Graduation “Left-Overs”

The graduation ceremonies with all their pomp and circumstance have all ended. Young men and women who, only a few weeks ago, were focused on making the last heroic effort of marathon studying in order to pass the final exams of their college careers are now either working in their new career, beginning a summer vacation before heading off to graduate school or considering what they should do next. However, there is another group who is neither of these. I will call them the “left-overs”.

Typically, when we think of “left-overs”, we visualize food which we were not able to eat when it was most recently prepared and had to be put into plastic containers to save them for another day. And of course we tend to forget about them until we are cleaning out the refrigerator. Upon inspection, we determine that we will just throw them away for all kinds of reasons that we make up in our minds.

Our recently graduated “left-overs”, unlike food, are not put into plastic containers to be saved until the reason it was made happens. Rather, these graduates are exposed to the elements of life without benefit of protective containers. These elements of life come in the form of ambiguity, aimlessness and rejection. Ultimately, the confidence an education was supposed to give them erodes away and their opportunity to create a fulfilling career-life becomes more and more difficult.

Has the system failed them with the promise of meaningful work at graduation which does not happen? Specifically, has career services failed them by not finding the keys to fully engage them in the process of discovering what truly excites them and then developing a plan to get them connected with right industry, the right company and the right role? That’s for you determine. What can you do better or what resources do you need to allow you and your team to fulfill the dreams of students and their families? Let’s have a conversation together and find a sustainable solution together. Remember, “left-overs” are a terrible thing to waste.

Contributing Author: Melvin J. Scales




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The Third Degree About Degrees

Recently, I found some interesting data about the average salaries for bachelor’s degrees by institution The report prompted me to think about the “why” I pursued a college degree many years ago and the process my daughter recently went through.

We have all heard the question (in some form or fashion), “What Is The True Purpose Of A College Degree?” Well, the answer depends. Specifically, it depends on the kind of society in which the degree is earned.

Here in the United States, we live in society based on capitalism. And we know that capitalism is based on one fundamental principle: the market determines the value or the price paid for a product or service available.

But just a minute…We need to remember that not all college degrees are equally valued in the marketplace. A person’s academic performance must be considered. This performance gives an employer an idea about that person’s level of intelligence and commitment to their studies. Of course, students at the top of the class typically have more job options and higher offers than students ranked lower.

The next element that determines the value of a degree is the focus of the earned degree. The student’s major, if there is high demand for that major, will of course provide that student with great options and higher offers.

And finally, the overall reputation of the institution from which the degree is earned will determine the value of that degree in the job market. Of course, the higher the academic reputation the greater the employment options and offer amounts.

So where does this leave career services professionals dedicated to helping students find professionally satisfying work that also meets their financial needs? If you thought between a “rock and a hard place” you would be right, of course. As a career services professional, you work tirelessly to support students in their quest to find the right job and career. Considering all the variables related to your student’s academic record, major and demand for that major in the marketplace, your job is quite daunting, at best.  Add to all this that your ability to support students is hampered by an average career counselor to student ratio of 1:1,850.

The good news is that there are two options before you. Continue to do what you are doing now or engage a resource to help you make a greater difference with your students. Meridian Resources University Solutions provides solutions to higher education institutions that offer a direct, beneficial impact on your ability to further enhance positive career management outcomes for your students. Call 336-978-5208 or e-mail me at to find out more about how to help your students.

Contributing Author: Melvin J. Scales

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For The Times They Are A-Changin’

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Having attended the most recent annual conferences for NACE, SoACE and NCACE, my takeaway was three-fold:

First…People who are in the field of career services for colleges and universities are sincere, dedicated and truly professional individuals with a focus on the overall welfare of their students

Second…There is mounting pressure from administrators and parents for positive employment outcomes for those students. Essentially, the focus is shifting dramatically from the process of the job search to the outcome of the job search

Third…Staffing required to reach the job search outcome goals is strained as budgets tighten with the mantra of “do more or the same with less”

What does this mean? How do career centers hit the expanding outcome targets while budgets constrict? Essentially, there is the logical option of utilizing outside professional services. Here in a “nutshell” is why this makes sense:

-Full-time staffing costs made up of salaries, benefits and training are not required by outside professional services. In other words, the cost is expended only when there is a need which the services are done in a manner which is highly efficient and restricts incremental costs.

-Outside professional services can give permanent career center staff more time to maintain a clear and vital focus on coaching current students regarding their job search outcome goals and targets by providing students with mandatory services such as resume development/review and mock interview training plus giving alumni career coaching when needed.

A few months ago, I sat in a presentation attended by approximately 45 career center directors. The message was clear: Career centers must be willing to utilize outside professional services to meet the support demands of their students due to the mounting pressure to reach employment goals. I would imagine that this support would largely focus in areas not associated with direct student coaching or counseling.

So, the career center will need to change the “normal” way of doing business to stay valuable to students for career management and job search support. That change will certainly be uncomfortable for many but not nearly as uncomfortable as being viewed by administrators, parents, students and alumni as ineffective.

To make this work as effectively as possible, it is most important to partner with a highly reputable and experienced career management and job search organization with virtual delivery capabilities. This delivery methodology can keep the services seamless and available 24/7 for the students and alumni while allowing the partnership to flex based on the needs of the career center.

Meridian University Solutions is the leading resource for partnering with college and university career centers to help them achieve their employment goals. Our clients that include schools like Wake Forest University, George Washington and Temple, among others, see the value and we hope you will as well. Let us show you how we can help…For the times they are a changing.

Contributing Author: Melvin J. Scales

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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 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 or call 800-924-8865, ext. 301

Contributing Author: Melvin J. Scales

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