"career development"

Fri 29 November 2019
The Gallup Purdue Great Jobs, Great Lives report has shed light that mentorship is clearly vital and necessary to the development of college students. According to this report,


“Graduates who felt ‘supported’ during college (that professors cared, professors made them excited about learning, and had a mentor) are nearly three times as likely to be thriving than those who didn’t feel supported.”


Students who were mentored in college also had higher levels of work engagement than students who were not mentored.


Since this report was published, many universities and departments have attempted to implement their own internal mentor program. Getting mentors, providing the proper content, matching the right students with the right mentors, and establishing a plan for the mentorship to continue is difficult in and of itself, and many schools have struggled with properly implementing it. Getting students involved with the program is one of the most important parts of a mentorship program, and it is more often the most neglected part. In interviews with multiple schools that have attempted to implement their own internal mentorship programs, nearly all of them expressed a struggle to engage students to become mentees.


This may seem somewhat odd, considering all of the benefits that students clearly receive from having a mentor, but this is what has been happening with many mentorship programs. To help understand why this is the case, here are a few reasons why student mentees don’t immediately pounce at many mentorship programs.

  1. The students have no clue that it exists

In interviews with a few hundred students at one of the largest universities in the US, we learned that the majority of students didn’t know that their school offers free health services, content on how librarians can help them and interlibrary loans, library journal subscriptions, writing centers, mental health services and international/domestic peer programs. All of these programs are extremely beneficial and available to students (and are consistently available at many large institutions and have been for years), but the students aren’t aware of their existence. Some universities have even made required projects that forced the use of these services, advertised these services on school buses, and brought guest speakers to speak about these services and students still don’t acknowledge their existence.

2. Mentorship is posed as a career development opportunity as opposed to an educational opportunity

Many mentorships blossom into job offers and work relationships. However, these further opportunities typically did not occur because students perceived that mentorship as leading into a job. They come from students genuinely enjoying the company and advice of their mentor, and wanting to continue their relationship with the mentor. Students put on a façade of professionalism when they are presented with an interview-like opportunity and feel like they have to not “look dumb” or seem like they are keeping up with everything a professional is saying so as to make themselves as hirable as possible. This is the exact opposite of what a mentorship should be. Students should have the goal of asking as many questions as one can in order to learn the most and grow as a person. Mentors seek vulnerability in a student mentee. Mentors don’t expect an 18-22 year old to know every facet of their career (that is why the student is the mentee!). Vulnerability is desirable because a student who asks questions and shows a willingness to learn is much more hirable than a student who doesn’t ask any questions.


Furthermore, if students are informed that mentorship is a career development opportunity, students that have job offers or believe they have a job lined up won’t pursue mentorships. Vice versa, it creates an environment where only students desperate for a job will want to be mentored and will act in a way referenced in the previous paragraph. This outcome is not valuable for the mentor or the student, and more often than not will leave all parties involved feeling extremely dissatisfied.

3. The fear of missing out

A student doesn’t want to be the only person doing something that everyone isn’t doing. On the contrary, students want to keep up with whatever their peers are doing. Therefore, to get a mentorship program to work at a university, it has to become popular to do. Students cannot perceive themselves as exclusive or too good to be mentored or else it won’t catch on with other students. Getting the initial students to become mentees is difficult because schools are posing students with a relatively scary proposition: go have a conversation with a stranger about your career. Many students struggle to know what they want in a career entering their senior year, let alone freshman to junior years. For a student, having a conversation with a stranger can be nerve-wracking in and of itself, combined with talking to a professional about career paths when the student himself maybe hasn’t considered career paths can be a lot.


Overall, creating a mentorship program within a university is difficult. To properly engage students in a mentorship program there needs to be a clear and proven plan to inform the students, portray mentorship as mentorship and not career development, and have a strategy for popularizing mentorship. This article hopefully can serve as a reference to help others with some of the struggles faced when attempting to grow a mentorship program.

Fri 11 October 2019
In 1914, electricians were noticing a rift in the career advancement of themselves vs. their peers. Some electricians were given easier jobs and greater job prospects because they were friends with managers, owners, and/or other people in power. These electricians were not given these opportunities because of their electrical prowess, but rather because of their relationship with those that mattered.  In May of 1914, The Electrical Worker published that electricians were adopting the phrase “it’s not what you know that counts so much, as who you know!”


This rift the electricians were feeling begged the questions: How do we get to know the right people? Who are the right people? Will people give me any time if they know nothing about me? Are my only connections my family connections?


These questions are just as relevant today as they were in 1914. Tony Robbins has said that “70% of every experience a person will have will come from his/her network”. I don’t know if this information is factually proven, but it seems to make sense and back up the claim that “it’s not what you know that counts so much, as who you know!”


For a professional entering a new industry, a recent college graduate entering the working world, or anyone that is seeking to have more relationships, building a network can be difficult. If you are a person who is seeking to meet new people, it is easy to ask yourself “what do I have to offer?” Without any knowledge, connections, and resources, it is easy to write yourself off as somebody that has nothing to offer.


What you may not realize is that you have a ton to offer in terms of your time and willingness to listen.


PEOPLE LOVE TO TALK ABOUT THEMSELVES!


By seeking to understand another person’s story, you are showing them respect and empathy towards the decisions that person has made in his/her life. Essentially, by listening to another person talk about themselves, you make them feel valued because you care about what they are saying and it is deeply personal to them. No amount of money, connections, or knowledge can make a person feel as great as having someone take the time to listen to them.


Another thing you may not realize is that no matter how famous, wealthy, or powerful a person is, you are not annoying until you receive a response. Thus, be persistent as “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This could mean sending multiple emails, phone calls, showing up at their place of work, or even writing a handwritten letter.


The people you should be reaching out to are the people in positions that you aspire to be. Jim Rohn once said that “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” If you aspire to be in a leadership position at a company, you should be spending time with people who are currently leaders at the company.


After you know the right people, who those people are, and have taken the time to listen to them, you can then easily transition to being understood. The key to being understood is to clearly and concisely convey what you are interested in doing. You can typically count on the 5 to 1 rule. What this means is that you have to give somebody roughly 5 times as much active listening as they will actively listen to you. So if you have taken 15 minutes to listen to somebody’s story and talk about himself, he will give you roughly 3 minutes of actively listening to what you have to say. Therefore, be concise and clear about what you are interested in.


However, there is a trick to the 5 to 1 rule that can give you more active listening time. If you ask questions to the person you are connecting with on the topic of what you are interested in, you are showing that person respect. By asking questions, you are conveying that you care about what they have to say and value their response. At the same time, you are actively engaging them to think about a response to your question as opposed to just listening to you.


Ultimately, by asking the right questions and conveying your interests clearly and concisely, you are making it possible for that person to recommend other people to you. This is how a network grows.


Whether you are a professional entering a new industry, a recent college graduate entering the working world, or anyone that is seeking to have more relationships, these are some tips to getting your foot in the door. Strictly relying on your friends and family’s relationships for connections is a lot of eggs to put in one basket. Also, since it takes significantly more effort to build relationships on your own vs. via friends/family, you will likely value relationships you built on your own more than those you received from friends/family.  


“It’s not what you know that counts so much, as who you know!” is very true today. However, there are many ways to get to know the right people. Utilizing family connections can be extremely valuable, but the ability to build relationships on your own is paramount to expanding your network.

Fri 4 October 2019
If you are a college student, the process of applying for jobs is relatively simple. You go to your university’s career service website, see what employers have job postings, click apply to any jobs that seem interesting and wait to see if you get a response from any of the employers for an interview. You could also test your luck at career fairs where hundreds of students pour into a venue to have really intimidating, forced, and, for the most part, the same 1-3 minute conversation with recruiters at companies you think you might be interested. Performing both of these actions is relatively simple, and if you are lucky and have a good elevator pitch, you may land an interview.


During this time period of “oh, I should probably apply for jobs” to “Alright! I have 3 interviews”, how much have you learned about any of the opportunities you have applied for? Sure, you may have read a brief 100-200 word description of the employers on a career service website, along with employers’ location, and possibly jobs’ starting salaries. You also probably have a perception of the prestige of the companies and how good having a company’s name on your resume may look.


Are there other factors that you may not know about that might have a huge impact on whether or not you like your job? Factors like how much work is done in groups vs. individually, will you have creative freedom, are there leadership opportunities, will you learn new skills, is there direct access to senior leadership, how varied is the work, how diverse is the workplace, is there a lot of travelling, do you have your own workspace, along with even more factors that you may have no clue about before accepting a job.


As a college student, you have to decide how important these factors are to you and how much of an impact they will have on your career choice.


The difficulty in this task is that this work is purely self-motivated. There is no boss, there is no deadline. You are the only person who will derive the benefit, and have to be able to put in the effort to obtain this information. This is made even more difficult by the fact that the answer to each of these points of research is unique to each department of each company. The accounting department may have an entirely different environment than the marketing department, who are likely completely different from the HR department.


If you consider merely getting a job offer your pinnacle of success, then there is no point to put in the effort to learn whether or not companies possess these factors and how much you value them. But if your definition of success is having a fulfilling career, it might require some additional effort.


The toughest part about this additional effort is that it has to be motivated by you. To your parents and friends, just getting a job offer is wonderful news. The security of having a job offer feels awesome. However, having no clue whether or not you will like the job you have been offered is an issue you have to deal with. You can suppress it and tell yourself that you’ll find another job if you don’t enjoy it or you can embrace it and put in the time to fully understand what opportunities are available to you and which opportunities fit you best.


In high school, it was very clear of what to do to get to college. You get good grades. In college, it was very clear of what to do to get a job offer. You get good grades, internships, and leadership positions in extracurricular activities.


But what about pursuing a career that is fulfilling? This path is much more vague, yet extremely important to achieving happiness in your career.


Ultimately, the more effort you put in to understanding a career before entering it, the more realistic your perception will be of the work. If you do this, you won’t be surprised at the work culture and will be much more satisfied with the work you are doing. Because you knew what to expect, you will likely be happier, more productive, and more engaged in the work you are doing.


Wonderful things can occur when perception meets reality.

Mon 15 July 2019
Author Walter Brunell once wrote “Failure is the tuition you pay for success.” I like starting my blogs with a quote because…why not commemorate someone else’s instance of brilliance with a citation?


I especially like this quote because it directly relates to how I left off my last blog…turning to Indiana University and falling flat on my face! The combination of failure with a collegiate reference is the perfect storm of irony and truth.


To refresh your memory, the problems I saw were college students taking way too many classes without any clarity on what to major in and college students throwing a random dart at which career to pursue because their major was not giving them clarity on their career. This seems to me like such an obvious problem in student development today that nobody seems to be able to solve.


It feels as if society is a parent and college students are their child and going to college is like dropping your kid in the pool for the first time and watching them flail around aimlessly for breath. Sure, this is fine and cute when you are talking about $20 swim lessons…but when these college “swim lessons” run up your tab to the tune of $20,000+ a semester, it’s not so cute and novel anymore.


The issue is that it feels as if American society has normalized confusion for what a person should do from the ages 18-22. I feel that this confusion should either be less normalized or that college should be cheaper so then the consequences of being confused in college are minimized. With the high cost of getting a college degree, attending college with confusion can be a gamble. Yes, I said it, going to college with confusion can be considered a GAMBLE! Sure, administrators who went to college 20+ years ago may disagree with me because when they went to college A) they could afford to pay for their tuition out of their own pocket (which now seems as if it is impossible to even imagine paying for college without loans, your parents, or scholarship) and B) when you are paying for college (even a little) out of your own pocket, you have skin in the game. This forces you, as the student, to think “wow, am I really ready for college because this is a lot of cash that I am dropping?” This then leads to the clarity of “I am ready for college, I have researched what I am going to major in, and I am pretty confident that I can accomplish my goal of getting a degree in 4 years” or “No, I am not ready. I think I am going to work/travel/soul search for a little bit and then maybe come back to college.”


This is what SHOULD happen in a perfect world. However, the world is not perfect.


REVELATION: All people are different and some people learn and develop at their own pace! And guess what, college is not meant for everyone at age 18…BAZINGA!


So what happens to those 18 year olds that do not know what they want to do entering college?


First, there are more students than advisors. Like significantly more! Imagine 40,000 students to 150 advisors…yikes! Advisors cannot possibly give students the individualized attention that they need to truly make an educated decision on their degree path.


My initial thought to combat this problem was to help college students clarify what their hobbies and interests were and how that could correlate to a major. This was my original idea for Ambition In Motion.


However, at this time I was 21 years old and no parent was going to pay me, a person without any credible accolades, any money to help their child figure out their degree path. It was like “hey, I can help your child figure out their degree path” and the parents saying “have you even figured out your own degree path?…touché”.


I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my degree path and had a good idea of where I would like my career to go and I knew that I had the skills and experience to help their child, but convincing a parent when you are 21 that you can help their child with their degree (to them at least) is like a fish telling us that he convinced a shark not to eat him. It is just tough for the parents to believe it.


Even if I could convince a parent to pay me to help their child out with their degree path, very few students are motivated to participate in something that their parents made them do. “I loved and was super motivated to do that thing my parents forced me to do”…said no one ever.


So how did I handle this failure? I will let you know in my next blog post.


In terms of this blog post title, college really is not meant for everyone, certainly not everyone at age 18. If you are a student, realize that your parents, friends, family, and everyone else in society just wants you to be happy without impeding on their happiness (i.e. on a professional level of pursuing a career/lifestyle that you don’t have to move back in with your parents to things on a personal level like not keeping your neighbors up all night because you want to blast music at 3:00 in the morning). If you are everyone else in society, try to hold back judgment of those who are pursuing their life in a different way than you did, foresee yourself to, or think that everyone else should. Those people who are pursuing the road less traveled should not be chastised and thought of destined for immortal doom because they are not doing it the way everyone else is. We, as society, love to value those who “made it” via the road less traveled, yet, we love to rebuke those who are on a less traveled road whom haven’t quite “made it” to their destination yet.


Let’s support those who are doing things a little differently :).

Wed 19 August 2020
When I met with my mentor this month, we talked a lot about changing focus. We discussed our career aspirations, our current workload, and our personal endeavors as well. In each one, though, change was the major factor.

We discussed changing careers, both past and future planned shifts. Sometimes you change careers because you are tired of doing the same old thing and sometimes it’s because you have a passion for something new. Regardless of why you’re changing, you can always take skills from your past roles with you. No job is really a waste of time, as long as you learned something new or learned something about yourself. Sometimes it takes a change of scenery to see that though.

Change can also come in the form of quickly shifting focus during your day-to-day work. Some days, I find myself deep in the middle of a project and then a major HR issue comes up that I have to deal with on the spot. It can be jarring to have to switch back and forth between priorities quickly, but exercising that muscle is one of the most valuable things I’ve learned in my professional career. Both my mentor and I have recently had to deal with this often. It’s reassuring to understand that everyone has ongoing projects and sometimes you just have to stop and fight fires. If you take a moment to regroup and reassess your priorities after the urgent task is completed, you’ll be in much better shape to continue your project work.

Changing focus can sometimes seem like a waste of time or a failed effort as well. We recently discussed that, at times, we have projects that just get dropped altogether. When that happens, it can be pretty devastating when you’ve put notable effort into something and then it comes to nothing. At the very least, it’s annoying. Projects get laid by the wayside for many reasons - management changing priorities, personal priorities changing, environmental changes -  sometimes a project is just deemed infeasible or unviable after extensive research. There’s always something to be taken from a dropped project though. I always learn new skills, or sharpen old ones and that’s the main personal reason for most any project anyway. In addition to changing focus externally, focusing on lessons and skills learned is just as valuable as anything.

Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers