Making Technology Decisions

by Kelli Smith

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

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

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

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

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

Kelli Smith Director of University Career Services at the Fleish

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

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

Understanding Future Work Force Trends and Addressing Professional Development Opportunities

by Dorothy Hayden

Our field and the way that we do our jobs 10 years from now will be different from the way we do them today. Last November, I attended a talk by Phil Gardner on recruiting trends. During the talk, Gardner focused on some of the new challenges that employers and career services must address. He notes that employers are less likely to act in an uncertain environment.

Before entering into the information age, employers met potential employees during career fairs and this was likely their only point of contact. Today the search for talent is 24/7 with the advent of ATS, advanced analytics, and social media. For career services, we’ve gone from being the principal provider of information to connectors and consultants (Gardner, 2015). The disruption of innovation is one challenge, but another challenge we must anticipate is the staggering number of retirements that will take place in the next decade by Baby Boomers. Gardner cites a 2010 Pew Research Study saying that about 10,000 Baby Boomers a day will retire. It’s not clear how many Baby Boomers work in career services, but what is clear is that Generation X and Millennials will need to fill the gap in talent. In 2025, the percentage of those born after 1980 will make up around 75 percent of the work force according to Gardner (Gardner, 2015).

You may think that this number seems unreal, but Millennials recently (Quarter 1 of 2015) passed Generation X has the largest population in the workforce (Pew, 2015). With the generational shift, we will need to be adaptive and perceptive to changes in the way that we do our work.

As a millennial, I have been reading about this upcoming generational shift since I was in graduate school. However, I have been challenged to understand how I take the next step in my leadership development. Earlier this month I attended the NACE Management Leadership Institute (MLI) with 65 other career services professionals from around the country. This training challenged my thinking about how I view leadership and it also gave me a bit of a road map for how I can best continue to develop as a leader. Through the MLI, I learned more about the Five Practices for Exemplary Leadership Model developed by Kouzes and Posner in the early 1980s. With this particular leadership model, Posner and Kouzes discuss how we all are leaders but that there are five key leadership practices that exemplary leaders regularly practice in their work. The Five Exemplary Practices are:

  1. Model the way
  2. Inspire a shared vision
  3. Challenge the Process
  4. Enable Others to Act
  5. Encourage the Heart

During MLI, we received the results of a 360 evaluation on each of these areas. We were told during the training that the average age that an adult receives a formal leadership training is 42. Many larger for-profit organizations, are now adding formal leadership training in the first one- to three-years for their recent college hires. It’s highly unlikely that every office that hires new professionals will be able to provide a structured leadership training for their new professionals. I also know that not every institution has the resources to send their mid-level professionals to attend a formal training like MLI. What can we do? How can we help our profession’s new professionals gain competency and increase their capacities as leaders? I don’t believe that there is a simple solution. I also don’t believe that millennials are the only generation that needs to work on leadership development. We all can gain from improving one or more of the five exemplary leadership practices.

I would like to share some ideas (with minimal costs) that we can use to maximize our leadership potential.

  • Identify your personal mission, vision, and values. When we do assessment in our offices, we frequently go back to our office mission and vision statements. The practice of going through and identifying your career mission, vision, and values statements can help you to begin the process of identifying areas of success and growth.
  • Learn more about the Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders: YouTube has a number of videos by Kouzes and Posner on the Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders. I’ve listed a few of the videos that I have enjoyed below, but I would also encourage you to watch videos that focus on different leadership models, ideas, and styles.
  • Be a mentor/mentee. Seek out people who can teach and advise you in your areas of growth. The surprising thing to me about being a mentee is that there is also an opportunity to be a mentor. NACE offers a Mentor Program, but you can also find mentors within your region, state, or school.
  • Develop a professional development plan. A professional development plan can be as simple or complex as you need it to be. The professional development differs from something like the set of annual performance goals that you do, in that no one else but you is evaluating your success. Items you may want to include: Your current vision, mission, and values plus a set of short-term (one to three months) and long-term (six to 18 months) goals that you hope to accomplish. You can also include smaller goals and check points to keep you accountable.
  • Engage on social media. Do you tweet? Do you use LinkedIn? Do you blog? Encourage the new professionals around you to engage with other career services professionals through social media. One of the Exemplary Leadership Practices is, Inspire a Shared Vision. In order to inspire others, we need more people to contribute to the conversation about the present and future in our field.

I know that this is not a complete list. My goal is to share some information about the shift of generations, encourage you to think about your own leadership development, and consider ways to foster leadership potential within your own organization. Please share your ideas for professional development here and feel free to share your ideas on Twitter as well.

Dorothy HaydenDorothy Hayden, Assistant Director, Office of Career Services, Virginia Military Institute
Twitter: @dorothyhayden
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/dorothyhayden

Sources:

Gardner, Phil. “Recruiting Trends 2015-16” Michigan State University: http://livestream.com/msualumni/2015Recruitingtrends/videos/104851985

Fry, Richard. “Millennials surpass Gen Xers as the largest generation in U.S. labor force” http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/11/millennials-surpass-gen-xers-as-the-largest-generation-in-u-s-labor-force/ April 2015.

Dorothy HaydenDorothy Hayden, Assistant Director, Office of Career Services, Virginia Military Institute
Twitter: @dorothyhayden
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/dorothyhayden

 

 

How to Crush #NACE16 Social Media

Shannon Kelly ConklinShannon Conklin, Associate Director of Assessment and Technology, Temple University Career Center
Twitter: @shannonkconklin
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannonkconklinkevin grubb

Kevin Grubb, Associate Director, Digital Media & Assessment at Villanova University’s Career Center.
Twitter: @kevincgrubb
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevingrubb

Seven days. That’s how many days until it’s officially “go time” in Chicago for the NACE 2016 Conference and Expo. Are you ready?!

We’re putting together some finishing touches to the planned parts of our itineraries, and, as we think about how to soak up the most from the conference, we’re thinking about social media. In all of our combined years as members of NACE and conference-goers, social media has been a driving force in our experiences. Why? Because it’s powered by us—all of us. So, as we prep, we wanted to pass along this…

Our list of 10 ways to crush social media at #NACE16:

  • Always, always include the #hashtag

Planning to post on social media to engage with the NACE 2016 conference? On the fence? Well, if there’s one thing you do, make sure you include #NACE16 in any of your conference-related social media posts. This is your key to the limitless possibilities in Chicago. No matter when or where you tweet, share (Facebook), or snap a photo (Instagram), always tag your post with #NACE16 to elevate your experience as well as that of others. You can easily connect with these platforms on the NACE app! (Get tips on how to use the app, 3 – 4 p.m., Tuesday at NACE Connect.)

Did you know NACE is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year? At the 60th Anniversary Gala, you can use the hashtag #NACE60 on your posts. (We can’t help but think of Sally O’Malley from Saturday Night Live here – shhheeeeeeee’s 60! 60 years old.)

Pro tip: If you use a social media dashboard app like HootSuite, create a stream dedicated to #nace16 to organize all of the posts about the conference.

  • Know your platforms now and always

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, oh my! NACE has us covered on all the key social media platforms in Chicago. Whether you prefer visuals or text, you have options to follow all the action and contribute to the conversation on your platform of choice. Here are the NACE accounts to follow (if you’re not already), that will be documenting all the action:

Remember, the conversation starts now and continues after the conference. Log on today so you’re up-to-date on tips for the conference and other NACE news, and hit the conference floor running when you arrive in Chicago.

  • Tagging is a sure-fire path to engagement

Want to thank a presenter for a great workshop? Missed a session? Have a question after visiting the Expo Hall? Tagging individuals on social while asking your question or making your comment is the solution. The power to spark a new conversation or form an otherwise missed connection can all be accomplished by tagging an individual’s or organization’s social media account.

Pro tip: Use the conference app to research attendees, presenters, and keynote speakers to make sure you use the correct social media handle when tagging.

  • Use social media to learn and share your learning

In a session and have an “aha!” moment? Tweet it. In a between-sessions chat with a colleague and picked up a new idea? Post it. See a slide that sums up the challenges you’ve been facing at work? Snap a pic, tag the presenter, and put it out to your network. When you share the knowledge you learn at the conference, you’ll not only add value to your network, you’ll also create a timeline of learning you can access later. Win-win.

Pro tip: When you share something you’ve learned, leave some space to explain your view or why you think it’s important. Help your audience realize your expertise, too.

  • Use social media for fun (and show off Chicago!)

Throughout the conference, keep the social in social media. Your posts can be nuggets of knowledge via text, but also add creative captions and pictures. Your posts should not be limited to just the sessions either. Share the moments in between sessions, capture your experience at the expo hall, and, let’s not forget, the amazing city of Chicago! As you explore the city with new friends and colleagues, showcase the fun you’re having and the sites you discover. All of these elements tell the story of #NACE16.

  • Stay charged on the go

We’ve all been there: you’re tweeting, tagging, taking notes, and the dreaded “20%” warning pops up on your screen. Fear not, NACE has you covered with the NACEConnect Recharging Lounge and TECHbar. Amidst all the conference action, this is your go-to spot to recharge your mobile device AND you. Get your devices prepped for the next round of knowledge, and maybe even make a few connections while you wait.

Pro tip: Use this space to network and compare notes with other attendees who are also refueling. Some of the best takeaways and connections at the NACE annual conference can be made during these in-between sessions moments.

Extra pro tip: Get yourself a mobile charging unit for your devices so you can charge anywhere, anytime!

  • Post before the conference to track & reach your goals

What are you hoping to learn at #NACE16? Whom are you excited to meet or learn from? Set and establish those goals, then consider using social media to ask your network to help you meet them. Colleagues may be able to point you to a great session, the NACE staff may be able to point you to existing resources for some background reading, and those people you want to meet may get right back to you to set up a time for coffee. Put your thoughts out there so the universe can answer.

  • And maximize social media after the conference to your knowledge

You probably already know it (but, just in case, here’s a study from Harvard to prove it); reflecting on your experiences helps you maximize your learning. Take the same approach with the NACE conference this year using social media. After the conference concludes, Storify your posts or write a blog post about your experience. You may find you can make new meaning of things when you take a larger look all you picked up from your time with NACE.

            Pro tip: Write a blog post for NACE about your conference experience. It will help you reflect and could invite great conversation from more folks about, generating new ideas and new relationships. (Send your blog to Claudia Allen.)

  • Get involved in the “New to Your Network” challenge

At the conference this year, NACE is hosting a “New to Your Network” challenge, where they’re asking you to take a photo with someone new to your network. Then, post that photo to social media using #NACE16 (don’t forget to tag each other) and your photo will be entered into the NACE conference Storify. We’ve both met fantastic people at the NACE conferences over the years, so we expect to see lots of these photos in our feeds!

  • Take our “why I love the profession” challenge

And if that’s not enough, we have a special challenge for you! We’ve known each other for years, and our friendship started in the profession (via Twitter – isn’t that fitting?). We love this field for many reasons, one of which is all of the incredible people we’ve come to know over the years. So, as NACE celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, let’s show some love for our work.

            Our challenge to you: Use one post on social media to tell us why you love the profession. Make sure to use #NACE16 and mention one or both of us (here’s Kevin on Twitter, Shannon on Twitter, Kevin on Instagram, and Shannon on Instagram). We’ll be sharing your posts and your reasons could make it into the official Storify for the conference! If you’re not going to the conference—or if you’re just feeling the love right now—you can even comment right here on the blog and let us know. We’d love to see the love everywhere.

Now you’re ready to crush social media at #NACE16. We can’t wait to see you online and at the conference in Chicago!

Kevin Grubb is Associate Director at the Villanova University Career Center. Shannon Conklin is Associate Director at the Temple University Career Center. They are two of the authors of the Career Counselor’s Guide to Social Media in the Job Search.

Kevin and Shannon will be presenting a session, “We’re All Technologists: Successfully Realizing the Power of Your Team’s New Technology,” at the 2016 NACE Conference and would love to see you there! Their session is Wednesday, 3 – 4 p.m., Salon A5.

 

 

Etiquette Is Professionalism at Its Best!

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/

Remember when you witnessed students, colleagues, and co-workers on their phones and perhaps thought, “Why are they checking Facebook or texting?” Well, the fact of the matter is, they could have been checking the time, tweeting something you said that was profound or thought provoking, or uploading a PowerPoint deck slide to LinkedIn or Twitter. With technology comes a new world to navigate and etiquette requires a new way of thinking and working with others.

How did we ever get along without e-mail, texting, chats, and messaging? Do you find yourself inundated with e-mails and voice messages? Last year at the 2015 NACE conference, Lindsey Pollak shared that XX Company did away with voice mails and others would be following suit. For those who are aligned with companies/organizations where voice mail is a thing of the past, it is one less distraction. However, there are still organizations, mine included, that have voice mail. So, what is the protocol for replies?

Must we answer every e-mail that comes to our inbox, must we return every call? It seems if those seeking our attention don’t get our consideration via voice mail, they share on their message they’ve sent us an e-mail, just in case we need or want more information and want to respond through e-mail versus a return call.

The question still stands, “do we need to reply to every e-mail and voice mail?” Professional courtesy and etiquette dictates that we do! Between you and me, I try to respond to every ping, but some days I’m outmatched by my inbox! That said, I find great joy in unsolicited mass e-mails where I can choose to reply if the message is of interest, or use the ever so efficient, delete key.

The best way to handle unsolicited, mass e-mails is to find the link to unsubscribe. Sometimes I wonder how I got on some e-mail distribution lists in the first place! Please don’t be annoyed, rude, or indifferent. Either unsubscribe, ask to be removed from the list, or delete. Don’t unsubscribe by hitting “reply all.” Reply if you’re interested, but otherwise, unsolicited, mass e-mails from those unknown to you don’t mandate a response.

I’m going to switch gears to an arena that doesn’t get much attention. Deadlines, meetings, and the way we speak and treat our co-workers! I’m a strong believer in professional courtesy—etiquette. You know you are expecting a report, data set, something that is required for you to move. If you’ve promise to deliver on a deadline, respect that deadline. If you find yourself up to your eye balls in alligators, step up and ask if there is space and place for an extension as courteously and professionally as humanly possible. Being human is hard, but I’ve found we may be hard on the outside, but soft in the middle. We all want a win and success is achieved when we work together to solve for the greater good. Meeting deadlines and fulfilling promised obligations goes a long way.

Meetings! Do you find your work world is a series of meetings? You move from one to another, and let’s not forget about conference calls! If you give your word and commit to a meeting or conference call, keep that commitment. Good etiquette—professionalism—aligns with dependable and punctual. In this day and age, many of us are oversubscribed, double-booked, and rarely have time to come up for air. It’s not a contest to see who is busier, has more meetings, or who is more important. If possible, control your time and commitments. Remember, others may be counting on you and you can’t be all in if you’re physically in one place, but mentally in another.

I mentioned conference calls. Don’t be the person who puts their phone on mute and is never heard from again! Or the person who is typing, and yes, talking on their cell phone thinking they are on mute when in fact, we’ve all just heard what you think about the call itself! Research tells us we can’t multi-task. We think we can, but are brains are not wired that way. Your multi-pronged attention will be at the expense of something!

Have you had a colleague, co-worker, or supervisor who uses words as weapons? Don’t be that individual. Speak to others as you would expect others to speak to you. Being human is hard and emotions can and sometimes do run deep. Once words are out, they can’t be taken back. Come to a place where facts, and maybe figures, drive a debate, heated conversation. Perhaps, “I believe” is heard over “I feel.” Feelings can be hurt, words can hurt, but beliefs change, opinions can expand and retract. For some, apologizing is a sign of weakness, for others it is a “tool” to move on to the next item of business; no harm, no foul. We’ve all heard the saying, “people may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.” I may not always get it right, but in my humble opinion, the sign of professionalism is acknowledging our own shortcomings, accepting responsibility when things don’t go well that were in our control, and the courage and steadfastness to make amends.

In essence, professionalism—etiquette—is how you engage and treat others. Those who exemplify strong etiquette treat everyone as valuable, contributing members to their organization, treat everyone’s time as valuable as theirs, are tolerant of being human, and are considerate and kind when it comes to people’s feelings.

For me, at the end of the day, acting with professional etiquette, integrity, means bringing my best self to the table.

Coding Interview Prep for the Career Adviser Who Doesn’t Code

katie smith at duke universityKatie Smith, Assistant Director, Duke University Career Center,
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ksmith258/
Twitter: @ksmith258

As a career adviser who works primarily with undergraduate students in the STEM fields, I meet frequently with engineering, computer science, and other students who are preparing for technical interviews. Technical interviews are used in a variety of fields and can vary significantly between industries, companies, and even individual interviewers. For the purposes of this post, the focus will be specifically on a certain type of technical interview, the coding interview.

Let’s start with a confession. I’ve never taken a computer science course. I’ve watched some online videos, but the only programming I do involves room and food reservations and facilitating presentations, not algorithms and data structures.

Without knowing how to code, helping students prepare for programming interviews can be challenging, and even a little intimidating. However, coding interviews aren’t so different from other types of interviews, so don’t overlook the skills you have as a career adviser!

Here are some tips for helping students prepare:

Don’t forget the traditional questions

Many technical interviews include traditional interview starters such as “Tell me about yourself.” “What do you know about our company?” and “Why are you interested in this position?” These are great ways to warm up when helping a student prepare, as students should always anticipate these questions.

Practice communicating and decision making

To succeed in coding interviews, students must know how to talk through problem solving. Interviewers present a question or scenario, and expect students to ask questions, consider responses and possibilities, weigh options and ideas, and make decisions, all aloud. It’s less important for students to come up with the right answer than for them to show a clear thought process, an ability to problem solve, and strong communication skills.

Ask questions and pay close attention to your student’s response. Does he ask further questions to better understand the target client (age, needs, interests), any restrictions (such as materials, budget, timeline), and resources available? Does she think creatively about client needs and how to address them? Does he weigh his ideas and mention why he chooses to go in a particular direction? Does she present something innovative? Does he address how he’d approach building the model he suggests?

Your student doesn’t need to invent the next piece of technology and regardless of your level of technical knowledge, you should be able to both ask and provide feedback on answers to basic design questions.

Types of questions that I’ve found to be particularly useful for this type of conversation are open-ended brainteaser, design, and scenario.

Some examples:

  • How many basketballs are there in the state of North Carolina?
  • How many quarters would it take to create a stack as tall as the Empire State Building?
  • Design a phone for an avid traveler.
  • Design a new voting system for a college student government election.
  • Design an alarm clock for a person who is deaf.
  • If you were to create an app for students who want to see and sort all events on campus, how would you go about that process?
  • How would you learn more about the technical needs of students with disabilities on your college campus?

Do you have recommendations of other types of interviews or examples of process-oriented interview questions to use in helping students communicate problem solving? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Consult technical resources

There are plenty of resources online for students to take advantage of for practicing specific technical questions. Leetcode.com helps users prepare for coding interviews by presenting practice questions and allowing users to submit their code for review. A wide range of other sites have programming questions to use for practice, including: Programmerinterview.com, Career Cup, and Geekinterview.com, which feature technical questions for a variety of other engineering fields as well.

A simple search of “coding interview” on YouTube will result in a wealth of interesting videos with experts speaking on the coding interview process, as well as some individuals sharing examples of walking through coding interview questions.

Several books worth checking out are Cracking the Coding Interview and Cracking the PM Interview both by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, and Elements of Programming Interviews: The Insiders’ Guide, by Adnan Aziz, Tsung-Hsien Lee, and Amit Prakash. Revisiting foundational textbooks on programming and algorithms can also a good way for students to brush up on the basics.

Recommend practice, practice, practice

Tell student you recommend they find a practice buddy. Students who are preparing for coding interviews will be more prepared and have a richer learning experience if they are practicing with a peer who can offer additional ideas and feedback.

As an additional point, students in a coding interview should anticipate coding on a piece of paper or a whiteboard instead of a computer, a skill they’ll want to get plenty of practice in before it becomes time to interview, and also a good one to practice with the feedback of a knowledgeable buddy.

In an in-person interview, students should expect to write code on a blank sheet of paper or on a whiteboard. This can be challenging since, prior to interviewing, most students have done all of their programming using a computer. Coding by hand will take some getting used to, and students who invest the time practicing prior to an interview will be glad they did.

Notably, if the interview is conducted over the phone or virtually, the student may be asked to code on a shared online document, viewable by both the candidate and the interviewer.

Collaborate with your partners

Does your office partner with a faculty member in computer science? Do you have active student organizations with student leaders who have successfully navigated coding interviews? How about an employer at a technical company eager to connect with students?

Last year, a conversation at a networking event turned into a local engineer generously visiting our (Duke University) campus to give a presentation on coding interview tips for students, a program that had a huge turnout for both undergraduate and graduate students. The engineer gave advice on approaching the interview process and specific technical topics that far exceeded my own technical knowledge, a great benefit for all attendees.

Share the programming love

Most interviewers leading technical interviews are engineers and programmers themselves, and they’re the perfect audience for geeking out. Engineers tend to enjoy swapping programming stories and challenges with others who share their interests. Engineers love asking and hearing about students’ technical experience, specific projects, why they enjoy programming, and interesting challenges or bugs they’ve encountered and overcome. Students should prepare to give specific examples of why they enjoy coding, how they’ve developed the interest over time, and interesting challenges or bugs they’ve encountered, and how they found, diagnosed, and fixed them.

Show your work!

Have your students been working on an app, a website, or other accessible code or technology? Taking out a phone or computer during an interview may go against just about every piece of advice we typically give, but showing examples of projects during an interview can show evidence of skills while leading to a rich conversation about challenges and ideas.

Students should check with their interviewer to ensure this is appropriate, and only do so if they are given approval. They should also be sure everything is already opened and readily accessible, with all other apps and programs turned off.

Don’t forget about testing

Several employers have mentioned that students rarely bring up testing in an interview setting, but those who do tend to impress their interviewers. When students write code for class or projects, it often does not undergo the same testing and maintenance necessary in industry, and not all students will think to bring this up. Students should think not only about writing the code, but how to check it as well.

In sum, you don’t need to know how to code in order to help your students prepare for coding interviews. Work collaboratively with your students to understand the coding interview process, and what they can expect.

Organize Your Workflow and Save Paper

Laura CraigLaura Craig, Assistant Director, Internships and Experiential Education, Temple University Career Center
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/lauramn
Twitter: @BuckeyeVirginia

Happy summer semester everyone! Before you can get to the end of the summer, though, do you feel like you can get to your desk? Building on James Marable’s earlier post for the NACE 2015 Conference, I wanted to take a deeper dive into one of the apps he mentioned, Evernote.

Evernote bills itself as “the modern workspace that enables you to be your most productive.” It’s a cloud-based service that allows you to create text, photo, and audio notes across a range of interfaces, combine multiple forms of media into one note that you can share with others, and organize everything in a meaningful way for later use. It has radically changed how I look at productivity, and I hope it can do the same for you!

Here are three ideas from my workflow to help you make the most of Evernote:

Banish a blizzard of paper from your desk: Before Evernote, I planned everything out on paper and gathered more paper for handouts. Then I created physical file folders for all that paper and filed them away. My computer monitor was decorated with a wide array of Post-Its and other scraps of paper that were vitally important, but lacked a permanent home.

Not anymore!

Now, I create a new note with my ideas, and attach any ideas for handouts to that same note so I don’t have to hunt for them in multiple places. I organize individual notes into topical notebooks and tag categories across notebooks. The screenshot below shows you an example of note organization. You see my “Program Planning” notebook with historical/current data around past programs and supporting content I’d like to use for future programs. I’ve highlighted my tag list in yellow. This list allows me to group items by category across notebooks.

craig evernote desktop

I may have notes about how to use the Symplicity Counseling Module within this notebook, but I use the Counseling Module tag, highlighted in orange, to categorize everything I have about it in Evernote. 

To-do lists are also far more dynamic within Evernote. Instead of a list of static items, I can add additional information, updates, and next steps to accomplish each item. Once I complete an item, I don’t have to get rid of it if I don’t want to, making it easy to use it as a recurring to-do list.

Free your inbox from “reference” items: Raise your hand if your inbox contains hundreds or even thousands of items “for reference.” One of the best features of Evernote is that you can e-mail documents into your account and sort them into individual notebooks from the e-mail message. In the screenshot below, you’ll see that I’m sending a meeting agenda into my Temple University notebook, and the note will be tagged “communications.” It won’t get lost once you send it to Evernote because anything that’s in your account is searchable, so give your inbox a break!

craig evernote emailSlay the paper monster: I remember at my first job having folder upon folder of articles and ideas that I wanted to share with students. Did I ever do that? No—I never saw that paper again after I carefully filed it away. Two additional Evernote add-ons have really helped me cut down on the amount of physical paper I retain, making it more likely that I’ll use the paper I have.

Scannable App: This free iOS app allows you to capture high quality scans of any document and share directly into your Evernote account, as well as through other channels. I would call this a must have app to lighten your load!

Doxie Scanner: If you’ve got a bigger paper monster to slay, consider investing in a Doxie Scanner. These scanners are small, easy to use, and have great Evernote integration. The small size makes it easy to use for home and work, and you could also take this to #NACE16. I’ve probably scanned more than 2,000 pieces of paper with my Doxie, so they are quite durable.

Do you already use Evernote? What’s your favorite feature? What organizational project are you tackling at work this summer? Share your ideas in the comments.