Transitions

Leonora Hall, Career Advising Fellow

images.jpg

I remember the transition from college to a career a few years ago and have empathy for students feeling nervous about the transition.  I recall feeling the pressure and stress of looking for my first professional position.  In higher education, I believe we can support students when they are feeling overwhelmed by the job search by doing the following:

  1. Preparing Students:

At Elon University, career advisors give presentations to all first-year students to introduce them to the Student Professional Development Center and share what resources we offer.  Additionally, we have events such as the Job and Internship Expo and employers visit campus regularly so students can find out about opportunities and network.  When students come in for appointments, I remind them that our office is here to help them along the way in their career exploration and development journey.  Whether students want to take an assessment, have their resume reviewed or do a mock interview, our office can help.  The better-prepared students are for the job search, the easier it will be for them.

  1. Building Students’ Confidence:

Sometimes students’ confidence is challenged through a job search.  I remember one student who was job searching and getting numerous interviews but no job offers.  This particular student was also dealing with the loss of a loved one so he was not his usual self.  As a result, the lack of job offers was even more discouraging.  I believe this student needed to be reassured of his skills and reminded that every interview is a success.  Having an interview means that you are a top candidate but there may have been an internal applicant or someone who was a slightly better fit.

  1. Helping Students Consider their Options:

Though a career advisor cannot tell a student to take one job over another, we can ask intentional questions to help students consider their values and what they want to empower them to make their own decision.  When a student is trying to decide between two positions, we can ask about the pros and cons so they can reflect on their options.  One of my professors gave me advice that I found comforting when I was involved in the job search.  He said that when choosing a position, there is no right or wrong path.  There are just different paths.

When students are well prepared for the job search, confident about their skills and have reflected on their options, they are closer to finding meaningful work.  One of the best parts of advising students is finding out that the student you advised got the position they were hoping for.

Tweaking Something Until It Works

Leonora Hall, Elon Career Advising Fellow

rise and improvement  concept

In the Student Professional Development Center, there are constant changes so we can better meet students’ needs.  We are also persistent in adapting what we do in order to make improvements.  This includes reflecting on and discussing what could and should be tweaked.

Events are constantly tweaked each year based on what went well and what did not.  For instance, we tweaked how we gathered survey information at the Job and Internship Exposition because we wanted more clear and detailed responses from students.  As a result, a co-worker and I orally asked students survey questions as they were leaving the event.  This allowed us to ask follow-up questions, get clarification and ask for additional detail.  Although we collected less surveys, we received more quality and informative feedback.

During graduate school, I worked in an office where I planned service events for students to participate in.  It is probably not a surprise that fifteen students might sign up for events and three might actually attend. One of my mentors at Elon University helped me make a change to events to avoid low attendance.  My colleague suggested I partner with a student club or organization for events to ensure attendance.  I really wish I had thought of this in graduate school because this change makes a huge difference.

Additionally, our office has tweaked career advising for students. We offer evening advising to students at a student apartment club house.  One obvious benefit is convenience for students to get advising where they live.  Additionally, if students are intimidated to visit the Student Professional Development Center, this is a great way to casually meet them where they are comfortable.

Continuously tweaking what we do allows us to grow ourselves as an office and reach more students.  As a result, we can get more students involved with our office and resources.

Rule # 10

gibbs

Written By: Katie Greene

Happy New Year! The fellowship has officially entered its sixth month, which is living proof that “time flies when you’re having fun!”

I definitely feel that I have grown professionally over these past several months, and have gained invaluable exposure to a variety of career advising opportunities which have strengthened my skill set and expertise. Moving into the New Year and the second half of this fellowship, I am seeking to utilize this increased exposure and expertise to directly contribute to the goals of the SPDC through projects I’ve mentioned in the past, and I hope to outline new projects in the future.

Even though I am engaged with various projects that are meaningful to me, I am also mindful of the ways in which ‘letting go’ is crucial. I am referring to the ‘letting go’ that I have found beneficial when involving myself with projects about which I care deeply. As Gibbs would say on one of my favorite television series, NCIS: “Rule Number 10: Never get personally involved on a case.” Well, clearly Gibbs has never worked in higher education, because there’s no way in which not to get personally involved when supporting and encouraging students. However, the general meaning of his rule still applies.

My perspective is that we can diligently create events and work to implement policies and procedures that support positive growth and change, but ultimately, if we do not make room to ‘let go’ of the process with regard to our own eager, sometimes stifling expectations, we only serve to limit our own professional growth and the authentic and collaborative manifestation of the goals we seek.

This winter and spring, I look forward to remaining committed to various projects, while also making a concerted effort to ‘let go’ of my personal vision for these projects in order to intentionally seek a shared vision from which its most effective impact will occur, and continue beyond the time frame of my own fellowship experience.

In what ways do you try and follow Gibbs’ Rule # 10?

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

Leonora Hall, Elon Career Advising Fellow

imgres

http://www.shastacollege.edu/Academic%20Affairs/SLAM/STU/Assets/Student%20Development.jpg

Sometimes I am surprised by the maturity of a first year student or the lack of motivation of a junior.  After reflecting on a couple appointments, I am reminded of the differences among students. Each students is unique and we can best help and support them by meeting them without judgment.

I met with a student who had 28 appointments with the Student Professional Development Center.  This particular student, who was obviously proactive, wanted to consider graduate school options.  I made the usual suggestions and quickly realized, he had already done everything I recommended.  For instance, he asked me to help him find a contact he could reach out to at another university and when I found one, he said that he had already talked to this person several times.  When the student left, I felt that I had not really helped him beyond listening.  How do we advise students like this one? Perhaps they just need someone to be a sounding board and say it’s okay to not know what’s next.  The important part is continuing to explore options.  Despite my initial reaction that this student was visiting the Student Professional Development Center too much, I realized this student is simply taking advantage of our resources which is exactly what we encourage students to do.

In contrast, I had a senior come in for her first career advising appointment and she brought one of her parents.  With a background in student development theory, this situation is not ideal. Prior to meeting with the student and her Dad, I made an assumption that the Dad was overly involved.  My goal is to empower students to make their own decisions without the influence of parental pressures, regardless of how good the intentions of the parent are.  Luckily, the parent of the senior let me have a conversation with his daughter and simply listened.  The parent was there to be supportive and help his daughter feel comfortable.  It is easy to make assumptions when parents come into appointments with their son or daughter in college.  However, after the appointment, I realized that I appreciated that this Dad encouraged his daughter to visit our office.  Furthermore, I wonder if she would have come in for an appointment without her Dad’s influence.  As a result, I am reframing how I think about parents coming in with college students for appointments.  If the preceding scenario is a way for us to get more students in our office, I think it is important to consider the benefits of a parent helping their son or daughter take a first step to career development, coming into our office.

Though in the same academic year, the two preceding students were clearly in different developmental places in considering options for after graduation. The preceding scenarios remind me of the importance of meeting students where they are and avoiding assumptions.  By meeting students where they are, career advisors can encourage and empower students to take important next steps, make their own decisions and consider their different options.  Whether students visit often or with their parents, there is value in them having career advising.

 

 

Giving Voice to Lived Experiences

giving-voice

Written By: Career Advising Fellow, Katie Greene

Recently, I visited a local college to attend a professional development summit for minority students, particularly those who identify as African American or Latino/a. Originally, I thought the goal of my visit was to simply observe the event and consider ways in which aspects of its implementation could be facilitated at Elon University. Although the event was superbly organized and wonderfully informative for students, I quickly realized that the career development content of the event was not necessarily the main selling point. Rather, it was the sense of representation and belonging that added unique character to this event, which became evident during the formal dinner event that took place on the first evening of the summit.

During dinner, Mr. Clint Smith presented works from his recent published book of poetry, entitled: Counting Descent. Additionally, Mr. Smith shared anecdotes from his life and made time for a question and answer period after reciting his poetry.I was privileged to be sitting at a table with seven dedicated summit participants, all of whom were African American female students. During one of Clint Smith’s moving and pertinently challenging poems, I found myself observing the intensity with which these women were listening and hearing Mr. Smith’s message. The women sat in intense stillness, many of whom had even paused their movement of raising their fork from their plate in order to be fully present and receive the wisdom being shared. I suppose this was my Oprah Winfrey “Aha!” moment. In other words, I received the inspiration I had been waiting for with regard to a clear direction and purpose for my desired event at Elon focused on identity and work.

Upon returning from the summit, I met with my supervisor to discuss implementation of our “identity and work” event. I explained that, in my opinion, the event should focus around story-telling. Namely, professionals giving voice to students’ lived experiences. In working to address the professional development needs of under-represented students, we need to create opportunities for these same students to be represented. This event is one way to meet this need.

Additionally, I believe the shared stories should emphasize ‘asset capital,’ which is a term I recently became aware of while attending the NCCDA (North Carolina Career Development Association) conference. This term refers to the particular strengths that underrepresented, marginalized or minority students bring to the workplace. These students and recent graduates may not enter the workforce with the same amount of cultural or social capital, but often times they bring more ‘asset capital’ than other new employees. These assets are demonstrated in a variety of ways, such as being bi-lingual, having more cultural “fluency” with regard to  fluidly being able to ‘cross’ from one cultural  context to another, and understanding true persistence and the power of aspirations, often times instilled in them from family members who have sacrificed for them to reach their dreams and better their future.

Therefore, with the enthusiasm of my supervisor, I am continuing the implementation of a spring semester event, entitled: Work & Identity: Giving Voice to Diverse Lived Experiences. This event will be similar in nature to NPR’s, The Moth, in which invited guests (representing various diverse groups and professions) will share a 5-minute story of their professional development journey from the perspective of asset capital. The purpose of these stories is to increase and solidify underrepresented students’ self-efficacy as it relates to their professional development. After the stories are shared, there will be a panel discussion followed by the opportunity to mingle and network.

This event is scheduled for the end of February. I look forward to piloting this idea and then considering its effectiveness, or lack thereof. Here’s hoping for the former!

 

Options Inform Creativity

options

Recently, I had an extremely helpful and insightful conversation with the assistant director of a career center at a university in Kentucky. In conducting research of career centers I believed had ample experience with targeted programs for diverse student populations, I decided to reach out to this particular career center to request an opportunity to further discuss this research topic. Sarah (pseudonym) was wonderfully informative, and I would like to thank her, again, for both her time and substantive conversation.

Our discussion unintentionally, but beneficially, focused on the following general questions: What is not enough versus what is too much regarding the implementation of targeted programming? How much does creating trust with student groups affect the success of marketing and programming? What types of programs have been most successful?

Not Enough vs. Too Much:

Sarah has worked, and contributed to, a variety of offices within higher education. Most specifically, she brings a good amount of experience working with the LGBT center on her campus, as both a current professional and previous student. Her previous relationship with this center was beneficial in beginning to create and market professional development programs for underrepresented students. She, too, created relationships with a variety of offices and coordinated events with various organizations, which ultimately led to the career center offering monthly intentional programs and workshops for the LGBT Center, the Women’s Center, Disability Resources, among others.

Sarah’s goals, and her implementation of these goals, was starting to sound familiar as it mimicked my own intentions thus far. However, her next statement gave me cause for pause, and has led me to view my goals and ideas through a more critical lens. Namely, Sarah stated that not long after initiating monthly intentional workshops, students began to inform her that they didn’t want to attend a program specifically addressed to their particular identity, but rather, they wanted to have their concerns more holistically addressed in the general programming.

My initial response was to feel discouraged by this result. However, Sarah mentioned that it wasn’t the actual intentional programming that was the issue, but rather, the frequency of such programming. In other words, finding ways to emphasize diverse issues within the general outreach of the career center is the foundation for inclusive success. Then, offering occasional intentional programming is a way to reinforce this awareness of diversity and the support of inclusivity. In brief, balance is essential.

Trust:

Sarah mentioned that her involvement in having worked at the LGBT Center as a student and professional, allowed her the advantage of having a relationship with the students, which is a critical component to effective marketing of intentional programming. Of course, it is important not to ‘tokenize’ faculty or staff in order to address various identity groups. However, there is also truth to the fact that people appreciate the support of those that ‘look or identify’ similarly to them. Again, I am reminded of the importance of balance.

Successful Programs

I was pleased to hear that she has experienced great success with inviting guest speakers, and offering panel discussions pertaining to identity. However, Sarah elaborated by stating that it was not simply enough to conduct a panel discussion, but she needed to emphasize marketing outreach by major. Many business companies have employee support programs regarding diversity. However, many underrepresented student groups are looking to work in the areas of social work, activism and education, to name a few. Therefore, knowing what majors would be more apt to attend the panels, and reaching out to each department to effectively market the event was most beneficial to its success.

Similarly, panel discussions proved useful for students who engage with Disability Services. More specifically, a program focused on alumni success stories was well received by students. This allows for alums to attend the event, representing a variety of disabilities, whether or not they require accommodations at work. Issues such as when to come out with a disability on a resume or in an interview (especially if one does not need to request any particular accommodation) can be discussed, among other topics.

Indeed, I am reminded that options so often inform creativity, as there are a myriad of ways in which the results of this research could affect positive change, and the ideas for programs could be implemented.

Here’s to the creative process!

Challenging Appointments: Ideas for Supporting Students

Leonora Hall, Elon Career Advising Fellow

opportunity_boulevard

Career advising appointments can be fairly predictable.  They often start with building rapport, inquiring about the student’s goals, sharing relevant information/ resources and discussing the next steps for the student.  However, challenging and supporting students is not always easy.  Recently, I advised a student who wanted me to answer questions that I could not answer because he needed to make the decisions on his own.  Our conversation seemed to go in circles because the student pressed for answers and repeated the same questions.  Furthermore, he wanted me to edit his resume for him.  The student had very little involvement for an upperclassman and voiced his concern about his limited experiences.  He said he felt overwhelmed balancing classes and involvement.

After collaborating with another professional, I received the following ideas to help guide the next appointment to be more productive:

  1. Find out more about the student’s goals (does he want to work for a big or small company?).
  2. Determine what skills the student already has with the activity below. Hopefully, this will build the student’s confidence by helping him recognize skills he does have and help him feel more at ease.
  3. Discuss how the student can develop skills he does not have yet.

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 9 41 43 AM.png

I was prepared and looking forward to meeting with the student a second time.  Unfortunately, the student missed his follow up appointments.  My new plan is to follow up by email and check in with the student.  Furthermore, I considered that the student might be in Perry’s early stage of development which would explain him wanting someone else to give him the answers.  I cannot do the work for him but I can try to help him take the next steps by reaching out.

How would you handle this appointment?  I would love to hear your ideas because I am sure there are many effective approaches.

http://ii.library.jhu.edu/2013/12/13/perrys-scheme-understanding-the-intellectual-development-of-college-age-students/