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

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

With Passion Comes Progress!

by Kathleen Powell

It’s true, I have a passion for numbers, data, member engagement, return on investment, and adding value. As you know, the First-Destination Survey outcomes are currently being collected for the Class of 2016. Why does it matter or should it matter?  Your data makes a difference!  I’ve heard colleagues tell me they can’t submit their data because they don’t have a 65 percent knowledge rate or they won’t have their completed report done. News flash!  NACE wants you to share your data no matter what your knowledge rate may be. And, the deadline to submit your data is now April 30, 2017. Equally important, and exciting, it has never been so easy to do so.  A reporting form has been completed in an Excel template for you to populate your data in aggregate. One and done, almost!

Sharing your first-destination outcomes data makes a difference. It matters to our profession, our deans, our presidents, and our accrediting bodies. Our collective data allows us, as a profession, to track trends and inform our constituents on the value of higher education; and similarly our work. If we have data to support value, we have a place in the public policy debate around higher education; its value, its purpose and its future.

As an adopter to the request for data, you, as a NACE member, are helping to shape national benchmarks. We are better collectively, around data sharing, then we can be individually. Providing your first-destination survey outcomes will allow you to benchmark around majors, salaries, and bonuses, to name a few for your institution.

Think of the many times you’ve been asked for your first-destination outcomes report.  In those requests, how many times have you been asked how it compares nationally, regionally? If we all subscribe to the reporting of our outcomes to our professional association, we all benefit. I can’t think of a better way to support our profession, the work of our association, than to submit your data. Please join me in being an adopter of the first destination outcomes reporting and protocols. You can make a difference, you could be the difference! With passion, does come progress and a report that publically messages out the story of our collective success!

Deadline for reporting your first-destination outcomes is April 30, 2017. Pick up the free reporting form on NACEWeb.

Kathleen Powell

Kathleen Powell, Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs, Executive Director of Career Development, Cohen Career Center, William & Mary
President, National Association of Colleges and Employers
Twitter: @powellka
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kathleenipowell/

The Year of Thinking Critically: NACE Career-Readiness Assessment in Action

by Janet R. Long

While critical thinking skills have long been considered a core measure of student learning, critical thinking increasingly appears in the vocabulary of the co-curricular, and notably in the domain of career services. Not only did critical thinking and problem-solving skills rank as the second highest career-readiness competency in the recently published 2016 Recruiting Benchmark Survey, a NACE survey of employers, but the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report also ranked critical thinking as the number 4 in its Top 10 Skills for 2015 and projected it would catapult to second place by 2020, just behind its first cousin, complex problem-solving!

Here at Widener, where I coordinate student learning outcomes for our career services office, critical thinking is top of mind across campus: it is the designated focus area for assessment across academic and administrative units for the current academic year.

As a career services team, we have embraced this focus by challenging our own critical thinking about ways in which we evaluate student learning and success. Here are a few examples:

  • New Approaches: Looking for a way to jump-start the year—and admittedly, to make assessment less dreaded—we held a pilot “data lab,” inspired by the work of University of Richmond Bonner Center for Civic Engagement Director Dr. Bryan Figura. In a data lab, participants evaluate “artifacts” of student learning.

Typically, the process is organized around a theme to make it more engaging and features rotating stations through which participants first review artifacts independently and then come together to reflect and discuss findings. For example, the University of Richmond used a Harry Potter theme to examine student learning in the realm of civic engagement.

For our own office, we selected student career-related writing for our pilot data lab and created a True Crime/CSI theme that had us literally playing detective while examining crime scene “exhibits” such as resumes, cover letters, and reflection papers. As just one take-away from this process, we decided to revise our resume rubric to make student learning outcomes better align with our critical thinking objective. From a programmatic perspective, we also introduced a longer-format interactive resume clinic in lieu of shorter, presentation-oriented sessions.

  • Rubric Audit: We extended our rubric review to student interviewing to ensure that we were truly collecting data that would inform our learning about student learning. Specifically, we revamped the Interview Content section to help both counselors and employers more explicitly rate how well students connect knowledge, strengths, and experiences to their qualifications and competitiveness for specific opportunities. We piloted the new rubric during a week-long event, Mock Interview Mania, and have already uncovered areas for improvement.
  • New Assessment of Existing Programs: As one example, we added a pre/post-test student self-evaluation for Seekers, the semester-long career exploration program that we facilitate for our liberal arts students at Widener, to an existing student reflection requirement. Several of the Likert-scale items pertain directly to the application of critical thinking skills to career-readiness process steps.
  1. I understand how my personal values may impact my career choices.
  2. I can confidently articulate my major strengths and how they connect to my employment or graduate study goals.
  3. I can confidently describe the skills I have learned through liberal arts coursework in language that a potential employer will understand and value.
  4. I can draw from my campus involvement, service, and leadership experiences to develop an effective “elevator speech.
  5. I know how to locate and navigate resources found in the Career Exploration and Professional Development sections of the Career Services Campus Cruiser Office.
  6. I understand how to network to pursue internships, jobs, or graduate programs in a way that leverages my personal style and strengths.
  7. I am confident in my ability to arrange and conduct an informational interview.
  8. I can list my top five targets for jobs, internships, or graduate programs.
  9. I can confidently and professionally use LinkedIn as a tool to connect with Widener alumni in support of my goals.
  10. I can use my critical thinking skills to confidently respond to challenging interview questions.
  11. Overall, I believe that my liberal arts education is preparing me for life after graduation.
  • Unifying the Units: In the most far-reaching initiative to date, our career services office has actively partnered with our peer units within Academic Support Services, including Counseling, Disability Services, Exploratory Studies, Student Success and Retention, and Tutoring. My colleague Jocelyn Manigo, director of tutoring services, and I were asked to co-chair this initiative, starting with aligning language around critical thinking across the six areas. In an upcoming post, I will elaborate on our process and learning to date.

What kinds of assessment initiatives are you piloting in your own offices? How are you getting colleagues to buy into the process?

Janet LongJanet R. Long is a NACE blog contributor and the career liaison to Widener University’s College of Arts & Sciences. She also coordinates student learning assessment for the career services office and co-chairs assessment for the broader Academic Support Services unit in partnership with Jocelyn Manigo, director of tutoring services.

Auld Lang Syne—Resolutions for 2017

by Marc Goldman

I always enjoy celebrating the holiday season with friends and family. New Year’s Eve has been a tradition in my house since I was a preschooler. Yes, my parents let me stay up late from a very early age, which might explain my night owl tendencies to this day. Once January 1 has come and gone, people discuss their resolutions for the coming year. These goals and commitments might have to do with health and wellness, social lives, hobbies, activism, and even the workplace. And that got me thinking. From a professional standpoint, what are my New Year’s resolutions for 2017?

  1. Follow the data: More and more, our industry is turning to data, big and small, quantitative and qualitative, as a source for strategic planning, decision making, and new ideas. My goal is to use data as a powerful driver for both my office’s programming and employer outreach. In addition, data will help us assess our success in terms of outcomes, resources, attendance, and awareness. And embracing external reports on trends and data will help with messaging and promotion of my team’s mission on and off campus.
  2. No I in TEAM: Half of my staff is new to the career center this academic year, so we have been rebuilding and team building at the same time. This staffing scenario provides great opportunity and enthusiasm, but it presents challenges to the staffers, new and seasoned as well. I need to be more open minded than ever before, while remaining focused on my philosophy and vision of our shared work to ensure that we benefit the students, the reason we are all in it together.
  3. Show me the money: As with many career services offices, funding can be a challenge. Having offices on two campuses only makes that issue more pronounced. I plan to explore fundraising opportunities now that my staffing trials and tribulations have ended (for the present). Whether I develop an employer partner program, fundraising for specific program needs, or both has yet to be decided. But I will be consulting with my advancement colleagues for their input and experience on this one.
  4. Reading is fundamental: While I do spend a good deal of time reading online articles, checking out the occasional blog post, and following many colleagues (and celebs) on Twitter, it is high time I do a bit more of a deep dive into this wonderful world of books. There are a number of titles on my hit list. I just have to start with one. Is there a career services book club out there I can join? Yikes, did I just come up with another idea to implement?
  5. Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!: One of my favorite movies is Rudy, the story of the ultimate sports underdog, whose grit, determination, and positive attitude lead him to some degree of legend status. Rudy’s story reminds me that I need to keep my positive attitude (no laughing, please) regardless of circumstances, challenges, or roadblocks ahead. And in my office and on campus, optimism really can be one of the most powerful motivators and messages to convey.

I will check in with you in January 2018 to let you know how well I end up sticking to my resolutions. What are some of yours? Feel free to let me know on Twitter (@MarcGoldmanNYC). Happy 2017!

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