Oh hey… you…

February 7, 2013

Think about the last hand-written card you received from a friend. When you saw the return address, perhaps you tore the envelope open with childlike joy. The stationary was your favorite color and the letter told a story of your last adventure together. The gesture made you feel good all day and it was very clear that your friendship is important to the sender.


Now think about the last piece of junk mail you received. What about it do you remember? My guess is not much. That same mailer landed in thousands of other mailboxes, desperately seeking a positive response. You felt annoyed and certainly not special.

So why would any sane person keep sending the same resume and cover letter to employers who are knowingly different from one another? 

Job seekers, let me tell you a secret. Employers want to feel specialThey want to see themselves in your communication. They want to feel your enthusiasm for the institution. They want to see that you know about what they do. They want you to want them (in a totally professional way, of course).

I can hear your frustrated sigh– it’s a lot of work to individualize resumes and cover letters. But think of it as an investment. The more time you spend researching institutions and tailoring each application, the less time you’ll spend searching.

So what are you waiting for? You have a lot of writing to do.

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Developing a Skilled Workforce: It Begins With Us

September 24, 2010

Bill, I love you so.  I always will. But we have to talk about your latest Daily Show interview. Let me quickly recap for those who missed it.  He said:

  1. Posted job openings are increasing at twice the rate of actual hirings
  2. The jobs that are open do not have applicants that are qualified to fill them
  3. We should provide training programs to create a skilled workforce and fill positions that have been vacant for over three weeks

Ok, so the college environment is designed to develop a skilled workforce…right? We turn out thousands of adults with bachelor’s degrees each year, but several of them struggle to find jobs. Some  aren’t even sure what they want or where to begin looking.

According to NACE, only 20% of college seniors had jobs lined up before graduation in May 2009 and employers expect to hire 7% fewer graduates in 2010.  That leaves a whopping 80% of graduates without a job and without a plan. So what’s the problem?

There are not enough people on our campuses that are helping to prepare students for a truly competitive workforce.  We are not doing enough to help students connect classroom and out-of-classroom experiences. And when we fail at making these connections, so do our students.  So what can we do to help our students take a more proactive approach?

Have honest conversations about climate. Yes, it’s a tough job market. But the only time finding a job is impossible is when students do not apply. People always talk about the “bad economy,” but they do not provide solutions. Many students are afraid to fail, so they don’t even try. Students are lacking an important tool– hope. Be the role model who provides a solution.

Remind students to set goals and work towards them. “I want to get a job” is not an acceptable career goal. Help students to identify their strengths by pointing out situations when they truly thrived. Steer them towards resources and opportunities that will benefit them. Our students should be ready for a full-time job search about nine months before graduation, not two weeks prior. Find out what skills they still need to develop.  How can they improve their marketability? Make sure they are always keeping the end goal in mind… and that they’re having a good time doing it.

Challenge your student employees to do more. Start with the basics and teach your student workers about professionalism and good communication. A simple conversation about professional interests can turn into a great opportunity for the student and your office.  These adults are capable of so much more than filing, copying, and labeling. If you let them, students can be great innovators.

Include professional development for student organizations. Empower students by helping them connect with people who work in their field of study. If you’re lucky enough to have the funds, bring students to conferences with you. Educate them about professional associations and networking events on and off campus. Encourage them to visit your campus career center for help with resume writing, job searching, and interviewing.

Take a few students under your wing. Sadly, many of our students haven’t met a good mentor. Maybe their advisor takes a “hands off” approach.  Perhaps they’ve been shuffled around from office to office before they finally received help. These students face the obstacles by themselves because they think they have to.  When you meet a new student, always treat them like you are the first person they’ve met at the university. First impressions are lasting impressions.

So, friends… what are you doing to develop a skilled workforce?