Are Career Fairs Still Worth It?

by Kara Brown

Recently, the NACE Community has been discussing the value of career fairs and the issues surrounding student attendance. Kara Brown, associate director of Career Development at Gwynedd Mercy University had some answers to share.

One of the challenges that career centers have been facing is the lack of attendance at career fairs. Most of us are able to engage employers to attend, and coordinate a great event; however, when student attendance is low we are left feeling disappointed, and scratching our heads as to why students are not showing up. Similar to many other colleges and universities, we [at Gwynedd Mercy University] have planned career fairs that lacked attendance, and we kept asking ourselves, is it worth the time and effort? I would like to believe that the answer is still yes.

Every year our career development center hosts a Nursing and Healthcare Job Fair, and over the past three years attendance has waned. This year, as an office, we decided that we needed to make some changes to see if it would increase student engagement.

First, we changed the timing. Before this year, we had always hosted this specific career fair in the fall, and this year we decided to host the event in the spring. The thinking behind this was that graduating seniors may be more inclined to attend because graduation is right around the corner, and those who were not graduating may be interested in looking into summer positions.

In addition to changing the time in regards to the semester, we asked for nursing faculty feedback on which days and times would best serve the nursing and healthcare students.

Another change that we made was the location. In previous years, the fair was hosted in our version of the student center, but this time we decided to go to the students. So we hosted the event in the nursing and healthcare building on the first and second floor lobbies. This created a situation where students who were walking to class passed the great employers who were in attendance. Then these students would come to the event after class.

While time and location served as important factors, the most significant factor was the level of engagement. My colleague and I advertised the event through multiple e-mail blasts, social media ads, flyers, and through word of mouth. We also invited other local schools to attend to increase attendance and allow employers to see more students. Inviting other schools also opened up opportunities for career centers to build relationships with other schools.

Additionally, we asked some of the nursing faculty if we could present resume/professionalism workshops to their classes, and through these presentations we were able to speak to the importance of attending career fairs. The nursing and healthcare faculty members were excellent partners during this event because they also attended the event to speak to employers, and some faculty who were holding classes during that time allowed their classes to attend the event.

Also, we invited students from other majors to attend because some employers were offering internships in human resources, marketing, and healthcare administration.

Another step of engagement that was important was the one-on-one engagement of students through career counseling sessions, and encouraging them to attend the fair. Our career sessions were booked with resume reviews to prepare for the fair.

Finally, our partnership with our alumni office was very helpful because they relayed information about the fair to all alumni through a newsletter and e-mailed alumni who graduated within the last two years.

After the event, my colleagues and I continued to follow-up with students who attended the fair to get feedback, and encourage continued engagement with the employers they spoke to about job and internship opportunities. Through the combination of all of these factors, this career fair was very successful in regards to student attendance, and the employers were very happy as well. Our office is looking forward to using similar methods for additional career fairs that we host.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at brown.kara@gmercyu.edu.

Kara BrownKara Brown, Associate Director of Career Development, Gwynedd Mercy University
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brownkara
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gmercyucareers

Your Application Does Not Go into a Black Hole – 5 Misconceptions of Campus Hiring

by Kelly D. Scott

As a campus recruiter, I speak with many students and career development personnel about the hiring process. I’ve sat on many panels and participated in countless campus recruiting events dedicated to answering common questions including, “What happens to my application once I apply online?” and “Do thank-you notes really matter?” Throughout these conversations, I’ve noticed that there are a few common misconceptions that students share surrounding the hiring process. As a result, I’ve outlined five of these misconceptions in an effort to provide clarity around the hiring process. I’ll admit, as a former applicant myself, it can feel a little mysterious.

  • My application goes into a black hole when I apply online. We live in an online (connected) world of instant gratification. When you Google something, you can almost guarantee you’ll find an answer immediately. The online job application process is built to make it easy and quick for applicants to submit a resume. In some cases, such as when you use LinkedIn, it is literally three clicks! That said, it is not surprising that it feels like once you apply to a position online and fail to hear anything right away that your application fell into a black hole, never to be seen again, but that’s simply not the case. To ensure a fair hiring process, recruiters look at all applications until the job is filled. Generally speaking, the best time to apply to a job is when it is first posted. The reason being, most hiring managers want to fill their roles as quickly as possible, thus the sooner you apply, the more likely the chance that you’ll be considered for an interview. There is less competition given the limited time the position has been posted.
  • Career fairs are a waste of time. Believe me, career fairs feel overwhelming for both the students and the recruiters, but are never a waste of time. Recruiters attend career fairs for a variety of reasons. One being that it’s a great branding opportunity and an effective way to meet future candidates. Just because we may not have the role you’re looking for now, doesn’t mean we won’t have it in the future. Career fairs are a great opportunity to make a positive first impression and share your interest in an organization. Often times, we are actively recruiting for roles, hosting on-campus interviews shortly after the fair, and encouraging students we meet to apply.
  • All full-time jobs and summer internships are already filled by early spring semester, so it’s too late to apply. By and large, this is true for many roles, specifically finance, accounting, and analytics roles as well as rotational programs, but there are still internship and other full-time opportunities available in the spring. At Liberty Mutual, our claims, underwriting, and technology roles are still open. If you’re interested in the finance sector, I always encourage students to make sure to reconnect with us in the early fall to be considered for next year.
  • It’s bad if I apply to more than one or two roles. It makes me look desperate. This is absolutely false, if you’re applying thoughtfully. When I see that a student has applied to a few roles, it shows their interest and desire to work with our company, which is always attractive to a recruiter. However, if the student applied to too many (think: 10+ roles) in one swoop, it can look like they’re just throwing in their application to anything and hoping for the best, which is not a good strategy. When I see this approach as a recruiter, I think that the candidate maybe hasn’t thought through what they’re really interested in or read the job descriptions carefully.
  • The company doesn’t really care if I renege on my offer, they have a lot of applicants. Reneging on an offer is a terrible idea. It is unprofessional, reflects poorly on the applicant and creates more work for the organization. Yes, it is likely there are a lot of applicants for the role, however after somebody accepts an offer the recruiter declines everyone that has applied so they are not waiting to be contacted. As a result, when somebody reneges on an offer, it is likely that the recruiter will have to repost the position and start the entire process over which can take months. Instead of reneging on an offer, candidates should always feel comfortable asking for an extension to their decision deadline. We always do our best to accommodate this type of request as we understand accepting your first position post-college is a big deal and requires serious consideration.

A lot goes into campus recruiting, but it really comes down to good customer service and ensuring that there is a fair and equitable hiring process in place to ensure we find the best candidate for the aligned role. Now that I’ve confirmed for you that your application does not go into a black hole and applying to more than one role is okay, go land your next dream job.

NACE college members can pick up a student-directed version of this blog in Grab & Go on NACEWeb.

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

Five Reasons to Apply to the Leadership Advancement Program

by Michelle Bata

The Leadership Advancement Program (LAP) provides opportunities for current NACE members to learn more about NACE, develop leadership skills, and think about how to become more connected to the profession. Below are some reasons to consider applying to be a part of the next cohort:

  1. Connect. Through the LAP, you are connected with other program participants as well as LAP committee members. Contact information is distributed. There is an online platform through which information is shared, and regular conference calls and virtual meetings take place throughout the year. Since my participation in the LAP, I’ve been able to go back and query some of the participants in my cohort about matters large and small which I’ve found helpful to my ongoing work.
  2. Contribute. When I was in the LAP, we were expected to work in small groups with other LAP participants to develop a project that could benefit NACE. The group project was a great opportunity to look at NACE through the lens of our membership and critically think about aspects of NACE that could be enhanced. At the end of the process, the small groups in my cohort presented their projects, which gave all of us a chance to learn more broadly about NACE through the topics that the projects focused on.
  3. Mentor. Each LAP participant is assigned a mentor with whom they are expected to connect several times over the program term. For me, the mentor relationship was easily the highlight of the program. I was able to use those conversations as spaces to learn more about issues that are strategic to my institution, and leverage the information shared to procure additional resources at my institution.
  4. Learn. The LAP is a great mechanism through which you can learn more about NACE or an area in the profession. Having the opportunity to hear from other experts in the field through the regular group calls and presentations was helpful because it gave us the opportunity to learn about issues they felt were important, which ultimately gave us a sense of where the association and discipline are heading.
  5. Focus. It’s not often that we as professionals get to think about our own professional development for a sustained amount of time. What the LAP allowed me to do was to have regular points throughout the year to focus on learning more about the issues I care deeply about, think about my contributions to NACE, and connect with like-minded colleagues.

Michelle Bata was in the 2015-16 LAP class and served on the Honors and Awards Committee in 2015-16.

Apply for the LAP program or refer a colleague who you think could make a valuable contribution to the profession and association.

Michelle Bata

Michelle Bata, Associate Dean and Director of the LEEP Center, Clark University
Twitter: https://twitter.com/michellebata
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michellebata

Teach Students About Leadership

by Ashley K. Ritter

I teach a class at North Park University about career development for seniors. It amazes me that every time I teach the course, students come in expecting to focus on concrete goals. It’s as though they expect me to say, “Here’s a resume, here’s a cover letter. Now you are prepared for a job.” And who can blame them for this assumption?  In my experience of coaching college and college ready students for about 10 years, I have learned that students feel a strong sense of anxiety about the road to finding a job. They are afraid it will require them to abandon who they actually are and morph into some other professional self, unknown to themselves and unknown to others in their lives. Much of the course, instead, is focused on teaching students how to get in touch with their personal stories, identify what lasting character qualities and strengths it has built in their lives, and finally how to articulate that in the appropriate way to employers and others as a “professional brand.”

We know from the NACE 2016 Job Outlook Data that employers now look to leadership as one of the most sought after attributes in a new hire as well as the “ability to work on a team, communicating, and problem solving.  But what does effective leadership actually look like in the life of a new graduate? What builds the beginning of an effective leader? I would argue that it is more than leading a club or group on campus, though these experiences are essential and important practice. Teaching students to demonstrate and use emotional intelligence is an essential element to building the kind of leadership skills most needed in today’s workplace.

Daniel Goleman (2004) explains in his article, What Makes a Leader, that qualities of self – awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill are imperative. So imperative in fact, that in his study of over 188 companies, these qualities were twice as likely to be correlated to excellent performance as IQ or technical skill (Goleman, 2004, p.2). This is just one reason why the liberal arts, paired with a dose of experiential learning and workplace readiness, is still an important part of what makes candidates work ready.

We must continue to actually teach students what leadership is and how it relates to their own life and career development process. In Becoming a Strategic Leader, Hughes, Colarelli, Beatty, and Dinwoodie (2014) articulate why it is so important that leaders throughout a workplace have the ability to look both internally and externally for answers to organization problems. They write: “It involves an exploration and examination of one’s behavior, values, and identity as a leader and therefore includes potential answers that challenge a person’s sense of self. That is, these are not questions about what one does, but instead are questions about how and who one is (Hughes, et al, 2014, p.40).”

Bringing yourself to work is more important than ever! The authors go on to say, “They (leaders) still seem to fail to turn their perspective inward toward their own behaviors that support the leadership culture and practices they are trying to create in others (Hughes, et al., 2014, p. 41).  Teaching students how to engage in this type of reflection is not just paramount to gain employment but also to remain successful in their careers for years to come.

So that’s why, later today, I will go into class. I will look my students in the eye and ask them who they are, what their stories are, and what the bigger culture or collective picture is of whom they are a part. I will empower them with the courage to seek these answers. And by the end, my students will hopefully have eradicated the image of an “empty self” going to the workplace, but instead, a more whole, full, and confident self will emerge, ready to lead.

References:

Goleman, D. (2004) What Makes a Leader? Harvard Business Review, pp. 1-11.

Hughes, R., Beatty, K. Dinwoodie, D. (2014) Becoming a Strategic Leader. San Francisco, CA: Jossey – Bass.

(2015, November 18) Job Outlook 2016: Attributes Employers Want to See on New College Graduates’ Resumes. Retrieved from http://www.naceweb.org/s11182015/employers-look-for-in-new-hires.aspx

Special thank you to Dr. Christopher Hubbard who recently shared with me some of the materials used in this post.

Ashley RitterAshley Ritter, human resources recruiter, Swedish Covenant Hospital
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ashleykritter
https://twitter.com/AshleyKRitter

 

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

by Amy Brierley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building the Stairway to Internship Success

by Susan Brennan

Creating a successful internship program goes beyond posting internships and hoping that students apply and get hired. It is rooted in a comprehensive career development program with institutional buy-in from faculty and administration. It requires an ability to get students to the door, through the door and up the stairs—interested in internships, prepared for the role, and successful once they’re on the job.

Exploring each step will demonstrate careful collaboration on the part of the career services team, faculty and administration, and employers to create a “wow” customer service experience for all constituents. The goal: corporate partners will continue to provide meaningful internships, and students will continue to get hands-on experience and opportunities for career development.

To the Door

Students understand the value of internships by becoming more self-aware through tools such as StrengthsFinder, which my university offers through career development introduction courses for both first- and second-year students. (Although not required, the first-year course averages 98 percent enrollment).

Once they determine their strengths and interests, students learn how hands-on experience will help further develop their talents and provide opportunities to test out their strengths and discover what they like (and don’t like). At my university, each major has a designated career adviser who is an industry expert and understands different roles. They work closely with employers to determine market needs and tie those back into career programs and curriculum (by collaborating with faculty). We offer first-year students the opportunity to connect with a peer career colleague – these are fellow students who are trained to be a resource during and after the CDI courses. They can support the career development message and ease younger students into the process.

Through the Door

Most schools have a recruiting program to post internships. The key is working with employers to secure meaningful internships that work for your student body. Bentley posts an average of 3,000 internships per year; each one is vetted by a member of the career services recruiting team to determine relevance for our students. This includes on-site visits to better understand roles and observe students on the job. This kind of groundwork helps students secure positions (with top companies in high demand) because their skills are aligned with employer needs. Bentley students also have an advantage because they have developed a useful internship search toolbox in the CDI course including: self-awareness through StrengthsFinder; résumé and cover letter writing; elevator pitch and LinkedIn profile development for networking; research and interviewing skills; and customized career action plan development.

Up the Stairs

Once students land internships, they want to be successful. In order to do that, they need to strengthen the eight Career Readiness Competencies, as defined by NACE. It’s our job to develop those in each student so by the time they arrive at work, they have the competence that comes from education; the confidence to know that they’re prepared; a community of mentors and other support; and the curiosity to take on new projects and try new things. Developing these comes not only from career workshops and programs, but through the curriculum. At Bentley, for example, their confidence is built through hands-on projects and consulting through corporate immersion programs and resources such as the Center for Marketing Technology and Trading Room. Career advisers build career communities that bring students together with faculty, alumni, parents, and friends into learning communities that provide mentorship and connection around similar career interests.

Princeton Review named Bentley No. 1 for internship opportunities, but the ranking is really founded on a robust career services program that is all-encompassing. Career development has to be built into a university’s DNA, with a campus-wide commitment to experiential learning. That is what will help students know which internships to apply for, get hired and perform well.

Done right, an internship program has the power to boost a school’s overall career placement rate (Bentley is at 99 percent). According to a 2015 NACE survey, an employer is far more likely to offer a job to a student prior to graduation if he or she had an internship or co-op. A 2016 NACE survey reported that a primary goal for most internship programs, according to responding employers, is converting students who have taken part in an internship or co-op program into full-time employees, with an average offer rate of 72.7 percent.

Beyond rankings and numbers, however, a strong internship program will help provide jobs—and contribute to the lifelong career success and satisfaction—our graduates deserve.

 Susan BrennanSusan Brennan, Associate Vice President of University Career Services at Bentley University
Director–College on the 2016-17 NACE Board of Directors
Twitter: Twitter.com/bentleycareerSB
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/susansandlerbrennan

Career Research Series: Incivility in the Job Search

by Desalina (Alina) Guarise and James W. Kostenblatt

This post is part of a series of interviews that will explore career-related research. As recipients of a NACE Research Grant, we are partnering with nearly 40 institutions to explore the long-term impact unpaid internships have on career success and are looking for more partners to join. Contact us if interested!

Through our research project, we have had the pleasure of working closely with Abdifatah A. Ali, a doctoral candidate in organizational psychology at Michigan State University graduating in May 2017 who has closely studied motivation in the job search.  In an interview, Abdifatah shared details about his research paper, “The long road to employment: Incivility experienced by job seekers,” published in October in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Tell us a little bit about your professional background. How did you become interested in career-related research?
I graduated with my undergraduate degree from San Diego State studying psychology with a minor in statistics. Here, I started doing research with an industrial-organizational psychology professor who encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D. My research interests early on dealt with motivation—in particular how individuals self-regulate their emotions, behavior, or actions in order to achieve their goals when looking for work. For example, when people are unemployed or college students are looking for work, how do they motivate themselves and what are the factors that influence their level of motivation and persistence so they can get a job?

At Michigan State University, I collaborated with Dr. Ann Marie Ryan to examine how people’s emotional reactions impacted their job search success (defined as whether the candidate received interview call backs, job offers, etc.). We were able to show that BOTH positive and negative emotions that people experience when they are looking for work motivate them. So, for example, if you just get a call back from a company that makes you feel excited or happy, that will motivate you and encourage you to continue to put effort into the job search. On the other hand, if you are experiencing challenges or anxiety, these negative emotions can actually also motivate effort, which is contrary to what we thought.

I’ve more recently made a switch and begun to look at factors that undermine job search efforts, which relates to my current research.

Your current research focuses on incivility experienced by job seekers—how did you come up with this research topic?
Before this paper there was very little research looking at which contextual factors undermine motivation—they were only looking at things that facilitate it. When you talk to individuals that are job searching, they constantly talk about experiencing incivility, which got us wondering what effects these incidents have on the job search process.

How do you define incivility? Can you give some examples?
Incivility is defined as generally rude or discourteous behaviors that are ambiguous in terms of intent. For example, a snide comment or a funny look from a recruiter or interviewer. They are perceived as behaving in a rude way but you don’t necessarily know if they are doing it intentionally.  

Tell us more about the research design and findings.
A majority of the research on incivility has been conducted about incivility experienced by professionals once they actually work at an organization; we were instead focusing on the job search. We began with a qualitative study to understand the nature of incivility during the job search. In the first stage of our research, we interviewed 100 job seekers and asked them whether they had experienced incivility and collected details about the incident. We’d then ask them what they thought the cause of that behavior was. We were interested in how people interpreted the ambiguous nature of these incidents. In one example, the interviewer is abrupt and doesn’t give the candidate a lot of time. Some candidates may view that experience by simply thinking that the interviewer was busy (i.e., externalizing the cause), while others may think that the interviewer was rude to them because of their incompetence (i.e., internalizing the cause).

The second and third study were more empirical. We wondered if there was a way we could predict who will externalize or internalize these incidents. We found that, for those who internalize the cause of these incidents, incivility undermines one of the best predictors of job-search motivation which is job-search self-efficacy or self-confidence.  Conversely, job-search motivation was not impacted for those who externalized the cause of these incidents.

What implications do you think this has for career services practitioners and employers?
Our findings support the need for resilience training and other tactics that would help job seekers re-frame the cause of these incidents.  If we can help them by not attributing the cause to themselves we can ensure their job search motivation doesn’t suffer.

I think it also has implications for those who are recruiting, as they are seeking ways to ensure candidates have a great experience and ultimately accept an offer.  Incidents of incivility can have a real influence on the talent pipeline.  

What are you working on now with your research?
A project really relevant to the NACE audience is one I’m working on with Dr. Phil Gardner related to internships. We are examining the role employees have on student interns including both employees who are assigned as formal supervisors and those that act as informal mentors. We are studying how these individuals impact whether or not interns accept full-time offers at the end of their internship experience. Results should be out in the near future.   

Alina GuariseDesalina (Alina) Guarise, Associate Director of Career Advancement Center at Lake Forest College
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/desalina

 

 

 

James W. KostenblattJames W. Kostenblatt, Associate Director, New York University’s Wasserman Center for Career Development
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jameskostenblatt