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HBCU Career Centers Can Impact High School Graduation Rates in Southern States

high school graduation rates 2013The latest report from Edweek.org on high school graduation rates in the United States triggered my memory of an innovative college career center program that I worked on, over a decade ago.  It was my first job in higher education and I was working as a Program Assistant in the employer relations department of a career center on an Employer Partner Program.

That Employer Partner Program was one of the distinguishing features of that career center in the California State University system.  At the time, it was an innovative and cutting edge way to have  employers pledge support to the center at multiple funding levels. Employers were committed to helping our career center develop the professional workforce that industry was demanding in a highly competitive California economy.

While working on that project, I learned an awful lot about how career centers could become the incubators that fostered meaningful relationships between colleges, companies and community entities.

One of the projects that resulted from these collaborations, was a career program sponsored by Target Corporation, involving career counselors working with students at a nearby high school.  The idea was to engage high school students with the university community through discussion, workshops and career sessions related to the long term career success of the students.  Target Corporation employees participated through professional development workshops, hosting behind the scene tours of Target facilities where high school and college students learned about company operations and the career opportunities for college graduates.  The program was called TUFIN -Targeting Under-Represented Families in Need.  In fact you can find an article about the TUFIN program here.

Once I read the Edweek article, I started to think about other innovative career center programs I had developed over the years to bring stakeholders together.  With 8 of the southern states with Historically Black Colleges and Universities having high school graduation rates of below 80%,  I started to think about what collaborative models could engage HBCUs with the stakeholders involved.  The states and their related high school graduation rates are:  Alabama 75%, Arkansas 78%, Florida 75%, Georgia 70%, Louisiana 72%, Mississippi 68%, North Carolina 79% and South Carolina 72%.

Why would HBCU’s want to be involved in such a collaboration?

The HBCU’s in these states have a vested interest in increasing high school graduation rates to maintain or broaden the prospective student pipeline into their colleges and universities.  Any model would have opportunities for HBCU students, often themselves first generation students, to engage with the broader community of students as peer mentors.  Collaborations that would engage companies, communities and colleges could generate synergies that give all parties visibility, positive public relations and connections that lead to other results.  For example, it is not unusual for college students who work closely with professionals from local companies to benefit from internship and future employment opportunities as well as coaching and career development skills.  Companies that see college career centers innovating with community programs often consider these colleges as targets for recruiting diverse grads.

Here are just a few specific examples of how HBCU career centers in these states could lead these kinds of initiatives on their campuses:

-Engage distributed or alumni and partner them with  specific high school students or high school student groups in these states.  Career centers could develop a directory of HBCU alumni  willing to mentor at risk students in these high schools or who are willing  to advise high school student groups or even set up tours of their companies.

-Career center staff can conduct career development workshops in high schools as a way to engage at-risk students about life after high school and college.   In the TUFIN program, for example, I administered the Strong Interest Inventory career assessment tool and conducted workshops for the high school students on the meaning of the results.

-Career center staff could work with HBCU faculty to develop career camp opportunities on college campuses.  Imagine, for example, if HBCU’s could engage high  school students through a STEM careers camp on the HBCU campus?

-Arranging community service events on the college campus that would bring together HBCU students and high school students through teams working on projects sponsored by companies.

With a little creativity, there is no end to the options.

I am positive that with discussion among relevant constituents, every HBCU campus in these southern states could develop one new program that would support high school students while strengthening a pipeline of future high school graduates.  Imagine adding corporate scholarship support for students who successfully participate in these programs? Innovative companies also understand the value of developing a highly skilled talent pool and would have high interest in collaborating with HBCU’s this way.

The fact is that many colleges and universities are going outside of their usual recruitment territories to attract diverse college students from southern schools.

Why shouldn’t HBCU’s take advantage of the opportunities right in their own states?

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3 Career Myths that Stall Careers

hate your job - womanOverheard a conversation in a grocery store recently that made me think about how career myths can stall careers.  One woman was explaining why she was destined to be stuck in her bad job forever, because it was a “safe” place to be.   I get it.  Not everyone is confortable taking certain career risks and life responsibilities might make it really hard to see beyond the immediate paycheck.  That’s why, ever so often, we all need to take a look at what we are doing and see if we are falling prey to any career myths that could be stalling our careers.

Career Myth #1 It is too late to learn something new

This is a career myth that haunts many working professionals. Either employees feel they are too old to learn something new or feel that learning something new will not be rewarded or even noticed by their company. If you think this career myth you is stalling your career then change it by taking small steps.  First, remember that education, training and knowledge is yours to keep. You take it with you.  Look for training at your current company, ask to join a new project team, take one course at a local college or sign up for a webinar.  The Atlantic quotes the National Center for Education Statistics that of the 17.6 million undergrads in college, 38% are over the age of 25 and 25% are over the age of 30.

Career Myth #2 I have to stick to my “safe” job

If it is one thing the recent economic disasters have taught us, is there is no safe job.  Every industry has experienced cutbacks and some occupations have disappeared for good.  Some in-demand skills are obsolete and the number of long term unemployed is bigger than ever.  Don’t let this lull you into a sense of security thinking your job is safe. Although it is smart and wise to think about being “safe”, this might not be the best path to greater career success.  As you evaluate whether this career myth is stalling your career, resolve not to discard opportunities because at first glance they don’t fall into your “safe” zone. Spend the time and dig deeper, do the research, find related professions and scan the environment to see which changes are heading your way.

Career Myth #3 Work life balance is a career myth

If you are one of those people who think that there is no way to have work-life balance, you might be working with the wrong company or haven’t explored all your options. Most smart organizations understand that a healthier bottom line and improved productivity come from happier employees who love what they do and understand their value in the workplace. If you are want to bury this career myth, think about a meeting with your supervisor to discuss ways you might be able to stay productive at work and lower stress of juggling work and life. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation.

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Ignorance Is Not Bliss: The Real Reason You Must Study Abroad

globeWhy should I study abroad?

When I moved to a rural village in Japan, I was not expecting for my patience, mental stamina, and faith to be tested!

I am often asked, “why should I study abroad?” and “why should I learn another language?” A simple Google search of these questions tells us studying abroad ‘enhances your marketability to employers’, ‘helps you to have a well-rounded skill set and experience base’, and so on.  These points while 100% accurate no doubt, stated alone are like a parent saying “because I told you so” when asked by their child why they have to clean their room.  They are simply not enough.

Frankly stated, WE can’t afford not to.  Let me say that again. Today – in the realities of the 21st century, we cannot afford not to have global exposure, global relationships, or at the very least learned another language.

While the rest of your American peers are seizing opportunities, breaking bread in other countries, building lasting connections and making life-long memories, we as African Americans aren’t even showing up to the table.  And what’s worse is most of us aren’t even aware there is a table to show up to.  For instance in the 2011-2012 academic year, only about 5% of all study abroad students were African American, whereas about 77% were White, and 8% were Latino*.

On our campuses, we are in the same classes with a few people who will study abroad for a semester, we are roommates with someone who is studying another language, and one of our coworkers has sights set on an international opportunity.  While they are changing the lens in which they view the world and running laps around us, we are stuck at the starting blocks reveling in the bliss that we at least “made it” to this point.  So many of us are comfortable and content just being in college.  So to that I say, congratulations…and…now what?  You are in school (and so are over 20 million other Americans), and…?  Just ‘making it’ is no longer enough. Why settle for just getting by?

How Study Abroad can Impact your Life

Further, what  reports and analytics don’t tell you and what perhaps may be one of the most valuable byproducts of global exposure and immersion experience is – you will learn more about yourself than you EVER intended.  I went abroad knowing what I thought I knew, and understanding that I had to have these experiences in order to be taken seriously and considered in the same sentence as my peers when I began my career.  Little did I know, my worldview and philosophy of life would be refined, and every decision I made after that experience would be influenced by my time overseas.

Later in life, I have found myself reflecting on my first time abroad and it hit me: how could I really be sure I knew what I claimed to know if it wasn’t tested?  How do you know what you are really made of unless it is called into question?  How do you know what you have to offer or what you can accomplish if you don’t even try?

How to study abroad?

Be reminded that studying abroad is more important and attainable than you may think.  You are at the ideal point in your life where you can chose the path that leads to your ideal tomorrow, so why not take the necessary steps, maximize your time now and secure your seat at the ‘table’?  If you do, be assured you wont regret it.  Not only will you have that seat at the table, but you’ll be a stronger and more secure you once you get there.

*According to the 2011 – 2012 Institute of International Education Open Doors Report.

J.Renay Loper Writer and SpeakerJ.Renay Loper is a global education professional writer and speaker based in New York City. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or send questions on studying abroad to us at thehbcucareercenter@yahoo.com and we will make sure Ms. Loper gets your questions.

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5 Summer Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Summer jobAs you consider where to work and what kind of work you want to do this summer, don’t forget to write a resume and prepare for the job interview. Job interview preparation is really key to job interview success!  Here are 5 job interview questions employers ask in summer job interviews all the time. Add your own specific examples to come up with the best answers to questions in the job interview.  (Original article written in 2008 for Yahoo)

Q. Tell me a little about yourself? 

A. The interviewer wants to learn more about your skills, abilities and some of your interests. This response sets the tone for the rest of the job interview it is a good idea to make the answer as brief as possible. A rough rule of thumb is to say something about the recent past, something current and a plan for the future. Here is how one freshman student could respond in her summer job interview: “Past – I just completed my freshman year at XYZ University with a 3.2 GPA and made the Dean’s list.   Present – I am currently a Marketing major and with interest in Advertising, Public Relations and Social Media.   Future – My goal is to graduate in 2016 and pursue a Masters in the Communications field.

Q. Why do you want this summer job?

A. Tell the interviewer why you applied for this specific position. Talk about your skills and your availability, not the employee discount you might get or how much money you want to make. You can speak to the flexibility that the job offers, the proximity of the job to home or school or that you are saving for something specific like a summer trip, sports camp or even your first car.  You could also just really want to get more experience in a field you think you would enjoy.  Yes, you can talk about future career, but they also know you might have some immediate fun goals, as most students do.

Q. What would teachers or professors say about you? 

A. This is a good chance to speak about your good performance in favorite classes or on a team etc.  Speak about teachers or professors who you know would be able to give you a good letters of recommendation.

Q. Tell me about a problem you had and how you solved it?

A. Employers hire problem solvers. The interviewer wants to learn about you problem solving skills for handling challenges or conflicts. Give specific examples where you might have had a problem you actually had to solve. Don’t forget to talk about great outcomes in the job interview.  These problems do not have to be ones you had at work.

Q. Tell me about your last job? 

A. Share information about job skills or accomplishment on the job. Do not speak badly about any prior employers. Keep this part of the job interview very positive and upbeat.

Q. Why should we hire you?

A. This is your opportunity to talk about your job skills, behaviors and achievements and how they could be an asset to the company.  Restate your interest in the position and practise asking for the job.

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College Majors in Demand from Class of 2014

need a jobCareer Builder and CareerRookie.com survey shows that 57% of employers will higher new grads in 2014.  Read full survey details of the college majors in demand from class of 2014 here.

Which College Majors in Demand from Class of 2014?

The list below shows the percentage of responding employers looking for these specific college majors in demand.

  • · Business 39 %
  • · Computer and Information Sciences 28 %
  • · Engineering 18 %
  • · Math and Statistics 14 %
  • · Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences  14 %
  • · Communications Technologies 12 %
  • · Engineering Technologies 11 %
  • · Education  7 %
  • · Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies, and Humanities 10 %
  • · Science Technologies 7 %
  • · Communication and Journalism 7 %

What this means for you?

None of this means that you run out and change your college major to one you think employers are demanding.  What it does mean is that your job search as a new graduate must involve very specific job search strategies to identify positions that are right for you.  Use these resources to expand your career and industry awareness.

Look for industries that are growing and where job growth is expected.  Try to think more about careers and industry instead of “finding a job in my major.”  For example, you might not see allied health majors on the list, but it does not mean that the healthcare industry isn’t booming and there won’t be opportunities for you.

Want more career stuff like this? Get The HBCU Career Center blog feed.

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10 Ways to Fix the Biggest Resume Mistakes New Grads Make

Resume Mistakes

Proof read to find resume mistakes

As a HR professional who owned a resume writing service for over a decade, let me reassure you that it’s easy to make resume mistakes.  Whether new professional or experienced job seeker, none of us are beyond making a mistake.  I focus on resume mistakes new grads make because they are usually easy to fix and there are so many free opportunities to get help.  Everyone is willing to help a new grad.  Very soon that new grad excuse will lose it’s charm and it will get more difficult to get free help to fix resume mistakes.  So jump on it.

What is THE biggest resume mistake?  Typos, grammar and spelling errors!

Everyone is expected to make resume mistakes like typos and errors – in the first draft at least.  Despite your best effort, ever so often one or two typos, grammar or spelling errors will slip through.  Don’t panic. Recruiters can tell a simple typo on a resume and won’t necessarily hold it against you.  For example typing “manger” vs. typing “manager” won’t necessarily cost you the interview, if that is just one resume mistake on an otherwise sparkling resume.  However, if it’s only one of many resume mistakes your resume will probably end up in the “TOSS” pile.

How to get help and fix resume mistakes

  1. Turn on the spell check and grammar check in your writing software.  No brainer!
  2. Read, proof read and read again.  Then read from the end of the resume backwards so you look at every word separately.
  3. Ask professionals like a HR manager or recruiter to proof read your resume.  Since they read hundreds of resumes weekly, they are pretty good at spotting resume mistakes quickly.
  4. Ask for help in your college career center.  Since 97% of HBCU career centers serve alumni, you can still contact them after graduation.
  5. Copy a resume template or a resume sample layout you like.  This way you’ll spend more time on the content rather than obsessing about look.
  6. Many professional resume writers offer free resume critique before taking on new clients.  Sometimes that’s all the feedback you will need.
  7. Ask employers visiting your college campus for career fairs, on-campus hiring, information sessions, workshops or mock interviews.  This is a good, safe, non-judgemental way to get an employer to help you fix resume mistakes.
  8. Large job fairs bring together hundreds of employers and job seekers.  Do not be shy about asking a job fair recruiter to give you resume feedback.  Some job fairs have this as an added feature. They will point out resume mistakes on the spot.  This is really important, especially if they recruit for an industry in which you are interested.
  9. Employment agencies and staffing firms have a vested interest in helping you clean up resume mistakes.  They market you to hiring firms so they want you to have a error-free resume.
  10. You should already be a member of a professional association.  Ask a senior member in the organization to help you proof read your resume.

Use our checklist and take our 60-Minute Resume Challenge to audit your resume with this list of 50 Resume Writing Tips.

Want more career articles like this? Subscribe to The HBCU Career Center blog feed.

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