This week an Accounting student I’ll call N came to see me. He’s not doing well in Intermediate 1 and faced with a difficult choice that many of our Accounting majors have to make. I always thought, I’d major in Accounting; what am I going to do now that I have to change my major? It’s not uncommon. The Accounting degree has a pretty narrow focus. It prepares you for a career in public accounting. But, lots of students choose it for other reasons. Accounting is familiar (Ms. SoAndSo is an Accountant). Accounting is safe (You’ll be able to find a job). Accounting is steady (Hell, Bob Cratchet was an Accountant!)
I tell the story about N not because he’s having to get out of Accounting. That’s a failure story. I like N because he’s a success. Back when he was in GEB 3003 his girlfriend made him attend CareerFest. He wasn’t interested in going but by making it an assignment, I was making him go. So he put on his suit and went. And he talked to one of the panelists. And that panelist happened to be a CFO. And he was so impressed with N that he offered him an internship. And N took it and kicked ass. Kicked ass in an unpaid internship. And the CFO recommended him for an Accounting job on campus. That’s how he ended up in the cubicle next to my wife. That’s how he came to learn the value in networking. Small world…
Anyway, he’s facing a career pivot so he was asking me if I knew any Actuaries. See, N’s good in math. He likes it. So he figured if Accounting wasn’t the vocation for him, maybe actuarial science was. So we sat here and I did my thing where I scratch my head thinking, who do I know that N could talk to?? And then I came up with someone. I reached out to Jennifer at GreatInsuranceJobs.com. She and her team are friends of ours so I thought she might have a contact. Come to find out, her husband Jack (who I know as well) is an Actuary! Boom, connection made. N is going to do an informational interview with Jack. One door closes, another opens.
So why is this story relevant? Well, this is networking. It’s how most people find jobs. And it’s how we can help students find jobs. For years the answer in traditional higher ed was to deny that we had any role in student employment. We just teach them stuff. Employment is on their own dime. Then we set up some “use it if you want” services. Not much changed. Then came for-profit ed and they took it to the other extreme. I will pick you up and “place” you in a job. Not really, but the process is fairly active so “placement” became a dirty word back here among the traditionalists. It’s not really the right answer either.
A good compromise is to be the facilitator. Connect students to your network. Spend your time cultivating relationships with your students as well as the people who hire them so you can serve as a liaison. You want to work in sales? I know a person whose company hires lots of sales people. Why don’t you talk to her about what they look for. Want to work in HR? My friend is the past President of GOSHRM. Why don’t you talk to her about your career. Want to work in DC for a specific company or attend a specific law school? Well, I don’t know anyone there so let’s get on LinkedIn and see what we can find. BOOM! Found someone. Do that over and over, thousands of times per semester and suddenly students are making their OWN connections. You didn’t feed them. You taught them to fish.
So here’s a challenge to our Career Coaches. Who did you connect this week? Get a little yellow pad and keep it on your desk. Every time you connect a student to a professional, write their names down. It can be for an informational interview. It can be to forward their resume. You can categorize the connection if you want. I don’t care. I’m curious about names and frequency. On Friday mornings as you file into your staff meeting, tape your list on my door. What’s the right number of connections? Dunno. Right now we are tracking none so I’d say SOME would be an improvement. Then we’ll move to MORE. Then we’ll get fancy and do some kind of analysis.
So why am I suggesting this?
- To be able to refer students, you need to know them. Lots of them. So the Coaches will need to get out of their offices and go meet students where they are in places like The Exchange and other college events. Not because someone said so. But because they need to get up and go meet them.
- To be able to refer students to professionals, they need to know professionals. More than just the people they used to work for or the employers that already call us. They’ll need to go out to job fairs and networking meetings and troll LinkedIn and do the things they should to expand their network.
- It’s the right thing to do. Telling someone they can’t be in a major anymore is a hard conversation. Dean Jarley said so. Telling someone they can’t be in that major, but here are some ideas of people I can refer you to explore some new options is a way better way to end that conversation. It’s actually helpful.
- I’m not really sure who the hell is still reading this blog anymore. Am not sure the coaches read it. Am not sure my administrators read it. I think some of my students read it. I know my Dad reads it (and that I’ll get another note for this stunt). I saw that last week that a few people around the world read it. So this is a test…
I’ve been called a “provocateur.” That’s a $10 polite word for “ass.” But an ass with a higher purpose. The Dean calls me the point of his stick. I’m trying to incite action. You know, verbs. So Coaches, what do you think of this idea? Comment here and let me know. Administrators, what do you think of this idea? Comment here and let me know. Students, what do you think of this idea? Comment here and let me know. General public, people all over the world, what do you think of this idea? Comment here and let me know.
Because even if the room remains silent, that will speak volumes!