How to Fly Higher in Higher Education

rubinaRubina Azizdin, Career Services Associate, Central Penn College

I work at Central Penn College as career services associate and teach various humanities classes as an adjunct professor. One of my main responsibilities is to help students and alumni with job pursuit issues. I prepare them to attain their professional goals. We have conversations about what an ideal job would look like and obstacles that may have prevented them from reaching that dream job and other career goals.

After being my in role here at the college, I started to think about how I might apply my advice to myself? What are my goals? Where do I want to be in five to 10 years, career wise? One thing I know for sure is that I would like to stay in higher education. There are many of us who work in academia and aspire to make career moves within our institutions.

The big question is, how do we do this?

Think About Options

When you are in a field like higher education, you need understand the numerous opportunities that exist.

Every college is diverse and operates differently. Core values, student population, and even programming may differ. What department interests you? If you decide to change positions, will the institution offer such an option?

Specific job descriptions and scope of work might vary depending upon the type of institution in which you work. For example, differences may occur if the university is a research, doctoral degree granting institution as contrasted with a liberal arts four-year undergraduate institution. The former might place greater emphasis on grants and scholarship productivity than the latter institution (Enomoto & Matsuoka, 2007). Also remember that salaries may not be competitive, but the entire package of the position may be enticing. Know why you are attracted to the college and be able to evaluate opportunity in its entirety.

Make Sure That You Are a Viable Candidate

A 2013 Gallup study found most Americans are unhappy at work, stating “only 30 percent of American employees feel engaged or inspired at their jobs and the vast majority of U.S. workers—70 percent—are not reaching their full potential.”

Sometimes in higher education, professionals feel that they have a better chance of receiving a job offer if they apply for a position that may be lower than their current experience/job. There is nothing wrong with taking a position that may be below your standard qualifications or experience—only if that will allow you to achieve your ultimate goals.

You must always remember what your ultimate end goal is. Factors that are important in determining the value of your end goal include; the length of time you can sustain a position that may have shortcomings such as a lower salary, decreased vacations time and miscellaneous benefits, as well as diminished career growth. The value of these factors can impact your decision on pursuing your ultimate end goal. If you do not have solid answers to these questions, then it may be a sign for you to consider other options.

On the flip side, some professionals will apply for higher level positions that they may not be qualified for, but feel that they will learn the position and be groomed by their administrators.

Know your skill set and potential when applying for a higher level job, remembering that job titles come with the expectations and responsibilities that you should already be well versed in and there may not be time for to you to learn and absorb information.

Reach out to a career mentor who will help steer you toward an accurate path and will eventually help move you toward the higher level executive that you aspire to be.

Make Connections—Network, Network, Network

Higher education is in a world of its own. The more you network and meet professionals from this world, the more you will learn and hear about opportunities that may be a good fit. Attend events that are hosted by other institutions or conferences where there will be other college professionals. There is something unique about the relaxation and bonding that occurs when people eat and socialize together outside of the office.

Trust can develop when you have an opportunity to personally interact with another individual in your field. These conversations can develop an in-depth professional relationship that phone and office visits alone cannot achieve. Luncheons and other face-to-face activities provide you with opportunities to build trust in your relationships (Boyd, 2011).

Create social networking accounts such as a LinkedIn account. Make yourself and your name visible. Build rapport with recruiters. Let them know that you are searching and interested in opportunities, and provide each with your resume, cover letter, and business card. Get involved in community-based professional development organizations, run for board positions, and attend local chamber events. Practice and have an elevator speech ready, so that you can point out your professional background and set a good impression. 

Cultivate Your Reputation

If you are interested in growing within your present place of employment, get involved! Have a servant leadership mindset. Think about ways you can help your colleagues and be successful together. Attend campus events, help fellow colleagues with programs, and serve on committees. Get involved with strategic planning, accreditation steering committees, and employment search committees. Build relationships with faculty, staff, and students.  This supports building professional connections and helps put a face to your name. 

Be Inspired

Make of a list of five to 10 people who hold your dream job titles. Look them up, read about their professional progress and background. See who they are connected to and how you too can be more connected. Seek out the people who you are inspired by within your institution and chat with them about your aspirations and ask about career tips. There is a plethora of published information to help you understand and build tactics and understand your options. Listen to webinars and join professional organizations that are related to your academic department.

Emulate successful leadership styles. People who want to advance need to examine closely the behaviors of successful leaders in their organizations. Determine what it is that these leaders do that makes them effective and respected. When compatible with their personal styles, individuals should adopt a few of those successful behaviors to see if they will be effective for them. 

Be Honest

Have a clean and updated resume with your latest work and professional data. Don’t inflate it with false credentials. When information does not line, up it can lead for hiring officials to think that bigger things may not line up either. Be ready to explain any gaps, be ready to talk about what you did and what you learned during that time. If you were asked to be a guest lecturer in class, you were not an instructor. If you were asked to fill in as interim director or dean to help cover a colleague’s place, that did not make you a dean or director on your curriculum vitae. Integrity is very important and highly critical in academia, so make sure you preserve it.

Be Able to Face Reality

You already know working in higher education is highly competitive, so be prepared to face the competition. You may be educated and have loads of experience and still be rejected for a position. Do not take a hiring decision personally: The search committee is there to find a candidate that will be the perfect fit and will be able to tackle the position without hesitation.

Achieving your dream job does not happen overnight or even with years of working. It takes time, skill and precise execution. Remember what your priorities are and what makes you happy and also know that you are in a field that is wonderful and filled with opportunity. With time and patience you will be able to thrive and achieve your goals.

Fly high with higher education!

 

 

References

Boyd, J. (2011). The Illustrated Guide to SMART Living: Custom Design Your Life. Tremendous Life Books.

Blacksmith, N., & Harter, J. (2011, October 28). Majority of American Workers Not Engaged in Their Jobs. Retrieved December 7, 2015, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/150383/majority-american-workers-not-engaged-jobs.aspx

Enomoto, E., & Matsuoka, J. (2007). Becoming Dean: Selection and Socialization Processes of an Academic. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 2(3), 31-31.

 

 

Offer Deadlines for Students

Kayla Villwock_Kayla Villwock, Manager of University Outreach and Recruitment at SAS
Twitter: @KaylaRenee8
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kaylavillwock

 

Striking a Balance Between Deadlines and Decision Making With Grad Offers

In a previous blog post, I shared my perspective on the potential implications surrounding a student’s decision to decline an offer after accepting. This blog gained a lot of attention from both the career services and employer audience, and even resulted in The Wallstreet Journal reporting on the topic. It became clear that it wasn’t only the implications of offer reneges that was a hot topic of discussion, but there was a great deal of commentary around one of the root causes of this trend—offer deadlines.

So what is the proper amount of time an employer should allow students to thoroughly assess an offer? I’m certainly not going to claim that I have all of the answers here, but I would like to give my perspective on toeing the line between reasonable and unreasonable when it comes to offer deadlines. Also, I would like to touch on some trends I have seen specifically regarding the decision-making process students go through when selecting their first career post-graduation. Lastly, I will provide some advice for employers, students, and career services in relation to offer deadlines and the offer decision-making process.

The Highly Sought After Talent—Earlier Recruitment and Multiple Offers

The organization I represent targets two of the most sought after skillsets in the student market today: analytics and computer science talent. With a growing need for these skills, students in these fields have many choices when it comes to potential employment opportunities thus resulting in multiple offers…. especially for the top talent.

It is a race to access this top talent as early as possible. Most employers that are seeking May grads are recruiting in the fall for their openings. Employers are also using internship programs as pipelining opportunities to lock in the top talent before they begin their final year of school. I have even recently heard of employers actively interviewing graduates over a year before they even graduate! Not all employers have nailed down the proper work force planning that is needed in order to understand hiring needs this far in advance, especially those new to university recruiting. This said, they may be jumping in to recruit students in late fall or early spring. You can see the recipe for issues: offers are going out earlier, and students are being asked to make decisions before all companies have put their stake in the game.

So what timeframe is considered reasonable for offer deadlines so students can feel comfortable accepting an offer without regrets?

Here’s my take on it: when employers are making offers for May graduates in early in the fall, say August—October, giving students until at least Thanksgiving before they are required to make a decision is reasonable. Universities typically host fall recruiting events in September, so students should be well-educated on employer opportunities by that time. I envision a student sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table with their family talking about their offers and coming back from the holiday with a decision.

When it gets later in the recruitment season, say December/January, I think it is appropriate to give shorter deadline windows, but in my opinion, no less than two weeks.

Here’s the challenge: most employers cannot wait for an indefinite period of time to hear back from students regarding their offer decision, and the longer the student has to decide, the likelihood of finding another great fit will be lessened. The key here is transparency. Regardless of the deadline selected, it is important that recruiters explain to the student the reason for the deadline. I have phrased it this way with students before:

“The offer you have received is filling a spot at our company. The later the deadline we give, the harder it will be for us to find another rock star like you who is still available to fill the position. You may have a classmate or friend that is very interested in this opportunity and if we give you too much time, they may not have access to the opportunity if you choose to decline (which we hope you do not do).”

This helps the student better understand the reason for the deadline instead of thinking that the pressure is being put on them for no reason. It also helps them understand the bigger picture regarding the opportunity cost of them sitting on an offer.

 “Exploring All Options” vs. Strategic Career Goal-Setting

Many times I find that students want to “explore all of their options” before they commit to an offer. The more options the better, right? Or is that true? I personally get overwhelmed when I have too many options to choose from.. so why is exploring all options such a common direction for students seeking full-time employment? Is it so multiple offers can be put up against one another in order to negotiate a higher base salary? Student loans are crippling these days (I speak from experience!) so I can understand why this would be a factor.

Then I think about the heightened attention around the cost of higher education and how this may play a part in influencing students to shop around. The Higher Education Opportunities Act requires universities to conduct first-destination surveys, which provides data regarding the career outcomes of students at a particular university. What college does not want to report that they have the highest starting salary in the nation? And that their students, on average, receive 10 offers? I am not insinuating that this is definitely happening, but this would motivate the universities to advise students to shop around. But is this the right thing for the student?

I would much rather that students be guided to spend time prior to the job search figuring out what is most important to them in the career they are seeking. Is it the company? Is it the role? Is it location, compensation, the culture of the company? If students are well-educated on what they are looking for and then seek out the roles that meet these criteria, then they will have a basis for accepting the right opportunity once it is offered, or declining an offer to continue to seek out the role of their dreams.

It seems that much of the time students are asking for offer deadline extensions because they want to continue to “explore all of their options.” I would rather that the student proactively know their career goals and seek them out rather than explore all of their opportunities and then make a selection.

Career Services Policies—Providing a Baseline for Offer Deadlines

Several universities have begun enacting policies around offers that I find to be very beneficial in regulating the pressures that students are feeling from overly-aggressive deadlines. I have noticed a trend where universities are implementing an “earliest deadline date,” so an employer cannot require a student to accept an offer prior to the November timeframe. I have also worked with a few career service centers not allowing students to hold more than a certain amount of offers at the same time. I think these are great policies to put in place that help level set expectations around timing of offers between employers and students.

In summary, here are some thoughts on how we can support students in being able to make the most thorough and appropriate career choice for them:

Employers:

  • Give deadlines that are reasonable to allow the student the opportunity to fully review the offer and understand if it is right for them.
  • Be transparent regarding the business justification behind the deadline date.

Career Services Professionals:

  • Educate employers on the importance of reasonable deadlines so students do not feel pressured to make a decision.
  • Help students narrow their focus and target employers and roles that align with their career goals so the decision-making process can be clearer.
  • Consider implementing policies such as an “earliest deadline date” to ensure that employers allow ample time for decisions, and so employers have a benchmark on when they need a stake in the game in order to access the talent.

Students:

  • Spend time prior to the job search to understand what is important to you. There are many aspects of a career. You should know your top three career priorities, and do your best to accept interviews only with the companies that meet your career goals.
  • Be transparent with recruiters about your career goals and any reservations you have about accepting the offer. This way, they can set an appropriate and fair deadline that allows you to feel comfortable with making this very big decision in your life.

Below is a sample list of job factors to rank in order to help you evaluate offers:

Compensation
Benefits
Location
Type of work
Manager
Work/Life balance
Culture/Values of the company
Industry
Travel as part of the job
Opportunity for advancement
Global opportunities
Job stability

A student-directed version of this blog is available to NACE members for their websites.

All Play and No Work?

board-christiangarcia

Christian Garcia, Associate Dean and Executive Director, Toppel Career Center, University of Miami LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christiangarcia     Twitter: @christiangarcia

How does an office that seemingly only has fun not only get work done, but get it done with such a high level of quality and innovation as well?

I get asked a variation of this question all the time and while some people are being snarky, I believe most are genuinely curious about the fun, yet hard working culture we maintain at the Toppel Career Center. What I find interesting is that for many, play and work are mutually exclusive. Well, I’m here to tell you that that is certainly not the case at Toppel! So, if you’re wondering how we make this happen, read on.

Don’t be Fooled: Play Is Work

Let me be upfront: the “play” takes “work.” Consistent work. There was a time when it wasn’t a whole lot of fun to work at Toppel. Sure, we had our exciting moments and yes, we tended to produce some great work, but the fact of the matter is that we had some toxic individuals and behaviors that routinely undermined the important work we were trying to accomplish. The question became: how do we right the ship?

Strengthening Teams Becomes a “Thing”

Once we had the right team in place (read between the lines here), we tackled our issues head on and without any filtering. Staff members openly and honestly shared their feelings about the culture: the good, the bad, and lots of the ugly. The caveat was that while everyone was encouraged to be completely honest, we also had to share responsibility for our part in the bad and ugly. Using Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, we began our never-ending journey into what we call Strengthening Teams. Every other Tuesday, the leadership team led a discussion/activity on one of the dysfunctions in a direct and honest manner:

  1. Absence of Trust
  2. Fear of Conflict
  3. Lack of Commitment
  4. Avoidance of Accountability
  5. Inattention to Results

The following semester we did it all over again, except we had staff members work in pairs to lead the team through activities and discussions on the dysfunctions. Seems like overkill, right? Wrong. Repeating it not only drove the points home, it also created buy-in because we shared ownership with all team members. The best part of all of this is that almost instantly, the walls started coming down and that’s when the play began. And I’m not talking about the “fake fun” we see in so many places; I’m talking about genuine appreciation for each other’s well-being and truly wanting to spend time with each other in and out of the office. Several years have passed since that initial meeting and we still have our Strengthening Teams meeting every other Tuesday and yes, we dust off Lencioni’s book regularly to not only keep us on track, but to bring new staff members into the fold.

Crazy Staff at Toppel

The crazy staff at Toppel Career Center

But Don’t Take My Word For It

Sure, I’m the leader of the office and this whole blog post can just be me bragging about how great my organization is. But I’m more honest than that and therefore asked folks— both within and outside of Toppel—for their thoughts on why our culture is the way it is.

Ali Rodriguez, Director of Employer Engagement says, “By taking advantage of people’s strengths, the joy simply comes through.” and “It’s become so natural and organic that it’s hard to put our culture into words. That said, what it comes down to is that we don’t lose our sense of humor in spite of all the work and stress that comes with the job.”

Chris Hartnett, Director of Residence Life says, “Toppel exudes an energy and enthusiasm that is both palpable and contagious.  The staff is passionate about the work they do and strives every day to better their events for student excellence.  Working with Toppel is a highlight of my job; the talented and creative folks in their office are some of the best and brightest on campus!”

Kim Burr, Assistant Director at Toppel, is one of our newer staff members at Toppel and after a week where the majority of the leadership team was away on business, she told me, “This isn’t an office where the mice play when the cats are away. I’m so impressed at how seriously everyone takes their work, while at the same time not taking themselves so seriously.”

Devika Milner, Director of Study Abroad says, “Toppel is a place where ideas are generated, where you feel like a valued part of a community, and where you consistently learn something new. I have never seen a group of individuals who exude such passion and excitement for the work, while also truly caring for each other much like a family. I love being around them!”

Gosh, This Is a Long Blog Post! What’s the Moral of the Story?

The moral of the story is that ALL work and ALL play is possible, but only if you commit to it. You have to hire the right people; people who are positive and passionate (everything else can pretty much be taught). But it doesn’t end there. You have to get to know your people: what makes them tick, what are their strengths, and what pisses them off. You have to let go of your own ego, be vulnerable, and ask the tough questions without being scared of the real answers. You have to take risks, allow your people to take risks, and above all, be okay with failing hard. You have to spend quality and consistent time working on the team, the same way you spend time running your programs, events, and initiatives. You have to relinquish control and give it to your staff. And remember when I said this was a never-ending journey? That wasn’t hyperbole. You have to realize that to maintain this type of culture, the work never ends. And therein lies the irony: the “play” takes a great deal of “work” in the very same way the “work” takes a great deal of “play.”

In Closing

We have our detractors. We have folks who think we’re silly. We’ve had people call us the “Toppel Cult.” You know what I say to that? You can’t spell culture without CULT.

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helping Students Get Career Ready

board-christiangarciaChristian Garcia, Associate Dean and Executive Director, Toppel Career Center, University of Miami
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christiangarcia
Twitter: @christiangarcia

More than ever, employers are looking to colleges and universities and griping that their new hires lack skills and competencies to be successful in the workplace. Enter, the NACE Career Readiness Competencies, a framework developed by the Career Readiness Task Force in 2015.

The Toppel Career Center has taken these seven competencies—critical thinking/problem solving, oral/written communications, teamwork/collaboration, information technology application, leadership, professionalism/work ethic, and career management—and developed ways to successfully implement innovative career readiness initiatives on a campus-wide basis.

We engaged key stakeholders including employers, faculty, and staff to help us in developing these core competencies among students at the University of Miami.

By creating this infographic, we developed consistent messaging on the topic of career readiness. We began marketing this information in faculty/staff presentations, in the classroom, on social media, and in one-on-one advising with students. These stakeholders can now use this new information to ensure their students are on track to becoming career ready.

NACE members can pick up a copy of this infographic for their websites on NACEWeb.

career-readiness infographic

 

 

Finding A Career That Reflects All of Who We Are

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

Each semester I teach a course for undecided students to help them narrow their career interests in order to declare a major. Over and over, I see a recurring pattern. The pressure to find the “perfect” career has many students choosing one of two costly paths: they change majors multiple times, often adding time and expense to their undergraduate degrees, or they avoid the matter entirely until they’re forced to engage with it post-graduation. The culprit, for many, is that their values, skills, interests, and material needs can rarely all be neatly captured by a single occupation.

Of course, this isn’t limited to Millennials or college campuses. In her book “One Person/Multiple Careers,” Marci Alboher highlights the “slash career” phenomenon— simultaneously wearing multiple career hats that more thoroughly capture the complex identity of a professional. Accountant/Yogi/Internet Mogul and Educator/Entrepreneur are just a few examples of the “slash career” phenomenon taking hold of the modern world of work.

The phenomenon of slash careers is about more than just the titles that appear on your LinkedIn profile. As we call for an expansion of the categories of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and the many other ways that we identify, we are also pushing for inclusiveness in our work. In time, I’m confident that our organizations and institutions will reflect these new priorities.

For now, here’s my advice for those who want to build a slash career:

Set clear intentions for your roles and then let them evolve.

Think about the type of slash career you want and then begin developing the skills required for each role. If your slash career is Accountant/Poet, then you may want to start out as an accountant while writing poetry in your spare time. You might get a degree in accounting, follow that path through graduation, and find a full-time job as an accountant. Then, once you’re feeling comfortable in that role, your first goal toward becoming a poet may be to take a writing class at your local community center once per week. This will allow you to support yourself financially while moving toward your slash role.

The people you meet will push you to expand and refine your goals. The instructor in your poetry class may be so impressed with your work that she asks you to write something for a poetry collection she’s created. That project may inspire you to start writing longer pieces and you may move into nonfiction writing. After you’ve set your goals, allow them to evolve over time.

While you won’t get there overnight, I encourage you to start thinking of yourself right now as the slash career you hope for. You don’t have to wait until you’ve published six novels to consider yourself a writer. Titles can be aspirational.

Be realistic about the details.

Conduct careful research on each role to decide how to balance your time. You don’t want any nasty surprises that could have been avoided by an hour of research. Different occupations have different schedules, projected growth rates, salary ranges, and requirements. You want to make sure you’re familiar with these so that you can choose two or three roles that fit together. O*NET is one of many sites that provide this information.

Through your research, you want to identify a suitable full-time or part-time career that will allow you to launch another role on the side. Writing and other work that can be done remotely are excellent supplements to a full-time, in-person commitment.

Leverage the time management skills you already have.

Continue to use those organizational skills you’ve refined in school or at home. Slash careers require the ability to proactively identify opportunities and to manage your time. Invest in a planner, a calendaring system (or several) so that you can keep the goals and tasks for each role separate and organized. This will be especially important as you’re starting out and learning about each career.

Use technology to support your efforts—something as simple as integrating the calendar on your smart phone and laptop can help to streamline your work. There are a wide variety of free productivity apps for smart phones and tablets that help keep projects organized. Try creating an Excel spreadsheet to track your freelance projects. This will allow you to organize client contact information, pay rates, and deadlines, all in one spreadsheet.

Remember the importance of baby steps as you accept new opportunities. There is a limit to how many projects you can take on and continue to produce high-quality work. Establishing a good reputation in these fields is key to making network connections and developing your skills. Don’t sacrifice quality to rush toward a goal.

Use the support networks around you.

A slash career is an inherently creative endeavor, so path finding will inevitably be part of the process. Learn from the great work that’s already being done. Look to people who are working toward the slash careers you’re interested in. An informational interview will provide you with the opportunity to find out what their individual career evolution looked like.

To those who are in school, use your administrative departments—career services, tutoring, student life—to support your work. To recent graduates, get in touch with your career development offices. Many of them will work with alumni, aware that career development is a life-long process.

Reflect on your journey as it’s happening.

I always recommend keeping a career journal to track your evolving interests and goals. It can also be a great way to manage the complexity, and occasional ambiguity, of doing something unique. Ask yourself what you enjoy about each role, what you find challenging, and what other skills you may want to develop. You’ll see patterns in your journal over time that will give you ideas about how your slash can evolve.

My own slash career evolved from a career journal I began in AmeriCorps. Over time, I saw that I needed the right mix of independent, analytical work, and social, helping work to feel like I was using all of my skills. Simultaneously working in career development at a university and doing my own creative writing allow me to accomplish both of these goals.

As a Millennial myself, I certainly understand the drive toward engaging work. I also see professionals in other generations pushing for this same fulfillment. We’re ready to take on complexity in our work, just as we grapple with complexity in our political and economic landscapes.

NACE members can pick up a free, student-directed version of this blog for their websites on NACEWeb.

Establishing Annual Team Goals—The Three Legs of Career Services

Jennifer LasaterJennifer Lasater, Vice President of Employer and Career Services at Kaplan University
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenniferlasater
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenniferlasater

Whenever someone asks me how to build a team that is successful and provides great service, I always mention an analogy of a three-legged stool.  (Here’s where the team says: “Oh here she goes again about that stool.”)  I’ve had the opportunity to help various career services (CS) teams throughout my  16-year career in career services and whenever there is an “issue” with services delivered or performance issues, it seems that one (or more) of the legs of their three-legged stool is broken or not receiving the time and attention it deserves.

Leg One—Students: What is the message your team sends to students? Are they open and flexible to meet with students or does it take weeks/months to set up an appointment? Are there self-service tools available for students to use if your office is closed? Is the team empowering the student body with knowledge and resources or building a dependency? This group and can also include alumni, parents, and prospective students depending on the structure of your university.

Leg Two—Employers:  What is your relationship with the employers that hire your graduates? Do you make working with your CS team a pleasure or do you sense some dread when calling an employer? It is easy for an employer to share a job lead or do they have to enter each and every job lead into an antiquated job board system with the hope that a student might look at it? How do you promote sending job leads to students/alumni? What is the experience like for an employer that participates in an event with your university?

Leg Three—Faculty and Staff: Do other teams at your university know what the career services team does on a regular basis? Do you share feedback from employers with faculty, department chairs and deans? Do you get invited to present in the classroom on career issues?  Do you work on projects with advising, student affairs, admissions, or financial aid?

In order for us to keep our “three legs” firmly planted and have a successful team, we meet in the first two months of the year to review all that we’ve accomplished over the previous year and start to brainstorm goals that enhance our relationships with students, employers, and faculty/staff. Everyone on our CS team is encouraged to join a working group that analyzes current relationships, brainstorms new goals to further the relationships, and builds metrics for achieving the goals. The working groups (one for students, one for employers, and one for faculty/staff) present their top three or four goals to the CS leadership team and we’ll discuss it as a group using SMART criteria. From there the team receives a “menu of goals” where they are encouraged to pick at least one from the student category, one from the employer category, and one from the faculty/staff category for their performance goals for the year. We review these goals mid-year with the teams to keep them all on track and set a deadline for completion at the end of the year. By creating this structure, the team feels that they have a role in their performance metrics goals and we build something together that we all feel is achievable. This will be our third year with this goal structure and I love to see our team get excited about it each and every year.

Jennifer Lasater is the vice president of Employer and Career Services at Kaplan University, serving more than 35,000 online students. She has 16 years of experience in higher education, specifically in the career services sector. Additionally, Jennifer is currently serving on the Board of Directors of NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers as a Director-College.  The views expressed are solely her own.