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7 Reasons HBCU Presidents Must Support Career Centers

questions for new grads The HBCU Career Center conducted a survey to learn more about the state of career centers on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). The survey results revealed an interesting dilemma faced by career centers. Of the 33 respondents, 76% agreed, somewhat agreed or strongly agreed that career services on HBCU campuses are a priority for executive leadership. However, in the same survey, 64% felt that the career services budget was definitely or somewhat inadequate to meet the university’s needs. That is an indication to me that while some HBCU leadership say that career services are important, they are not making the commitment to put the adequate resources and funds behind career services.  Based on my experience, this is not just a HBCU issue.  It is an issue for most of America’s colleges.

Despite low graduation rates, significant financial burden on graduates and more public discourse about the value of college degrees, many executives have not yet made the connection between career programming and student success.

Have I seen some changes in the last eight years since I started The HBCU Career Center to focus on career development for the diverse community? Yes; I do see HBCU leadership starting to pay greater attention to the programs on their campuses that are designed to produce career-ready graduates.  However, most HBCU’s still have a long way to go to realize the connections between the long term sustainability of our institutions, enrollment, retention, graduation rates, alumni giving and career programming,  Here are 7 reasons HBCU Presidents must support career centers on their campuses.

Career Programming in Enrollment Management Strategy

I often say that the college career center is the campus department that has reason to interact with students from Freshman to Forever. There never needs to be an end to the relationship between students and the career centers.  Professional career staff can play a significant role in the enrollment management process in a number of ways.  Some examples include connecting early with prospective students through open houses and orientation programs, crafting 4-year graduation strategies and helping students find their first part-time jobs as college students and their first jobs as career professionals. Colleges that are serious about marketing their academic programs as a means to a successful professional life in the future, connect students with career development programs early. If the ultimate goal is gainful employment and long term career satisfaction, why would career centers not be considered part of the university’s overall enrollment management strategy? By engaging career centers in the enrollment path, we are immediately building a pipeline of successful professional alumni.

Last best opportunity to improve student satisfaction with their overall college experience.

Have you ever spoken with a dissatisfied new college graduate? From residence life, professors, cost or financial aid; you name it, students and new graduates will find things to complain about. However, I have found, that ultimately at the core of new alumni disappointment, is confusion and apprehension about  the perceived value of the college degree they have just earned from your college.  This value for most new graduates is immediately about how they will land that first job or transition into graduate school.  In most cases, the overwhelming majority of new graduates don’t know what to do with the degree they just earned.  Campus career centers are uniquely positioned to support new graduates with the college to career or grad school transition.  Through career center operations, staff routinely help students understand the value of the degree they just earned, help them identify their marketable skills and launch their careers.

Graduates can use career centers for life.

In the same survey of career centers we learned that 97% of these career centers provide career services to alumni. This is a phenomenal opportunity for new graduates to leave campus knowing that their college remains a professional resource forever. This is not really the case for any other department on campus except for maybe the Registrar where copies of transcripts will be purchased over a life time. For the overwhelming majority of colleges, career centers offer lifetime career support to alumni. In the current evolving workplace, where employees are expected to re-skill often, career centers are a reminder to alumni of the longer term value of their Alma mater and reconnect them to training opportunities on campus through academic programs.

Success of your graduates promotes your campus and your programs to prospective students.

I have listened to university leaders including trustees and presidents brag about their successful alumni – as well they should.  To speak about the success of alumni, is to speak about the name those alumni have made for themselves professionally. Go to any college website and notice how they brag about the professional success of their alumni. No alumni will make the “Distinguished Alumni” list for just being a good parent or just for being a graduate. “Distinguished Alumni” lists are always about career and life success. The further you can take the name of your Alma mater as an alumni, the greater your chance of being listed among the successful alumni. The career center on campus helps universities set expectations for life and career success for students beyond college. By promoting alumni success stories or engaging alumni with students as mentors or career advocates, career centers play a role in developing future distinguished alumni who ultimately model the way for other students. Expectation of and envisioning professional and career success in life after college, is a key driver for student retention.

Career centers can transform new alumni into giving alumni.

Working with the career center staff is a great opportunity to engage new graduates into becoming giving alumni. It is through their transition into work and graduate schools that students will understand the value of the skills they developed on your campus. If alumni experience and understand the role your campus played in their personal and professional growth, it is easier to ask for their sustaining support. Since successful career centers help students with their transitions into the workplace, these new alumni become champions and advocates for their Alma mater where they work. I have worked with alumni to help career centers develop job shadow and mentoring opportunities, design and present workshops and be champions inside their companies to recruit interns and other professionals from their Alma mater.  These relationships with alumni start out simple, but can transition into bigger opportunities for collaboration. An effective career center team can assist very effectively with this kind of relationship building.

Career center as a major gateway into corporate relationships.

During my fifteen years working with career centers, I have been fortunate to foster and facilitate great relationships between students, alumni, faculty and industry.  I have seen first hand the value that a cutting edge career center can bring to campus through innovative employer partnership programs.  University presidents and executive leadership who understand the value of career centers in sponsored programming are big supporters of career programming on campus.  The bottom line is that if employers are satisfied with the work-ready professionals your college is producing, there are win-win  opportunities that would be of longer term interest to HBCU Presidents.  These opportunities which can be both inside and outside the classroom, are limited only by the collaborative and innovative capacity of your career center staff.

Career center outcomes is an assessment tool for the entire university.

need a jobHBCU Presidents should know that feedback from employers on the preparedness of lack of preparedness of their students and alumni, is a window into the entire university. Whether employers are sharing feedback on students they meet at career fairs, on-campus interviews, for internships or full time careers; the responses and feedback is valuable for all campus constituents. The extent to which students are workplace-ready or graduate school-ready, is the extent to which your campus can attract future students, raise money and engage employer partners. Presidents need to be evaluating how the anecdotes from faculty about student outcomes actually match up with what employer and industry partners are saying?

Our HBCU campuses are under a microscope.  Too many believe our campuses are too costly, are draining scarce resources and are no longer relevant in the American landscape.  I don’t agree.  However, I do believe that some HBCU leadership do not yet embrace the evolutions taking place in higher education and in the world of work.  As such, the students graduating are under prepared for a competitive job search and often struggle to transition successfully into the world of work.

Again, this is not just an issue at HBCU’s.  It is something many colleges and universities are struggling with at this time.  The difference for HBCU’s is that our very existence is at stake and there really is not much time remaining for leadership to understand this imperative.  HBCU’s have for almost two centuries played a critical role in developing  the American workforce.  We must continue to do that with renewed emphasis on career development to play our role in re-skilling America.

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Essence Magazine Study on Black Women at Work

Black women at WorkEssence Magazine released survey findings  a few days ago spawned much discussion in social media around the hashtag #BlackWomenatWork.  Some of us who have been immersed in workplace and career issues for diverse audiences for years weren’t surprised by any of the survey results.  We are just thrilled that Essence Magazine had the courage to do the survey and launch the results.

Hopefully, these results will just help us to arm our daughters, sisters, wives and friends with more knowledge about how to be authentic at work.  Results show the #BlackWomenatWork who demonstrate their more authentic selves, could be more successful.  Still much to debate what that even means. (;>

Black Women at Work Survey Results

-80 % of Black women surveyed felt they needed to make adjustments to their personalities to succeed at work. (If you have ever been accused of being the angry black woman because you stood up for yourself, you know what this means).

-50 % of Black female Millennials, 42 % of Gen Xers and 30 % of Baby Boomers strive to be seen as the “Acculturated Girl Next Door,” a professional who is unthreatening and willing to conform.

-39% of Black female executives said that they want to be known as “Inspiring Stars,” women who are risk takers and who openly share the traits that differentiate them from others.

Explore the full survey results here and to bring your authentic self to work. Lets keep the discussion going with #BlackWomenatWork on Twitter.

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Seriously Want the Job? Show some Enthusiasm in the Job Interview

enthusiasm in the job interviewSome job seekers believe they don’t stand a chance to be hired for certain jobs because they don’t believe they are “excitable” enough.  As one job seeker shared with me. “I am not the bubbly-jumping-out-of-my-seat-type, so I might not show all that enthusiasm in the job interview.” True.  So instead of thinking about showing enthusiasm in the job interview, let’s think more about showing a positive attitude and high energy. Therefore, whether or not you think of yourself as excitable or not, you can develop specific strategies to bring enthusiasm in the job interview.

Keeping energy levels high during the job interview shows enthusiasm

Every job seeker must do some introspection to know what is right for them and what is comfortable to do in a job interview. Here is a simple example. If you are a job seeker who is a morning person, you might find that job interviews in the morning work better for you when your energy level is highest. If you are a job seeker who peaks in the afternoon, then afternoon job interviews might be better for you. Similar patterns might apply for you with nutrition. Don’t risk being in a job interview where you are more concerned with a growling stomach, than you are with the questions your interviewer is asking. Keeping your energy level high is one way to ensure you will show enthusiasm in the job interview.

Doing research before the job interview might help you show enthusiasm

Another way job seekers can show enthusiasm in the job interview is to do the required research ahead of time. During the job interview is not the time to ask the employer basic questions like such as who are your customers? Who are your competitors? Job seekers who do the research ahead of time, can have more meaningful conversations in the job interview. It is easier to show enthusiasm in the job interview if a job seeker knows why this would be a great job to have. One recruiter told me that sometimes he actually tunes out of the interview, when a job seeker shows no enthusiasm for the job. Being able to speak about the company and ask insightful questions will show enthusiasm for the job and show passion for the industry.

Show you are ready for a new role

Some job seekers worry that if they show enthusiasm in the job interview they might come across as desperate. On the other hand, as one job seeker shared, “I really don’t want to look like I think I will be rejected again.” Instead, show enthusiasm in the interview by speaking honestly about why this position would be a good next-step in your career. Say why the timing is perfect. To continue to show enthusiasm for the job, beyond the job interview, restate your interest in a thank-you letter.

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Expand Resumes During Spring Break

Not every collspring break volunteersege student heads south to warmer climates for their spring break get-a-ways.  Increasingly, college students are seeking meaningful ways to use spring break to expand resumes with volunteer work and alternative spring break experiences.

Think about how much more impressive a college resume showing some volunteer work will be when students search for internships, a new career after graduation or apply to grad school.

It’s wise to start checking out spring break experiences well in advance.  However, if you are home with nothing to do and no funds to travel, call around and find a local organization where you can volunteer.  There are plenty of non profits with lots of projects and more mission-driven work they can handle.

If you missed the chance to do something this year, start planning for spring break next year as soon as you go back to school.  If there is no existing program, then start one. Take the lead, gather fellow students who think like you and start something.  These types of spring break experiences not only help you build resumes, but they can expand your professional and social network and even help you find professionals who are willing to help you through long term mentoring relationships.

The only thing employers and grad schools love more than a student who participates in meaningful college experiences, is a student who STARTS a new campus program!

Here are a few options published at The Huffington Post including one program involving 40 Howard University students who trek to Detroit for a volunteer assignment.

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50 Resume Writing Tips that Work

50 Resume Writing TipsResume Writing – 50 Tips That Work

I’ve been updating this list every spring  for almost a decade.

Our goal is that if you use this list and spend 60 minutes with your resume you can improve your resume in the process.  With social media increasingly becoming a part of the job search, many are debating the value of resumes.  IMO, (a first for me to use text language in an article) resumes are still important and these 50 resume writing tips still work.  Remember though that your resume has 20-30 seconds to make an impression on a reader who will have to decide if they will put your resume in the KEEP or TOSS piles.

50 Resume Writing Tips

1. Skip the prepackaged templates. Start your own resume writing project from scratch.  Copy a layout you like.

2. Proofread resume for grammar, spelling and factual errors by reading from the end in reverse order.

3. Use consistent font size including bullet sizes on your resume.  New trend is to skip the old Times fonts and get something more contemporary.  Don’t force the recruiter to squint to read the text.  Stick to an ASCII font.

4. Limit or avoid graphics completely.  Don’t add your photo or picture of your dog or any fancy images.  Recruiters will see your profile photo from LinkedIn or other social media.

5. Use upper case letters sparingly and only when appropriate.  Upper case is actually very hard to read and it doesn’t make what you are saying anymore important.

6. Include short term projects that were great learning experiences.  Remember to write team outcomes.

7. Bullets will make resumes easier to read.  Definitely large blocks of text don’t really fit with the scanning approach that the reader will take.

8. Avoid useless words like “responsibilities”, “responsibilities include” or “duties include.” Also you don’t have to label your email address with the word “email” anymore.

9. Volunteerism and community service really enhance a resume.  Sometimes, especially, for new grads or even career changers moving from one industry to the next. this is all you have.

10. Adjust margins if the resume is slightly too long. Don’t go less than .5 inch, but don’t leave a few lines hanging on another page either.

11. No personal pronouns like “I”, “my” and “me” except maybe in the objective statement.  Some don’t like objective statements.  I still do.  They can’t be shallow however.

12. Do not list complete addresses of past employers, don’t even include your own address if you don’t want to.  This is a new trend especially in a job market where people are relocating often.  Your address doesn’t add anything new.

13. Don’t include names of references on the resume.  Also don’t use the line, “References Available on Request”.  We know that you have references who will brag about you.

14. Top 30-40% of the resume gets the most attention; Make it grab the reader’s attention.

15. Use little notes to steer the reader’s attention or spark interest.  For example, if you list a job that appears out of synch with the rest of your background, write a note “Ask me about my career change.”  Get help from a professional with this “personalization” of the resume.

16. Use page numbers if the resume is more than one page.

17. Add name, phone number and email contact to all resume pages.

18. Use tables to align columns.  Right click on tables to remove lines and leave a clean look.

19. Do not include any salary information or salary history on your resume.  The resume is not the place.

20. Use a professional email address or social media links on your resume.  Make sure when a recruiter does click over to your social media that they won’t be unimpressed at what they see.

21. Use no jargon or slang on your resume.  In my intro paragraph, I used “IMO” which means “In my opinion”. Did you notice? Please don’t use this on a resume.

22. Do not write any information above your name.

23. Follow sample layouts if you are stuck.  There is absolutely no reason to use a resume which doesn’t flow.  I still get them. Often. There are tons of samples to pick from and just follow.

24. Education information goes to the top of the resume for new grads.  It is the MOST important thing about you right after graduation.  With years of experience, move education to the bottom of the resume.

25. Create a new document called a “Resume Inventory” and this is where you will dump any information you eliminate from this resume.  You may want to come back to it at some time, if it’s more relevant.

26. Change the resume objective statement as needed according to the job.  Know how to write a great resume objective statement.

27. Write a strong “Summary of Qualifications” or “Career Profile” instead of an objective.  Get professional help with this so you are as succinct as you can be and still be effective.

28. Use industry “buzz words” or “keywords” on a resume.  Not enough to go overboard with “keyword stuffing”, but enough so people know you know what you are talking about.

29. Resumes must identify specific successful outcomes – not just what you did!  If you can’t share the outcome, don’t tell the story.

30. Quantify outcomes by using $, % and # to demonstrate achievements.  Use the appropriate action verbs to emphasize accomplishments.  Your college GPA if you are a student or new grad is an example of outcome.

31. One specific phrase to try and avoid – Entry Level.

32. Do not use one-word resume objectives or one-word descriptions of what you did. eg. Sales

33. Which layout best represents you: Chronological vs Functional vs. Skills resume?  Know the difference and when you would use one over the other. Consider the Combination Resume which is built on skills and in reverse time order

34. Be consistent with dates and numbers eg 09/02, Sep 02, Sep 2012

35. Don’t fall in love with any resume content.  You may have to eliminate it or delete it.  I know it’s your background and you are proud of it, but eliminate it, if it doesn’t speak to your current mission.

36. Get others (career staff, colleagues, HR professionals) to proof read your resume – be open to criticism.  If you aren’t asking these types of professionals, then ask some who you know has looked for a job recently.

37. Relevance is key. Don’t include every job you have ever had.

38. If you are using a resume writing services make sure to keep your “voice.” Don’t write words you don’t use or can’t pronounce.

39. Always keep a resume accessible via email or in services like Dropbox.com, Google docs or in an email somewhere.

40. Resumes, Cover Letters, Thank-you letters can have the same letter heading layout

41. No need to state why you left any organization – unless you are clever about how to share with what I call “love notes” to the recruiter eg. A small insert that says “Ask me about my career change”

42. Add your LinkedIn profile information on your resume. If you don’t have one.  Please create one.

43. No social security numbers should be included on your resume.  Federal job applications may ask for it.

44. Use Action Verbs such as “managed”, “improved” and “delivered” etc. on your resume to describe accomplishments.

45. Using short paragraphs, 3-5 sentences maximum, is possible.  Make sure these blocks of content are well written and says a lot about you.

46. White space on a resume is not a bad thing. Don’t cover every inch of it with words.

47. Make sure your resume contact information is current and that recruiters can find you if they want to reach out to you.

48. Ask a professional resume writer, HR person, mentor etc. for a free resume critique.  If you have the posting for the job you are seeking, share that with the person who is going to be doing your critiquing.

49. Remove “References Available on Request” as it is a waste of valuable space

50. If you just graduated and your resume is beyond 2 pages, you haven’t edited enough.  Eliminate some more.  Keep in mind you still have cover letter and social media to round out the information about you and your experiences.

Professional resume writers still agree there are many right ways to write a resume. Get 10 professional resume writers working for the same resume client, and they could probably create 10 different resumes based on style and look. However, all of the resumes could still be very good.

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A Practice Interview Gives Job Seekers a Leg Up

So you didn’t do a practice interview before the first round job interview and the employer was impressed enough to call you back for a second interview.  You can also do a practice interview, otherwise known as a mock interview, if you make it past the first round and really want to turn up your presentation for the second or even third round job interview.

Best Reaspractice interviewons to Do a Practice Interview

One of the cool things about doing a practice interview is that you get to walk through job interview conversations, not just in your head, but in real life.  You get immediate, real-time feedback on your interview responses which helps you improve on your responses in a very dynamic way.

A practice interview can teach us how to sync our responses with the information that was already included on a resume.  During the practice interview process we can hopefully get a better  sense of which of our stories about achievement might have the best impact in the job interview.  As part of a good practice interview, we will also get the opportunity to develop the list of questions we want to ask the recruiter in the real interview.

If I am helping a job seeker with a practice interview, I always ask them to share the job announcement with me.  This way  I can tailor my questions based on what the recruiter is probably going to be looking for in an applicant for that specific position.  If you are doing a practice interview in the career center on your campus, ask the career coach if you can send the job posting ahead of time.  This way the career coach gets to prepare specific questions appropriate to the job and not just generic interview questions.

Finally, if you are not able to work with the career center on your college campus, seek out other professionals such as career coaches, interview coaches and human resources professionals.  I do practice interviews on the How to Interview Like  a P.R.O. technique that I developed years ago.  Other interview coaches use the Behavioral Interview approach.  Regardless of which method the interview coach will use with you,  your interview performance will definitely improve after a practice interview.

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