I work in UCFs College of Business. My job is to facilitate a series of classes that don’t just prepare our undergrads for a job search, but prod them into action so they actually HAVE A JOB when they graduate.
The hardest part of my job is the result of the size of our college. With almost 8500 undergrads in our college and me teaching a series of classes that are required for all of them, my enrollments can get pretty big. This semester I have a total of 4200 students with over 1200 of them in the introductory first class. Stats tell us that three-quarters of the students in that class are in their first semester at UCF, coming here as transfers and mostly from our partner state colleges. A place where they enjoyed small classes and individual attention.
Not much individual attention when you have 1199 classmates. And it’s the same in their other classes. Marketing. Management. Finance. All of our survey classes are huge. That’s what happens when you’re one of the largest universities in the nation. So what do you do when you don’t want that size to overshadow the experience?
A few years ago we decided to make Welcome to the Majors, a program developed to welcome students to our college, the first (or first-ish) class meeting in my introductory career class. We wouldn’t let them be anonymous. We’d MAKE them come to class. Students don’t get participation points for coming to class; the students who miss Welcome to the Majors get a point deduction. Attendance at Welcome to the Majors went from a few hundred to well over a thousand; 1351 this semester to be exact. It is the largest face-to-face class at UCF. Probably ever, wherever, because no one would do this kind of crazy stuff. But we do!!
In a crowd that big, it’s easy to tuck down. To hide. To be anonymous. That sucks.
Anonymous means you’re a commodity. Like bottled water. How do people pick a bottled water? Mostly by low price. I don’t want my students to be the low price leader. They’re better than that. They just need help showing it.
So I tell them that my classes are their opportunity to differentiate themselves. To be unique. To do this, they will have to develop a career objective, implement an action plan, learn to tell a compelling story, and actually do what they say they will do.
Now back to the big class size… Yea, that’s the tough part. I can’t talk to all of them. This isn’t a class where we can all sit down together. The really good ones get attention because, well, they always have and they know to ask for it. The really bad ones get a lot of attention, too. Not always because they want it. Think about it, when you add up all the students in the series, my top 10% and bottom 10% of students number well over 800. So the other 80% have to act. Mostly on their own.
Their book, “This is Who We Hire,” is a guide for getting and growing in a job that they secure through networking. Tapping the “hidden job market.”
They meet with Career Coaches, attend events and activities, and in general, scurry around madly like they never have before in their lives.
And that brings us to the costume. An attention getter that on the surface doesn’t serve a purpose other than making me look outrageously different.
This semester Clay Newbill told my students that his success in Hollywood could be summed up in one key word; AMBITION. He even asked everyone in the crowd who felt they had ambition to raise their hand. Almost every hand immediately shot up. Cool, I told my students that’s awesome advice! Just remember, ambition without action is just dreaming. I then reminded them that a few minutes earlier I’d asked how many of them had read the class announcement I sent out with instructions for Welcome to the Majors. Fewer than half of the hands had gone up for that. Half of you are just dreaming… So ACT!!!!
But be thoughtful in your acting. Have a plan. When you work to a goal you have a purpose in your action. You differentiate yourself from the other students in your class. You build a unique and strong value proposition that will help your job search.
But if you just thrash around and not really think about what you’re doing and why you do it, you don’t differentiate yourself. When you just eat up points like academic junk food, you don’t differentiate yourself. When you just dress like a bloke with a mowhawk, ripped and bedazzled coat, and creepy eyeliner without trying to make a point, you don’t differentiate yourself. You’re just different…