Author: jlwall

#SigningDay #MTUGrad – Starting a new tradition!

Graduation day is less than a week away! What is the ultimate result of all that hard work? Starting a job with a new company, applying those skills in a new occupation, and earning money!

We copied the idea of a high school recruit signing for a new college or a professional athlete getting drafted.  Here are some group photos next to our statue in the middle of campus. We think this new tradition will take hold!

Thank you to our corporate partners at: 3M, Alliance Laundry Systems, ArcelorMittal, Caterpillar, The Dow Chemical Company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford Motor Company, Gerdau, Jackson, Kimberly-Clark, Nucor, Oshkosh, Plexus, and Systems Control. Our corporate partners help prepare our students for their careers and now, it is time to get to work!

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The Perma-Smile

Many people talk about the “Senior Slide” as students finish their final year of college, I prefer to talk about the “perma-smile”.  smiley-face-on-beach

Students have worked so hard for their grades.  They have learned how to survive with messy roommates, impossible project assignments, harsh weather, homesickness, and the stress of a job search.  In the last few weeks of the Spring semester, can you blame them for being insufferably happy?

As these students count down the days until they graduate (it’s 22, by the way) – all of their hard work has paid off.  Although nobody knows what it is, they are ready to join the “real world”   As they strike out on their own, hopefully, the Career Culture that we have created on campus will propel them into their first destination.

The educational value of many the things the students have done may not be apparent to them.  There are a lot of technical skills learned in the classroom, but also a lot of other skills learned outside of the class that will help them succeed.  Late nights completing a project before a deadline, networking during a lunch, performing a presentation on a topic in front of their peers, entering a contest, or volunteering their talents to help someone else — these life lessons will serve them well.

To me, the perma-smile is a result of knowing that all the hard work is just beginning but the pay will be much better!


Designing A New Student Event #MTUCPD

image-forwebWe’ve all seen the scene in the movie where someone grabs a napkin and a pencil and begins sketching wildly.  The scene changes and voilà! — a fully functioning product is working perfectly through the magic of film editing.

To help counteract decreasing student attendance at informational sessions, we created a new model for student engagement this past Fall.  These interactive events were called  “Industry Days.”  Student response was positive.  Students and company representatives that participated both helped each other learn more about each other.  Company representatives were more than generous with their time and life experiences to help students prepare for their upcoming careers.

As we reviewed the success of these events, one of the challenges we noticed was companies that are in the Consumer Products space don’t neatly fit the “Industry” model that we had created.  We use these products every day, but the skills needed to create them don’t exist in a single course taken in school.

As Thomas Edison so famously stated “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”  Nowhere is this more evident than with consumer products.  Market research is difficult work requiring detailed knowledge of consumer needs, wants, and behaviors.  With an understanding of what consumers think they want, the product innovator needs to blend new technology, existing technology, and design to create a product that consumers may not know that they need!

In April, our students will get a chance to participate in an exciting new event.  During a 24 hour period, student teams will have a chance to showcase their creativity, innovation, intuition, and presentation skills.  “Consumer Products Day” will challenge students to start with a box of disparate parts and combine them into something great.  The highlight will be live presentations in front of a panel of judges and an audience.

In less than a month, there will be a short video of the event.  In fact, it will be just like the movies!

For all the details, please visit: http://www.mtu.edu/career/careerfest/students/industry/consumer-products-day/


Peer To Peer Networking For Experiential Education

Students love to interact with their peers.  I had a chance to observe this in action during some events held here on campus.  Career Services organized an event for students to share their experiences from their Experiential Education (Co-op or Internship) with students 1 or 2 years behind them.  To facilitate the discussion, students described what they learned while out working.  Afterwards, students displayed posters sharing their work experiences.

Giving students a chance to network with each other changes the entire dynamics of the conversation.  The style of the questions was dramatically different than the typical Career Fair interaction.  These conversations were more informal, more relaxed, and more conversational.  Why the big difference?  Students were talking to their peers?  Students on both sides of the table were were excited to learn, excited to share, and willing to “tell the truth” from their experiences.

What was most amazing to me was that after 3 or 6 or 8 months working for a company, our students were able to articulate the work culture and environment at their company.  They were just as passionate about the company they worked for as a seasoned member of the recruiting team.

This is an event that is easy to over-think or over-complicate.  Essentially, we invited students to make posters and asked them to share with their colleagues.  The rest of the interactions were unscripted and some of the most educational programming we have available to our students.

For pictures from the event, check out our Flickr page.


Career Paths Are Not Linear

As a 3-year-old what they “want to be when they grow up” and they immediately shout out “Astronaut!” or “Ballerina!” or “Fireman!”  These occupations usually include recognizable costumes, books, an animated TV show, and action figures.

Very few of us grow up to become what we wanted to be at such a young age.  We are influenced by friends, family, peers, educators, and managers we encounter throughout our formative years.  There can be external pressure applied throughout the process.  Parents focus on their son or daughter graduating with a job.  Students feel pressure to get out into the “real world.”  Higher Education collects, analyzes, and scrutinizes “first destination” data.

Careers are definitely not straight lines drawn from college graduation to retirement.  

What if you worked tirelessly toward a career with the full knowledge that it would only last a few years?  Last week, I was fortunate enough to meet two extremely humble, hard-working, and honest people.  These athletes had success at the highest level of their sports and now have moved on to more “traditional” jobs.

John Standeford (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Standeford) and Zach McClellan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zach_McClellan) visited the Michigan Tech campus to share the story of their life journey.  John (NFL) and Zach (MLB) spent years on buses, in the weight room, being cut/traded, and sacrificing portions of their bodies and lives to pursue a dream.  They knew full well the dream was difficult to achieve and would have a short duration.

To me, these are the most important things they shared with us:

  • Be Coachable – There are many people along the way that will give you suggestions for improvements.  You must be able to listen to them and incorporate their feedback into your actions.  You may not always agree, but they have your best interests in mind.
  • Attention To Detail – Why does it matter if your jersey is tucked in?  Because every detail matters and being sloppy on lots of small details can result in bigger problems later.
  • Honor your commitments – You are only as good as your reputation or your word.  It is your responsibility to give maximum effort every single play, every single day, and throughout your career.
  • Be Present – Showing up is the easy part.  If the day is long or starts early, be alert, focused and dedicated on the task at hand.


A Time For Reflection

The end of the year brings with it many “Best Of” and “Top 10” lists of the accomplishments of the past twelve months.  Additionally, there are a whole host of “Predictions” for the next year.  These articles and programs seem to fill a void in all of the magazines and media outlets that want to distribute content when everyone would rather be on vacation.

Finding time to reflect upon lessons learned helps our minds and bodies take the various disconnected facts that we have learned and synthesize them to create new memories and patterns in our brain.  There is an on-going conversion back and forth between tacit and explicit knowledge.  

Taking time to unplug or relax or meditate is even harder than ever in today’s connected society.  It is only through reflection and setting objectives that new habits can be created.  If we set an objective to “Climb Mount Everest”, it automatically establishes a theme for all of the smaller steps that must be accomplished to support the primary goal.

As part of our efforts to help build a “Career Culture”, students need to use this same process.  Maybe you did just have “the worst class ever” or “impossible group project”.  What was it about the class that made it so challenging?  Was it hard to stay motivated in a part-time job that you only did to earn some cash?  Throughout your internship or co-op, what did you learn about corporate culture?  What teams were you a part of that made the work go better?  Worse?  Have you been exposed to project management systems that made you more confident about your work?

Since there is a never a good time to reflect, relax, and rejuvenate, let’s make this part of our year-end tradition!Relaxing-512


Your Career “Comfort Zone”

wordleIt seems like every magazine, newspaper, or journal is discussing topics like: Big Data, Information Overload, and Consumer Choice.  The general theme relates to the exponentially increasing amount of information and choices available everywhere.

Every business or industry has its own “shorthand” language, terminology, and nuances. In academia, we sometimes get trapped in discussing “Learning Outcomes”.  In business, the focus is on the quarterly results, ROI and EBITDA.  In politics, the overnight poll results lead the evening news after every debate with qualifiers about response rate, accuracy, and confidence.

Recently, I attended an event at our Forestry Building where a variety of Forestry and Natural Resources companies had gathered to meet with students.  Just like any other networking event, companies and students were trying to get to know one another.  As I joined conversations, some portions of of the discussions were like a foreign language to me!  I was amazed by how many abbreviations, jargon, and “Three Letter Abbreviations” (TLA’s) we use to be efficient in our communications.  I am sure I’ve had conversations with my peers that were confusing to others throughout my career.

In January 2015, Michigan Tech had our first ever “Medical Careers Week” on campus.  This year, in January 2016, Career Services has again partnered with different departments across campus for another week designed to help students understand all of the different aspects of careers in Medicine, Allied Health, Informatics, and Biomedical Engineering.  These days are structured with both afternoon and evening components to allow students to fit these topics around their busy class schedules.

Many Michigan Tech students assume that their degree in Engineering will lead to a job in manufacturing or design.  However, as trained problem solvers, an Engineering degree can be an excellent starting point for a career in medicine.

As we continue to build a Career Culture on campus, the depth and breadth of these career explorations are great learning opportunities.  At a minimum, participants become aware of the complexities of something beyond their specific field of study.  Ideally, these events help everyone expand their career “comfort zone” to have a better understanding of the world we live in.


Recruiting Trends 2015-16 Conference

On October 20, 2015, I attended the “Recruiting Trends 2016” survey in Chicago.  This survey has grown and evolved over the years.  Dr. Phil Gardner (Michigan State University) has conducted the survey for many years and did an excellent job of explaining the data to everyone who attended.

Because I work in Career Services, I like to think none of this information was surprising to me!  However, there is always information in national data that is shocking when you broken down regionally.  Hiring in the Midwest is driven by manufacturing — specifically, the resurgence in the Automotive market.  Contrast that to areas hit hardest by low oil prices and you see the drastic disparity within a range of national averages.

Our Career Fair attendance has been at record levels for company attendance.  Michigan Tech students are highly demanded and sought after.  We hope these trends will last forever – but all things are cyclical.

This Fall, our focus was to help develop a “Career Culture” on campus.  The creation of hands-on, interactive, networking events with companies to help students feel comfortable in a job market.  Our partnership with corporate volunteers to review resumes, provide practice interviews, or just be available to listen to students created many individual connections.  The active promotion of our Learning Center to coach students through the process.

These events help students “find their fit” for the first stop on their career journey.  Whether the economy is strong or weak, an alumni that is passionate about what they do and has clear expectations about what they want to accomplish will always be a positive contributor to any company.

(The “Collegiate Employment Research Institute” (CERI) has consolidated this information into a series of short reports available on their website at: http://www.ceri.msu.edu/)


Information Sessions – Know your audience!

What is important to you at age 3 is different than what is important to you at age 30.  Similarly, when students are 20 years old, their priority is to get that first paycheck.  Up until graduation, their largest decision was which college to attend.  Now, after studying for countless hours, they are transitioning from being a student to joining the “real world” that they have longed for since becoming a teen.

I remember my first paycheck after I graduated.  I couldn’t wait to get that check.  In fact, I bought a stereo that was bigger than my car and just financed it because I knew I would have cash in my checkbook soon enough.  (I should have read the details on the financing arrangements, but that is a different story!)

In many Informational Sessions, companies talk about their rank in the Fortune 500, their medical benefits, the matching percentage of the 401(k) program, etc.  These are all important pieces of information.  They are crucial to an employee who has a mortgage, car payments, a wedding to pay for, and family medical deductibles.  But, we are getting ahead of ourselves.

However, at age 20 or 21 – students are more interested in the projects they will be working on.  They can’t quite imagine retirement because they haven’t even started a job yet!  In your information session, don’t forget to focus on what is front-and-center in the kid’s minds “What will I be doing every day?”

As I listen in to different Informational Sessions and talk to students afterwards, they want to know what they are going to “do”.  Michigan Tech students have a reputation for being practical, hands-on, get-it-done employees.  Help them visualize what that looks like by sharing descriptions of projects that your interns are doing, projects the full time employees are working on.  Share projects that were success and failures.  Put all of this in context so students can understand what it is like to work for your company.  You will find that they are much more engaged and find it easier to ask questions.