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3 Things Black Students Must Do Before Graduation

what black students must doEmployers seeking diverse talent, will have larger talent pools

Gone are the days when seeking diverse talent, translated to “hire a Black person.”  I hate to be so blunt, but it is the reality.  Employers are looking for new grad talent with the professional preparation to succeed.

The percentage of American college students who are Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, and American Indian/Alaska Native has been increasing steadily over the years. For example between 1976 and 2011, the percentage of Black students rose from 10 to 15% according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).  Although the growth in the Black college population is significant, the growth of Hispanic students is very impressive going from 4 to 14% and for Asian student population growing from 2 to 6%.

One way we should be viewing this data is that there will be greater competition among graduates to get into companies that are actively seeking diverse talent.

What Black students must do before graduation to compete

Black students who want to seriously compete for career positions within major organizations must do three things:

Black students must do internships and co-ops to build experiences on non-trivial, outside-the-classroom projects. Ideally, at least 2 such experiences before graduation are important to see on a resume.  According to US News survey, only about 37% of college students in 2012 completed internships.  That is already low and having worked in higher education for 15 years, I know that the subset of Black students doing internships is smaller than we would like.

Black students must do study abroad and expand their international exposure.  Several HBCU’s are pumping up their study abroad programs.   International programs on majority campuses, are reaching out to diverse students.  Studies show that of the students who study abroad, African American students number about 4%.  Organizations, like IERCEF, through the consortium of 11 HBCU’s, is trying to do something about increasing these numbers.   At The HBCU Career Center, we feature monthly columns by J. Renay Loper, on Study Abroad news because it is so important.

Finally, another thing Black students must do before graduation is gain leadership experience.  This is the #1 skill or behavior that employers say they want and look for in new graduates.  It doesn’t matter much whether the goal after graduation is employment, graduate school or entrepreneurship. Black college students must develop leadership skills and there are plenty of opportunities to do so on campus.  This annual study lists the skills employers want from new graduates and is published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.  For years this list has included strong communication skills and leadership skills as top requirements from employers.  Developing both sets of skills will give graduates a strong competitive advantage.

I understand the lack of resources for career programs and career centers on college campuses.  However, I don’t see educating Black students about their competitive advantage as just the responsibility of campus career offices.  I believe this has to be the subject of broader discussions between college leadership, parents and industry professionals.   When more people are questioning the costs versus value of a college degree while our students are racking up financial aid debt, it would be a shame if our students don’t hear the message about what is required to compete.

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Campus Leaders Land More Job Offers

campus leadersVisit any college campus and you will find posters and flyers  promoting a myriad of campus activities being hosted or sponsored by campus groups and clubs.  Check out social media sites for colleges and you can’t miss the photos and promotion of campus activities through campus organizations.

Behind all those campus groups and clubs are students who are campus leaders. These campus leaders are organizing, influencing and leading fellow students through well coordinated activities. These intrepid campus leaders are sometimes the hardest working students on campus – often balancing a full academic load, part-time jobs and campus leadership roles. No wonder employers love campus leaders and why many often land job offers from multiple companies.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers recently published the annual Job Outlook Survey where employers share how they plan to evaluate the attributes and skills of this year’s crop of college graduates. This year, the number one attribute employers seek is leadership.

In addition, to leadership being the top attribute, employers also identified the soft skills they will look for in new grads. Take a look at the 10 soft skills and it’s not hard to see why campus leaders land more job offers after graduation. Below are just the top three soft skills rated, in order of importance to employers, and how a typical campus leader demonstrates these sought after behaviors.

Verbal Communcation

Employers seek out new grads with good ability to verbally communicate with people inside and outside of their companies.  Campus leaders don’t just communicate with fellow students. Campus leaders communicate with faculty and staff advisors, external governing bodies and even with the executive leadership of their college or university.

Campus Leaders Excel at Teamwork

Ability to work within a team structure is the second soft skill identified by employers as important. Campus leaders are usually part of an executive board and spend a lot of time negotiating the direction of the campus organization. In many cases campus leaders have to influence and motivate others to get things done. Campus leaders have also moved up through the ranks by being good team players who have shown they are reliable members of the team, semester after semester.

Decision Making and Problem Solving

The ability to make decisions and solve problems is a routine part of life for any campus leader. Moving a campus organization forward while making your mark as the leader involves coordinating events, managing day-to-day activities, motivating others and making choices. Evaluating program offerings, growing membership and even organizing locations will demonstrate to potential employers that campus leaders have the attributes and the soft skills they seek.

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Simple Job Search Strategy Anyone Can Master

job search strategyI am a firm believer that our lives are a grand summary of very simple processes.

This core belief is at the very heart of the career advice I have shared with people for the last 15 years.  Essentially, I have helped people discover what’s important to them guard and protect what they discover make connections with other people around their values.

In fact, I was on a panel the other day and someone asked me what I felt were the key components of an effective job search strategy.  It gave me a chance to share with the group this very simple 3-step process that I know gets results.

Job Search Strategy Step #1 – Self Evaluation

At the International Career Development conference many years ago, I had a brief conversation with Richard Bolles, author of the job seeker’s What Color is your ParachuteI was new to the field of career development and eager to learn from someone as well respected as Bolles.  His advice for me was pretty simple – Help people discover and act on the important things.  That’s what you are doing when you begin your job search strategy with the self evaluation process.  During this step, spend the time to understand your V.I.S.A – Values, Interests, Skills and Abilities.   Believe me, honest self-evaluation is key to developing an effective job search strategy.

Job Search Strategy Step #2 – Image management!

Honest self evaluation to identify values, interests, skills and abilities preceeds image management in this 3-step job search strategy.  You can’t manage or sell what you don’t know.   Without knowing who you are and what you have to offer, documents like resumes and cover letters can be just lists of jobs with dates.  Whatever you have discovered about yourself during self exploration, you must guard and protect through image management.  Make sure you look on paper and your reputation remains stellar online.

Job Search Strategy Step #3 – Put YOU out there

As effective as the Internet and social networking have been in revolutionizing the job search, job seekers must include actively networking and meeting people face to face at career events like job fairs, meet-ups or local job clubs. This step in the job search strategy includes doing company research, preparing for career events and learning how to follow up. It also involves knowing how to put the best YOU forward in a job interview.

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New Grads Share Favorite Job Benefits

new gradsNew grad survey reveals which employee benefits graduates really wanted this year.  The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveyed over 40,000 college seniors which included just over 10,000 graduating seniors to find out which employee benefits were making a difference for new grads as they evaluated.

The times sure have changed

It appears that times have changed since a few years ago, the same survey revealed that almost half of the graduating seniors listed 100% paid medical as the number one desire.

It turns out that vacation, tuition reimbursement and potentially future salary increases are the benefits new grads wanted this year.

  • More than two weeks vacation – 10%
  • Tuition Reimbursement for advanced education – 9.2%
  • Promises of annual salary increases – 9.2%
  • Company match for 401(k) – 8.6%
  • 100% employer-paid medical insurance – 7.3%
  • Casual dress policy – 7.2%
  • Dental insurance – 7.2%
  • On-site fitness center 6.8%
  • Bonus/commission plan – 6.3%
  • Frequent performance reviews – 6.1%

Read the full list of employee benefits desired by new grads this year.


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How to Network on Campus During Homecoming

Homecoming networkingYes – I know homecoming is all about the game, the parties, the overnight guests, the tailgating etc.  But why not really use the time to cultivate some professional relationships too?  In fact, if you check out my TL on Twitter, you will see that fall homecoming is probably one of the main topics of conversation for HBCU students.  For students in their senior year or who are planning internships next summer, homecoming is the time to begin the conversation.

For years, I’ve been branding homecoming season as the fall kick-off for job search or internship search.  Most college students don’t know it, but big employers focus their recruiting for new grads and summer interns the fall before they need them.  So if you are graduating in the Class of 2015, it means the Fall of 2014 is when major employers are seeking to fill their new career hire slots for the following year.  This is when you should start to look for these opportunities.  Ask the career center staff on your campus.  They know.

So this fall, while you are thinking about homecoming, I want you to think about how to network on campus with the alumni.

How to Network on Campus

1. Cardinal rule of networking is – Givers Gain. It’s not just about what people can do for you. It’s also how you can help them.  When you meet alumni, ask about how you can help their company get exposure on your campus.  Invite them to speak with your campus club, connect them with the career center or connect them with a faculty member.

2. Sign up to be a volunteer with the Homecoming committee.  I can guarantee you that they need more help than they have.  Not coulda ill volunteering help you build your resume with volunteer work, you might get to meet some influential alumni.

3. Keep your giving circle large as you network on campus. Don’t restrict yourself to only your brothers or your sorors.  Use homecoming to meet and interact with more people beyond your small group.

4. As your plans to network on campus  yield some results, remember to follow up with people in a timely manner.   Maintaining your connections will take time. Don’t engage if you won’t follow up.

5. Have your 30-second elevator speech ready to go.  This is a quick way to communicate  who YOU are and what you are about.  Develop and practice your little 30-second commercial about yourself.  You will use it throughout the job search process a lot.  Sample – “Hi. My name is xxxx, I’m a junior here studying xxx and planning to xxx.  I’m the social chair for (name your group) and we are hosting xxx.  When did you graduate?”

6. When you network on campus; network up AND down. What do I mean by that? Don’t assume all the great contacts you make, will be people who are senior professionals to you.  Look also to peers who might be in different majors from you with whom you can buddy-up to share job announcements or job leads.

7. Ask the career center on campus, what activities they are planning that will incorporate the number of alumni who will be on campus during homecoming weekend.  Many alumni are more than willing to participate.  If they have nothing planned, they you and your campus group should plan an event that will allow your members to network on campus with returning alumni.

8. If you are going to be embarking on a job search or internship search, it shouldn’t be the first thing you say. However, don’t be shy about requesting follow up conversations.

9. Ask people how they would like for you to follow up. It makes no sense to call them if Twitter is where they want to meet.

10. Brush up on your social networking skills. if you have ever been at a conference or an event like homecoming, you know that groups come together really quickly when people are wired and connected. Don’t get left out.

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5 Big Workplace Skills Employers Want

what employers want

Types of Interviews

Employers usually are not shy about saying what workplace skills they need to see in the new graduates they hire.  In an article published in the Deseret Morning News, Wendy Leonard said, “Colleges and universities dump a lot of graduates into the work force, and yet some in the work force still need additional, specialized training to perform well in the jobs they choose.”

Why do students need to learn these workplace skills in addition to their college degree?  The reason is simple.  Most employers feel that students should know that earning a college degree involves more than just getting good grads in the classroom. Yes – employers care about your major coursework but they also care about some other skills which many HBCU college students and grads are struggling to master.

Workplace Skills Employers Seek

Here are some of the skills you will want to work on while you are in college. They are skills employers want from graduates.  Employers tend to choose candidates who can demonstrate some amount of mastery of the following skills in the job interview process.

-team building skills
-leadership or supervisory skills
-customer service and client relations skills
-interpersonal skills
-project management skills

Your college career center staff can show you how to translate some of your college experiences, class work and projects into these skills employers want. Having these skills can really enhance your first year on the job experience.

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