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Cranky Director’s Corner – A Word on Work

Let’s get philosophical for a moment, shall we? While perusing the NACE Journal’s May issue I naturally gravitated to the article on what Princeton University has done to reimagine career services. Generally visionary, the piece got me thinking about the nature of work and our relationship to it, both personally and professionally. What exactly do I mean by that? Simply this: we live and operate in a society that views work as a necessary evil, or at least an inconvenience, yet our own professional activities center on helping others acquire jobs and navigate careers. Even Princeton’s use of a three tiered framework – job, career, calling – belies this underlying sense that work must be dressed up to be made palatable. Further evidence lies in how we talk about work and our jobs: TGIF, dreading Mondays, working for the weekend, the threat of delayed retirement. Of course, there is a distinction to be made in the work in our jobs and the frictions, usually with people, that can lead us to desire a break; but there remains an underlying longing to move on to leisure. Why IS binge watching on Netflix so appealing rather than appalling?

Much of this stems from ancient Greek thinking that exalted leisure and reviled labor. Apparently Olympus was filled with gods living the life of Riley while humans had been tricked or trapped into working. Plato, Aristotle, and the rest of the thinking class perpetuated and reinforced this concept. Clearly we have inherited that thinking. And by we I mean all cultures influenced by the ancient Greeks, including those “visited” by Alexander. Follow your passion/calling/love and you will never work a day in your life, right? The subtext is clear, work is to be avoided.

We can attempt a biological explanation. Physical and mental labor burns energy and we naturally want to conserve energy for survival. We also tend to avoid discomfort, and physical work can leave us sore, stiff, or even injured. That said, some of us then go to the gym, run marathons, tackle challenging puzzles, or write poetry as leisure activities. We look forward to and will expend time and energy on something we designate leisure more readily than something we designate work. While the matter offers more complexity than this, the point remains.

By reinforcing this way of thinking embedded in our culture we perpetrate at least two harms. First, we create a hierarchy of labor which leads to a hierarchy of laborers. The poor shlub on the back of the garbage truck (job) compared to career development directors (career, hopefully calling). Second, we ignore or devalue the intrinsic value of work. You could point out we in fact value hard work and speak highly of those with a strong work ethic, but we usually apply that to work with a goal, as opposed to valuing the work itself. Work is the way to get the payoff, as opposed to being the payoff.

I challenge all of us as we tip into summer to take time to rethink our relationship to work – how we think about it, talk about it, teach about it – and bring a new, countercultural notion to the activities we expend energy on. Can we effect such radical change? Maybe, maybe not. Resistance will be high. But who is better positioned to introduce and advocate for a new way of relating to work?

The cranky director will deliver rants on the economy, technology, social engineering, lack of a really good nearby regional BBQ place (falafel solved!), and idiot politicians (broadly defined)  to your computer desktop of preferred mobile device the fourth Friday of every month.

The Millennial Journey: How to Mitigate Buyer’s Remorse in Education

By Gorick Ng, MBA Student, Harvard Business School

According to a recent Gallup poll, 51% of U.S. adults would change at least one of their education decisions (degree, institution, and/or field of study) if they had a chance to re-do their post-secondary degrees.[1] With 44 million Americans[2] each sitting on an average of $37,172 in student loans,[3] we should expect less buyer’s remorse, no?

We should. And we can.

Although a number of socioeconomic and sociocultural factors underpin the current higher ed crisis, I’d like to highlight an often overlooked element: our lack of foresight as students.

Our “conveyor belt” education system has always fed us the next step: do well in kindergarten and first grade will be waiting. Do well in middle school and high school will be there. Do well in high school and college becomes the next step.

Along the way, the default strategy is often to look to John on our left and choose the same school, look to Jenny on our right and choose the same major, and look to our parents and take a similar path. In a constant attempt to keep our heads above water in the face of midterms, homework, essays, jobs, activities, peer pressure, and family obligations we feel there’s no time to reflect on what are doing, why we’re doing these things, and how this all shapes the person we aspire to become. Since this “conveyor belt” kept moving anyways, we were largely sheltered from the consequences of our actions – and inaction.

But what happens towards the end of this “conveyor belt”?

Some students rush to their campus career centers in search of guidance, sometimes days before commencement. Others look to graduate school not as a career enhancing opportunity, but rather an extension of their runway. It is no surprise that buyer’s remorse is so prevalent in higher education.

How do we address this issue? Start from within.

Treat every new experience as a hypothesis test.

TickConsider life as a scatterplot: Speaking with someone (or not)? Taking a course (or not)? Taking care of a loved one (or not)? Getting a job (or not)? Working on a project (or not)? Doing an internship (or not)? Joining a club (or not)? Volunteering with an organization (or not)?

Each experience accumulated (or foregone) is another observation on this scatterplot – and another opportunity to introspect:

  1. What attracted me to (or repelled me from) this?
  2. What did I enjoy / find to be a chore? Why?
  3. What was I good at / not good at? Why?
  4. How much do I like / respect the people? Why?
  5. To what extent can I live a comfortable, fulfilling life doing this? Why?

Imagine our desired future selves as the invisible regression line. If we have just two dots, it can be tempting to draw a straight line and yell “Eureka! I should become a [whatever]!”

But the more dots we can collect, the better our ability is to identify the sweet spot at the intersection of what we are good at, what we are passionate about, and what pays the bills.

This model is not perfect, but with it we can better leverage what we know about ourselves at the time to make more informed decisions about what school to attend, what field of study to pursue, which degree to obtain, and what job to take out of school. Though it takes time, effort, and serious introspection, our future selves will thank us.

[1] http://www.gallup.com/poll/211529/half-adults-change-least-one-education-decision.aspx

[2] https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/interactives/householdcredit/data/xls/sl_update_2016.xlsx

[3] https://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2016/05/02/student-debt-is-about-to-set-another-record-but-the-picture-isnt-all-bad/

Gorick Ng helps Millennials more successfully transition from school to the workplace. From his work Gorick has spent thousands of hours understanding the experiences of Millennials, career counselors, and employers – and the “soft skills” and “hard skills” gaps that exist.

Gorick is pursuing his MBA Harvard Business School and is a graduate of Harvard College, where he now serves as a Resident Tutor leading pre-career advising. He was the first in his family to attend high school and college and is passionate about helping young people pursue their dreams.

More on Gorick here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gorickng

Contextually Careers: Turning Data Into Action

By Alicia Monroe, Ed.D., Assistant Director, Office of Career Advancement, Rowan University

Data, data, everywhere, What do I look at? OR Where do I begin? OR What should I capture? OR How do I assess? Now, you fill in the blank. Depending on the day, time, moment and/or sense of urgency, I mull over these questions with a look of despair on my face, wondering if there is really a way out of the data maze.  For many, the dreaded “D” word can oftentimes overwhelm us, as our questions rapidly surpass the responses.

In this, the digital age, data is increasingly used to drive decision-making. We can no longer depend solely on our intuitive sense. The millennium has ushered in a paradigm shift where data and metrics are used to assess and evaluate our activities and actions. Analyzing data, metrics, and trend development allows us, as career services professionals, to strategically shift priorities, tweak programs and reposition resources in order to get desired results and outcomes.

The need is for us to have quantifiables and meaningful metrics that can measure success and inform strategic planning efforts and decision-making. As we rethink the status quo and reframe traditional norms, our focus now rests on redefining what constitutes positive outcomes. As I muddle through key performance indicators, usability studies, reputation measures, surveys, focus groups, and other forms of evaluation and assessment, I have to first make meaning of this arduous task for myself.

Status Quo Graphic

The first step is to understand and commit to the “why” behind the work. As we collect, review, and analyze the data, our core value of having students find careers that reflect their gifts, talents, skills and interests should anchor the stories that we tell and the decisions that we make. Although it is important to collect data, what’s most valuable and vital to the decision-making process is the analysis of the data and the story that we are able to tell to provide insight and meaningful outcomes to students, recruiters, influential stakeholders, and career service organizations.

Next determine the “what.” In other words, are you asking the right questions to get the outcomes that you are looking for? The simplest definition of data-driven decision making is the use of data analysis to determine the courses of action to take to meet objectives and prescribed mandates. In addition to asking the “right” questions, it is imperative to understand “what” data- qualitative or quantitative- and “what” analyses inform our decision-making. Measurable learning outcomes, the effective use of assessment and evaluation methods, along with stakeholder demands for better career outcomes data, are forces that motivate us to slow the process down in order to make the right assumptions. Giving ourselves time to reexamine long-held beliefs and practices gives us the space to develop meaningful metrics that measure our actual performance. All in all, asking the right questions provides us the data that we need to engage in better analyses.

As we review our data collection methods, we must also revisit our tools and protocols. This is the “how.” How we collect our data must align with our objectives (the story we want to tell), the questions that we ask, and the type of data that we collect. Questions that engage student voice and insights from employers and other stakeholders should be evident in the assessments, as these responses afford us the opportunity to gain a clear picture of the expectations met, level of satisfaction achieved with career services delivery, and areas that require improvement.

Our career center stories inform our students and influential stakeholders. Looking at data through a purposed, well-focused, and intentional lens provides career services professionals the valuable insight needed to ground and promote their efficacy in the important work they do. To learn how to best tell your career center’s success story and dive deeper into multi-modal approaches for using data to frame an effective story line, attend the 2017 EACE Annual Conference, Pre- Conference Workshop- Shaping Your Career Center’s Success Story facilitated by Sam Ratcliffe, Ph.D. You can also view and contribute a number of resources in EACE’s Assessment Hub.

References:

Collins, M. (2016) “#NACE2021: Trends and Predictions.” NACE. Retrieved from https://www.naceweb.org/career-development/trends-and-predictions/nace2021-trends-and-predictions/

Contomanolis, E., Cruzvergara, C., Dey, F., & Steinfeld, T. “The Future of Career Services is Now.” NACE Journal. November 2015. Retrieved from https://www.naceweb.org/career-development/trends-and-predictions/the-future-of-career-services-is-now/

Picciano, A. (2011) Educational leadership and planning for technology. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Dr. Monroe serves as Assistant Director, OCA at Rowan University. She has developed a number of notable programs designed to actively engage students in a college to career continuum of achievement. #itsALLaboutthestudents @amonroeedd

The Value of Networking

By Robbin Beauchamp, Wentworth Institute of Technology

Per Michael Page, in his article “Six Ways Networking Can Benefit Your Career”, networking helps to strengthen your relationships, is a source of fresh ideas, raises your profile, opens new doors, facilitates the exchange of information and widens your support network.  As a person who networks frequently, I can attest to the accuracy of Mr. Page’s assertions.

When I was relatively new to the career services field, my then-director insisted her staff get involved with EACE.  For me, this meant, among other things, taking advantage of the Professional Exchange visits.  I could travel and see the inner workings of organizations that I would not have had access to if not for EACE.  I learned about the hiring practices of very prestigious organizations such as the FBI in Washington, DC, NBC in New York City, L’Oréal in New York City, numerous Wall Street investment firms and many more.  I could bring this information back to share with my colleagues and more importantly, with the students I supported.  This information gave me credibility with those students, which they shared with their friends, which helped to increase the profile of the career services office.

The other benefit of attending Professional Exchange visits was the ability to meet my peers from schools in our region.  I could share information with them about the work I was doing and more importantly, learn more about the work they were doing.  Bringing best practices back to campus allowed me to help improve the services provided to our students.  Some of the people became friends over the years, and a few became mentors.  Because of the networking I did while on Professional Exchange visits, I forged relationships with members that allowed me to expand my participation in EACE to become a member and then co-chair of committees, including Professional Exchange.  This involvement allowed me to be elected twice to the board of directors.  These experiences helped me to become a better career services practitioner and ultimately, an effective director and chief career services officer.   Honestly, I owe my career to the people of EACE and it all started with going on a few Professional Exchange visits.

As the co-chair again this year of PE, I am excited about the visits the committee has set up.  Join me this summer on the 17 visits we have scheduled.  Or, consider joining the committee this fall as we begin to plan Professional Exchange visits for 2018.  Register today for the 2017 visits at:  http://www.eace.org/?page=PEEvents

Robbin Beauchamp joined Wentworth Institute of Technology as Director of Cooperative Education and Career Development in Boston in September 2014.

Fun Things to do in Niagara Falls

By Stefano Verdesoto, Assistant Director of External Relations, The Career Center at Hofstra University

Less than a month away from 2017 EACE Annual Conference!  As my third conference, I am excited to reconnect with friends and colleagues and continue learning best practices and trends in our industry.  As someone who lived in the Buffalo/Niagara area for six years (undergraduate and graduate school at the University at Buffalo – GO BULLS!), I am even more excited to return to the area for a few days and catch up with old friends and visit a few of my favorite spots.  As we count down, pack our bags, and make our lists, see below for a few recommendations on fun things to do in Niagara Falls.

Cave of the Winds
Feeling adventurous?  Journey down into the Niagara Gorge for a one-of-a-kind view of the Falls with the Cave of the Winds tour.  Gear up in a souvenir rain poncho and sandals for the full experience.  Learn more here.  Waterfall

Niagara Skywheel
Bring your passport and get a different view of the falls from Canada!  Soar 175 feet above Niagara Falls for an amazing view. Check it out here. Ferris Wheel

Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls USA
Leave extra room in your bags!  Take a quick 15-minute car/cab ride to the premier outlet shopping destination in Niagara Falls, NY, serving customers from Buffalo and upstate New York with 200+ designer brands.  Learn more here.
Outlets

Maid of the Mist
The obvious choice!  Hop on board and experience Niagara Falls.  Hear the waves, see the sights, and feel the mist!  Learn more here.  Maid of the Mist

Buffalo, NY
The not-so-obvious choice.  Visiting from out of town?  Make the most of your time in Western New York and explore Buffalo, a quick 30-minute drive from the falls.  With diverse neighborhoods, rich culture, and delicious food (they call ‘em “wings,” not “Buffalo wings!”), there is plenty to do and see in Buffalo.  Check out the visitor’s page and explore neighborhoods like Elmwood VillageBuffalo

Of course, there is plenty more to do while in town for 2017 EACE Annual Conference, but this is a good start.  What will you do while in town?  Share your plans and ideas on Twitter using #EACE.  See you soon and Cheers to 20 Years!

When Technology Fails

By Rachel E. Wobrak, University of Maryland

We’re very lucky these days that we have all kinds of technology to help us do our jobs better and more efficiently. Some of us are more apt to jump in and try new technology while others are a little unsure of new resources and how to use them. I think we can all agree we love technology, when it works, but when it doesn’t, that’s another story. What is supposed to make our lives easier can sometimes make them more stressful or more difficult.

Recently I found myself in a few of these situations. My graduate assistant and I have wanted to better utilize the technology we have available to us when organizing panels. She found someone who could participate virtually on the panel in addition to our in person panelists. It was great until we could see the panelist, but we couldn’t hear her and she couldn’t hear us. Eventually we just had to start the panel and my grad continued to trouble shoot until we finally decided to simply call her on the phone and put her on speaker. Other presentations/panels recently we’ve run into similar technology issues, once we forgot to select which audio to use so we had video and no audio and the next time we were diligent to make sure we figured out the audio, but the video wouldn’t work. You’d think this would be a little easier sometimes. I’ve been co-chair of the Technology committee for two years now and I still have trouble. I am not immune to these problems and I like to think I’m fairly comfortable with technology.

I say all this because when we reach these road blocks, it can be easy to say why bother and not attempt to use the technology the next time because you think it will let you down. I’m willing to admit that I’ve been frustrated in the moment and have thought about giving up and not bothering the next time. So, instead, I decided to make this the focus of my blog piece in an effort to encourage others to fight through that frustration. That’s my plan; I will be back at it with my fall programming to try to get it right, because I know it will be an invaluable tool for our students that can’t make it to the presentation/panel.

To make it easier, I have some tips for powering through frustration to get the technology to do what you want it to and to help us all do our jobs better.

  1. Form a Committee: It’s easy to give up when it feels like it’s just you vs the technology, but if it’s you and a colleague or you and a small group of people that want to learn how best to use the technology, you’re sure to motivate each other to learn how to best use the resources you have. More minds are better than one anyway, right?
  2. Google Common Problems: I know it sounds simplistic but this can sometimes be a really successful approach, especially if it’s something a number of people using the same tool have struggled with.
  3. Reach out to others: If you’re still stuck, try your IT department or manager, talk to other colleagues, or even reach out to EACE friends/colleagues to see who has experience with this same tool.
  4. Hold Training Sessions: Once the technology has been mastered (or at least it’s better understood), share the knowledge! Teach others how to use it so they feel more comfortable with the tool(s).
  5. Try, try again: Don’t let one set back keep you from figuring it out!

 

Rachel Wobrak is a Program Director at the University Career Center & The President’s Promise at the University of Maryland. She works with the College of Computer, Mathematical & Natural Sciences developing programming/events, meeting with students and collaborating with faculty, staff and employers. She assists with the office’s social media presence by managing the Center’s Pinterest account. She’s a Co-Chair of the EACE Technology Committee and soon to be on the Board as the Director of College Member Services. Rachel has her MEd from the University of Florida in Student Personnel in Higher Education and her BA from the University of Maryland in Classics (proof you can find a great career with any major). Please feel free to connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

 

Membership Spotlight – “We are EACE” – Meet Mallory O’Neil, Vector Marketing

EACE has been asking new members to share some fun facts about themselves. Here we get to know Mallory O’Neil.

Employer
Vector Marketing

What do you do in your current position?
Campus Recruiting Manager, Vector East

Where are you originally from?
Marlton, NJ

Where do you live now?
Voorhees, NJ

Outside of work, what are some of your favorite things to do?
I love dancing, running, singing, reading biographies and nerding out on World War II and American history. I also spend a lot of time volunteering with the Special Olympics track and bowling teams.

Why do you do what you do?
I’m a huge believer in the opportunities that Vector offers students. We’re not just a direct sales company. We’re teaching students skills for life. Within a few short months with our company they can gain experience and confidence in public speaking, sales, customer service, networking and most impressively, running their own business. The change I see in each student that works with us is always astounding. I love working with colleges to share our growth opportunities with all of their students.

What is your educational background?
I graduated with honors from Monmouth University with a bachelor of arts in communication and a minor in history. While at Monmouth I was an active member of my sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, a coordinator for the student ambassador program and an adviser for first-year students.

What was your first job?
My first job was as a production assistant on Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay. (Yes, he is much nicer than he seems on TV!) It was such a cool experience working in reality television. I worked with Kitchen Nightmares for 3 seasons which opened the doors to work on other shows such as Master Chef, Real World and Bad Girls Club.

What is the best advice you ever received?
Never stop learning. I’ve always been a very curious person but I was taught never to trick yourself into thinking you know everything. There are always opportunities to learn and grow. Read, explore and listen as much as you can.

For someone starting in your field, what advice would you give?
Building relationship and networking are the key to any profession but especially recruiting. Be kind and professional and you will have no problem building relationships with your colleagues.

What is something that might surprise us about you?
This probably isn’t surprising to anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with me because I’m constantly singing or humming but I would love to have my own variety show a la the great, Carol Burnett.

Radio Ga Ga

By Lauren E. Creamer, M.S., Wentworth Institute of Technology

WIRE – “Radio That Doesn’t Suck”

When I startedWIRE Logo at Wentworth Institute of Technology two years ago I never thought I’d be producing a radio show. Actually. I never thought I’d be producing a radio show.

But here I am. Mondays at 1 PM. Riffing with some of my favorite colleagues and talking careers.

Let me back up. Wentworth has this hip, totally accessible, award-winning radio station called WIRE (Wentworth Internet Radio). WIRE only lists a handful of their awards on their website, but every year they rake in the trophies – including, most recently, Best College Radio Station in Boston by Boston A-List. The coolest part about WIRE is they let staff and faculty in on the fun.

Enter my office, CO-OPS + CAREERS.

WITworks Radio

In an effort to get our message/advice/guidance out to the student body in a new and engaging way, our fearless Director signed us up for an hour a week. I can’t recall exactly how I was roped into this, but it’s definitely got something to do with my inability to keep my thoughts to myself.

How do you even manage a radio show?

We started out haphazardly. We’d brainstorm topics at lunch before our show – things that were relevant to whatever was happening that semester/month/week.

Then we started to bring in employers. This was a turning point for us – Google and Raytheon – these are our most-listened shows! (I guess that should have been obvious). Students can tune-in live, but they can also listen on-demand through the WIRE Mixcloud page. The numbers keep climbing and so we keep scheduling. To make it easier for everyone – when an employer requests on-campus interviews, we ask them to be on the show. Since then we’ve added four new employer interviews and no one has yet to turn us down. (And, everyone who has been on has been really excited about doing the show!).

Our summer plans: develop a schedule based on the office cycle of busy and quiet points, and the co-op season. We just completed a show idea brainstorm with the staff and I hope to poll our students, too.

Getting Your Message to the People

If you have access to a radio station on your campus (and the students are willing to let you on air) – definitely consider trying this out. Don’t have a radio station? Try podcasts. Or Facebook Live. (Check out Brandeis and their Hiatt Live videos… Career Cab is my favorite).

Bottom line? Try some out-of-the-box ways of getting your message to your students. They’ll start listening and you might just have some fun, too.

To listen to our show, check out this link and search “WITworks Radio”: https://www.mixcloud.com/WentworthRadio/

Lauren is the Senior Co-op + Career Advisor at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. She works with biomedical and electromechanical engineering, and applied mathematics majors. She has worked in higher education for five years in both career development and residential life. Lauren and three of her colleagues write and produce their career development-focused show, WITworks Radio. This is not what she had in mind regarding “other duties as assigned”, but is still jazzed about it anyway. 

Unpacking Power and Privilege in Pursuit of 21st Century “Super Skills”

By Jacki Banks, Manager, Industry Advising: Creative Industries, Georgetown University

Educators have identified four key skills students need to be successful in the 21st century. Commonly called the 4C’s or “Super Skills,” they include communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. The “21st Century Skills” movement is fascinating, and you can learn more about it in the context of K-12 learning, or, more relevant for those of us in career services, against the backdrop of higher education.

As I was reading and reflecting on the National Education Association’s current guide to 21st century learning I recalled a workshop I attended, grounded in Peggy McIntosh’s research on cultural awareness, multicultural education, and relationship-building. Ms. McIntosh, a feminist and anti-racism activist, is the associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and founder of The National SEED Project.

During the workshop, I participated in a challenge by choice activity based on Ms. McIntosh’s essay White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In a challenge by choice activity, a series of statements are read and participants are asked to stand or raise their hand when they agree with a given statement. To give you a sense of the workshop, read through the following statements and imagine when you might stand or raise your hand.

At my university, I can schedule meetings back to back, because I can get across campus easily
At my university, if someone says I’m articulate, it is an uncomplicated compliment.
At my university, my accomplishments are not perceived as representing the potential or the successes of my race.
At my university, it is easy to find mentors who share my social identity and understand the particular challenges I face.
At my university, if I am passionate about an issue in class or during a club meeting, I will not be judged “emotional” or “irrational.”
At my university, all documents, websites, and classroom management software are accessible to me, without accommodation.

As I held these four critical competencies in one hand and the ideas of power and privilege in the other, I realized that they cannot be siloed. They just can’t. If you don’t critically assess the lens through which you view the world, how can you effectively communicate or collaborate? In essence, you cannot achieve true mastery of these “Super Skills” without a healthy dose of self-reflection.

True self-awareness is a profound process. It’s not always easy or nice or fun. But, as career educators, isn’t it our obligation to help our students become better colleagues, better managers, and, ultimately, better leaders?  If the answer is “yes,” then we need to focus on developing partnerships with departments on campus that help unpack issues of power and privilege. A Different Dialogue is one such program on Georgetown University’s campus.  We should encourage students to actively engage in these opportunities so that they might become the compassionate leaders and global citizens that the workplace needs them to be.

Jacki Banks, LGSW, advises students in the creative industries at Georgetown University’s Cawley Career Education Center.

Cranky Director’s Corner – Hey, you got your electrodes in my gray matter!

I really need to change up my newsfeed to just pull in stories on kittens and sunsets. It’s not the political stories that I find agitating, it’s the stories on tech. You’d think that people like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Ray Kurzweil, and other technology elites would have taken a few minutes out of their busy, social fabric re-weaving, world altering lives to watch Star Trek, Black Mirror, Terminator, The Matrix, or just about every other story involving direct brain-computer interfaces or unfettered AI. Clearly Elon Musk has either never seen The Outer Limits episode “Stream of Consciousness” or failed to get the point.

I do appreciate Mr. Musk’s concerns for the dangers in our headlong dash to develop AI. I am not so sure creating direct computer interfaces in our brains is the best way to respond. Maybe instead of trying to keep up with something WE ALREADY CONTROL we should slow it down. You see, a big part of the problem is the twin illusions of the inevitability of progress and that with more technology we can fix our problems.

Fortunately, none of this has anything to do with us. We’re not tech giants, venture capitalists, or government leaders. (Does the current administration know of any technology besides twitter? Would it turn down the opportunity to tweet directly into our heads? *shudder*) Since we don’t have a collective seat at the table, what’s the fuss? Simple. These undertakings need talented people to make them happen, and there’s a serious shortfall.

We stand astride that long term pipeline. We influence where our students look for work. We can also influence how they think about the work they’ll do. So, we come to a question for us as career development pros, what kind of programming do our offices offer to get students to think hard about the implications of the work they’ll do? How about your institution? Student initiated 1-on-1 sessions might be great, but we know that will hardly scratch the surface of our campus populations. I’m talking about solid, serious engagement with groups and classes, maybe even required curriculum. Ally with student groups, partner with similarly concerned faculty or administrators, research and recommend speakers, launch a conversation series, host panels to debate privacy or poverty or climate change and pair it with a networking event or mini career fair. Do something to raise the level of awareness on your campus and mark your office as one willing to tackle hard issues with your students. Our ethical instruction should not be confined to reneging on job offers and misrepresentations on resumes. Yes, this kind of behavior will make some of us politically unpopular on campus. Maybe there needs to be a reminder that our institutions are predicated on academic freedom and free discourse. Think students don’t care about this? Research on Millenials from Deloitte says otherwise.

Let’s be honest about our work. We’re helping people launch their careers. If we prepare students to write a good resume and run a good job search, but are not equipping them to assess the impact their work will have, are we really fulfilling our obligation to them and to society at large? Have we ethically comported our duties if we do not teach our students to ethically assess who will gain and who may be hurt by the work they do and the organizations they attach themselves to?

Frankly, I’m not terribly thrilled that we’re all in some half-baked social experiment run by Mark Zuckerburg or facing the prospect of AI controlled everything thanks to Uber, Google, and dozens of IoT companies. The same can be said of a lot of other organizations and industries. Just because an employer donates generously to our campus, offers great compensation packages, or sports a cool internal culture, it is not necessarily a good or healthy organization. I’m sure Enron was a great campus recruiter!

But if we as a profession not only enable, but encourage, our students to pursue these kinds of applications of their work blind to the larger implications, we are culpable for the future we’ll inhabit. If we don’t raise questions and consciousness because it’s uncomfortable or bad for our careers, what does that make us?

About the Author:  The cranky director will deliver rants on the economy, technology, social engineering, lack of a really good nearby falafel place, and idiot politicians (broadly defined)  to your computer desktop of preferred mobile device the fourth Friday of every month.

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