career Consultation and Programs, Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University
Twitter: @SarahSteenrod
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahsteenrod

While it seems like just yesterday (OK, more like 13 years ago) since I was an intern at Neiman Marcus in Las Vegas, the lessons I learned and experiences I had during that pivotal time in my college and professional career are crystal clear. My personal experience, coupled with nearly 10 years of experience supporting college students in pursuit of their careers, reminds me that it never hurts to offer some tips on how to make the most of the summer internship. So, here are tips you can give your students (in no particular order)…

  1. Set goals. Both personal and professional goals can help you make the most of your summer, help you stay on track, and know if you have achieved what you set out to do.
  2. Ask questions. An internship is a learning process and you may need to seek clarification along the way.
  3. Participate in all intern and company activities that you are invited to. It’s a great way to meet fellow interns and people at the company who are investing their time in your experience.
  4. Share your ideas. People want to know what you think, so speak up!
  5. If you finish your work, ask for more. By taking initiative, you may end up with an awesome project or learning experience.
  6. Pack your lunch. You’ll save money and calories. It’s absolutely fine to join your colleagues and treat yourself to lunch every once in a while, but you will thank yourself at the end of the summer if you didn’t blow your paychecks on takeout sushi.
  7. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Always be sure to follow the dress code and make sure your clothes are clean, neat, and pressed.
  8. Get a good night’s rest. If you’re used to going to bed at 2 a.m., the sound of the alarm at 6 a.m. is going to be a rude awakening (literally and figuratively). No one at your workplace will care if you’re tired, so don’t look or act tired.
  9. Consider your internship a three-month interview. This is your opportunity to make the most of each day with the potential of getting a job offer at the end.
  10. Ask people if you can be of help to them. You might think you don’t have a lot to offer, but perhaps one of your colleagues has a child that is considering your university and would love to hear your perspective.
  11. Explore the city…and the food. If you’re in Cleveland, don’t miss the West Side Market and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. St. Louis is famous for fried ravioli. In Houston, be sure to try the BBQ.
  12. Exercise. Take a brisk walk, ride a bike, run, do yoga! Do whatever you like, just get moving!
  13. Drink water. That’s what the water coolers are for! Eight 8-ounce glasses day is what’s recommended, but if that sounds like a lot, just start with a couple glasses a day. It also helps to get a water bottle that you really like.
  14. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it, find a way to fix it, and move on. Don’t make excuses.
  15. Connect with alumni from your school. Use your university’s alumni club. Tap into the LinkedIn Find Alumni tool.
  16. Check in regularly with your parents, family members, and friends and let them know how your internship is going—they will appreciate it.
  17. Say please. It’s amazing how many people will be willing to help you if you ask nicely.
  18. Follow all computer rules and lock your computer when you step away from your desk. Also, if your company has a social media policy, refrain from posting on Facebook during work hours.
  19. Ask for feedback. Some supervisors will be good at giving you positive and constructive feedback, while others may be less forthcoming. If they know it’s important to you, they may be more likely to give it.
  20. Avoid office gossip. If someone talks about others to you, they are probably talking about you to others.
  21. Pay attention to your experiences, reflect on them, and jot down a few notes. Your worst on-the-job experience may someday be your best interview story. The trick is remembering all the details.
  22. Wear sunscreen. Seriously.
  23. Be present and enjoy the experience!
  24. Keep in touch. Don’t wait until you need something to e-mail your former supervisor. Send an e-mail every once in a while to check in and let them know how you’re doing.
  25. Thank people and let them know how they impacted your life and career. A handwritten note is a very nice touch.

Look for a student-directed article on internship success you can share with your students in Grab & Go on NACEWeb.

Once More a Student: Will an Ed.D. Make Me a Better Counselor?

Janet LongJanet R. Long
Founder, Integrity Search
Career Liaison to College of Arts & Sciences, Widener University
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/janetrlong/
Twitter: @IntegritySearch
Blogs from Janet Long.

When I made the transition from executive search to higher-ed career counseling a year ago, I felt pretty sure that my mid-life master’s degree in higher-ed student services completed my formal education. Gaining a foundation in a dozen counseling theories and learning about challenges such as lack of access for underrepresented groups provided important context for my role at an institution that serves many first-generation students. Graduate internships at very different types of institutions—one a religiously affiliated private university, the other of a large regional community college— offered invaluable opportunities for applied learning.

As I continued to apply this learning in my first formal higher-ed role, I realized there was still more to learn and integrate. In a moment of suspended sanity, I applied and was accepted to the higher ed doctoral program at my own institution, a continuation of the master’s degree I earned two years earlier. No one pressured me to do this or suggested that it might make me a better counselor, especially since the program’s focus is on leadership and administration. And yet, here I am a student once again, steeping in the literature, relearning APA-ese, and regaining my appreciation for nighttime caffeine. I can compare notes with my students on writing end-of-term papers, mastering SPSS, and keeping a complicated life in balance.

The past year, I feel like I won the lottery. As my institution’s career liaison to undergraduate liberal arts majors—from history to astronomy to anthropology— I’ve melded pure exploration with hands-on skills development and pulled out my back-in-the-day undergraduate English major when it underscored a point. I’ve also been humbled by how truly difficult it is to be a student today, how different it is from my previous experience when internships were a “nice-to-have” and a decent entry-level job for a hardworking English major was reasonably assured.

Most of my students compete for multiple internships—nearly always unpaid—while juggling at least one “gritty” part-time job, student research, significant community service, half a dozen extracurriculars, and full course loads.  As a group, they are inspiring, appreciative, exhausted—and fearful about the future. In short, they are like so many of the students that we support at our NACE member institutions. As their counselor, I celebrate every milestone with them—a sought-after interview, an offer, a grad program acceptance—and empathize with every disappointment.

In my alternative universe as a student, while two years away from formally starting my dissertation, I have begun to shape a research agenda around the career applications—and implications—of earning a liberal arts degree outside of a small liberal arts college. In this light, the dreaded advanced statistics courses become an avenue to discovering knowledge with the potential to make a difference for both my students and the organizations that might employ them. Will this make me a better counselor?  I certainly hope so.

 

Building Stronger Partnerships Between Career Centers and Employers

BlessVaiBless Vaidian, Director, Career Counseling for Pace Career Services – Westchester, and Founder, Career Transitions Guide
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/blessvaidian
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BlessCareers
Blog: http://careertransitionsguide.com

As we begin a new year, it’s a great time to reach out to employers to review 2014. Asking the right questions to see what can be done to improve relationships, meet goals, and place candidates is important to do on an ongoing basis, but especially now. Answers to these questions can then be applied to your 2015 strategy. Career centers can maintain long-lasting employer partnerships by surveying these areas:

How Can I Help Recruiters Meet Their Objectives?

Recruiters collaborate with the career services team for several reasons each semester: sourcing candidates for vacant positions, branding their company, and/or educating students on career-related topics. As career development professionals, we try to make sure the human resource goals are met for our employers when they partner with our office. Before we solicit speakers or attendees, we have to know what the employer’s recruitment goals are for that cycle or even beyond. Asking the right questions at the right time will help employers and the career office make strategic decisions as to whether the event will produce placements, or if the event is to brand and educate…or both. Never assume an employer is hiring. Know ahead of time what the goal is and tap the right student cohort into each program.

What Did the Recruiters Think of the Quality of Students?

Employers gauge the quality of students from a college using many criteria. How students represent themselves in person and in writing matters. Often students are placed in communications and writing programs to develop these needed skills as part of their academic curriculum. Interviews, resumes, and cover letters reflect the university at large. Bad impressions make an employer wonder if the student population is worth hiring from, or if they need to recruit elsewhere. Having employers run career center resume and interview workshops can make some employers feel vested in the student body. Preparing students for career success is a challenge. Not everyone comes into the career center office. Mandating appointments and attendance at career center programs is one way to change that. Webinars and online resources on a variety of career topics help students access resources within their time frames so they can make positive impressions when meeting employers.

What Can I Do to Help an Employer Find the Right Candidates?

An employer’s timeline for recruitment is not always congruent with career center events. Many recruiters have internship programs, rotational programs, and entry-level positions they are looking to fill during every cycle. But hundreds of others simply want a career center to find the right candidate as the need arises. Not being able to offer resumes when a recruiter requests them is bad business, and, if done often enough, it can move schools toward the bottom of lists that capture hiring outcomes. Career centers need contacts within various academic departments, student organizations, and other university offices to collaborate with. Targeted outreach needs to reach the appropriate pool of students. The resume of a student looking for entry-level jobs or internships can be sent out on the student’s behalf as positions are created, until the student is removed from the list of “seeking.” Once an employer-based event is put together it’s essential that the number of attendees that match company needs is high. All departments and organizations on campus (not just career services) should know about the event and encourage participation. There is nothing worse than having an event with an off-campus guest and not having the attendance to make it worthwhile. Student success stories are dependent on making matches happen.

Employers are sourcing candidates on campus earlier than ever and rank universities on quantifiable results. Every college wants successful outcomes for all their graduates, and that starts with collaboration with employers. Many companies have internship programs that they use as a gateway to fill entry-level postings. Employers also host information sessions and networking events to source students. Even if recruiters are on campus to conduct career-related educational workshops, they keep their eyes open for students who can be potential hires. The partnership between employers and career centers is an important one that needs to be nurtured all year long. Now is a great time to assess what worked and what didn’t in the partnerships you rely on.

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Helping Students Navigate Familial Pressure

katie smith at duke university

Katie Smith, assistant director, Duke University Career Center,
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ksmith258/
Twitter: @ksmith258

 

“The most important job of the adviser…is to help students understand themselves, to face and take responsibility for their decisions, and to support and to free them to make choices that are at odds with the expectations other have for them. Students look to mentors—figures ‘more attuned to their rising hopes’—to give them what their parents won’t or can’t: the permission to go their own way and the reassurance that their path is valid,” William Deresiewicz quotes Harvard faculty member Harry R. Lewis comments in his recent book, Excellent Sheep.

The quote is one that many career professionals can identify with, as we often pride ourselves in providing a safe space for students to explore and articulate their interests while helping them to identify a career to fitting to their skills, talents, and needs. If only it was that easy!

Most people who work with college students have encountered a student who is torn between what she wants and what her parents or family members want. This is an incredibly challenging situation for students, mentally and emotionally taxing, often without an easy solution.

As college tuition continues to rise, so does the discussion on ROI. Parents are, understandably, especially attuned to this issue. What will my child study, and what will he be able to do with that? Is it a competitive field? Can she get the “right” experience in classes or internships? How much money will he make?

In short, is it worth it?

For some students, there’s a lot at stake in academic and career decision making. This decision could compromise the financial support of their education, narrow options (particularly in the case of international students), or could injure, or even sever, a relationship between student and their parents or other family members. In many cases, it’s also a decision that could affect a student’s success in school, as well as their well-being throughout college and beyond.

In recent weeks, I’ve worked with a student who studied engineering due his parents’ refusal to assist with his tuition if he pursued another major. Additionally, another student passionate about education is receiving pressure to commit to a more lucrative field, as her family is depending on her for financial support. Both of these students are navigating a challenging path balancing familial pressures, both real and perceived, and their own goals and aspirations.

As counselors, coaches, advisers, and mentors, working with these students can be difficult. Generally, we encourage students to follow their interests, and to choose a field that they get excited about. However, when the field they want to choose doesn’t align with others’ expectations, we carefully venture into new territory. “Is it possible to find the best of both worlds?” We might find ourselves asking. Where do fields such as art history and medicine or computer science and philosophy converge? If the student recognizes that his family’s opinion has a major stake in his decision, is it possible for him to pursue both his interests, and theirs?

For some students, this compromise is a possibility, but for others, this may not be the case. As career professionals, it is our role to help students identify their priorities, and to find a path that maximizes opportunity and fit given the present constraints.

As Deresiewicz quotes an observant student commenting on her mother, “she wanted me to have everything instead of wanting me to have what I wanted.”

The question is, where is the line?