I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a student say, “But no one will hire me.” My initial response is (and perhaps yours is as well), “Would you hire you?”

I recently read an article about a little known secret as to why recent college graduates are not hired. Well, in my mind, it’s no secret at all. The (non) secret is simply this…recent college graduates are not hired because they often have no measurable, demonstrated work ethic. In other words, everything they’ve accomplished, to this point, has not required the ideal level of focus, concern, or effort to strive for something significant. Therefore, the assumption is that the ability to overcome obstacles and the resilience to bounce back and realize a goal was never fully developed. Essentially, these graduates were (obviously) smart and educated but did not evince that they had what it takes to do the job on which the future of an organization depends.

So, how can students overcome that predicament? Well, they need to be willing go above and beyond what is expected of them. Doing merely enough to get by just doesn’t get it anymore. And this takes effort and planning. Companies routinely require their associates to do more with less and to demonstrate initiative versus waiting to be told what to do. Students need to challenge themselves to provide meaningful contributions in the areas of student leadership, community involvement, and real internships.

And, let’s think about this— we work very hard to get students to understand the S.T.A.R. response to behavioral interview questions. So, what happens in the interview? Where does it fall apart? The student mentally checks off the Situation, Task, Action, and Result. However, what does not get communicated is “what’s in it for the employer” or the “benefit statement.” And isn’t that the most important thing for students to share with a potential employer?

All this leads to an understanding that if the student can communicate, to the employer, that they can provide “something of value” then the chances the student will receive an offer is greatly increased…right? All it takes is not connecting a few dots to help keep the recent graduate on the world of work sidelines.

Contributing Author: Melvin J. Scales

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“I Like People”

dreamstime_xs_34968852 (2)We have all heard it before in real and mock interviews when we ask the question, “Why should we hire you?” After a rather lengthy pause and thoughtful gaze, the candidate replies “Because I like people.” Well, my grandma liked people but that wouldn’t have made her successful in certain careers.

With all the time and effort that career services teams put into getting students ready for the “career audition,” through assessments, resume reviews, research and networking, only to have the student go down in flames in an interview with a highly valued employer is just what makes our day. And then the student reveals that this was the only organization they had in the pipeline even though you strongly recommended that they have several companies in the pipeline simultaneously. And now you are back at square-one.

Students miss the point that an interview is a sales call. They must effectively communicate that they can bring value to the role and the organization. We teach them use the S.T.A.R. response to the behavioral questions they will receive. And with practice, they get good at sharing their story without sounding rehearsed.

However, there is something that we need to be sure that they do. Somehow, they have to say something while responding to the question that ties the S.T.A.R story to a benefit for the organization. The student needs know why an organization would hire them and then articulate it so that it is leaves a positive memory with the interviewer. Without the organization understanding what’s in it for them to hire that student, the interview turns into an “it was nice meeting you” outcome.

And there are those non-behavioral questions that can really trip up students that are not prepared. For example, how much money do you expect to earn in this position, what do you see as your greatest weakness, why do you want to work for us, why do you think you will be successful in this position etc. And of course, an occasional unusual question like “if you could have dinner with anyone either alive or dead who would it be and why.”

You also work with students in defining the questions they should ask the interviewer. And the focus of those questions seem to revolve around how success is measured, the culture, what a typical day is like blah, blah, blah. It is amazing that so many students leave an interview not really knowing how the interview really went because they fail to ask this one simple question…”What do you see as our next step together?”

The interviewer’s response to that question can spell out what the student’s real outcome will be going forward. And based on that response, what the student says next either keeps them under consideration or unceremoniously kicks them to the curb.

We have all heard it said that “practice makes perfect”. However, it is a proven fact that “perfect practice make perfect”. Students need time and opportunity to hone this skill just like any other they develop during their matriculation. Remember an interview, just like a mind, is a terrible thing to waste.

Contributing Author: Melvin J. Scales

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Reflections: 50 Years Later

Fifty years ago to this very day, I was a 4th grade student at St. Benedict The Moor Catholic School near the intersection of 12th Street & Hattie Avenue in Winston-Salem. The building still stands but is no longer a school. Sr. Christopher Mary, a very kind and beautiful woman, was our teacher. And yes, I had a “crush”…didn’t we all!!

That morning, I did not know the President was going to be in Dallas. Unlike today, with “breaking news” headlines almost every second, the only TV channels were NBC, CBS and ABC. And news was twice a day…morning and evening. There were no cell phones, no internet, no Twitter nor e-mail. Heck, fax machines were not around either.

The cost of living…well, it was like this: $1 then felt like $7 today. If you want to know more, click on this link later

I recall being sent out of the room by Sr. Christopher Mary for being disruptive to the class. Can you believe it…me being disruptive. Essentially, my best friend, Robert McCree got me in trouble. He was a comic and I always got caught laughing. Of course, he never did. And, by the way, it is now Fr. McCree and he still has that sense of humor. If I were still Catholic and going to confession, I would have had a difficult time keeping a straight face if Robert was to have been the priest hearing confession that day

Anyway, I was standing in the hallway outside our room. There were only eight classrooms with one for each grade. The floor was green and red tile throughout and it had that “Pine-Sol” smell all the time…The floors were always clean.

I had been standing in the hall for about 20 minutes. Normally, it was a lot longer ( yes, this was not the first time I had been sent out of the class…it is a wonder I got promoted). To my surprise, the door opened and one of my classmates waved me back in. Sr. had a small portable radio…You know the kind that was silver and black with a red/orange bar to indicate what station you were on. Of course, I was confused…Why was I let back into the class so soon and why was the radio on?

I finally noticed that Sister’s eyes were full of tears as were most of my classmates. Sister turned off the radio and said “Children, we need to pray for our president and his family”. We bowed our heads as Sister prayed. After prayer, she turned on the radio and we listened to a reporter giving updates from Dallas. Finally, the word came that President Kennedy had died…it was about 2:10p.Tears began to flow from my eyes…mostly because I knew my parents would be hurt…They admired the president…We were sent home.

And fifty years later I tear up because this nation lost something that day…An innocence of spirit and an innocence of truth. I can only hope that my daughter Kelli and her family will tear up fifty years from today because America came back to being the protector of innocence and the protector of truth once more.

Visit us at http://www.meridianresourcesuniversitysolutions.com/ or call 800-924-8865, ext. 301

Contributing Author: Melvin J. Scales

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The Woes of Resume Review

If I have to review another resume, I’m going to . . .

Let’s be candid with one another. Although we are dedicated career planning professionals, I am certain that at one time or another, we have thought or said these words…Am I right?

You know the drill and it goes something like this. A student sits down across from you, provides their resume to you for review and says something like…“looks pretty good doesn’t it” or “just write it up for me” or “I just don’t know where to begin.” You nod approvingly, hoping that it is just a matter of few quick glances and it is done…not so fast!

As you look closer, the e-mail address is something that brings to mind a rather unflattering sitcom title and of one of the jobs they held was “chief golf ball fetcher” for a rather well known golf resort. And one of their “accomplishment” statements, if you could call it that, says “Retrieved golf balls on driving range.” Oh, and yes, did I mention that the student wants to be an investment banker like her big sister!

You look into the student’s eyes with that reassuring professionalism and say as kindly as you can “Well, this is good start.” In your heart you know there is much work to be done and you are running out of time. You have more students with whom to meet, a couple of staff meetings, special project team meetings, an industry panel to facilitate and oh yes, a report demonstrating that all the programming and coaching is truly improving the school’s goal of increasing employment numbers for graduates v. last year, despite what the economy is doing! You tell the student that you’ll provide some feedback via e-mail shortly, convincingly shake their hand, and wish them a good day.

Arriving at home about 7:45pm, you quickly eat a few leftovers while watching a re-run of “Friends.” Now it is time to tackle that resume. You give it your all with recommendations on re-doing the format, moving ill-placed statements into appropriate categories, changing job description statements into truly meaningful accomplishment statements, checking the accuracy of dates, consistency of tenses etc., etc., etc. And now you send it off to the student with a wonderful feeling of relief. And you think, the student will meet with you again in a few days and would have done nothing with your recommendations and you have not moved one step in a positive direction…and there the student sits waiting for yet another handout.

The next day you look at your in-box and see all the resume review requests from students wanting to get help in time for the career fair that is coming in three weeks. You rub your forehead and think, wouldn’t it be great to give this resume review and development stuff to someone else?

Well, one of our clients did just that with all their business undergraduate and full-time MBA students. They realized that, just by having an outside career management consulting organization review the resumes and categorize them into groups (“ready,” “some work needed,” and “not ready”) along with recommendations provided to the students for next steps, they were refocusing time which would be the equivalent of 33% of their year to coaching and other key activities.

We believe your staff’s time is a valuable commodity better spent in other areas of support. If you are ready to explore innovative ways to maximize the impact of career services for your students we are open to partnering with you to reach your goals.

Visit us at http://www.meridianresourcesuniversitysolutions.com/ or call 800-924-8865, ext. 301

Contributing Author: Melvin J. Scales

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The Next Wave of Innovation in Career Services

Recently, Meridian Resources was approached by a well-known and highly respected private southern university, to provide a career management course to students matriculating through one of their graduate business school programs. So why would this recognized leader in student career services innovation decide to provide a career management course in the first place? And why outsource the development and execution of the course to Meridian?

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Our client understands clearly that students attend colleges so that they can secure work that is both emotionally and financially satisfying. However, they are an exception. Although possible, but highly improbable, not every student walks away with a multi-million dollar contract to play a professional sport like basketball and football.

There is an interesting statistic that indicates that the average college graduate has received a little less than 8 hours of career management instruction in preparation for a career that could go over 40 years. And with the average career services staff person supporting 1,645 students, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), support for students is based on triage. This means that students receive, on average, only 40 minutes per year of one-on-one support from career services. Interestingly, these career services staffs are “low hanging fruit” for cost savings and are usually a place that administration looks to cut costs.

So, it boils down to this:

The course provided by our client is mandatory for graduation. They are serious about having their graduates not only receive a diploma on graduation day but also to have meaningful employment on graduation day as well. By providing the course, students are exposed to the who, what, when, where and how of a job search. Then they can have insightful consultations with their coaches.

Also, by freeing up staff from teaching duties, staff members can focus their efforts on both coaching acclimated students and working to connect these students with key decision makers at target organizations. The coach is doing what they should focus on-coach and connect.

Certainly, this sounds very altruistic and it is to a certain extent. However, it is an important financial decision as well. Essentially by doing this one thing, schools can enhance rankings, improve job offer and acceptance rates, maximize offer compensation while encouraging contributions from grateful alums who received value from a trusted career services team. And then they can attract high caliber applicants to fill the program openings…Truly a win-win for students, parents and schools!

If you are ready to explore innovative ways to maximize the impact of career services for your students we are open to partnering with you to reach your goals. Visit us at http://www.meridianresourcesuniversitysolutions.com/ or call 800-924-8865, ext. 301

Contributing Author: Melvin J. Scales

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Alumni Career Coaching – A No Brainer

Everyone gains when colleges offer career coaching to their alumni. If the mission of colleges and universities is to grow and nurture strong talent, and I believe it is, then we must establish ourselves as relevant beyond graduation. Ideally, alumni will consider their school as partner throughout their career—both a place to go for counsel as well as a place to offer their own expertise.

Pressing budgets require that schools be creative about how to support the initial expense of career coaching to alumni until the program can support itself–and you can anticipate that it will. Throughout my years in this industry, I have seen alumni coaching paid for by Boards of Advisors, by corporations closely associated with the academic institution, by individual donors, and by the alumni themselves.

From an active partnership perspective, give and take naturally evolves. In the best case, students look to the school to help them launch their careers and continue to do so as they develop their professional lives. While studying, they have met alumni as informational sources at networking events, during internships, and as mentors. As they pursue their own work lives, alumni participate in kind, considering the institution as a “thought leader” and “partner” in their own career progression. They may simultaneously serve as and seek mentors for networking and support, pass job leads, hire interns and employees, volunteer their time to speak on panels, and enroll in continuing education courses. They contribute their leadership and often financial resources back to the university because there is mutual benefit along the way.

Very recently, I spoke with an alumna of a major university’s international studies program, who had returned to her graduate school for career assistance. She was thrilled with the help and said, “It was the first time I ever seriously considered donating money to them.” And, it happens, she has plenty of money to donate.

Do you have a story you can share about your school’s commitment to lifelong career management services?

Contributing Author:  Susan Bennett

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Generating sustainability with career services

In a climate where university leadership is continually pressed to “do more with less” and sustainability is on everyone’s mind, university leaders have a golden opportunity to capitalize on career services as a strategic partner in creating lifelong relationships with students and alumni. Mobilizing the inherent synergy between career services and other well-established university services—admissions, alumni affairs, development– can create a viable model for sustaining higher education through tough times. Collaboration between career services that promote student employability, admissions that recruit, alumni affairs helping graduates stay connected throughout their career lives, and development that further connects them through financial giving, has the power to ensure big dividends. While these synergies seem obvious, offices often function independently of one another, and this threatens to dilute the potential impact of collaboration.

The Case: 

Very simply, students who graduate into successful careers can attribute this fortune in part to strong career management assistance, robust prospective employer interface, and solid academic preparation, and will invariably want to give back to their alma mater.

Return on investment (ROI) and reinvestment equate: If universities continue to add value throughout their students career lives through ongoing career coaching, thought leadership, and leadership development, sustainable partnership is inevitable.

University leadership must help students and alumni win in the work-world if we want them to equate their success with their academic institution, and thus play an active part in sustaining our institutions.  We need graduates to engage full-circle by sharing career-related intelligence with students who follow them and, eventually, to mentor them, hire them as interns and bring them on as employees.  We, in turn, actively engage student successors and alumni colleagues to serve on committees/boards, participate in workplace exchanges, present their companies, and engage as mentors. These same participants will naturally want to donate financial resources back to the school.  These are significant wins that maximize returns for students, alumni, and the whole university community.

Before we can influence our students and alumni to think of their relationships with the university as  partnerships that benefit and sustain them throughout their work lives, we need to commit to the concept ourselves.  From the moment we invest in recruiting students, we can invite them into a lifelong relationship with us (Admissions). We can tell them that along with their academic degree, they will also graduate with a career development plan and an understanding of career management as a lifelong process (Career Services), that we will be a resource to  them as they move forward in their careers, even as alumni (Alumni Affairs), and that we will ask  them to contribute their financial and in-kind resources back to the institution in order to ensure our ongoing viability (Development).

I would love to hear your thoughts on synergies and the successful, related experiences you have encountered.

Contributing Author:  Susan Bennett

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If you lead Career Management Services, let’s talk . . .

If you lead career management services in higher education, we need to talk.  As a consultant to colleges and universities who want to enhance their career management services, I stay very current on the latest thoughts, trends, issues and challenges leaders face.  In turn, I offer workable solutions to career center leadership through Meridian University Solutions, a division of the larger Meridian Resources, Inc. career management firm.  For the last five years, my colleagues and I have helped our clients respond to student and administrative demands for enhancing career management services in tight times.  We have implemented solutions, evaluated results, and received fine reviews. We are always looking for new ways to support career management leadership in shouldering their growing responsibility to the universities and students they serve.

The challenges are complex, the solutions multi-faceted, and the stakeholders are many. I invite you to exchange with me so that we can share what works, encourage each other along the way, and ultimately create “wins” for our stakeholders.  This blog is intended to generate a lively, relevant forum to discuss our mutual goal of advancing career and professional development in higher education.

It is fitting that we begin with reference to findings of the Global Career Brainstorming Day: Trends for the Now, the New and the Next in Careers published February 15, 2012 by the Career Thought Leaders Consortium. It addresses current trends, latest practices, and “just over the horizon” ideas in career management from the perspectives of career professionals throughout the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.  This is a must read for all who lead career management centers in higher education.

I read between the lines to discover the unique opportunities available to those of us who champion lifelong career management in higher education. One opportunity found in these pages is the importance of our serving as thought leaders to our highest level decision makers on the growing importance of career management services in higher education. We have the capability of favorably impacting recruitment, retention, alumni affairs, and development; every phase of the students’ interface with their institution. But we have to tell our story and educate our leaders. How are you shaping the vision of your institutional leaders?


Contributing Author:  Susan Bennett

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CEO Survey Offers Opportunity for Career Centers

In their 15th annual global survey of CEOs of major corporations throughout the world, PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that acquiring and keeping talent remains priority number one for CEOs (View Survey).  Skills shortages are leading to a ”talent crunch” like never before. Half of CEOs plan to raise headcount in 2012 while millennials scramble for job opportunities in a tough marketplace.

This situation argues for closer partnerships between universities that prepare students for the marketplace and the businesses that hire and retain them.  Over half of respondents to the survey indicate that they are investing in formal education systems and adult vocational programs, but many are turning to employer-led universities to grow their own talent. It seems that Career Center leadership has a significant opportunity to bring value and resources to both frustrated employers and university resources.

University Career Center leaders have the opportunity to position themselves as promoters of these conversations, bringing university resources to bear on employer requirements.  As the facilitators of this important  “conversation”, Career Center leadership stands to serve their universities, students, and employer partners.  We would suggest talking to the employers/alumni with whom you partner most closely, learn about their hiring strategies and determine how to support their long-range plans. If our universities do not help close the widening gap employers are experiencing between the talent they need and the talent available, someone else will.

Let’s share best practices. What strategies are you implementing in your Career Center to close the gap between great talent and employment opportunities?


Contributing Author:  Susan Bennett

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Welcome to the University Solutions Blog!

In the coming weeks and months we’ll offer our thoughts, opinions, ideas and observations concerning career and professional development for students in the world of higher education. If you live and work in this field, we hope you will find this blog thought provoking.

For the past five years University Solutions has been working closely with a number of university career centers to assist them in improving the preparation and placement of new graduates. It’s certainly been an exciting time for all of us as we grapple with the current challenging job market coupled with the rapid expansion of electronic recruiting and social media networking. We’ll be commenting on all these topics in future postings, so be sure to check back regularly.

We welcome your thoughts or questions as this blog is intended to generate a lively and relevant forum for advancing the important work of student career management services.

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