To hire more college grads, do we have to fire Career Services?

To hire more college grads, do we have to fire Career Services?

I recently learned that my students have a much better chance at getting a job upon graduation (yay!)…and that my job may be obsolete (huh?!). Earlier this month, I attended a lecture at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City with Dr. Phil Gardner, Director of the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, who spoke about his research on 2015-16 recruitment trends. There were several positive trends he highlighted, including:

  • Hiring is up for graduates of four year degrees in computer science/IT and business
  • Hiring is also up for Master degree candidates in accounting or health professions
  • Paid internships are being offered at a record high of 71% of employers
  • 79% of employers who do offer internship programs will hire

Pretty encouraging for a higher ed professional like me who helps oversee our institution’s internship program, right? Well… Dr. Gardner pointed out that career services departments do not make the hiring process efficient for employers (the crowd of career professionals went silent). Though recruiters continue to rely on college career fairs to identify their talent pool, the process is expensive, time intensive, and doesn’t always yield a high ROI. In an economy that rewards replacing the traditional (i.e. taxis) with the new and “improved” (i.e. Uber) – employers are eager to find ways to recruit new hires that are the right organizational fit, without having to duplicate efforts at multiple universities. One such method that Dr. Gardner demonstrated briefly was Knack (www.knack.it), a series of games developed by Stanford and MIT masterminds that can assess potential candidates’ organizational fit – at a very low cost to employers. Brilliant for employers and college grads (the games test innate qualities, thereby potentially evening the playing field for non-Ivy Leaguers) but not so much for us career services folk.

Where I did see the ultimate silver lining is that employers are looking for students with experience (hello, internships!), multicultural perspective/experience (i.e. alternative spring break and study abroad programs, or local opportunities researching or working with diverse cultures), and professionalism. These opportunities and skill sets can’t be automated – and that’s where career services professionals come back into the picture:

  • Career Fair models can be updated, reorganized or deconstructed to better fit the needs of employers
  • Professional etiquette can be taught online to meet students where they are
  • Internships can be coordinated so students are learning and growing, while employers identify and shape their talent pipeline

My takeaway from Dr. Gardner’s research is that our field isn’t irrelevant, but it is evolving. It’s important for us to be knowledgeable about what’s ahead but also recognize our value in higher ed and in society – we prepare students not only for the world of work, but to learn how to advocate for themselves, continue learning and growing in their chosen fields, and achieve financial independence and professional satisfaction. All of which makes me believe that our future is pretty bright.

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Staying the Course

Staying the Course

Whether in love or business, persevering through challenging times may reap the greatest rewards. There    may be times when you feel like you just can’t go on. Your workplace or love life is riddled with the same old insurmountable problems, that no matter what you do, no solutions appear on the horizon. Granted, some situations may be beyond your control, or worse, harmful to your health or well-being, and the best course of action may be to exit stage left. But, when in your gut you know there is a greater purpose for you to stay the course, here are some insights that may help you do just that.

  1. Resilience – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that I needed to develop a thicker skin. In love and business, I would read too deeply into what people said to me. I took things personally that I shouldn’t have. Few people are eloquent speakers; sometimes they just don’t know how best to articulate the message they want to deliver. While difficult, I’d listen, sometimes cry like a wimp on the inside, and take some time to process the intended message. More often than not, a good lesson was buried in there, and when I made sense of it, l was better for it. Sometimes, it’s you and not them, and if you give up too fast, you might miss it.
  2. Personal Growth – I stayed in my first full-time job for ten years, five years longer than I felt I should. It was a great job, but I felt ready for the next step and it wasn’t being offered to me. Truth be told, I was scared to throw all of my energy into a job search, but I knew for certain that there was more out there . I decided to stop being whiny and miserable at work asked for more responsibility, without insisting on a raise. I wanted to prove myself to my employer, but most importantly to myself. In my mind, I pretended to be my boss. I owned the work I took on and performed it the way I’d want “my staff” to. I developed professionally more in those five years than I could have imagined and it prepared me for my boss’s job at a different place of employment. A change in your mindset and your approach might make the relationship more fruitful.
  3. Fulfillment – This year, I will be married to my husband for 21 years, and there have been times when I was d-o-n-e! I married when I was twenty years old, just a baby in hindsight. We have been through the highest highs and the lowest lows, but at the core of our relationship we have love, trust and respect. Some of us have been in our jobs for the same amount of time, or longer, and just like marriage we have experienced highs and lows. And considering that we spend as much time – or more – at work as with our partners, our jobs are our other loves. Sticking it out with my husband has shown me what love, compromise and appreciation really mean. When you conquer obstacles in work and personal relationships, you open yourself to greater understanding of the self and others, which can be deeply fulfilling. It might help you be successful and happy in ways you never imagined.

Most treasures in life take a lot of work to uncover. If you instinctively know that the pot of gold is on the other side of the rainbow, regardless of the typhoon you might currently be weathering, stay the course. The sun won’t always be hiding, and when it shines, use SPF 50 and carry on.

5 Ways to Nail a Zoom (Online) Interview

When it comes to interviewing, it’s true that practice can make perfect. But with the recent addition of web-based video platforms such as Zoom, job seekers are now finding themselves on the other side of a computer screen instead of a table – many for the first time. Whether you are a recent graduate or seasoned professional, here are five ways you can prepare for a successful online interview.

  1. Don’t let a bad connection create a bad first impression. Nothing ruins a good first impression like a frozen image, especially if you’re caught in an unflattering pose. Make sure to power up and check your internet connection at least ten minutes before your scheduled interview. If the connection is slow, keep your cell phone or landline nearby so that you can call in if needed. It also can’t hurt to position the camera or computer so that you look and feel your best.
  2. Dress to impress – at least from the top up. Your style says a lot about you, even if it’s just your top half. Aim for a creative professional look from the waist up that will capture your interviewers’ attention without making them dizzy. Try bold colors or smaller prints, and avoid stripes if possible. Accessories are a great way to showcase your personality, but be careful – noisy earrings and bracelets can distract your audience.
  3. Gesticulation is not articulation. Controlling hand movements during an in-person interview is important, but on screen it’s absolutely necessary. Depending on the internet connection, your hand or head movements can appear blurry or choppy to the interviewer(s), taking the attention away from what you’re saying – and the great experience you have to offer.
  4. Location. Location. Location. The three rules of real estate apply to interviewing on Zoom or any web video platform. Try to find a quiet space with a clutter-free backdrop. For example, if you’re interviewing in your room or office, take a look behind you and make sure the interviewer’s view is free of clutter and other distracting items.
  5. Smile! Interviews, whether on-line or in person, can be nerve wracking for everyone involved. Put yourself and your interviewers at ease by smiling from the very first moment that you’re connected. Though it may be harder to build a personal connection over the web, this simple yet effective non-verbal communication tool is enough to get the conversation off to a great start.

With these things in mind, you’ll be able to focus on demonstrating how great you are for the job – and how awesome you are with technology!

Professional Reflections in Transit

Professional Reflections in Transit

Trains are like mobile classrooms, or more appropriately, training sites for leadership. As a daily NJ Transit commuter, I often observe passengers and their behaviors (including my own), which sometimes mimic those of people in the workplace. Here are some leadership lessons I’ve learned through personal observation and reflection.

  1. Although in close proximity to one another, we tend to keep to ourselves. Only on a train would it be permissible for a stranger’s armpit to be one inch from my face. And in the workplace, we are placed in meetings and teams with groups of people we might never spend time with elsewhere. In both scenarios, we are placed in highly intimate situations with little personal exchange, yet we meet our goals. Lesson: I don’t need to be friends with people to meet my objectives. There’s a time and a place for friendship; NJ Transit or the workplace might not be it, and that’s ok.
  2. People are routinized. We stand on the same platform spot each day, enter the same train doors, choose the same seats if possible (window or aisle), and perform the same activities each day (read, listen to music, sleep). At work we develop similar rituals; we eat the same lunch with the same people at the same places, we run the same programs, or we complain about the same things. Lesson: When I do the same thing every day, I potentially miss opportunities to experience something new or get a fresh perspective, which could lead to the development of original ideas, hallmarks of great leaders.
  3. People often choose to do what is customary and not what is necessarily logical or right. Every day the train is packed. People flood the aisles of train cars while seated passengers occupy more than one seat. Instead of making room for new passengers, people stay where they are and avoid eye contact with those standing. We all pay to travel, why don’t we automatically make empty seats available to others? At work, we often perform our jobs the way we were taught regardless if it is the most practical or efficient way of doing it. When exposed to a different approach, we avoid exploring the alternative because it might be uncomfortable. Lesson: I need to be cognizant and amenable to doing what ought to be done instead of what is customary. It might improve results.
  4. People need, and often want, to be led. That man in the aisle seat of a three seater won’t offer up the empty seat next to him unless he’s asked, regardless if 40 people are standing in the aisles. In the workplace, we tend to behave the same way. Unless asked to do something, many times we won’t. Maybe both the worker and the passenger want the direction or encouragement to behave differently? Maybe the man on the train figured that if someone wanted to sit, he’d be asked to move. Lesson: Sometimes people just don’t know what to do, or they won’t do what they should/could unless asked. I can’t be afraid to ask for what I want or to take charge of a situation. It might be precisely what changes my world.
  5. I dropped my travel wallet on the train one day and the doors closed before I could get it. I had $300 worth of train passes in there. I was a mess. When I got to work and picked up the phone to call NJ Transit, I noticed a message. It was the man who picked up my wallet, calling me to say that he worked in NYC too and that he would be happy to meet me halfway to return it. Every now and then when I’ve had a bad week, I will get a call from my boss to stop at the café on my way into work; there will be a cup of coffee waiting for me. Lesson: Kindness and empathy go a long way. They simply make the world and the workplace better places to live and to lead.

Picture courtesy: David Parker