Is it Inappropriate for Men to Ask Women Out at Work?

by Lee Desser

Comedian and late night television host, Samantha Bee, brought up something interesting on NPR’s Fresh Air about sexual harassment.

She started off with a couple of news stories of women facing discrimination for avoiding men’s sexual advances at work, and at the end of her segment she said, “Right now I’m actually picturing some guy saying, ‘Ugh! What do I have to do? Stop asking women out at work because it makes them uncomfortable?’ ” To which she replied, “Yes. You are at work.”

I’d always thought of sexual harassment as a habitual offense of great magnitude. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seems to agree: “…the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).” Yet,  ideally,  shouldn’t a woman  be able to go to work or school and not have to deal with the added pressures of  a man (or anyone) hitting on her? Shouldn’t work or school be a safe zone from sexual advances?

SNL did a skit on workplace relationships titled starring Tom Brady (Greg) and Fred Armison (Frank). In short, when the “average-looking” Frank asks a woman out to lunch she shuts him down, scoffing at “the ask,” and presumably calls human resources to report the incident. Then, when the “Adonis-looking” Greg asks the same woman out, she cheerfully agrees and doesn’t seem to mind him cupping her breast.

At the end of the segment, the narrator determines that ultimately, “You can have sex with women at work without losing your job by following a few simple rules: be handsome, be attractive, and don’t be unattractive.”

I realize that people  (including many women) are fiercely divided on this issue. One night I was at a woman’s book club and I  told an anecdote  about how, when I was taking a course at a community college, a man 30+ years my senior asked me if I wanted to “hang out this weekend” and how it made me feel incredibly awkward and uncomfortable.

“How dare he?” I thought. “Now I have to run into him Monday through Friday and avoid his advances. Will he ask again? How will I say no? Why is it that when a woman is nice to a man he assumes that she’s interested in him?” I complained to my girlfriends about this and, to my surprise, not everyone agreed. Some said he had every right to ask; he didn’t know I would say, no. “What about the age difference?” I said. To which one woman replied, “My uncle is 20 years older than my aunt. It happens.” This changed my mind a bit. Maybe it wasn’t so out of line?

If I had to draw a conclusion it would be that asking a woman out only makes  her uncomfortable if  she isn’t interested. Yet, a man  may not know if a woman is interested if he doesn’t ask her out, right?  In the end, Samantha Bee’s  statement at the end of her segment may be the only advice that people can agree on , “…if you must ask a colleague out at least learn to take no for an answer…” What do you think?

Lee DesserLee Desser, career and academic adviser, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lmdesser

 

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

International Students in the United States: What Every Higher Education Professional Should Know

by Iyad Uakoub

Iyad Uakoub and his students

As a higher education and career services professional, coming from an international background, I have always related to issues on diversity and social justice on a professional and personal level. After finishing my master’s at Purdue University—#1 in the United States for international students majoring in STEM—and working with thousands of international students and scholars at International Center, Purdue University and Stanford University, it became apparent to me that the challenges international students face have roots in systematic social inequity.  In this blog, I will be taking a look at the issue of social justice for international students in the United States and the role of student services professionals in promoting equity within this community.

Why International Students?

More than a million international students are currently studying in the United States, a 9 percent increase over 2014. Enrollment trends show all time high with 4.8 percent of total student enrollment in 2015. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and business majors attract most international students. Students from China, India, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia represent 58 percent of the total enrollment of international students in the United States.

uakoub2

In 2014-15 alone, international students contributed $30.5 billion dollars to the U.S economy and supported 373,381 jobs. NASFA reported, for every 7seven international students enrolled, three U.S. jobs are created or supported by spending occurring in the following sectors: higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications, and health insurance. Although one could argue that international students receive U.S. money to fund their educations, IIE’s Open Door reports that only 21 percent of funding comes though U.S. scholarships, assistantships, or fellowships. The majority of funding comes through personal, family, foreign government, or international organizations.

uakoub3

Although the number of international students in the United States is increasing, the bigger picture tells a different story. According to OECD, international students comprise of 4 percent only of total enrollment in the United States when compared to countries like the UK (18 percent) and Australia (19 percent).

Economic values and opportunities are not the most important thing international students bring to the United States: They bring global perspectives and innovative approaches along with diversity and cultural exposure. No wonder these students are actively sought after by American universities. However, they face four major challenges during their college career:

  1. Job market: International students struggle during and after earning their degrees to find major-related internships and jobs. Most of them are funded by their families. They are pressured to secure employment in the United States to compensate for the investment in education and to gain social capital upon their return to their home countries.
  2. New academic environment: New topics, professors, and teaching methods— these are challenges that apply to all students, domestic and international, and they exert a higher effect on those who have never experienced the U.S. educational system.
  3. Different country: International students are challenged to adapt to barriers that naturally arise in a new country, such as culture, weather, food, and language. The latter in particular discourages the brightest international students from active class and team participation as they expect negative social outcomes and they fall into evaluation apprehension social stigma.
  4. Neo-racism: In her research, Professor Jennie J. Lee of the University of Arizona, shows that international students from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East struggle with covert and overt forms of neo-racism. They deal with peer, faculty, administrators’, and employers’ stereotypes and negative assumptions and are subject to inappropriate remarks on accents, discrimination and verbal insults, or even physical assaults.

Unfortunately, the majority of neo-racism-related events against international students are not reported. I argue that this is because international students either don’t know whom to talk to, or they don’t believe reporting on discrimination incidents is actually worth the trouble. Lee argues that awareness and trust are lacking between international students and student affairs professionals.

There is an absence sense of urgency when it comes to empowering international students in higher education. It is in the heart of our job to go beyond advising and programming, we must to step up and take action to stop these moral and social crises. Consequently, I recommend three integrated solutions:

  • First, painting international students with the same social brush and one-size-fits-all strategy is something we have to be cognizant of. If we are to tailor our services to international students’ microcommunities, we must be mindful of how that will impact their college careers.
  • Second, Student Services should fully embrace their role of not only being the primary resource of international students’ co-curricular opportunities, but also be active promoters of the benefits of these opportunities throughout students’ college journey.
  • Last, international students’ programs shouldn’t be a stand-alone department or a center; rather, it should be a university-wide ecosystem, where faculty, staff, and students are actively engaged in cross-cultural communications initiatives that create a welcoming and responsive environment to the needs of the international students.

Since higher education is going through transformational change, I see our strategic role within this change is to embark upon a new path of boosting engagement and building collaborative communities so our students can flourish, thrive and succeed.

Where to start? Here are some related resources:

  1. Wall Street Journal – History of International Students in America
  2. Association of International Educators (NAFSA)
  3. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)
  4. The Institute of International Education (IIE)
  5. National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)
  6. Power Ties: The International Student’s Guide to Finding a Job in the United States
  7. International Student Experiences of Neo-Racism and Discrimination

iyad uakoub
Iyad Uakoub, M.S., B.Eng., Manager of Branding & Digital Communities/User Experience, BEAM, Stanford Career Education, Stanford University
Twitter: @iyadsy
LinkedIn:www.linkedin.com/in/iyadyacoub

Counselor or Editor? When Does Wordsmithing Stop Serving Our Students?

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.

While you don’t need an undergraduate English degree to become a higher education career counselor, I often draw on it as much as my counseling preparation and recruiting background. While the “juicier” student appointments may revolve around career exploration, interest assessments, and job-search strategies, a large percentage of appointments are dedicated to creating and revising resumes, cover letters, personal statements, and increasingly, LinkedIn profiles.

Our office, like most, conducts year-round workshops and posts online resources to help students with all of these communication formats. However, we find that the overall area of career-related written communication remains daunting for many students. This is neither an isolated nor insignificant finding.  A recent survey conducted by Hart Research Associates on behalf of The American Association of Colleges and Universities compared student and employer perceptions of career preparedness. While 65 percent of students surveyed believed that their written communication skills were work force ready, only 27 percent of the employers surveyed agreed.  NACE’s own extensive employer research revealed that oral communications ranks first among seven critical competencies associated with career readiness, with nearly 92 percent of respondents agreeing that is it absolutely essential or essential.

Like all of us, I want my students to succeed, whether in nabbing that long-shot, ultra-competitive  summer internship or gaining admission to a coveted graduate program. As an office, we are also keenly aware that the quality of written materials ultimately reviewed by potential employers and graduate schools reflects on institutional reputation.

While we can offer guidelines with supporting examples to assist in creating career deliverables, it is more difficult to help a student who struggles not only with the language of career-readiness, but with more basic issues of grammar, syntax, transitions, and overall flow. As both a student champion and a natural fixer, I struggle with where to draw the line between helpful wordsmithing and unhelpful enabling of a written communication deficit that begs to be addressed outside of the career services office. Like many of us, I tactfully refer students to our on-campus writing center. We can encourage, but not require.

Recently I assumed responsibility for leading our office’s assessment of student learning outcomes.  Among the areas we are examining as a team, the overarching area of what we have framed as career articulation, oral as well as written, has come to the forefront. While we will continue to use specific rubrics for resumes, essays, etc. as day-to-day teaching tools, we are exploring the use of a multi-measure rubric to help us better assess whether and to what extent students are applying learning from one form of communication to another.  For example, does mastering the 30-second elevator speech cross over to crafting a compelling LinkedIn summary or acing the dreaded “Tell me about yourself” interview question?

How is your career services office addressing the NACE written communications competency, both in your day-to-day operations and in assessment? What kinds of partnerships are you forming on campus?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running A Great Job Trek: Five Top Tips

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

\ˈtrek\: to go on a long and often difficult journey

I had the opportunity last semester to lead a regional job trek to the California Bay Area—home to the second largest group of alumni (approx. 250) from our professional school, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, with roughly 360 master’s students (and approximately 4,700 living alumni).

I was a little hesitant at first, thinking that the trek would be more effort than I wanted to expend in the beginning of the new year—potentially a “long and difficult journey.”

Ten students, one alumnus (picked up along the way), and one student from our management school (they were in the Bay area on a much larger annual trek) visited six employers over a two-day period. Visits included working sessions, a lunch meeting, tours, afternoon coffee breaks, and an informal networking happy hour. Employers ranged from a private sector tech company with close to 20,000 employees to an international eco-friendly body products startup with a full-time staff of three.

At the end of the day, the event was a tremendous opportunity for the students who attended. They were able to get a broad view of the environmental careers space in the area in a structured, yet informal way, met more than 50 alumni and employers, and networked with fellow trekkers from our business school.

Thanks to our trekkers and follow-up from our career development team, the event resulted in several very positive outcomes:

  • Several internships that resulted directly from trek contacts (non-trek students are benefiting, too).
  • New employer relationships.
  • Several full-time position postings.
  • Alumni connection made between our school and a peer school for joint networking.
  • Solid first-hand knowledge of the environmental careers landscape in the region.
  • Trekkers benefited personally and professionally, contributed by acting as ambassadors representing the school, and paved the way for their peers.

Five Top Tips for Job Treks

The process for hosting or supporting treks will vary by population, but these are some of the top tips I have to offer based on my recent experience:

1. Manage Expectations

  • During the initial interest meeting, printed guidelines were distributed, explaining what a job trek was and what it wasn’t. It was made clear from the beginning that the trek depended on student leadership and that students were required to provide their own funding.

2. Clarify Roles

  • Some clarification on student roles from the guide: “Student organizer(s) have responsibility for gauging student interest and garnering commitments, coordinating with potential employer hosts, reaching out to alumni in the area, and all other logistics.” On the Career Development Office’s role: “CDO is willing to help with employer outreach as needed. We can also provide sample communications, information on best practices, a finalized schedule, and a checklist for participants.”

3. Empower and Guide Student Leadership

  • My goal was for students to take ownership of the trek. All of the participants volunteered or were encouraged by peers to conduct outreach, finalize scheduling, create a resume book for distribution, and organize an alumni networking event. My role was to advise, suggest contacts, provide sample outreach documents, and assist with outreach as needed—in short, to promote shared leadership and provide structure, tools, and encouragement.

4. Provide Selected Administrative Support

  • After students had created their top list of employers, reached out to contacts, and  set up visits and a schedule, I pulled together the schedule and contact information and added strategically timed breakfast meetings to both days—an hour and a half before the first visit. This really helped ensure that everyone was on time for the trek, and was a great opportunity to share information and strategize about the day.

5. Be Open To Employer Preferences

  • One of our employers wanted to arrange lunch and a meeting with the larger team. Another distributed some materials in advance of the trek and gave students an assignment. One employer invited our alumna who works in their Brooklyn office to participate via Skype. By being open to employer preferences, we were able to create a dynamic experience that provided great information, excellent contacts, a high level of good will, and ultimately, several concrete job and internship opportunities.

Are Happy Faces in Professional Communication So Bad?

Lee DesserLee Desser, career and academic adviser, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lmdesser

To smiley or not to smiley: that is the question. My first year out of graduate school I became involved in a heated debate around, of all things, smiley faces. As a summer program coordinator for George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program, I was in charge of overseeing ~25 students as they worked on consulting projects for various nonprofits in the northern Virginia area. As part of the program we held several sessions on professional communication.

We brought on a guest speaker who was serving as a consulting intern at Deloitte. She said, “There’s a space for happy faces in communication: texts, Facebook posts, and the like, but they should never be included in professional e-mails.” I had no idea the furry that would come as a result of this statement. One of our rowdy environmental studies students chimed in, “I disagree. Happy faces show approachability. They can help you connect with your colleagues and show appreciation of their hard work. There’s nothing unprofessional about them!” A public policy student said, “I agree! My teammates like a little winky. What’s the harm there?”

To this the consultant said, quite definitively, “No. Smileys shouldn’t be included in e-mails. It makes you look immature and unprofessional. It’s best not to include them.” At this point it was summertime in Virginia and about 80 degrees outside and we were drinking Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and eating white powdery donut holes. I thought they were going to fly across the room. OK maybe that’s an exaggeration! But I think both sides made solid points: Is it appropriate to include any emojis in e-mails? I wouldn’t want my lawyer to include them in briefs or my doctor in medical evaluations: Her cancer is in remission : ) That’s surely not appropriate…

However, I’ve struggled with this from time to time thinking, “Maybe it lessens my professional image by putting smileys in my e-mail” to “This e-mail totally calls for a smiley (maybe even two!).” What does it come down to? Ultimately, I think it’s somewhat industry (and office!) dependent. While certain conservative industries, such as finance and accounting, may be less accepting to a dose of smiley fun, other ones, especially creative and artistic industries and even education, are more accepting of personal vehicles of expression.

Ted Bouras, the Dean of Advising, Career, and Student Services at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, introduced me to the M.B.A. students in this way: “Lee’s first day was yesterday and she will shortly send a note to students about her availability on Zocalo. Until then you still have to put up with me as your adviser : ).” Notice the smiley? Was it absolutely necessary? No, but I thought it was a nice touch, especially for a summer e-mail.

So for me, to the question of whether to smiley or not to smiley to students in emails, I’ll smiley : )

 

What Do Students Really Want Out of Their Summer Internships?

Jessica KoersJessica Koers, Social Recruiting Strategist, Booz Allen Hamilton
Twitter: @jrkoers
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessicakoers

Gabrielle Gaeta

Gabrielle Gaeta

This summer, my team at Booz Allen Hamilton was joined by a summer intern, Gabrielle Gaeta, from the University of Michigan. While she was working with us, I took some time to ask her a few questions about what students are looking for in an internship program and what kind of professional development resources they look for on campus.

Tell me about your internship search and what you were looking for in an internship program.

Searching for an internship is a double edged-sword—it’s exciting to learn about the high-tech products companies are developing or the important causes they’re advocating for, but at the same time, it’s a downright stressful experience since I know how competitive the most desired programs are.

This past year I was able to get some help in my internship search through the University of Michigan’s Public Service Internship Program (PSIP). This is a year-long professional development program run by our career center whose mission is to arm students with the skills they need to get summer internships in Washington, D.C. In the fall, PSIP sent us a spreadsheet listing hundreds of companies in the D.C. metro area, which helped me focus my internship search. This resource is actually how I found out about Booz Allen in the first place!

As I browsed this spreadsheet and various online job boards, there were four main criteria I used to evaluate each company’s internship program: 1) the quality of the work experience, 2) the company’s culture, 3) professional development opportunities, and 4) company benefits.

Above anything else, the quality and value of the experience I’d gain from an internship was the most important thing for me to consider. I wanted to learn as much as possible during the summer, so I didn’t want to spend my time cooped up in an office doing stereotypical intern work—making copies, answering phone calls, filing documents, etc. I wanted to be working on real, meaningful projects that would challenge me and help me develop new skills. At the end of the summer, I wanted to have tangible results that I would be able to share with recruiters in my next round of job interviews.

A company’s culture and work environment were also a huge consideration for me. I was looking for an organization whose employees love coming into the office every day and would be excited to talk to me about the work they’re doing. I was also interested in companies that encourage collaboration; I hoped to work with fellow interns as well as more senior leaders of an organization.

Professional development opportunities were also really important aspects of an internship program. I looked for companies that match their interns with mentors and provide interns with regular feedback from their managers and co-workers. Again, I wanted to learn as much as I could during the summer, so receiving constructive criticism and career advice was a must for me.

Finally, company perks and benefits were important to me. If a company paid their interns, I was much more likely to accept an offer from them.

Why do you think more students don’t use their career services office regularly?

I know a lot of people who have met with career advisers, but didn’t feel like they gained very much from their meetings. They didn’t think the advisers provided adequate guidance to help them make career decisions or to make connections with alumni working in that student’s desired career field. In addition, a lot of my peers and I would rather receive advice directly from employers since the future of our careers lies in their hands.

Also, I think there are a number of students who simply don’t know about all of the resources their career services office provides. We’re told about these services at freshmen orientation, but I’d venture to guess that most of this information is lost on first-year students who can barely even find their way around campus. I think career services offices need to market themselves more effectively throughout the school year—especially to older students—and encourage professors to direct their students to these resources.

What else could career services offices do to increase student involvement?

Bring in the companies! I would use my school’s career center more often if they provided more opportunities to interact directly with employers. I’d love to see recruiters come to campus to do resume reviews and mock interviews. Since these recruiters have the power to determine if you’ll have a future with their company, I think it’s invaluable to receive feedback directly from them on how to improve your professional presentation. I’d also like if my career center hosted industry-specific alumni panels so my peers and I could network with alumni who are established in their career fields while also learning about the various places our degrees can take us after graduation.

What do you think Booz Allen does that all internship programs would benefit from?

Booz Allen makes its senior leaders as accessible as possible to interns, which I’ve found really incredible. Between networking events and panel discussions organized specially for interns, I’ve been able to have one-on-one conversations with leaders who have been with the firm for 20-plus years. I’ve found it really helpful to hear their stories and learn about their journeys from entry-level workers to senior executives. It’s encouraging to know that if you stick with Booz Allen, the company will invest in you and help you create the kind of career you want. If companies value their interns and hope that they will return as full-time employees after graduation, I think it’s important that interns feel recognized and important. Having senior leaders take the time to talk to interns is a great way to show them your company cares.

What has your experience as a Booz Allen intern taught you?

My summer at Booz Allen has really shown me the value in communication. At first, I was a little hesitant to reach out to employees outside of my team, but I quickly learned how eager members of the firm are to help you succeed. Whether it was to provide me with information for a project, to teach me how to use certain technology, or to give me mentoring and career advice, all of the people I’ve connected with at the firm have been more than willing to take time out of their days to talk to me. All I had to do was establish that line of communication with them. Between e-mailing people in various departments, introducing myself to employees at company events, and even starting conversations while waiting for the elevator, I’ve been able to create a Booz Allen network that has guided me throughout my summer here, and will hopefully help me find new and exciting opportunities in the future. If I could give all students one piece of advice based on what I’ve learned, it would be: don’t be afraid to make a connection with employees in your company or professors and alumni from your school. More often than not, they’ll want to give you advice and help you succeed in your endeavors.

Note:

Gabrielle Gaeta is a student at the University of Michigan studying computer science and economics. During the summer of 2015, she worked as an intern at Booz Allen Hamilton. During her time with the company, she supported the University and Military Recruiting teams, researching new ways for the firm to engage with STEM students at universities across the country.