“But would you have come here if you didn’t have to?”

Last week the CBA Alumni chapter hosted “CareerFest.” Over 40 alumni served on nine panels here to talk to over 300 students about career issues. There were breakouts for every major and then some specialty ones. Students in GEB 3003 were encouraged to attend and by the look of the crowd many took me up on that offer. At registration the line stretched from one end of the Atrium to the other! It was awesome. Business students in the Business building….on a Friday…..AND IN SUITS!!! Oh man!

After two rounds of panels students and alumni shared lunch and an opportunity to network. Because it wasn’t just pizza or some toss-away meal, students and alumni sought places to sit and chat. That was key! You give people something that they can just grab and split and that’s what they’ll do. Bolt from the building, pulling off their tie with one hand, shoving a piece of Papa John’s in their craw with the other, phone cradled between their shoulder and ear. Finally am done, am on my way, bro.

Instead, Amanda Brown, one of our CBA Ambassadors, told me she was able to move from table to table and ask students about the morning. Did you enjoy it? Did you meet anyone? Why are you here? Lots of students said they were there because it satisfied a class requirement. Would you have come otherwise? Probably not. Are you glad you came? Yea, it was cool.

BOOM!! Step one of our evil plan is to get you to consider coming to events like this. That’s where we deploy the carrot. Go to CareerFest and it will satisfy your event and workshop requirement for a class. Step two is to get you to actually show up; you know, actually honor your commitments. So that’s where we use the stick. If you register and DON’T attend, you will be subject to the “No Show” penalty.

Let’s see, where else would this behavior be important? You know, showing up for appointments and being responsible. Um, that’s right, everywhere. Unfortunately, that behavior seems to be atypical. The typical behavior, unfortunately, is that around 200 people sign up (we could get 200 people to sign up to just stand in line in the courtyard…) and then about a quarter of that actually shows up. Last year there were more Ambassadors in some of the career panel rooms than participants. Until getting lots of you to sign up AND show up becomes typical, we will continue the carrot and stick approach.

Why? Because at these events, even though the alumni feel that the run-on sentences they are uttering in the classroom are the most important things you have ever heard, the volunteers think the 3 minute group interviews you mostly watched are the most important thing you ever experienced, and the faculty moderators feel their nodding summary of what was just said is the most important things you ever saw…the most important thing that happened at these events is that students got a chance to talk to someone who is there for the sole purpose of helping them out. The magic happens when someone’s world is rocked by what they heard from another person who just wants to help them.

That is how you become one of the informed. You participate in lots of opportunities to meet and talk to people who have interesting things to say. They talk, you listen. That turns into they talk, you respond, and then they talk some more. Eventually, it becomes they talk, you listen, you talk and THEY listen! No one wants to listen to the uninformed, EVERYONE listens to the informed.

But to get you to a point of being informed, we have to get you to the point of being engaged. The great thing about Amanda’s question is that it “engaged the unengaged.” It got them to reflect on the value of getting engaged and see that the information, activity, sights, and networking that is offered at these events is valuable. Valuable enough to do it again at their own behest. Hopefully, the next time something like this happens, they won’t need the point of a stick (or threat of a grading penalty) to push them to attend.