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.

How to Ace a Job Interview as an International Student

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In this competitive job market, it is critical to be highly prepared and practice before every job interview. You will only get one shot to stand out. As an international students, you are competing against domestic students who may have the same skills and education. Here are 5 ways you can stand out, and ace every job interview.

  • No dead fish handshakes. Talk about a bad first impression. Every recruiter wants to hire a candidate who is confident in his/her work, skills and self. When you walk into that interview room, put on your biggest smile and give your interviewer a firm handshake with the right amount of strength. No need to break bones. Also, sit straight as it sends a message of intelligence and confidence. Tell yourself you own that room, you are the best at what you do and they need you. You need to believe it.
  • Articulate: As an international student you may be self conscious about your accent and constantly second guess your worth in this competitive job search race. You’ve probably told yourself several times “I have an accent, they will never hire me”. Fun fact, did you know that the CEOs of companies like Mcdonald’s, Microsoft, Kellog’s, Altria and many others were foreign born? Yes that’s right; many so called “aliens” hold high leadership positions in this country. What matters are your skills, experience and ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Keep in mind that everyone has an accent, whether you are from New York, Mumbai or Hong Kong. Your eloquence will make recruiters look past it. Don’t try to speak too fast. When answering questions, speak slowly but surely and articulate every word you say. And that’s something you can practice during your free time. You can take some free spoken English lessons online to practice your language skills.
  • Understand the benefits of diversity: Many companies pride themselves on diversity initiatives. As an international student, you are bringing with you a different worldview, creative ideas and methods of solving problems. You are unique and think differently. You have the ability to adapt to changes and new environments. On top of that, you can help the company tap into a new market or better understand a current market or demographic you represent. In this global economy, the diversity of the staff will help companies enter new markets and understand global challenges. When asked the question “why should we hire you?”, don’t miss out on this opportunity to sell yourself and address how your foreign background and experience will benefit the company, its clients and stakeholders.
  • Your skills are transferable: Create parallels between your previous work experience abroad and the job description. The environment, practices and technology might be different, but the objectives and expectations in the workplace are very similar around the world. Talk about the skills you used and developed while living and working abroad and how you can apply them to the current role. Whether you are an expert in Ingenieria Eléctrica (Spanish), génie électrique (French) or Engenharia elétrica (Portuguese) you know how to design electrical systems by developing and testing components.
  • Become an immigration expert. Many employers are unfamiliar with immigration laws or have misconceptions about the timelines and cost of hiring international students. It’s your responsibility to learn everything about CPT, OPT, H1B, work permits, costs and procedures and be ready to educate your hiring manager. By mastering the processes, you will help eliminate the fear associated with hiring you. Also, the research you’ve done and your ability to clearly educate the hiring manager on a complex topic like immigration will also reaffirm your ability to solve problems and communicate effectively at work.

 

Bonne chance!

What a Traditional Thanksgiving Means to Me

What a Traditional Thanksgiving Means to Me

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends to give thanks for one another and celebrate the bounty of the season. That bounty usually includes a lot of food, a lot of football and a tryptophan-induced nap, which sometimes is in preparation for black Friday or, now, even Thanksgiving night shopping. Since moving to Long Island five years ago I spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, which means my former tradition of catching an after dinner movie with my dad is no longer; however, since taking up residence in East Northport I started another tradition with an activity I enjoy almost as often (and as much) as going to the movies: running a 5k. Getting up early on Thanksgiving morning, lacing up my sneakers and bundling up in accordance to the weather is easier than you’d think, especially since I use the run to justify that second piece of pumpkin pie and fourth glass of wine. Running 3.1 miles hardly compensates for those calories, but on Thanksgiving it is okay to use these deceptive measures, and pants with an elastic waist, to lift the fork up for another (and another…and another) bite. The great thing about traditions is that they can start anytime. The key is sticking with them, even when it is easier to throw in the towel. Every year I am invited to run another local turkey trot or am tempted to stay in bed and lazily start the day, but I don’t give in. Traditions are also best when shared. Last year my husband, a former turkey trot spectator, donned his first race rib and ran/walked alongside me. Even if he never decides to join me again, I do not run alone. As I jog through Nissequogue River State Park I smile knowing I am sharing my tradition with my fellow runners and that together we give thanks for our health and celebrate the fallen leaves that surround us.

 

Service That Inspires

Service That Inspires

On a fall Saturday morning, as Pope Francis boarded a plane from NYC for Philly, I rode an early morning train to Penn Station to meet 14 students from my FCIQ class. Each of us were armed with brunch items such as eggs, bacon, syrup, fruit, pancake mix.  Today was the launch of our service-learning project at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge New York City.

It was quite remarkable to see 14 young adults seamlessly prepare a full brunch for 40 people. Clusters of students formed to tackle the tasks needed to pull off the event. I observed them laughing while using their critical thinking skills to calculate the water/mix ratio to make batter for 80 pancakes, team work to crack, whisk, and scramble 5 dozen eggs, fry 5 pounds of bacon, and transferable skills led by my catering expert student to make a beautiful brunch display. This inspires me!

Throughout the preparation, the Hope Lodge patients and caregivers started to trickle in. You see they were the lucky recipients of the fruits of our labor (service) and their response was incredible. They were overjoyed by our hospitality and generosity. In small groups we chatted with the guests, shared stories, laughs, and hugs. We even convinced Neil ( patient) to play the piano. Many students heard, first hand, the challenges cancer patients and their caregivers face. This inspires me!

As brunch came to a natural end, the Hope Lodge guests began to seek me out to share thanks and thoughts about the students and the event. Their messages included; this is the nicest group of volunteers that we’ve had in all months I’ve been here, your students had the ability to make all this happen and where so personable and engaging, and from the caregiver/president of a Syracuse Community college – thank you for taking service-learning so seriously! This overwhelmed me with inspiration!!

Review: “The Intern”

Review: “The Intern”

I had the pleasure to see an advanced screening of The Intern, starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, four days before its public release, at the Landmark Sunshine Theater in the Lower East Side. De Niro didn’t show, neither did Hathaway, so instead of sharing glamorous celebrity selfies, I bring you a review through my critical lens as a professional in Career Services.

The Intern is a story of reversed roles. De Niro is Ben Whittaker, title character and hero of the story. As a recent widower, he struggles to stay still, so, at 70 years old, Ben applies for a “Senior Intern” position at an e-commerce start-up headed by a female CEO, Jules (Anne Hathaway). Ben begins the film with a quote from Freud: “Love and work, work and love. That’s all there is.” Having lost his love, he now seeks to fill his life with work.

Role reversals are enjoyable because the enduring qualities of a character always shine through. Ben used to be vice president of a phonebook printing company, and has decades of sales and marketing experience. He now finds himself struggling to make a “video cover letter,” work with technology, and interact with much younger colleagues in an open office space.

Ben’s enduring qualities become apparent early. He shows his personality in the video cover letter, addressing why he wants to intern and why he’d be valuable to the company, showing knowledge of the company and its vision, and quickly dispatching the obvious elephant – his age – and why it’s not a problem. While technology could have prevented him from proceeding, Ben did not allow it to; he even learns Facebook by the end of the film. Though the format of the cover letter is different, Ben shows that the content is king because delivery can always be learned. This is something we do well at Career Services: focus on each student’s strengths and then work on how to best package themselves for success.

A second enduring quality of Ben’s is his resilience and can-do attitude. He declines a transfer when Jules tells Ben outright that she’s hard to work with and that he’d have an easier time with someone else. He has no problem doing menial tasks such as delivering laundry or distributing mail. Ben doesn’t have to work, but he wants to. He has nothing to lose and much to gain. This kind of mindset should be our students’ as well. They, too, have little to lose and much to gain. The more they are challenged in their external classrooms, the more they’ll discover about their fields. Much is theirs to gain if they don’t back down from demanding bosses, challenging tasks, and even menial duties.

Ben’s other enduring qualities that initially seemed old-fashioned gradually become fashionable. Professional attire (Ben is always in suit and tie) catches on with younger colleagues. Pocket squares – stylish symbol of chivalry – become vogue again. Even Ben’s briefcase, a 1970’s leather attache, attracts a coworker to buy one off eBay. He becomes a leader not because of age but because of his demonstrated ability to work in a team, process information, organize, and solve problems. In fact, Ben hits all of the most regarded skills in interns according to the 2015 NACE Internship & Co-op Survey.

The Intern is a story of reversed roles. Ben proves the film’s tagline time and again, that “experience never grows old.” He’s 70 and a Northeastern alumnus, and outshines a 24-year-old Ivy League business graduate at a start-up. A funeral becomes an ideal place for a first date. There’s also a stay-at-home father and promiscuity among the most unlikeliest of characters, the latter likely earning this delightful comedy its PG-13 rating.

Directed by Nancy Meyers, The Intern opens nationwide on September 25, 2015, and you should see it!

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!