Hey Career Coaches….

Back in the day, it was common for people to include photos either on or with their resumes.  Some companies required it.  Then came concerns about discrimination: The photos disclose race, gender and to a large extent age.  Add in research which suggests that there is a bias toward attractive people in job selection, and the practice of including a photo with a job application came to a halt.   Yet today, everyone puts their mug on LinkedIn (not to mention Facebook) and see the site as a critical part of their job search and career management strategy.  Should our students photo or not? 

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A failure story from alum Spencer Dewald

Hi Dean Jarley,

Hope this email finds you well. I have seen some of your recent posts highlighting failures as a growth tool and thought you may find value in sharing my story with graduating job-hunters.

As this year’s seniors graduate, they will come to know a couple of their friends that are drowning in job offers. I was not one of those people. By all means I had the resources to do it; I was a member of UCF’s Professional Selling Program (PSP) which is highly recruited by some very successful companies. Unfortunately, I lacked the proper interviewing skills that were needed to close the deal. So I interviewed and failed, failed, and failed again. Some of the companies that I had interviews for (but no job offers) included:

Aerotek, blown out in first interview
Gartner, final round (5 of my peers got this job, pretty sure I was the only one that interviewed that didn’t get it).
Pepsi, final round
Cintas, 2nd round
Tom James 3rd round
Google SMB adword sales, final round.

It’s hard to put into words how bad it hurt to not get that first Google offer. I had my mind set on Google ever since I joined PSP (they are one of our top sponsors) and always thought I would be a good culture fit for them. Problem was I had a track record of getting far in the interview process but never actually received an offer. I had one more shot to interview at Google for another position (which happened to be my dream job) but had little to lean on in terms of results. The day I graduated from UCF I had zero job offers while many of my friends were beginning their new chapters in less than a month. It was sobering to say the least.

It was right around graduation that everything started clicking for me. I began to understand the true meaning behind interviewer questions and how to side-step questions I wasn’t ready to answer (i.e. is our company your top choice?). I only learned these skills and tactics through 20+ failed interviews I had had throughout senior year.

To make a long story short, I eventually got my Google job offer (and a couple others) after graduation. Today I sell Google cloud solutions to the largest companies and government entities in the United States, an unparalleled opportunity for a new grad out of a state school in Florida. My closing advice would be to find a mentor, have a plan of what you want, and interview until you are blue in the face (preferably with your dream position as one of your last interviews). While I didn’t know it at the time, every failure I had was actually a step closer to making my greatest professional dream a reality.

Best of luck to all the job hunters, may YOU make the odds forever in your favor :).

This is Something We Can Fix

I spent last Tuesday downtown at our Executive Development Center with about 50 central Florida recruiters. Collectively they work for a wide variety of companies and industries. Some worked for large firms, others small. Some were UCF COBA grads, but most were not. A few had never recruited at UCF, but had coworkers who graduated from our institution.

I had three goals, pretty typical stuff really. One was to get a sense of what recruiters thought of our students—their strengths and weaknesses. Another was to understand how recruiters assess the professionalism of the job candidate during interviews. A final goal was to encourage more recruiters to take a look at our students.

Most of the conversation went as one would expect: UCF students tended to have good technical knowledge but scored lower on emotional intelligence. Every report I have ever seen from recruiters on college graduates says this: They have the knowledge, but can’t communicate, play well in the sandbox with others, or recognize and conform to culture expectations of the company they want to join.

The surprises came around recruiter perceptions of our students’ experiences both inside and outside the classroom. Many of the recruiters believed our students have never worked (our data shows otherwise) and that they lacked an opportunity to apply what they learned in class to real world situations. The UCF graduates were quick to correct them, pointing to classes like cornerstone and capstone that required students to apply their skills to real world problems.

After much discussion, the diagnosis came down to this: Too many of our students cannot connect the skills they are learning and the experiences they have had while at UCF to the requirements of a specific job in an interview setting. In short, they are bad story-tellers—unable to craft a compelling narrative of their value to a potential employer with a specific need. One recruiter put it this way: “If you can’t make the connections between school and work I’m not going to hire you. It doesn’t matter whether I know you have had these experiences; you have to be able to effectively communicate these to me.”

This is something we can fix. Perhaps it is a module on story-telling. Maybe it involves the development of student portfolios. It certainly requires more practice at interviewing. But until we do fix this, we are not going to get the credit we deserve for the novel practical experiences we provide our students.

Aimlessly Seeking A Career

I shook more than one thousand hands on Friday as our business students got their degrees and moved on to the next stage in their lives. Sometimes I wonder where they all come from.

This year thanks to Lonny, I have a much better idea of where our undergraduate degree holders are going. Lonny took me up on my offer to buy lunch for cross- departmental groups wanting to discuss a college-wide issue. Actually in this case it was breakfast and the “lunch time roulette” group developed and implemented a survey of graduating seniors in our capstone course. Fittingly, I got the results on Friday afternoon about four hours after graduation.

More than 550 students replied to the survey. Forty-five percent of the students were looking for full-time work. And as Lonny puts it, among these job seekers only half report that they know what they want to do and less than 40% know where they want to work. At best, 40% have been to Career Services and most of that was just to meet with a counselor and have their resume reviewed. Less than a quarter have taken advantage of services such as workshops, company info sessions, mock interviews, etc. However, the same group is very confident of their skills to find that unknown job, scoring in the affirmative by 80% to questions about their interviewing and networking skills. In short, they don’t know what they want to do or where they want to work and have done little to hone their job search skills, but they are sure they will find something that suits them.

I don’t share their optimism. It is hard to look for work when you don’t know what you want to do. Will a skilled aimless search produce a better result than an unskilled aimless search? My guess is that both end with the first job offer. Only luck will produce a good match. A bad match hurts the alum, the employer and us. So how do we help students improve their career decision skills so that they do a more honest assessment of their job search capabilities and get a better start on landing the right job? Lonny and the group, looks like I’m buying lunch again..

Repost Wednesday: Don’t be Replaced by Google

This is the time of the year when professors get asked to write letters of reference for students who are searching for a job or applying to graduate school. I have written many such letters over the years, but really I just have two basic templates that I modify depending on the student and how well I know them.

The first letter says something like: “This student was in my class. He or she got a decent grade. This was a pretty hard class so getting a decent grade required some work as well as an ability to grasp concepts and apply them with some precision to solve business problems. I really don’t know the student very well, but he or she seems like a decent, pleasant person who showed up prepared for class and participated in discussion. I see no reason why you shouldn’t hire them or admit them into your graduate program.” I would estimate that eighty percent of the letters I write look something like this. It isn’t that I don’t want to do more to help the student out, it is that I simply don’t have more information to share with the reader that they can’t already find on the student’s resume.

The second letter says something like: “I have gotten to know this student very well over the last couple of years. He or she was in my class a couple of years ago and regularly attended my office hours. He or she got a decent grade in my class, but I was most impressed with the student’s maturity, drive and leadership potential. We have stayed in touch and I know that he or she has a strong interest in pursuing a career in a highly competitive environment. This is an engaging, high-energy person who has what it takes to perform at this level so I recommended that they consider pursuing an opportunity with your organization. This is someone who is going places and you want him or her on your team. If you want to know more about this student, give me a call.” My letter backs up my claims with specific examples of how the person demonstrated these qualities to me inside the classroom, at office hours, and through extra and co-curricular activities. The letter complements the student’s resume by bring their accomplishments to life for the reader, making the candidate claim’s much more credible and giving them greater impact.

If your best reference letter looks like the first type I write, it is of little help to you. If all of your reference letters look like this or come from a family member, the best the person reading them is going to conclude is that you are pretty ordinary. If you are seen as ordinary you are going to get an ordinary job in an ordinary company. Ordinary jobs in ordinary companies are being replaced by Google and similar computer algorithms that break these jobs down into their simple steps and process those steps faster than you can at a fraction of the cost. Don’t Be Replaced by Google. Work now to get the reference letters you will need to standout from the crowd.

A shout out to Dr. Brad Wimmer for the “Don’t be Replaced by Google” line.

Re-Post Wednesday: Don’t Be Replaced by Google

Before you know it, you will want to ask a faculty member for a letter of reference because you are either searching for a job or applying to graduate school. I have written many such letters over the years, but really I just have two basic templates that I modify depending on the student and how well I know them.

The first letter says something like: “This student was in my class. He or she got a decent grade. This was a pretty hard class so getting a decent grade required some work as well as an ability to grasp concepts and apply them with some precision to solve business problems. I really don’t know the student very well, but he or she seems like a decent, pleasant person who showed up prepared for class and participated in discussion. I see no reason why you shouldn’t hire them or admit them into your graduate program.” I would estimate that eighty percent of the letters I write look something like this. It isn’t that I don’t want to do more to help the student out, it is that I simply don’t have more information to share with the reader that they can’t already find on the student’s resume.

The second letter says something like: “I have gotten to know this student very well over the last couple of years. He or she was in my class a couple of years ago and regularly attended my office hours. He or she got a decent grade in my class, but I was most impressed with the student’s maturity, drive and leadership potential. We have stayed in touch and I know that he or she has a strong interest in pursuing a career in a highly competitive environment. This is an engaging, high-energy person who has what it takes to perform at this level so I recommended that they consider pursuing an opportunity with your organization. This is someone who is going places and you want him or her on your team. If you want to know more about this student, give me a call.” My letter backs up my claims with specific examples of how the person demonstrated these qualities to me inside the classroom, at office hours, and through extra and co-curricular activities. The letter complements the student’s resume by bring their accomplishments to life for the reader, making the candidate claim’s much more credible and giving them greater impact.

If your best reference letter looks like the first type I write, it is of little help to you. If all of your reference letters look like this or come from a family member, the best the person reading them is going to conclude is that you are pretty ordinary. If you are seen as ordinary you are going to get an ordinary job in an ordinary company. Ordinary jobs in ordinary companies are being replaced by Google and similar computer algorithms that break these jobs down into their simple steps and process those steps  faster than you can at a fraction of the cost. Don’t Be Replaced by Google. Work now to get the reference letters you will need to standout from the crowd.

A shout out to Dr. Brad Wimmer for the “Don’t be Replaced by Google” line.

Beating the Unknown Applicant

I have served on many search committees and have made a lot of hiring decisions over the years.   I have hired some great people and some that didn’t work out.  I have even been involved in searches where we didn’t hire anyone.  This last outcome may seem odd, but it happens more often than you think.  It is especially common in academia, but I also regularly hear from business people that they just can’t find the right people to fill their job openings.

One of the ironies about being an applicant is that sometimes your greatest competitor for a job isn’t the other people in the pool with you. It is the unknown applicant.  That person hasn’t applied, but the decision-makers believe his or her application is just around the corner.  What makes the unknown applicant so formidable is that he or she has all of the qualities the decision-makers want, even when the decision-makers themselves don’t really agree on those qualities. In short, they are perfect for the job. 

You on the other hand, have issues.  This is because as my father once told me (his greatest insight really) everybody’s got issues: You are too experienced or too ambitious, or too quiet, or too risky, or too dynamic, or too straight-forward, or too much like the last guy (who they grew tired of) and made some decisions some people somewhere didn’t like –yep, it is a potentially long list.

So, how do you beat the unknown applicant?

Realize that competition with the unknown applicant isn’t about you: it is about the people hiring you.  The unknown applicant enters the compettion when the hiring committee can’t agree on the most important tasks (three, not forty) that need to be done and the qualities necessary to perform them.  So if during an interview people are telling you very different things about what the job entails or offer only vague responses to your questions about the most salient challenges and expectations, take this as an opportunity to tell them what you think needs to be done based on your prior experiences and why you are the right person to accomplish those tasks.  This may seem presumptious, but if you can lay out your vision for the job in clear and confident manner you can ground the hiring committee in reality and beat the unknown applicant. That candidate, by the way, doesn’t get to address the selection committee in this manner.—it is a huge advantage to you.

If you take this strategy and don’t get the job don’t fret, chances are they didn’t hire the other candidate either.  And you should be happy because until they can agree on what they need, that unknown applicant isn’t going to win the position either -it can’t be won.

Don’t Be Replaced by Google

This is the time of the year when professors get asked to write letters of reference for students who are searching for a job or applying to graduate school. I have written many such letters over the years, but really I just have two basic templates that I modify depending on the student and how well I know them.

The first letter says something like: “This student was in my class. He or she got a decent grade. This was a pretty hard class so getting a decent grade required some work as well as an ability to grasp concepts and apply them with some precision to solve business problems. I really don’t know the student very well, but he or she seems like a decent, pleasant person who showed up prepared for class and participated in discussion. I see no reason why you shouldn’t hire them or admit them into your graduate program.” I would estimate that eighty percent of the letters I write look something like this. It isn’t that I don’t want to do more to help the student out, it is that I simply don’t have more information to share with the reader that they can’t already find on the student’s resume.

The second letter says something like: “I have gotten to know this student very well over the last couple of years. He or she was in my class a couple of years ago and regularly attended my office hours. He or she got a decent grade in my class, but I was most impressed with the student’s maturity, drive and leadership potential. We have stayed in touch and I know that he or she has a strong interest in pursuing a career in a highly competitive environment. This is an engaging, high-energy person who has what it takes to perform at this level so I recommended that they consider pursuing an opportunity with your organization. This is someone who is going places and you want him or her on your team. If you want to know more about this student, give me a call.” My letter backs up my claims with specific examples of how the person demonstrated these qualities to me inside the classroom, at office hours, and through extra and co-curricular activities. The letter complements the student’s resume by bring their accomplishments to life for the reader, making the candidate claim’s much more credible and giving them greater impact.

If your best reference letter looks like the first type I write, it is of little help to you. If all of your reference letters look like this or come from a family member, the best the person reading them is going to conclude is that you are pretty ordinary. If you are seen as ordinary you are going to get an ordinary job in an ordinary company. Ordinary jobs in ordinary companies are being replaced by Google and similar computer algorithms that break these jobs down into their simple steps and process those steps  faster than you can at a fraction of the cost. Don’t Be Replaced by Google. Work now to get the reference letters you will need to standout from the crowd.

A shout out to Dr. Brad Wimmer for the “Don’t be Replaced by Google” line.