This morning, I was rushing to a conference for the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) where close to 200 New York metro college career center representatives were meeting about helping our college students and recent graduates find jobs. The conference was at the NYU Wasserman Career Center on 13th Street and I was slowed down by a neon pink sign taped to the building next door.
Sarah, I’m not clear if you targeted the conference, but you hooked me. Contact me to get your one hour of free career coaching.
Clients, friends and fans (who ever thought I’d have fans when I grew up?) know that I am not your typical career coach for many reasons. One of those reasons is that I was driven to this business because of my disappointment with our K-16 education system and my sincere belief that I can do something about it through The Opportunities Project.
In December, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was interviewed on 60 Minutes. He used part of the interview to express his concern about the relationship between education and the current unemployment rate. In his words…
“It’s based very much, I think, on educational differences… If you’re a college graduate, unemployment is five percent. If you’re a high school graduate, it’s 10 percent or more. It’s a very big difference. It leads to an unequal society and a society which doesn’t have the cohesion that we’d like to see.”
First, I think that the unemployment problem is worse than what Bernanke states. The unemployment rate for college graduates only includes people who are eligible for unemployment insurance, which requires working full-time for at least a year in most states. Most college students who attended school full-time have not met that requirement, making them ineligible for unemployment when they graduate. This means that most of the class of 2010 are excluded from the government’s official statistics. Second, as a New York Times editorial pointed out, “college for all” is not going to solve our economic problems because these unemployment statistics don’t reveal that a high percentage of college graduates are working in jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree.
The “unequal society” is the real issue. We have people who confidently and happily produce great work and people who don’t. We have discounted the impact of education’s failure to prepare young people for the careers that are available in today’s economy. We don’t teach our students how to be strategic, resilient, or creative and we push aspirations that don’t fit their abilities and interests. Sometimes that includes college. I am now seeing first hand how this mindset stays with people, even when they hit their thirties and beyond.
In January, I started thinking more about education and the economy as I was getting ready for the Teach for America 20 Year Summit. As someone starting out in career coaching, I’ve focused on gaining individual clients versus the social entrepreneurship and advocacy part of my business model. The Summit’s challenge to ask yourself what role you play in eliminating educational inequity as an alum made me reflect if I should be stepping that advocacy role up now. I also started reading press coverage about a book called Academically Adrift by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. Arun and Roksa found that students are learning very little in college and even worse, the “achievement gap” between poor and upper class students becomes exacerbated while they are in college. I read the book and what really stood out to me was the alignment between what the Collegiate Learning Assessment (the assessment the researchers based their findings on) measured and what employers desire in new hires (per the National Association of Colleges and Employers). It’s clear as day that we know what we should be doing in education and we’re not doing it, for various reasons.
Four Skills Measured on the Collegiate Learning Assessment
Top Four Skills Most Desired by Employers
Verbal Communication Skills
Strong Work Ethic
My colleague Keith Petri, Founder and CEO of eBranding Me, and I had contemplated writing white papers on what role higher education, and particularly the college career center, plays in the scope of employment problems recent graduates face. As more people started talking about Academically Adrift, and we became more aware that we could make a difference, we knew it was time. With our co-author Justin Mathews, we just issued our first white paper, The Economic Achievement Gap: No End in Sight, our first paper in our three paper series called Solutions for Change in Education. In this first paper, we outline the problems through a summary of economic data and then offer starter solutions that could be implemented immediately to improve the likelihood that today’s college students and graduates find jobs. Our second and third papers will go into more detail on college career services and student responsibility, respectively.
You can download The Economic Achievement Gap here. A press release can also be accessed from my Press page. Keith, Justin and I encourage your feedback and have left the comments open on the page where you can download the paper. Change will only happen through discussion and collaboration and we want to have that with you!
The universe is telling me that it’s time to get out of my entrepreneur/new small business owner haze for a bit and write a quick blog post on resumes. Three things awakened me to this realization this week.
(1) Everyday I see at least one tweet scroll by or an article in my Google reader that talks about how resumes aren’t all that important because jobs are obtained through networking. I saw one last night that left me both tired and boiling mad at the same time.
Resumes and Networking are not opposite concepts or tools. Hot is to Cold is not the same as Networking is to Having a Great Resume. When networking, you may meet the best contact ever, but if he has no job openings, he will want to pass on your resume to someone in his network. His contact will likely put great stock in the personal recommendation, but your candidacy has to stand on its own and that has to be reflected, at least in part, on paper.
(2) Resumes were a hot topic on Monday night’s Twitter #jobhuntchat. Recruiters and HR folks were telling jobseekers that most of them actually don’t know how to do a resume, and the jobseekers were telling the recruiters they have great resumes. What was interesting is that the recruiters were all tweeting the same advice on resumes, but in most cases, the jobseekers still weren’t convinced to follow it.
BTW- what’s a Twitter chat you might ask? It’s when a bunch of people (sometimes over 100) get together for an hour to chat on a topic that interests them. A host throws out 5-6 questions and you share your thoughts, reply to other’s thoughts, and retweet things you like to your followers. Everything you do, you include the hashtag in the Tweet. Yes, just writing some of these terms makes me feel like a teenager. But participating in the #jobhuntchat and the #genychat have been some of the best hours I have spent in the last week in making connections, challenging my thoughts, and becoming a better career coach.
(3) We had an awesome first stop on the Cocktails and Careers Tour last night at The Village Pourhouse. People brought their resumes and I did some free reviews over a Guinness. Everyone who came was great and super-focused and I have no doubts with some tweaks to their approach and how they express their brand, they’ll be hired soon. But when I was reviewing one resume, the person kept bringing up advice that she had received at a workshop offered by the public library. For example, she was told ALWAYS use an objective, while I was telling her it was taking up valuable real estate on her resume. If all of your experience is in one area and you’re applying for a job in that same area, I know your objective. I also told her to ditch her AOL email address and she was skeptical, again, because this was in conflict with information she had heard at this workshop. I am not criticizing her- she was legitimately confused.
So I have three resume tips to share this week. The first tip is now obvious, but it’s to defer to advice being given by real people who hire and recruit. They see resumes all day long and can tell you what stands out to them based on evidence. If you’re a college student or alum using the career office, you should absolutely question where counselors are getting their ideas and if they are requesting and incorporating feedback from employers into their advice to you. What they are telling you could be taken from a book published in 1999. Likewise, other jobseekers or moms and dads may have great feedback, but if it’s different than what an expert is telling you, you should defer to the expert.
I am becoming more and more convinced that jobseeking is like teaching. Everyone experiences it in some form or other (in the case of teaching, as a student), so they think they know how to do it and love to advise others. But hard data shows that only a small percentage actually succeed at either.
And on that note, if you are in New York City and want your resume reviewed by an expert recruiter, come join me on the Cocktails and Careers Tour. Our next two stops (September 15 and 18) are at The Copper Door Tavern. They are excited to have us and have offered us $12 bottomless glasses of wine tonight. Wine makes resume reviews so much easier.
I’m getting ready for The Opportunities Project’s first NACE conference and am looking at the attendee list and writing down the names of people from all the colleges and service organizations who I want to meet. I am eager to talk to people both to learn about the great things they’re doing and talk about partnering. The list of people is long, as well as the list of questions I want to ask. Here are two questions that keep coming back to me.
How are college career centers held accountable for the success of their services? Coming from an organization that is squarely about accountability (What is your impact on teacher and student success? How satisfied are they with your services?), I am amazed that I can’t find this easily via the internet. So far, I have only seen stats on career placement on American University’s website and only see one session on this at NACE, but I am not sure it’s going to answer my question. I am going to continue my search for data on college career center success.
How do colleges design their career center websites? In my research on these websites, I have seen as much crazy, disorganized stuff as the good. No, I will not be linking to examples- I am trying to make friends!
I have more questions, but it is Memorial Day Weekend and I don’t want anyone to have to think too hard. Follow my updates from the NACE conference next week on Twitter.