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Posts from the ‘Topics in Career Services and Recruiting’ Category

Extreme Career Fair Planning: Tips for Schools and Employers When Your City Resembles a Snow Globe on the Big Day

By Tiffany J. Franklin, Associate Director, University of Pennsylvania Career Services

After 19 years of coordinating roughly two career fairs per year, I’ve experienced a variety of weather conditions from those crisp fall days that define the season, to sweltering heat, and unrelenting rain storms. As any event planner knows, you must expect the unexpected and adapt accordingly. Rain – no problem! Provide umbrella bags, extra mats, and ensure no one slips. Heat – bring in extra water and fans. Bitter cold – order more coffee and plenty of coat racks. But snow, that’s another story. For me it inspires awe and dread.

My History with Snow

To understand my complicated relationship with snow I must share that I grew up in Atlanta, a place where we were more likely to contend with ice and I can only remember about 5 snowfalls during my whole childhood. In each case, I had about a week off from school due to weather. I still associate that first snowy morning with waiting in line at Kroger at 6am, feeling lucky to have scored a loaf of bread, eggs and milk, as if some French toast making contest had suddenly overtaken suburban Atlanta. To this day, my mom in Florida still calls to ensure I have enough food when snow is forecast. Moving up to Philly during grad school changed my perception of snow. While I still think it’s beautiful, it’s not quite as magical when you must commute in it. And then, it really became interesting this past February.

The past couple of years I’ve worked in a team of three to manage the annual Penn Startup Fair held in February. Planning any event that time of year in the northeast is always a gamble, but my heart sank when I looked at my iPhone weather app 10 days before the event and saw a snowflake for February 9th in the extended forecast. I rationalized it away, thinking of how that forecast is constantly changing, but that was one persistent snowflake that kept taunting me and never budged. I’ve been to a few fairs with light snowfall that did not disrupt anything, but this time felt different. Two days before the event the weather forecasters assured us snow was on the way and it was scheduled for right at morning rush hour.

When things don’t go according to plan

That’s when the well-oiled machine that is our typical career fair planning took a few detours. Since the event was scheduled for 11am to 3pm, my colleagues and I worked on contingency plans to anticipate possible last-minute cancellations from employers traveling in for the day and what we would do with all the food if the university closed. The morning of the startup fair, the snow began falling rapidly at 6am and that’s when the world resembled a snow globe. News of canceled flights and trains poured in my inbox. Later that hour, we learned from the University Weather line that Penn would have a delayed opening of noon. That made things especially tricky because we were not able to access our event space until first thing that morning since there had been an event the night before and employers usually started arriving at 9am. We debated whether to cancel the event, but after numerous calls and emails with my team, our leadership, a few employers, and the caterers, the fair was still on, only slightly delayed. As long as we could safely hold the event, we didn’t want students and the employers who had already traveled here to miss out on connecting.

Thankfully, we had the number of the building manager and got in around 9:30am and quickly arranged everything. By noon, the sun came out and melted a great deal of the morning snow. Despite the chaos of cancelled flights, trains, and snowy conditions, the startup fair proceeded and we had about 75% attendance from both employers and students compared to prior years, which we were grateful for given the unique circumstances.

Tips for navigating your event when weather does not cooperate

As we approach another Philly winter, I’d like to share some tips I learned from this experience for other career services staff and employers attending.

Career Centers

  • Using a Career Fair App makes a big difference. For the past two years, we have used Career Fair+ and it made it easy to send out a push notification to students and employers the morning of the fair with the latest updates and throughout the day.
  • When it looks like bad weather is coming, send preemptive messages the day before. We sent students messages via Facebook, Twitter, the Career Fair+ app, and through our website and newsletters letting everyone know about the weather forecast and that the university would be open unless the university MELT line said otherwise. For employers, we sent individual emails to the person who registered for the fair and all potential attendees.
  • This past summer we launched Handshake, so that’s another great tool for quick notifications to students and employers.
  • The day of the fair we sent a newsletter emails and app push notifications letting students know the event would proceed.
  • When bad weather is forecast, call caterers a few days before the event to explore options. We were able to reduce our food order by 20% since it was 2 days before the fair and we had a system of backup vouchers from the building food court in case the snow never materialized and we ran short.
  • Ask the contact at your venue for all the numbers of their staff and about their weather contingency plan. Our main contact was not able to make it in, but having the building manager’s number really helped.
  • See about mats and extra salt or sand for entrances to ensure the safety of everyone with ice and snow.
  • Check with UPS and FedEx to confirm if shipments are still being picked up in the weather.
  • Have the cell phone numbers of your who career fair planning team, your leadership team, and any student volunteers. Have a sense of where people are coming from geographically and which ones might not be able to make it in to the university in the case of bad weather. Have backups lined up who live closer.
  • Email yourself important contact sheets so you can access them from home if the university is closed and you need to reach out to employers with instructions.
  • For employers who can’t make it due to snow, we collected resumes on their tables.

 Employers

  • Always provide your name, email, and phone to the organizers of a fair, even if you are a last-minute substitution. Oftentimes the person filling out the fair registration will write TBD when it comes to extra reps. In the example above, we had worked hard the week before the fair to get contact info from all projected attendees. At the time, we did this to check about head counts for catering and food allergies, but it became a crucial detail the morning of the storm to let all employers know about the delayed opening.
  • Check to see if a university has a weather line with the latest closing info.
  • See if the city having the event has snow emergency routes. Philadelphia does and some of the major streets that usually allow parking do not during snow emergencies so the ploughs can clear everything. Parking in wrong place could get you towed. See if there’s a weather text notification system for that city with info and maps.
  • Make sure you have the contact info of the fair organizers. It should be on the invitation, confirmation, and every email about the fair.
  • See if the event has an app associated with it – that’s a great real-time way to learn more and usually where the latest updates are listed.

 

Fortunately, it took almost 20 years for me to experience this snow craziness. While I don’t relish the thought of another snowfall during an event, I now have a better idea about where to begin. Even if you live in warmer climates that don’t see much snow, it’s always a good idea to have contingency plans in place that focus on communication and safety for everyone. Hope your events go well and you will never have to use those contingency plans.

Tiffany Franklin joined the University of Pennsylvania Career Services team in 2014 as Associate Director and provides career and internship guidance to engineering students and alumni. Prior to coming to Penn, Tiffany served as a recruiter on the technology team of an international staffing company and submitted candidates to top companies in Silicon Valley. From 2006 to 2013, Tiffany worked at Vanderbilt University in the Center for Student and Professional Development. In that role, she coached Arts, Media and Communications students, coordinated the Vandy-in-Hollywood summer internship program and traveled throughout the country meeting with engineering alumni. Tiffany launched her career in 1998 at Drexel University, where she advised students on all aspects of their co-op and job searches. She is dedicated to helping students explore career options, craft resumes/cover letters that effectively highlight their experience and tell their professional story in a way that resonates with recruiters.  Tiffany earned her M.S.Ed. in Psychological Services from Penn’s Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in Psychology from Vanderbilt University.

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Creating Mutually Beneficial Partners Between Colleges and Employers

By Ethan Selinger, Northeastern University, College of Computer and Information Science

In my brief time as a career services professional, I have worked in employer relations at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, and currently work as a Cooperative Education (Co-op) Advisor at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. A critical component of these positions is employer relations; creating meaningful partnerships between school and employer. After all, the employer/college partnership is the lifeblood of experiential opportunities for students. It is vital that colleges create meaningful partnerships with employers to create internship, co-op, and potential full and part-time time opportunities for students; likewise, connecting with colleges can provide access to a talent pool of newly trained and eager young professionals for employers to both hire for short term (internship/co-op) or full time employment. With work so important to the experiences of students and employers, I oftentimes wonder and reflect on how people and institutions (including myself of course) can continue to improve both the quality and quantity of employer relationships.

Through my short-time as a career services professional, I have found the following practices create the best chance of a successful partnership between colleges and employers, and do my best to implement these in my work.

Research the Company
It is vital that a company’s industry, mission, and opportunities reflect the needs of students, and that the institution’s programs of study match employer needs. Researching a company before reaching out (or if a representative reaches out) is essential in creating a mutually beneficial partnership.

Understand a relationship must be mutually beneficial to both the school and employer
It sounds obvious, but working in college career services (at least in my experience), it’s possible to become so focused on creating opportunities for students and the institution that it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that employer relations is a two-way street- a mutually beneficial relationship between an institution and an employer relies on the needs of both parties being effectively met. One of the greatest aspects of being involved with EACE is the ability to work hand in hand with employer members and gain perspective.

Create a Welcoming Environment
From an initial phone call, to use of database’s, to on-campus events, it is the job of career services professionals to create a welcoming environment for employers. It shouldn’t be difficult for an employer to work with an institution; many companies and talent acquisition specialists work with large numbers of institutions. In my experience, the more difficult it is for an employer to connect with an institution, the better the chance of losing that relationship. The process should be as streamlined as effectively as possible to create talent pipelines; be mindful of recruiting cycles, user friendly technology (i.e. job boards), and time-friendly events.

Network
Studies show that networking is by far the greatest method to finding a job. I make sure to tell my students this all the time in their co-op search. Network network network! I feel the same about creating partnerships with employers. Leaving the confines of the campus is essential. Taking advantage of networking events (such as conferences) as a college representative is vital to meeting new employers. EACE offers events and opportunities throughout the year to connect employers and institutions!

Be Mindful of Employment Trends and Changes
It’s the 21st century, and industry needs constantly shift. Creating mutually beneficial partnerships relies on an institution’s ability to prepare students for the changing needs of employers. Even though career services alone (at least as far as I know) cannot change curriculums throughout an institution, it is still important to understand trends and changes. I’m trying to make it a habit to read up on trends, continually connect with my employer contacts (in and outside of EACE) and take advantage of yearly trends conferences in the Boston area to stay informed.

I want to pose these questions for thought from both college and employer members: What are your best practices for creating mutually beneficial partnerships? What are your thoughts for continued improvement?

Ethan Selinger is currently a Cooperative Education (Co-op) Advisor at Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science.

Social Media: Surviving the Summer

The summer months aren’t the only thing that can bring on a drought. Career Center’s social media accounts can become stagnant during the months of June, July and August causing social media managers to scramble for gripping content to stay relevant. We’re all guilty of returning to the well of insignificant posts; the career articles from the Wall Street Journal, the random photo of the campus landscape and even “hey we’re are open all summer” update. Let’s face it, when the career center is fully functional, your marketing is driven by what is going on within the office whether is it large scale career events, guest speakers, workshops, etc; your hands are tied to help elevate each of those. Instead of seeing the summer as a disadvantage, I approached this as an opportunity to be creative and introduced Facebook Live to the Brandeis University Hiatt Career Center page.

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Time-worthy Training

As a premier conference, EACE gives its members a chance to tap into the wisdom of like-minded professionals. That’s what makes attending the EACE conference so inspiring. It fortifies attendees with innovative ways to successfully propel each student through his or her own, unique career planning journey. The EACE conference is produced by industry experts who are dedicated to helping career development professionals reach their full potential.

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Do You Want Transactions or Relationships?

There are times when you log on to your target schools’ career management platform and ample students who meet your selection criteria apply with the simple act of submitting a job posting. This response may spoil you into believing you will generate an equally bountiful response with the same amount of effort for new or upcoming positions. College students are a transient group, they move around and this year’s freshman will be next year’s sophomores who will one day be juniors, who ultimately become the seniors may be your new hires. With this constantly shifting landscape of your candidate pool it is important for you to decide whether you want genuine relationships with the schools from where you recruit or whether you prefer transactional interactions?

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Career Services on a Different Continent

In January 2015, I took the business trip of a lifetime. Thanks to a grant from the Office of International Affairs at the University of Maryland, I hopped a plane for a short, 21 hour flight to Singapore where I spent a few days visiting colleagues at the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. From there, I flew to Hong Kong, where I spent about a week meeting with faculty and staff at the University of Hong Kong. Though my grant proposal focused on the role of liberal arts career development in Asia, my observations also touched more broadly on the role of career development and internships on the other side of the world. Here are a few key take-a-ways from my journey:

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Developing a Personal Brand

The concept of a brand is not new. There are products and services that are well known throughout the world due to their logos, slogans or packaging. What I find noteworthy is the outside image can at times be more alluring than the goods themselves.

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What is your purpose?

Last week I read a blog post on The New York Times website titled, “A Life Beyond ‘Do What You Love’” by Gordon Marino, professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College. This post got me thinking about the thousands of students who have crossed the stage with a degree in hand over the past few weeks. While this is not typically an aphorism that I use in my daily practice with students and alumni, it does relate well to an ethos commonly shared amongst career development professionals in higher education. The two previous posts that I had written for the EACE Bridges blog were very much focused on the outcomes collection process and the Higher Education Reauthorization, but in reflection about what I had to offer in my final post, I thought it apt to include a bit of my own thoughts about the post graduate experience.

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It is not over until it is over! 5 Steps to Sharing Annual Success

EACE contribution by Jen Pollard, Assistant Director for Trends, Assessment, and Communication at George Mason University

University Career Services, George Mason University

University Career Services, George Mason University

 

As we approach the final home stretch for this academic year, you may start to dread the need to compile and produce an annual report. Don’t let old rituals and nightmares about Excel stop you from sharing your success. Here are five easy steps to telling a compelling data-driven story that will resonate with stakeholders:

 

  1. Identify your audience

This step should always come first. Before you start piecing together your survey responses, engagement numbers, and learning outcomes for the year, decide what information is important to which audience. In terms of your story, one size doesn’t always fit all – especially in Higher Education.

 

  1. Envision and draft your story

Once you’ve narrowed down your target audience, map out your story. Ask yourself the question, what is the one thing I want my audience to take away from my story? Once you have the answer, draft the rest of your story around this central theme. Write out your story in bullets or short paragraphs to help guide you in the data pairing process.

 

  1. Compile data and KPIs to support your story

Utilize your story outline to choose the data points that support the key elements of the story. Remember, you do not need to use every positive data stat you have. Strategically choose the strongest quantitative and qualitative elements that tell your story in a concise yet powerful manner.

 

  1. Design (or elicit help in designing) visuals

This step often intimidates those who have little or no experience in graphic design. Infographics may appear intimidating, but there are several platforms to help even creatively challenged professionals produce beautiful data visualizations. Piktochart is one such platform. Another option is to elicit the help of a design or art student who may be looking for an internship opportunity to build a portfolio.

 

  1. Share your story of success

Once your infographic, video, or visual report is finalized, don’t let it go unnoticed! Share your visual annual report with your networks through social media, post a link on your LinkedIn profile, and send a polished email (using a free platform such as Mail Chimp) to all stakeholders.

 

Examples from George Mason University:

 

Annual Report Infographic

 pollard-sharing_success-2

Annual Report Video

pollard-sharing_success-3

 

Jen Pollard

Jen Pollard

 

 

Jen Pollard is the Assistant Director for Trends, Assessment, and Communication at George Mason University. Beginning her career at a PR agency, Jen leverages her digital knowledge and design skills to help the career center visually communicate data with stakeholders and maintain strong relationships throughout the university. Jen earned a BS in Marketing from Bentley University and is currently pursuing an MAIS in Higher Education at George Mason. Her interest include assessment, forecasting and trend analysis, instructional design, and branding.

Preparing Decisively for Change

EACE contribution by Susan E. Chappell, M.Ed., Employer Engagement Coordinator at Penn State University
Pittsburgh Primanti Bros. EACE 2015

Pittsburgh Primanti Bros. EACE 2015

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the #EACE 2015 conference in Pittsburgh. In addition to a great morning run exploring the city and my first Primanti Bros. sandwich loaded with french fries (I’m pretty sure I should have run farther than I did after eating that), I had a wonderful time reflecting upon emerging trends in career services and recruiting with colleagues from across the region. Read more

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