Superintendent Mike Flanagan’s words of wisdom at the Governor’s Summit – Blurred Lines!

This past Monday and Tuesday Michigan lawmakers, business owners, and educators convened in Detroit for the 2015 Michigan Governors Economic and Educational Summit. The goal, to continue an effort begun two years ago to create collaborative efforts between colleges & universities, K-12 schools, industry, and government to develop out students in to ‘top talent’.  Silos needed to be broken down to create a seamless space with a shared mission.

Collaborations with multiple partners is a challenge. Each must give up old routines and step out of their comfort zones, sacrificing the security of old ways to risk failures to achieve unprecedented rewards. Mohammad Ali once stated “the man who views the world at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” This message has resonated at each of the Governors past three Summits. Industry is changing with increased automation and technological advances, our students are now digital natives who can access any information with a finger and a smartphone, and how we teach them must change to accommodate for their propensity to learn through hands-on engagement. The world has changed a lot in 30 years and we must change with it.

Michigan School Superintendent Mike Flanagan will be retiring in July, leaving behind a legacy of over 30 years in education. He is the longest serving State Superintendent in Michigan’s history. His ten years of service included serving under both Republican and Democratic governors.

Flanagan reflected on his time in education with some short lessons learned that those at the summit should consider as they craft their next steps towards prosperity: never hire anyone dumber than you are, looking good is not as good as being good, teachers are the #1 force in the world, and give each of our kids hope first. Flanagan went on to add be weary of what people want. He quoted Henry Ford’s famous statement “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse”, supporting Flanagan’s philosophy.

Flanagan’s final word of advice was that student success is based on the efforts of many including industry, government, communities, educators, parents, and peers. Each of us has had times or trouble where we have gotten off course and stumbled. Success is born from the support networks we offer for our young students and each other.

He went on to share the story of Derek Redmond, an Olympic sprinter in the 1992 Olympics. Derek was the favorite to win the 400m dash. The rest of his story can be viewed through a YouTube video.  Derek was able to achieve victory while experiencing the agony of defeat with the support of his father in this unique and symbolic gesture.

The message from Governor Snyder and retiring Superintendent Flanagan was that the success of Michigan economically is the development and retention of talent through our efforts in education. This effort must be collaborative, where the lines between industry, community, education, and government are blurred. As we move forward we must remember the inspirational words of Winston Churchill, “A pessimist see the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Lean Thinking in an Office

In a manufacturing setting, waste is measured in terms of factory efficiency and scored by the accounting measurement system as part of the financial reporting process.  In an office setting, these measurements are harder to define but they “show up” in wasted effort, frustration, frayed nerves, and people staying late to help make the event a success.

Our Career Services group is known for coordinating our bi-annual Career Fairs.  Managing logistics for hundreds of companies, nearly a thousand recruiters, and several thousand students leaves very little room for error.  Most importantly, the future careers of our students are on the line.  With the economy improving and the excellent reputation of Michigan Tech students, the size and expectations for Career Services events have continued to grow.IMG_3605

As our department’s first step in our lean journey, we decided to start a morning huddle.  Initially, the primary focus of the meeting was our event-planning calendar.  This grid is a look ahead for the next few weeks to ensure everyone in the department knows what is coming next.  To make this happen, we re-purposed a dry erase board and moved it to a central area.  A few dry-erase markers later, we had the beginnings of a communication structure!

In an office where everyone is extremely busy, we had reservations about everyone sacrificing 10 minutes of their day.  We also were concerned that we would not know what to talk about!  These concerns turned out to be unfounded!  After a month of using this new process, the information on the dry erase board has changed.  Some things we initially placed on the board aren’t used anymore and we simply erased them.  New items are added as we develop new educational programming.  Using only markers and bad penmanship, the board continues to be dynamic.  We are starting to use rulers and magnets to make the look neater – but we don’t want to lose the flexibility of just getting the information communicated.

Our implementation of Lean Initiatives in our offices continues as time allows.  As we continue to add process improvements, these items will find their way back to the central huddle board.  It will be interesting to see what the board looks like a year from now!

To learn more about Michigan Tech’s efforts toward continuous improvement, check out their web page at:


Logan McMillan, first year Chemical Engineering student, impressed multiple companies at our recent career fair. Despite her lack of GPA and experience, DTE Energy and Toyota expressed serious interest in McMillan.

“Age is a limitation,” said McMillan. However, these companies were impressed by McMillan’s leadership roles and involvement in high school, as well as her involvement in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and potential for success at Michigan Tech.

In the days leading up to the fall 2014 career fair, McMillan attended multiple preparative events on campus. She attended an info session on Sunday evening, where she learned more about DTE Energy and was ultimately invited to attend a SWE dinner with DTE Energy’s company representatives the following night. The dinner served as McMillan’s first “interview” a co-op position.

Tuesday, the day of the career fair, McMillan approached 30-40 companies total. She printed off resumes and a cover letter and set off confidently determined to, at the very least, gain experience talking to company representatives.

But McMillan did more than this – even as a first year student, she was ultimately offered a co-op position in  January 2015 with DTE Energy as an office assistant for machinery management. McMillan has also been in contact with a company representative from Toyota, who has expressed interest in her for a summer internship opportunity.

McMillan expressed her excitement for these upcoming experiences, and encourages all students regardless of class standing to attend career fair. “They’re interested in your leadership and your involvement, not just your GPA,” she said, “There’s no harm in attending the career fair, but if you don’t go, you’ll never know.”


Shelby Marter, a second year Scientific and Technological Communication student, found unanticipated success after attending the fall 2014 career fair. Marter had previously attended career fair as a first year student, but found herself empty-handed due to her non-engineering major. “It doesn’t really apply to me as an STC major,” Marter said. “People told me (before attending career fair) that you have to basically create a position for yourself. You’re not going to fit within their criteria, so just go talk to people and figure something out.” And it worked.

Imagine going up to multiple company representatives at random, introducing yourself, and then receiving a blank stare after you state your major. It sounds disheartening, but as an STC major, this is many times the reality.

With this experience under her belt, Marter decided that this year she was going in more prepared. And because she researched the different companies who were specifically looking for STC students, she felt more confident going into the fall 2014 career fair.

Unfortunately, she had no luck with the first few companies because most were actually looking for programmers or had accidentally selected STC as a major they were interested in. Marter remained determined, however, and moved on to Marshfield Clinic.

Once again, she introduced herself and her major.  The company representative started to explain that even though they had stated that their company was looking for STC majors, he didn’t believe that the components of her major fit the criteria of their open positions.

Marter wasn’t willing to accept another defeat so easily, so she asked, “Are you sure? Because I looked at your website, and the available positions, and they sound like what I’m interested in for a career after graduation. Could you tell me more about the positions being offered? Then I can tell you if it’s a good fit or not.”

He explained that Marshfield was looking for someone to perform usability testing for their IT department. The STC major at Tech is heavily based in usability testing, so Marter explained that all the criteria he showed her were either things she had already learned or would learn at some point in the STC curriculum.

So, Marter took a dim situation, and found ways she could add value to the company. She essentially talked her way into an internship she would otherwise not have gotten if she hadn’t prepared and remained persistent.

Tips for Job Postings

While working with our students and alumni, we constantly reinforce the idea of a single-page resume for our students.  The purpose of this exercise is to reflect on experiences, prioritize, and highlight the items that are the most important.  As a company, you want to give this same level of consideration to your job postings.

In many cases, the Human Resources “Performance Appraisal” form lists a variety of attributes used to rate employees to help identify areas for improvement and personnel development.  These lists are often checklists that are shared between multiple job descriptions because “must work well within a team environment” is a requirement for everyone that works at a company.  An enumeration of tasks to be performed on a job are a great way to “score” someone during an annual performance review, but it is a terrible way to help someone your organization’s work culture or even what the job entails.

Most companies will have a well-written “About Us” section on the company website that describes what the company strives to achieve.  The thing that is most often missing in job postings is the part that helps job applicants understand how their role helps advance the larger purpose.  Remember that this job posting is essentially the advertisement about why a choosing a to work for your company will make a difference in the world, the company, and the prospective employee’s career.

Take some time to be creative!  Describe not the job duties but how this function helps advance the depth and breadth of your company’s efforts to build better products and improve the world!  Perhaps the easiest test is to ask yourself, does this job sound exciting and would I understand the higher purpose being served by my participation in this role?  Emphasize your work culture.  Here is an example:

“Our company is building a team who shares the values of xxx, embraces collaborative efforts to develop creative solutions, values the unique skill sets of others, recognizes challenges but focuses on developing solutions, appreciates diversity in thought and background of fellow team members, and strives to be a contributor rather than an observer.”

Just like reviewing resumes, you may only get 60 seconds and can only make a first impression once!

How do you decide on a Career?

Everyone has an option on where you should work and what you should do.  In many cases, these opinions are offered as “advice” based upon this person’s life experiences and biases.

The single biggest decision that a high school student makes is their choice of a College, University, or Trade School.  Throughout their years in Higher Education, a student has a world of opportunities and choices to make.  A significant decision is a choice of industry to begin a career path.

The job search process (Internet research, applying for jobs, formal interviews, etc.) helps companies identify employees that might fit with their company, but it doesn’t help students decide what career is right for them.  In the absence of any formal program, students often make their decision based upon information from their informal network of friends and family acquaintances.  While this helps students feel comfortable with the decision, these criteria may not be the facts that the company wants to highlight.

As the Career Fair has grown, students are seeing an increase in not only the number of companies recruiting, but also the diversity of industries represented.  This adds to the challenge of making an informed choice.

At Michigan Tech, we have decided to make this process a bit more informal and exploratory while allowing students to get data directly from the companies.  Our solution?  Campus-wide “Industry Days”.

Companies are invited to participate in an informal “expo” style event filled with hands-on, interactive events.  Students and corporate representatives are much more relaxed in this setting.  The Industry focused events help students get a “30,000 foot” explanation of the career opportunities within industries, while providing students a glimpse of the future direction of the industry, allowing them to consider where their career path might take them in that industry.  Some students are surprised by different opportunities available in an industry or sector they would not have considered otherwise.

For the Fall of 2014, we had days focused around the Steel Industry, Petroleum Industry, and Railroad Industry.  Response from companies has been extremely positive.  The spring will also include more career explorations and more opportunities to interact and engage with companies.

In the past, students treated their first job as the end of their career search. Today, a career is a journey. Our graduating students from the millennial generation are looking for diverse career options, not wanting to get ‘stuck’ in one career that becomes routine, but treating each career assignment as an opportunity to build their skill set to take on their next challenge. Industry days provides students a chance to map out their career journey.

The GOOD habit of telling others “Thank you!”

“Tis the Season” of course refers to the holidays and all that goes with: gift giving, give receiving, a time to be jolly, happy, & merry, time to gather with family and friends, time to eat until you bust (and it won’t be broccoli for most of us!)

It’s also a time for being thankful or grateful. We know you’ll say “thank you” and write thank you notes for your  gifts, and we hope you’ll have time to reflect, internally, for all your blessings, and we also hope you’ll also consider saying, “thank you” to many others no matter what the season.

It’s also a time for new beginnings, as many of us will make resolutions for the New Year – some to stop bad habits and some to start good habits. We want to encourage you to make your spirit of gratefulness one of the good habits you add to 2015. And, actually, saying, “thank you” more often, is a great habit.

We know you like to be appreciated – everyone does! Will you make it a habit to be mindful about when good things happens to you or for you, most times, someone has helped make that happen.  Tell them how much you appreciate them – even if it’s their job.

An email thank you is great, but a handwritten thank you note is the bomb!  Here are 5 quick hints to writing a great thank you note:

  1. Write out the recipient’s name –  start with the traditional, “Dear Jane or Joe or Aunt Bertha or Uncle Sam or…you get the picture.
  2. Don’t worry about your sentence structure or spelling or grammar – just write it from your heart. Sometimes sweating the form keeps us from even starting. “Just Do It”
  3. Simply start with exactly what you’re grateful for – “I’m writing to thank you for…
  4. Then tell them how their gift or action or thoughtfulness made you feel – how you’ll use it, how has it made a positive impact on your everyday life, or even just how it made you feel.
  5. Be sure to use a personal sign-off: “Love” for close family and friends, but consider, “All my best” or “Best regards” or “Fondly Yours” or even just “Yours,” for others.

A thoughtful thank you note is a wonderful way expression of personal and professional etiquette and kindness and will become part of your brand. It’ll make someone feel great, you feel great, and it’s just the right thing to do.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

What Makes a Successful Career Fair?

Michigan Tech has a proud tradition of Career Fairs that are well organized and filled with both companies and well-prepared students.  In order for a Career Fair to be successful, it is imperative that there is a good turnout of both students and employers.

Preparation for an exam always improves performance!  Career Services offers students a variety of ways to get prepared for their future career through offering networking opportunities, practice interviews, resume assistance, and individual counseling.  These experiences are enhanced by our corporate partners who volunteer their time to help our students.

Our Fall Career Fair was record-setting in terms of company attendance.  The atmosphere was electric and the buzz on campus was palpable.  A detailed analysis of the registered companies reveals some interesting information.2014F Michigan Tech Career Fair Company Breakdown

Many of the companies in attendance were new to our Career Fair.  61 companies (almost 18%) of the companies have not been to campus since 2010 or have never been to campus before.

Feedback from our students and employers continues to enhance the career fair experience.  In the spirit of continuous improvement, we hope to make each Career Fair better than the last.  With more events to help increase student preparation and career awareness, we hope you will find that the Michigan Tech Career Fair is the best place to meet your next employees.

Save The Date! Spring 2015 Career Fair

The 2015 Spring Career Fair will be held on Tuesday, February 17, 2015.

Over 3,000 highly accomplished students attend the Michigan Tech Career Fair seeking full-time, co-op, and internship positions. They want to meet you and offer their talents in all areas of study, including: Engineering and Technology, Business Administration, Forestry, Ecology, Technical Writing, Arts and Sciences, and Clinical Lab Sciences. Our students are eager to apply their high-level academic background and hands-on experience to sustainable problem solving, designing, and producing for your company. You’ll be in the right place to staff your company with highly in-demand, top-talent students.