How Universities Are Failing Their Graduates, Part 2

Failure to Launch was a 2006 romantic comedy in which Matthew McConaughey was a thirty-something who was perfectly happy living at home with his parents. Unfortunately, the term “failure to launch” has become more generally associated in the 21st century with college graduates and other twenty-somethings who are living at home out of necessity. Their situations are not nearly as romantic or comedic as the Hollywood movie and are, in many cases, the indirect results of a shortage of certain life skills. In my last post, I proposed that the worst way our universities are failing their graduates is by failing to provide them the skills to make effective career choices, manage their careers, and conduct successful job searches for jobs they desire. I suggested some extra-curricular remedies. In this post, I want to address another way I believe universities are failing: Graduating students without real-world skills and an understanding of how to be productive members of corporate teams. It’s not 1971 anymore, Alice When I graduated in 1971 with a degree in engineering, I didn’t realize that my alma mater university had provided me lots of theoretical knowledge while missing many real-world skills. I didn’t mind that the job I got wasn’t a close fit for what I had studied during the preceding four years. I was just happy to be out of school and able to have a decent paying job that would support me and my future family. If I could transport today’s graduates back to 1971, I imagine they would feel the same as I did then. I imagine they would be as successful in their careers as I and my Baby Boomer peers were. After all, they are...

How Universities Are Failing Their Graduates, Part 1

Universities are failing their graduates in many ways. My purpose in addressing such topics is not to chastise higher education, which I don’t believe can be reformed, but rather to warn future educational consumers and help more recent graduates improve their odds of career success. Last week I attended a panel discussion on the impact of wireless/mobility technologies on learning systems. One of the panel members from a major Atlanta employer made the statement “Our universities are failing us.” It was clear that what he meant by this was that universities are graduating students without real-world, practical skills and an understanding of how to be a productive member of a corporate team. My reaction was “That’s nothing new.” Perhaps this will be a topic of a future post. Last week I also had lunch with a recent college graduate who was contemplating his future. He was rightfully proud of being the first person in his family to get a college degree. Not only that, he graduated with honors. He was obviously highly motivated and contemplating going on to get a masters degree and possibly other education. At this point, I felt obliged to warn him that consuming more and more education might not be his best career or life option. Hyping education as a solution to career limitations has become an epidemic. I probably should cover this topic in a future post, too. However, I want to focus now on the worst way I believe our universities are failing their graduates. They are failing to provide them the skills to make effective career choices, manage their careers, and conduct...

Want a Better Career? Smile More!

I have been leading a volunteer job seeker workshop for the past six years. My mission in this workshop is to help active job seekers improve their job interview effectiveness. By now, you are probably guessing that the first thing I tell the participants in my workshop is to smile more. This is also the first item I list in my job search book, Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!): “Smiling and appearing friendly without interviewer coaxing makes you more appealing, regardless of your credentials and work experience.” What if you are not looking for a job right now and don’t need to worry about doing well in a job interview. Should you really consider smiling more? According to 15 Fascinating Facts about Smiling posted by nursingschools.net, some of the benefits include: “Forcing yourself to smile can boost your mood: Psychologists have found that even if you’re in a bad mood, you can instantly lift your spirits by forcing yourself to smile. It boosts your immune system: Smiling really can improve your physical health, too. Your body is more relaxed when you smile, which contributes to good health and a stronger immune system. Smiles are contagious: It’s not just a saying: smiling really is contagious, scientists say. In a study conducted in Sweden, people had difficulty frowning when they looked at other subjects who were smiling, and their muscles twitched into smiles all on their own. Smiles Relieve Stress: Your body immediately releases endorphins when you smile, even when you force it. This sudden change in mood will help you feel better and release stress. Smiling helps you...

Unemployment: How Is Your State Doing?

When choosing a career, whether initially or for a change, there are several basic factors to consider. I wince every time I hear someone say “Do what you love and you will never work another day in your life” or “Follow your passion” because I believe these sayings can cause people to make decisions without considering other, more analytical factors. But, it is true that some consideration of what I call the touchy-feely factors is reasonable. Ask yourself: How do the profession and industry match with my values? Will I feel I am contributing to the world I want to see? Will I be using my higher talents? Will the work itself be stimulating and motivating? Once you have considered these qualitative factors, people like me will urge you to not forget some of these quantitative factors: Is it likely you will be able to earn an income to fit the lifestyle you desired? Is there sufficient demand now and likely to be sufficient demand in the future for the profession? Is the industry in an upswing or decline and what are the future prospects? Yet another qualitative factor to consider is the location where you plan to work or run your business. Which brings me to the title of this post… How is your state doing in the unemployment category? Obviously, a city or state with low unemployment tends to offer more opportunity. That opportunity can spell the difference between a job and no job. It can spell the difference between having opportunities and having to hang on to a crummy job because there doesn’t seem to be anything better. You can keep track of your state’s...

How to Create Your Next Great Career Opportunity

Earlier this year, I was approached by a successful thirty-something director level who was nearing his fourth year of employment in a multi-billion dollar Atlanta company. As is true of many high achievers who don’t want to settle for less than they deserve, he wanted to find a better, more challenging job in which he could gain more income and find more personal growth. He enlisted me to mentor him in defining his next career role and developing a strategy for gaining such a role. In our first career counseling session together, I was surprised to learn that he wanted to stay with his current employer. (Most high performers in large companies who come to me want to get out.)  Due to the lack of growth and low churn in upper management roles within his company, we agreed that he would probably need to create his next career opportunity rather than wait around for a “standard” position to become open and compete for it. If he could create a job he wanted and for which he was qualified, then he would stand a good chance of landing it without having competition! During subsequent conversations, we were able to define a new role for him and develop a career advancement strategy for securing it. This gained him an immediate increase in income, a title improvement from director to senior director, and more interesting work that made his contributions more valuable and notable to upper management. Create Your Own Career Opportunity You, too, may find it helpful to follow steps similar to ours in order to create your next career opportunity:...

Creating a Killer Resume, Part 5

Would you like a resume that helps you advance your career by appealing to recruiters and hiring managers?  As an executive career coach who sees hundreds and writes many resumes each month, I can tell you that 90% of the resumes out there are ineffective. Could yours be part of the 90%?  In this series of posts, I want to help ensure you to have a top 10% resume that is optimized for HUMAN readers. First a short review: Part 1- 15 Second Resume Skim Test In Part 1, we reviewed the importance of your resume passing the “15-Second Skim Test” and examined ideas to help you avoid being instantly rejected by recruiters and others. Part 2 – Resume Walk-Through In Part 2, we began the process of walking through the typical professional or executive resume from top to bottom and discussed the first page header and (optional) objective. Part 3 – Resume Informational Groups In Part 3, we discussed various information groupings that people locate in advance of their work history, such as those labeled Summary, Objective, Profile, or Qualifications. Part 4 – Work History Improvements In Part 4, we considered improvements for your reverse chronological work history. Today – Part 5 Part 5 – Educational Accomplishments In this, Part 5, let’s look at the section that concludes most professional and executive resumes… the one that identifies your educational accomplishments (and possibly some additional related information). The Education Section of Your Resume Let’s start by considering where the education section should be located within your resume. If you have a college degree and little or no paid work experience, it is customary to...

Creating a Killer Resume, Part 4

Would you like a resume that helps you advance your career by appealing to hiring managers and recruiters who review your resume?  As an executive career coach who sees hundreds and writes many resumes each month, I can tell you that fewer than 10% of the resumes out there are effective. I want you to be in the top 10%. This series of posts discuss resumes for HUMAN readers, not those “optimized” for online applications and inhuman resume screening software. First a Short Review: Part 1 – the 15-second resume skim test In Part 1, we reviewed the importance of your resume passing the “15-Second Skim Test” and examined ideas to help you avoid being instantly rejected by recruiters and others. Part 2 – the resume walk-through In Part 2, we began the process of walking through the typical professional or executive resume from top to bottom and discussed the first page header and (optional) objective. Part 3 – resume information groups In Part 3, we discussed various information groupings on your resume that people locate in advance of their work history, such as those labeled Summary, Objective, Profile, or Qualifications. In this, Part 4, we need to consider what you choose to include in your reverse chronological work history. For resumes being read by humans, this is the “meat”. This is where you must provide well organized information that sells your value to whatever depth the reader desires. Today -Part 4:  Work History Resume Section Organization of Work History Information It is conventional and preferred that you group your work history by employer and list the employers in reverse chronological order. If you have had contract...

Career Success Tips for Women

I realize I’m sticking my neck out here a little… since I’m a guy. What does a guy know about helping women succeed? Given that I have coached a lot of women and helped them advance in their careers, I believe I have some basis for the information that follows. If you are a woman reading this post and feel you have additional suggestions from your perspective, please feel free to add to the ideas presented here. I realize there are many more ideas that likely have not crossed my mind. Let me take a crack at suggesting some things that women can do to improve their career situations: Choose a professional field that is in high demand. One example is STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. Not only are these areas crying for talent, but also they are traditionally underrepresented by women. The old stereotypes and prejudices have largely gone away and women have great opportunities today. Develop your managerial skills and pursue such positions. Younger and more progressive companies are truly interested in placing women in managerial positions. Get clear on how your emotional intelligence, listening skills, people skills, etc. provide you an advantage and explain your advantages in persuasive ways in job interviews and other career encounters. Women, as a group, tend to have natural advantages over men in these valuable areas. Build your self-confidence and get coaching in being politely assertive, so that you are not shy in discussing the skills you have, the value you provide and the results you have delivered. You must speak up for yourself in a positive way. Seek...

Did the Dog Eat Your Career Plans?

The 2008 economic downturn had far-reaching effects on employers, the recruiting industry, and individual workers. Did it have a negative effect on your career? If so, have you recovered from it? I’m guessing that, like 95% of respirating humans, you had no career plan before the 2008 recession. I’m guessing that, six years later, you still don’t have one. Common Problems with Career Plans Most people don’t suffer from having a bad career plan. They suffer from: (a) not acting on their plan, (b) acting ineffectively on their plan, or (c) having no plan at all.  This article addresses these items, with an emphasis on the last one. Consider this:  Failing to plan is planning to fail. We’ve all heard this maxim before. It applies as well to your career as it does to building a fence (which I recently did) or completing a work assignment. While it would be easy to negate the literal assertion, it is difficult to argue with the general sentiment that lack of planning tends to produce poor results. Every day I see resumes of people who have had two or more short term job tenures during the past few years. I see resumes that indicate the person has taken a step back in title or responsibilities. I see resumes that have notable gaps in employment. These past situations are bad enough. But, additionally, these negatives also carry forward in that they can (but not always) reduce people’s marketability and raise reasonable concerns. All of these situational shortcomings can be reduced by developing and enacting a career plan that addresses such challenges and leverages your strengths. As...

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