Author: jlwall

Having fun while learning!

Throughout my life, I’ve been to many museums and exhibits.  I’ve spent hours reading descriptions and plaques about what happened on a certain spot or on a certain date.  My ability to remember these events is enhanced with some sort of visual que or a hands-on exhibit.  When I take my family to a Science Museum or a Children’s museum, I’m usually “that guy” who is taking the time to press every button and try every experiment.  Usually, my kids need to grab me by the hand and drag me out before we get locked in at the end of the day!

The goal with this Fall’s series of Industry Days on Michigan Tech’s campus is to help our students learn what kind of career opportunities they could have.  These experiences will be a combination of hands-on learning and getting viewpoints from a variety of industry personnel.  Throughout the planning and development process, we keep asking the question: “Does that sound like something fun that I would want to do?”

Talking to a complete stranger is a skill that must be learned.  By creating fun, interactive activities, students experience networking by having a shared experience to discuss with recruiters.  The ability to network is one that students find hardest to learn and difficult to practice.

Another, perhaps unintended, benefit of this Fall’s “Industry Days” is giving students a safe place to learn yet another skill for their Career search and their lifelong learning.

New University-Wide Calendar System

The University campus is a busy place.  When you plan a visit to campus, you want to make maximum use of your time here.  To help you with this, Michigan Technological University implemented a new “university-wide” calendar system this summer.

Check out to see a single source location for a system that combine academic, athletic, and every publicly available calendar on campus into a single source.

With this new system, you can check the date range of possible events to find ways to maximize your time while you are in Houghton.  You will find the ability to search by date range, event types, department, and intended audience.  mtu_event_calendar

Fall Career Fair Detailed Calendar

The weeks leading up to the Fall Career Fair are full of activity on the Michigan Tech campus.

In order to help the companies that recruit our students, Career Services has organized a web page to contain the information.  Please visit: before your visit to campus to help maximize your recruiting efforts.

You will find detailed brochures and complete registration information for the events that require advanced notification for participation.

Taking the plunge!

Too often, it is easy to make the safe choice. In many cases, this is easier and less work. All change requires additional work and some degree of risk.

Why would we change from our existing system for posting job opportunities and put our faith in a startup company?  Isn’t this a highly critical system designed to help our students find jobs?


We have been stuck in a classic “chicken or the egg” paradigm with both companies and students frustrated with each other for not being more active participants in the process. This has lead to continuing decline in system utilization as the spiral continued.

After years of listening to our students and employers tell us that our system was difficult to use and impossible to access from mobile devices, we decided to switch to a system designed from the “ground up” for today’s student. With intelligent prompts, suggestions for occasional users, and heavy integration with the social media that students use today, Handshake is much simpler to use.

That is only part of the issue. To make the system fulfill its potential, our launch events in the fall are designed to get students actively participating in the new system and actively thinking about their careers.

When our students return to campus in the Fall, they will have a chance to search for jobs, interact with employers, and chart their career path — all from the palm of their hand!  We are excited to provide our students with the latest in job search technology by converting to Handshake.



Learn From Your Interns

Providing meaningful projects to your Interns and Co-ops is important.  Students can learn a lot about their professional development, your company, and their career development based on the workplace challenges your provide them.

Have you ever taken the time to consider the things you can learn from your interns?

Interns are an excellent source of information about themselves and their peers.  Once the orientation is over and they are starting to settle into the routine of your office – take some time out of your busy schedule to ask them some questions:

  • What kinds of recruiting activities have you seen other companies do that have impressed you?
  • What is the most off-putting thing you have seen a recruiter do?
  • How much did you know about our industry before you started working here?
  • Do you have any friends that you could recommend that I meet?
  • What did you think of your orientation?  Did it prepare you for the challenges of working here?
  • Is there too much hands-on?  Too much desk work?
  • Do you have a good understanding of our office culture?

By acknowledging this student as an expert about their life experiences, you will gain  business intelligence for yourself, but also gain the confidence, trust, and respect of a young student by simply listening.


Putting the “Experience” into Experiential Education

Michigan Tech students were able to experience the inner workings of the Nucor factory in Crawfordsville, IN a few weeks ago.  This experience was made possible due to the hard work of AIST, Nucor, and Michigan Tech.

Because a bus full of 50 students were traveling, the trip logistics were carefully planned and accommodations for a group this size were considered.  The planned portion of the trip included a factory tour, dinners, and classroom training about leadership.

There are many adages about the “best laid plans” and Murphy’s law.  All of them apply here!

While the bus was en-route on this 12 hour journey, a combination of weather patterns forced the electrical utility to schedule the Electric Arc Furnace to be shut down during the tour.  Quick thinking at the factory resulted in a re-adjustment of both dinner and tour plans.  The Nucor team was able to rally to provide tours late in the evening and everyone ended up staying up later than planned.

Our students learned even more lessons than we had originally planned!  They got an excellent lesson in planning, resilience, and adjusting to changing conditions.  The key part of “Experiential Education” is that the experience will always be unique.

You can view photos of the event on our flickr page



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:

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!