An Alum’s take on Getting to the One

I got an email last week from an alum who regularly hires UCF College of Business students.  He was sorting through resumes and was a little frustrated when he wrote me the following. You might want to take heed…

….. GETTING TO THE ONE. I think about this concept a lot these days as I look at 100 resumes to get to 8 phone interviews to get to 3 face-to-face interviews to get to 1 person offered the job. Honestly, a new graduate can get to the “Top 20” by just getting the basics right and by flying under the red flag radar, but when it comes to the Final 8, it comes down to razor thin margins, and especially the Final 3.

I think in many cases it comes down to getting laser focused on the customer (in this case, your customer is your potential future boss!) Researching in-depth about the company, showing the right amount of enthusiasm/energy & finding the right balance of confidence so you don’t sound arrogant. BY THE WAY, if you’re just spraying your resume everywhere, it’s real hard to go “all in.” When someone shows up with a cookie cutter, it shows. No one likes to be a cookie, especially not the “customer.”

Yeah, I know it’s tough. Too enthusiastic and you seem desperate, and too much confidence and you sound brash. BALANCE being the operative word.

I really do feel for the kids who have to go through this gauntlet, which is why networking as a student is SO critical. My lord, one phone call from someone, and they vault to my Top 8. I think about how many students I’ve placed in jobs just by them making the right impression on me, so that I can put my name behind them. It’s the understanding that there is an opportunity everywhere they go at all times, so they better be PRESENT, interested & representing their personal brand even when it’s a less formal situation.

OK, I gotta get back to phone interviews but I thought a slightly impassioned e-mail at this moment might resonate since I’m thinking about how I can help convey this to the future graduates at UCF Business. The End.


It’s About Us

Last week was about searching for a leader. UCF was looking for its next president, and on a much lesser scale, we were looking for an academic leader for our Marketing Department. There are a lot of ways in which these searches differed, but one way they were the same: it wasn’t really about the people we interviewed. Rather it was about us.

When organizations search for talent at this level, all of the candidates are “qualified” in the sense that they have many accomplishments on their resumes, they have led people and they are insightful. So the key differentiator isn’t so much them as it is us. These type of searches are really about clarifying what we think we need, the values we want to project and the path we think lies ahead. We then choose among these highly talented people whom we think fits our needs best.

There is an important lesson here for aspiring leaders. Most young leaders think leading is about them — their skills, their experiences, their values and views. But these are just things you need to carefully craft in your professional career to get you to the point where you might be ready to lead. But who you lead, how you lead them and where you take them, depends on them, not you. If you are fortunate enough to be selected, it was because they judged you a good match for them. After you get the job, it would be wise to remember why they chose you and that, in many ways, they choose whether or not you continue to be their leader every day.

Don’t let the Immediate crowd out the Important

Eighty-two percent of students in our first professional development class say they want a professional job in-hand as they graduate with their undergraduate degree. This should surprise no one. Business school students are practical. They come to us because they believe a business school education will enhance their employability.

This is why we ask business people and community leaders to come visit us (see my post from two weeks ago). First we ask them to tell their personal stories and that of their companies in The Exchange. They do so in large numbers every week so that students can understand what skills and experiences they are looking for in new employees, how their companies compete and how varied career paths can be. We follow this up with chances to attend our Careerfest, where students can learn more about potential careers and get matched with a mentor who can help guide them. We do Careerfest every spring and fall. In fact, we have the spring 2018 edition tomorrow. And we close the loop by inviting them to interview and hire our students. We did this last Friday when more than 45 employers with internships and jobs were invited to meet 700 of our best prepared students at The Invitational at the Venue. For employers with especially large or unique needs, we even do entire days where we feature them in the College.

Yet despite all these opportunities to connect with companies and find your career before you leave us, the data tells me that only about half of our students will achieve this important goal. Why? There are many reasons. For one, too many students have unrealistic expectations about how easy it is to get a great job. But, I think another key factor for a lot of students is that they let the immediate crowd out the important… They are too preoccupied with their current classes, clubs, social experiences and work obligations. Too busy now to invest in their future. So they put it off. Before they know it, they are graduating without having done anything toward their goal. Be smart, not busy. Understand that you will never be in a better position to meet more employers and alumni who are willing to help you find your way and leave UCF with a great career in hand than right now. Make that a priority. You can be busy later.

Action, not Knowledge

The great aim of education isn’t knowledge, it’s action– Herbert Spencer.

We believe this in the College of Business. Two cases in point: Tuesday is our Hall of Fame Induction Celebration. About eight hundred of our alumni, faculty, staff, ambassadors and partners convene at Rosen Shingle Creek to honor three alums (i.e., Shelia Jordon, Terry McNew, and Dawn Olivardia) as well as Dr. Hitt. We honor them not for what they know, but for what they have done in their careers. It’s not a knowledgeable award, or a good grades award, it’s a doer award. And it’s incredibly difficult to get: of our more than 60,000 alums, less than 100 are in our Hall of Fame.

Second: This same thinking goes into our professional development courses. These aren’t read about it courses. These are doing courses. You need to do things that will help your professional development– maybe that’s job shadowing, maybe it’s learning what people do in the EXCHANGE, maybe it’s networking, or mentoring or joining professional associations or going to the internship invitational or sharpening your negotiation skills or competing in the failure competition. You just need to convince Lonny it fits.

Don’t misunderstand, we aren’t telling you that knowledge isn’t important. We are telling you that knowledge is a necessary but insufficient condition for success. Reading about swimming isn’t going to make you a good swimmer. You need to get in the pool and swim– to get really good at swimming you need to do it consistently even on days you’d rather be doing something else. Same thing with your career. You can’t just be engaging in your professional development one semester or on Tuesday, or decide to just read a book about it. This won’t get you very far, let alone into the Hall of Fame. You need to practice, refine and expand your skills everyday. And you need to start now because it’s a cumulative thing.

No one can tell you the precise path to your career success, but they can walk you through a process that will help you actively manage your career and keep you focused on doing the things that will help get you where you want to go. We think this is so important that we give you college credits for doing this and require that you do it consistently over four semesters so it becomes part of your professional DNA. It’s how you get to the one. Whether you seize the opportunity to do it or not is up to you, but I will tell you that the choice you make here is way more revealing to employers about who you are and your potential than those grades you get on multiple choice tests….

Visit From a Secret Shopper

A few weeks ago, we were visited by a group of deans who were here to see if we really are providing a quality education to our students. The results aren’t official yet, but the team was impressed by our culture of engagement and the many opportunities we provide our students to connect with each other, the faculty, and the community at large. That said, the team’s visit wasn’t very secret and they are all pretty far removed from making a choice about where to go to school.

I try to get insights into how our students see us by hosting lunches with a handful of them each semester. Having lunch with the Dean can be intimidating and most students want to leave me with a good impression, so the conversations tends to be both polite and positive. Every now and then, I gain an insight into a common student struggle or perception, but it’s fairly rare. Besides, they all chose UCF, so we must have done something right….

This week, I have a unique opportunity to see how high school students perceive UCF as my stepdaughter and her friend visit campus. My stepdaughter got accepted a couple of months ago and is choosing between three schools. She’s not likely to be a business student, so in that sense the college is off the hook. Yet, I’m eager to hear about how she perceives the campus–what went right on her visit and what went wrong. Unlike those polite students I meet at lunch, she’ll tell me exactly what she thinks and since she doesn’t share my last name, she will get the typical visit. It will be just one person’s opinion and the diversity in our students’ preparations, expectations, and aspirations undoubtably mean that many students will disagree with her view, but it’s sure to be a learning experience for both of us.

If you have a suggestion on what she should do during her visit to get the best sense of whether UCF is the right place for her to pursue the next chapter in her life, I’d appreciate it if you’d provide it in the comment section below. I’ll pass it on to her. Let’s see if we can make her a UCF Knight.

Flat Dean is Missing

He was last seen at Welcome to the Majors. Some believe he joined a fraternity. Others believe he got a better offer from another school. I suspected Snaith was responsible– he fancies himself the pretty face of the college and doesn’t like the competition–until I found this disturbing photo:

It’s always that seemingly kind, friendly neighbor that you never expect…….

At any rate, he’s missing and no one is claiming responsibility. This is what happens when Tina is not around to keep people in line. It’s a gentle reminder that she alone stands between us and total chaos.

Whoever has Flat Dean, we would appreciate his safe return. No cash reward. Just immunity for the perpetrators.

We’re Not Optional

If you are new to the College you are probably a bit surprised to find out that we demand things of you. We expect you to show up, get outside your comfort zone, engage with people different from you, keep pace and contribute to what we are trying to achieve. When you fail to do this, we will get after you. If you fail to do this repeatedly, we will ask you to find another college to call home.

Why the hard line you ask? Isn’t what you do in college supposed to be your choice? Isn’t this the place where you can personalize your experience and discover who you are? Yes and no. Getting to the one—developing a unique set of experiences and talents that will make you of value in the world and get you the career and life you seek requires some personal choice. This is why we have electives and a vast number of co-curricular activities from which you can choose. But a successful college experience also requires that you be engaged in what you are doing– willing to take risks, willing to participate in your classes, willing to be outside your comfort zone and willing to share your experiences and views with people different from yourself. It also requires that you master a common body of knowledge and learn to use that knowledge to take action. Frankly you will not succeed here or in life if you aren’t willing to develop these qualities and skill sets. Worse yet, your unwillingness to sign on to this journey diminishes the college for the rest of us.

That’s because learning is social. Education is a collective good. What we demand of ourselves matters. The failure of one of us to show up, bring our A game, and engage reduces the experience for all of us. That just won’t do here. So, if you find that we ask too much of you. That we don’t inspire you to learn or that you would rather be doing different things. That’s okay. You have choices and we’re sure you’ll find another college or university that better meets your needs. But we will not yield to you. The rest of us are committed to building something great together. Sorry, but we believe we’re not optional.

Your Class Might be in the Alumni Center

If your class meets face-to-face for the first time today, you are likely in one of our REAL Courses—the format that is replacing lecture capture.  If so, your class is probably meeting in the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.  We’ve had to rent out FAIRWINDS while we prepare to renovate space in BA-1 to accommodate the new format.  By fall, all of our REAL courses will meet in BA-1.  By spring 2019, Lecture Capture will be a thing of the past.

As you enter these group sessions, keep in mind that the new format changes the role of the faculty member in the learning process.  Rather than lecturers, faculty are content curators, facilitators and de-briefers interested in developing student competencies through real world application. This means it’s important that you come prepared for these sessions.  You are no long passive consumers of lecture content.  Instead, you are an active participant in learning.  If you are unprepared, it’s going to be obvious to everyone.

Feedback from last semester suggests that the vast majority of students very much enjoyed the group sessions and felt they facilitated learning.  Many students also appreciated the adaptive learning technology, which allows students to work at their own pace and re-examine material when needed.  Keep in mind though that this new technology doesn’t allow you to postpone everything to the last minute—staying on schedule and completing each section is a key to success in these courses. Also, remember just because you aren’t meeting with the instructor in class every week, you still have the ability to meet with faculty and T.A.s during office hours and interact with your fellow students who are taking the course.  So get help when you need it.


A Request from our Technology Team

The tech staff tells me that Lonny Butcher keeps breaking the “N” key on his computer.  If you are a GEB student in one of the professional development courses, help him out by doing the assignments you say you will do.  That way, Lonny won’t have to respond with that key when he is reading excuses about why you didn’t do what you were supposed to do and that you require special dispensation.  Unfortunately, none of us are that special.  Your career plan is not as solid as you think and while you may think what he is telling you is common sense, the data shows that it’s not common for people to do what they “know” is sensible. The purpose of education isn’t knowledge, its action. Learning to be a professional means doing what needs to be done, every day, whether you want to do it or not.  That’s how you make a good impression here, get noticed,  earn an internship and eventually land the career you seek.

So, do our tech team a favor.  Do what you say you’re going to do on that career plan. Put what you think you know to use.  Do something with it that will get you to where you want to go and save Lonny’s “N” key from overuse.