Teach Students About Leadership

by Ashley K. Ritter

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Week in the Life of a Career Services Leader

board-christiangarcia

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

“What the heck do you do all week?” Yeah, I’ve been asked that question here and there (insert eye roll emoji), so here are some highlights from a recent week on the grind. I didn’t include everything because a guy’s gotta have some mystery, right? Oh, and head on over to HireACane.com to learn more about the programs and initiatives I reference below.

MONDAY

8:00 a.m. Doctor’s appointment to get test results from annual physical (aside from a Vitamin D deficiency, all is good).

8:45 a.m. Quick stop at Starbucks on the way into the office: Trenta Iced Coffee with cream and six Equals, oatmeal with nuts and brown sugar. Repeat Tues. – Fri.

9:00 a.m. Toppel huddle, which happens every Monday, is a quick lightning round where each staff member shares what is on their plate for the week. The huddle occurs in the career center lobby (regardless of visitors present) and lasts no longer than 10 minutes. 

10:00 a.m. Strategic planning meeting with my leadership team to discuss where we are currently and next steps. For the past year, the entire Toppel staff has been immersed in the strategic planning process, which kicked off with a visit from career center innovators: Amjad Ayoubi (Tulane), Christine Cruzvergara (Wellesley/previously George Mason), and Joe Testani (U. of Rochester). During Meeting of the Minds, which we dubbed a “modern day external review,” each team within the center presented a pitch of their vision for Toppel in 2025. A number of brilliant ideas were presented and have been molded and shaped since last March, culminating in the soon-to-be-unveiled Toppel 2025: Career Services is Everybody’s Business. That’s all I can share at this point…stay tuned!

Afternoon set aside for planning a presentation to the Parents Council later in the week. The Parents Council, a group of about 80 influential parents, meets a few times a year and I have been invited to share with them my vision for the future of career services. Little do they know that they’re getting one of the first glimpses into Toppel 2025…

TUESDAY

9:00 a.m. Strengthening teams meeting. For the sake of brevity, check out my previous post All Play and No Work?

11:30 a.m. Lunch planning meeting for the 2nd Annual Lavender Celebration. Toppel was a proud sponsor of the inaugural graduation celebration for LGBTQ graduates last year and will continue to support this important event for years to come.

2:00 p.m. One-on-one with my boss, Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education. Discuss recent accomplishments, update on strategic plan, brainstorm topics for his speech to a group of 21 career center directors visiting U.M. next month, and I’m quickly outta there.

3:00 p.m. One-on-one with my Associate Director of Assessment and Communication. This meeting basically consisted of me gushing over all the extraordinary work he and his student intern team have been producing!

WEDNESDAY

11:00 a.m. Skype call with one of my NACE mentees. Jeffrey (College of Brockport-SUNY) knows about my undying love for Madonna and today, he created an agenda that used a different Madonna song for each agenda item. #hegetsme. This year, I hit the jackpot with not just one, but TWO, pretty amazing mentees who I know will be future leaders of our profession! The other one is Ryan from Muhlenberg College. I’m planning a future post all about our experiences in the NACE Mentor Program which is going to be cool!

1:00 p.m. One-on-one with my Associate Director for Career Readiness, who is one of the most genuine and positive individuals I have ever met. And by the way, she’s been talking about career readiness before career readiness was a thing!

2:00 p.m. Run all over the building to make sure it’s clean and tidy. See next entry.

2:15 p.m. Visit from Patricia Toppel. Yes, our namesake dropped by with her son and two granddaughters who wanted a tour of our beautiful building, which would not have been possible without the generosity of the Toppel family. Mrs. Toppel is a class act and I always love when I have the opportunity to see her.

6:00 p.m. Happy hour with our Associate Director, Employer Development, Washington, D.C. Hilary lives and works for us in D.C., but spends two weeks in Miami each semester. As always, the staff gathers for a happy hour in her honor before she leaves. Miss her already!

THURSDAY

9:00 a.m. One-on-one with my Director of Career Education, who is doing a phenomenal job managing his area and empowering his team of career advisers. He led our recent transition to Chaos Theory as our department’s theoretical framework and it’s already transforming the work!

11:00 a.m. Meeting with Gapingvoid, the organization responsible for the amazing artwork at Toppel. Discussed ways to continue our partnership and some exciting upcoming collaborations. Check out our building and artwork here and an article and video about how art has transformed culture at our center here.

3:30 p.m. Retirement party for one of U.M.’s most iconic and longstanding faculty members and administrator (more than 40 years of service).

FRIDAY

9:00 a.m. One-on-one with our Assistant Director of Graduate Student and Alumni Career Programs. We discussed a program she co-leads, Professional Development Academy, which is for juniors and students, and uses NACE’s Career Readiness competencies as its guiding framework. It’s an excellent initiative!

12:00 p.m. Phew…my presentation to the Parents Council was a big hit! They loved the five pillars that encompass the vision for our future of career services at U.M. I also garnered a lot of interest in launching Career Crawls across the country and our first international Crawl to London. Cheerio!

2:00 p.m. Meeting to discuss progress on pilot program to integrate academic and career advising. This has been and will continue to be lots of work but we will get there!

3:00 p.m. Meeting with a vendor regarding a potential partnership on a pretty cool and innovative assessment tool app. That’s all I can say right now…!

4:00 p.m. Video shoot to welcome parents and family to the Toppel Insider: Family Edition e-newsletter. After over 20 takes, I finally nailed it but we have decided to include some bloopers in the final video. Should be interesting!

7:00 p.m. A nice bottle of red wine (Cabernet) is removed from my wine fridge and cracked open to enjoy and ease into the weekend! That’s it. You’re not following me into the weekend!

 

 

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.