7 People You Must Meet at the NACE Conference in Chicago

Dan BlackDan Black, Americas Director of Recruiting, EY LLP
2013-14 NACE President
Twitter: @DanBlack_EY
LinkedIn: Dan Black

 
I have a confession to make: I LOVE people. I mean, I love virtually EVERYONE … almost without exception. It’s actually become a running joke among my family and friends whenever I talk about meeting someone new. I will run through a litany of positive qualities that I’ve observed in my first encounter with the person and will then get a statement like, “let me guess Dan, you REALLY liked them, right?” To which I will enthusiastically reply in the affirmative as my friends share a sarcastic laugh at my expense. What can I say? When it comes to other people I’m consistently glass-half-full.

With that as a backdrop you can probably imagine how excited I am to attend the NACE Annual Conference this year. Like all the other NACE events I’ve attended over the last 15-plus years, it’s an opportunity to meet some extraordinary people, virtually all of whom share a passion for our profession. For a people-person, this is like the holy grail of networking opportunities, and I fully intend to “leave it all on the field” while I’m there. And since there are few things that I like better than helping other NACE members, I thought I’d give you a few tips on some people to look out for once you arrive in Chicago. Please note that this list could go on and on – there will be hundreds of people to meet and interact with – but I’ll keep the list to a mentally manageable length of seven to get you started. And so without further ado (and in no particular order), here are a few “must-meet” personalities for your reading pleasure:

Manny ContomanolisManny Contomanolis: Director of Career Services and Cooperative Education at RIT and a past president of NACE. You want NACE history? Institutional knowledge? Best practices? Manny’s been around the block a few times and knows more about Career Services than just about anyone I know. Oh, and in case that makes him sound “seasoned”, offer to buy him a cocktail (Gin and Tonic will do nicely) and ask him about men’s fashion. Or fitness. Or Greek history. Suffice it to say that Manny makes the “Most Interesting Man in the World” sound like an insurance salesman. You’re welcome.

Kathleen PowellKathleen Powell: NACE President-Elect and Executive Director of Career Development at William & Mary. Talk about a visionary! Kathleen’s done it all … and has just gone through the process of establishing NACE’s strategic committees for the upcoming fiscal year. She’s an ideal person to tell you all about getting involved with our great organization, and equally equipped to talk about life on the water (her other love). On top of all that, she’s got a sense of humor that’s engaging and a wit that’s as dry as Manny’s gin (see bullet one). You won’t want to miss the opportunity to get to know this special lady before her whirlwind NACE presidency term starts on July 1!

ongDave Ong: Senior Director of Corporate Recruiting at Maximus and NACE VP-Employer. If networking were a sport, Dave would have a spot on the All World team; I’ve never met anyone who has created and maintained so many real connections with people all over the world. Dave has a true passion for helping people, as is evidenced by his track record mentoring dozens of recruiting professionals through NACE over the years. My advice: talk to Dave about building relationships—he’s the best in the business. Then talk to him about his definition of “fast food” in Jerusalem—I promise you it’s a great story.

board-christiangarciaChristian Garcia: Associate Dean and Executive Director at University of Miami and NACE Director—College. If you thought you needed to be long in the tooth to be a force in this profession, then you haven’t met Christian Garcia. An innovator who thinks outside the box, Christian is a prime example of how to get great things done, all while having some fun along the way. Ask him about his path to the NACE board and the innovative things he’s done at Miami (Hire a Cane!). And if you don’t believe me about the fun, be sure ask him to show you his socks; they will most definitely be on fleek (and I actually know what that means now!).

ed-kocEd Koc: NACE Director of Research, Public Policy and Legislative Affairs. Big fan of big data? Like to understand what’s happening in Washington, D.C. besides the partisan bickering? Not sure where to start when thinking about a new school strategy? If any of these things are on your mind, then Ed should be on your dance card; there are few people who know more about research and public policy in the university/recruitment space than he does. Just bring him a decaf coffee (trust me) and let the conversation fly!

Shawn VanDerzielShawn VanDerziel: Chief Human Resources Officer at The Field Museum and a past NACE president. In addition to a nice guy who is probably one of the best active listeners I’ve ever met, Shawn will also be our host for the 60th Anniversary Gala at the Chicago Field Museum on June 9th. If you see him, ask him about how to maximize your time at the conference, as well as your time in Chicago….and then get to the Gala where you can see Shawn in his natural habitat!

dawn carterDawn Carter: Director, Early Careers at Intuit and current NACE President. I saved this sassy and classy lady for last … and for good reason. Dawn is always where the buck stops, whether it’s on tough issues in the profession, big decisions on the Board, or leading the way for younger professionals. Dawn will be running around like a crazed person at the conference, but be sure to stop her and ask her about her love for NACE and how she thinks the profession is evolving. Then tell her a joke … if it’s a good one, you’ll be treated to the timeless Dawn chuckle, guaranteed to bring a smile to your face!

Now that I’ve given you a head start, why stop there??? Start mapping out your strategy now, and by the time you arrive at that conference you’ll be primed and ready to unlock the limitless possibilities of the great NACE network. See you in Chicago!

Dan BlackEditor’s Note: There’s one more person you should introduce yourself to while in Chicago—and that’s Dan Black, Americas Director of Recruiting at EY and a former NACE president. His picture is next to “extrovert” in the dictionary. He’s well known for his wit and easy laugh, and his absolute devotion to NACE. He’s a must-add to your must-meet list.

Here’s How to Prepare for #NACE16

Marc Goldman, Executive Director, Career Center, Yeshiva University

Marc Goldman, Executive Director, Career Center, Yeshiva University
Twitter: @MarcGoldmanNYC
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/marcjgoldman

 

Hello, NACE blogosphere friends. It’s me, the prodigal blogger. It has been a roller coaster of a year in my shop, so I have not had a chance to post anything new and exciting to the blog recently. And for that, I am sure you are most grateful. But with another fabulous NACE Annual Conference on the horizon, I have come out of semi-retirement to offer some tips on making the most of this year’s conference. Of course, you can revisit my past blog post about people you should meet at a NACE gathering. It’s always a fun, diverting read.

What do I recommend you do in preparation for the conference? Here are my top five suggestions in no strategic order:

  1. Pack for anything and everything: Of course, this IS a professional conference, so you will need to present as polished and ready to work. But it is also a social event, so bring your party outfit or whatever you need to paint the town red. And because you will want to continue your fitness regimen, bring your best walking shoes or workout clothes. We will be in Chicago, but it will be June, so you make the call on a swimsuit. For a big twist, there is the splashy and flashy 60th Anniversary Gala, where cocktail attire is required. Please now refer to Google or Wikipedia for a good definition and examples of cocktail attire.
  2. Target your must-see programs: You have probably realized that a list of conference programs has already hit the interwebs. Review that list with care and try to prioritize which sessions are your “must haves” and “have nots.” That way, you can mark them down ahead of time, strategize how to get to most of them within the three-day program, and actually get a seat in the room. Yes, arrive early and scope out your spot. The rooms fill up fast.
  3. Make contact before the trip: Many of you use the NACE Annual Conference not only to educate, inform, and enrich yourself, but also to reconnect with colleagues and make new contacts. Don’t wait until June 7th to arrange your meetings, get-togethers, coffee chats, and breakfast catch-ups. You might find that everyone else’s calendars are booked solid. If there are people you definitely want to speak to live and in person, shoot them an e-mail now and get them to mark you down on their calendar. You’ll find a list of attendees under MyNACE > Events.
  4. Study the tech: If you are looking to discover what the latest and greatest resources, apps, and technology tools are for our biz, the conference Exhibit Hall is an awesome and mind-blowing venue. There is A LOT to take in, and it can sometimes feel so overwhelming, you just sort of float in and out of the room, never knowing at which booth to stop or to whom to pose a question. Do some homework ahead of time if you might be shopping for information or products and research the vendors to target and narrow down accordingly.
  5. Be ready to record and share: Whether you are cutting edge and have your handy iPad, laptop, or mobile device, or you prefer the old school approach of a pen and pad of paper, be ready to take notes. You will hear so many good ideas, nuggets of information, websites for future reference, and names of people to hunt down later on LinkedIn. And of course, your staff and colleagues left behind to hold down the fort will want a recap and for you to share with them all your pearls of wisdom gained. Make the report–out easy by doing the work up front at the conference. It would be challenging to bring back a deep dish pizza slice for everyone, but you can bring back a great number of takeaways nonetheless.

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.

 

 

Helping Students Find Expertise

KKathryn Douglasathy 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

Words that rhyme with expertise:
Appease, Bhutanese, breeze, cerise, cheese, éminence grise, freeze, journalese, marquise, overseas, Portuguese, seize, sneeze, squeeze, Stockton-on-Tees,
trapeze, valise, vocalese, wheeze – selections from Oxford Dictionary.com

Part of my job is to encourage students going on the job market to think about their areas of expertise. My goal is for them to confidently position themselves as candidates with specialized knowledge—not only as doers with hands-on experience to quantify on their resume with start and end dates, and not only as technical, language, or soft skill wizards with long lists of certifications and skills. Although these elements are important too.

I have read drafts of resumes where I can barely tell that a student has just spent two to six years taking courses, conducting complicated research, and learning broadly and deeply.

And so I ask them about coursework, concepts, areas of expertise.

  • Student: “But I can’t include x on my resume, I don’t have any experience doing it!”
  • Me: “Do you know anything about x?”
  • Student: “Well, yes, [insert impromptu dissertation on x].”

During these impromptu dissertations, I jot down some of the specific, interesting keywords that roll off a student’s tongue—COP21, LCA, renewables, EPI, deforestation free, paw paw, NRDC, camera trap, biophilic, Hotshot, CEQ, ecosystem services, bioswale, carbon neutral, Clean Air Act, systems thinking, Peace Corps, biochar. I might ask for clarification of a few terms, and suddenly there are more keywords. In a career counseling session, students do not have to worry about impressing me. And if I ask the right questions, they reveal that they do know something. And usually it is a lot of something.

It doesn’t matter if I’m working with a career-changing masters candidate with 10 years of work experience or an international student straight out of an undergraduate program—transitioning from student to expert is intimidating. Most students balk when I ask them to tell me about their expertise.

Afterall, students are students. They are learners. Faculty are the experts.

Surrounded by faculty experts and by peers who know a lot of the same things, students tend to think of themselves as:

  • knowing significantly less than others, and
  • not knowing anything special.

While I ask questions to tease out specific knowledge and reflect it back, I suggest the following knowledge scale to help students frame and think more objectively about their expertise:

  • For the past two years I have focused on…
  • I have expertise in…
  • I have thorough knowledge of…
  • I have knowledge of…
  • I am thoroughly familiar with…
  • I am familiar with…
  • I have heard of it.

When an advisee finishes describing the statewide coastal resiliency planning, renewable energy finance mechanisms, or conflict resolution strategies in small rural communities in a developing country they have been focusing on for two years (but failed to mention on their resume because it wasn’t part of their work experience), I hand them a Post-It note (or three) with keywords and concepts I have gleaned.

And then I prompt them with these questions:

  • Are there any areas included here in which you can confidently claim expertise?
  • Can you use some of this language to summarize a two-year academic or professional focus?
  • Can you identify two or three topics from this list in which you have thorough knowledge?
  • Do you have anything to add to knowledge and expertise you haven’t included in your cover letter and resume?

Unpacking knowledge, focus, and expertise is a key process for accurately and strongly presenting oneself.  Once these elements are thought out and well articulated, they can be emphasized on a resume (in a variety of ways including a bullet or bullets under degree of Selected Coursework, Projects, or Focus, or with a separate, brief “Research Interest” or “Special Focus” section), highlighted in a cover letter, and included when answering a range of interview questions.

 

 

 

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.

On Being Lost

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

A senior psychology major came into my office the other day. She dropped her bag, plopped down into a chair and said “I’m lost!”

With relatively little prompting, the story came out. She already knew her long term goal: to be a child and family therapist. A faculty mentor had recommended a graduate program for her, and, doing very little of her own research, she applied to the program and turned her attention back to school. She was accepted, fortunately, but upon learning more about it, she realized that it was a business focused program, not a therapeutic one.

“That’s disappointing,” I said, “But it sounds like you have a good sense of what you’d like to do in the short term – graduate school – and the long term – child and family therapy.”

“No,” said the student, “you don’t understand. I’m lost. What will I do now? Program deadlines have passed. I can’t go to graduate school now. I have to wait a whole-‘nother-year!”

How often does “I’m lost” mean “things didn’t turn out as I expected?”

Here’s the thing, and it’s something I tell students over and over in spite of the fact that it doesn’t reassure them at all: The best careers, just like the best lives, aren’t linear.

So many people are paralyzed by the idea of choosing a career – at the age of 20 – that they’ll have to spend the rest of their lives on. This is entirely reasonable. And yet, students seem equally intimidated by the idea that their career will change and evolve in natural and unpredictable ways.

Very few people look up as a junior in college and plan out a 40-year career during which everything happens exactly as they expect it to and they are perfectly successful and satisfied. How incredibly uninspiring that would be. The purpose of college career goals isn’t to remain unchanged for half a lifetime, but instead, to interact with the world and be changed. Our mission is to let the world change us, not to make it to the finish line exactly as we started.

The most interesting people will tell you that they never could’ve predicted where their careers would end up. This is why their stories are interesting, and this is why people want to learn from them. We are inspired by people who are open to life and let it change them, people who evolve in unexpected ways.

We instinctively know this is true. Most of our career advice has this idea at its core.

Take the somewhat controversial mantra – “follow your passion.” Cal Newport* and others have come to challenge this advice as, at best, misleading, and, at worst, harmful. But there is wisdom embedded here and it isn’t “ignore practicality,” but rather, “be open to inspiration.”

The near universal emphasis on networking is yet another example. Yes, networking is indispensable in finding a job in your field of interest. This is undeniably true. But the hidden value of networking is to expose you to people and ideas outside of your comfort zone. Your family and friends typically want to help you achieve the goals you’ve identified right now. Networking exposes you to people who don’t know your background, your goals, or the ways that you may already be limiting yourself. This opens you up to serendipity, and serendipity will push you to evolve.

“I’m lost” can be the beginning of amazing things but it’s not a place of comfort.  It can, however, be a place of humility. It is often when we’re most unsure of ourselves that we’re most open to new directions.

This was the case for my senior psychology major.  After a full session during which we discussed several possible options for her newfound open year, I brought her focus back to the long-term goal of becoming a child and family therapist.

“Did it occur to you,” I asked, “that many of the clients you will work with as a therapist will have come to you because they’re feeling disappointed and lost?  Might this experience of disappointment, and perhaps a few more down the road, help to make you a better, more empathetic therapist?” Her nod was reluctant.

Our lives are full of surprises. If, as a young professional, you’re struggling with the overwhelming task of figuring out your future, I encourage you to tackle it one step at a time. If you’re still in school, focus on creating a plan for what you’ll do the year after graduation, rather than what you want to do with the “rest of your life.” Go to workshops, meet new people, travel if you can. These things will inspire you to set new goals. Most importantly, be patient with the process.

Embrace your failures and “lost” years as something inevitable and challenging. Delays to your plan can be opportunities to improve and refine it. Don’t waste these opportunities. Take full advantage.

*Newport, C. (2012). ‘Follow Your Passion’ is Bad Advice [Video file]. Retrieved from http://99u.com/videos/22339/cal-newport-follow-your-passion-is-bad-advice.

NACE member schools can pick up a copy of this blog for their websites in NACEWeb’s Grab & Go area.

Calling for a Return to Relationships

Irene Hillman

Irene Hillman, Manager of Career Development, College of Business, Decosimo Success Center, The University of Tennessee Chattanooga
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/irenehillman

When I was first introduced to the world of student services as an educational psychology student, what intrigued me was the coaching aspect. I was taught that the key to successful coaching was to recognize your student as resourceful and whole, and to “meet them where they are.” That phrase, a decade and a half later, still floats into my brain when I talk with a client.

It takes a good deal of curiosity to really find out where a student is in her path of life and where she wants that journey to lead. Probing questions are called for, along with the ability to offer real encouragement and very often a sense of humor plus a sympathetic ear. In short, challenging a student to head toward his or her individual goals requires an authentic connection—an honest-to-goodness old fashioned relationship where you know the other person and where she’s been, where she is, and where she is going.

But I see this art of coaching frequently dwindling in career development departments. As colleges and parents focus on the ROI of the ever-increasing tuition payment, the focus has tipped, in my opinion, towards “checking the box” of offering services.

As we struggle to serve a large population, automating processes has become the norm. Resumes are dropped off by students, checked for typos by career services associates, and picked up the next morning again with rarely a discussion of what type of job the resume is trying to target or transferable skills a student might have left uncovered. Students are given access to a myriad of career assessment tests but may never have a conversation with an adviser about how results should be interpreted or how the results might affect their college experience. Pamphlets about the importance of job shadows, professional associations, networking—you name it—are developed and distributed without follow up to see if students understood the advice, are ready to get their feet wet, or have the support they need to make real progress.

In this stunted model, the responsibility is placed on the student to build their own career development program using the bits and pieces we provide. Have you ever heard of a baseball coach putting bats, gloves, and balls on the field and then sitting in the dugout? Our intentions are good and the resources are solid, but our efforts are in danger of falling flat in terms of providing support that actually moves a student toward career success.

I propose that the way to help a student is to know a student. Have all these resources and tools ready to use and share, but at the right moment—when your client is ready to take that particular step in her journey.

And, I should mention, only in a real relationship can you expect accountability from a student. In any other scenario, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope students are listening to the advice out there—on your department’s website, in the pamphlets, in your class visit—but they are more likely listening to whatever is streaming through their headphones. I have heard many career services professionals complain that students are unresponsive and lackadaisical. I am positive that those same students would be attentive and engaged if a relationship was in place with their career adviser.

Another thing to consider is the impact not having relationships with your students will have on employers. How would I identify which job opportunity or company I would recommend to a student without understanding his/her objectives and strengths? I would be failing my employers as a result of not knowing my students.
If I’m worth my salt as a career development professional, I want to be able to push a student toward progress—and progress is a highly subjective term. I need to be keenly aware of what progress would mean to the individual in front of me. There is no standard or bulk option. Does this stretch me thin? Heck yeah. Is it worth it? Heck yeah. Relationships are what make me love being a career development professional. Seeing my students transform into flourishing professionals is the best feeling in the world. And if I was busy checking the box, I would miss it.