I went back to school this year. Not literally but figuratively. On July 1, I began a new job as Head of the Department of Education at Montana State University (#montanastate). Ten days later I was in front of a classroom of new first-year students during summer orientation, doing what department heads do. I welcomed the students to MSU. I congratulated them on the brilliant choice to become a bobcat (the MSU mascot). I shared that becoming a teacher provides them a chance to leave a positive impression on the future students whose lives they will touch. I also confessed that I felt just like they looked.
Underneath my confident persona, I was scared. I don’t know what it means to be a department head. I’m not sure of my role. There are new acronyms every day; buildings that I’ve never stepped foot in; meetings that I’ve never been invited to. I’m facing situations never encountered and supervising a staff who two months ago helped me operate the copier. I’m a first-year student all over again.
So I shared my fear and trepidation with this group at orientation. I let them know that we will learn together. We will struggle together. We will make mistakes together. I’m part of the Class of 2016. (It seems much more logical to state the year one matriculates then graduates.)
And I also shared what I had learned in my brief time on the job.
Stated simply, there are amazing people on this campus (and yours too) who will drop everything to aid in their success.
Let me provide a couple of examples.
- When I didn’t know how to access the university’s secure computer network, I asked the department’s administrative associate. She painstakingly walked me through the multitude of pull down menus. This was helpful but I also searched “access secure network” from the university website and bookmarked the step-by-step instructions for connecting from my Mac.
When students don’t know how to access the institution’s Learning Management System or other technology platform, who do they go to? Is there an IT Help Desk somewhere centrally located? Are there step-by-step guides on the university website? Are these guides searchable using several different terms? Because let’s be honest, it’s possible (no, more like probable) that not all new students will know that D2L has been re-named Brightspace LE.
It’s helpful to have a person be a resource but it’s just important to develop our resourcefulness.
One more example . . . .
- In my first month, I hired several full-time staff members and navigated university policy and procedure for crafting letters of appointment for countless sessional instructors and Graduate Teaching Assistants. The College’s personnel officer has been patient and kind despite me asking the same question 100 times. I am grateful beyond words.
As I observed the personnel officer’s fortitude in answering my repeated questions, I was reminded of the patience and kindness that academic advisors, financial aid administrators, and folks in the Registrar’s Office show to students every year. With each new class, they answer the same question 1000 times. It’s probably why offices have developed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) webpages. But beyond the technology, it’s the care and consideration shown to students through conversation that make the difference.
There is comfort in knowing that someone is there to help guide through the post-secondary process.
And at the end of the day, knowing that I don’t have to do it alone is what has mattered the most to me. As a new member of the “Department Head’s Roundtable,” I have met others from across campus who confront similar questions and face related challenges.
There’s a reason why protagonists in novels rarely go it alone. Rather, they are part of a “merry band of brothers” or the “sisterhood of the traveling pants.” There is strength in numbers and comfort in community.
As we begin this new academic year, I invite you to share how you found the community from which you gain strength and what you are doing to assist students in finding theirs. Please leave a reply so that we can learn how people are creating community on campus.
If you want to be part of the ongoing conversation, “follow” us @CdnStdntSuccess and “like” the Supporting Student Success Facebook page. We look forward to hearing from you.
By Jacqueline Beaulieu
Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity of presenting alongside Tricia Seifert at the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services’ (CACUSS) Annual Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba (June 19-22, 2016). The theme of the conference, Muddy Waters, Blue Skies, supported conversations on the many challenges encountered when aiming to support student success as well as the blue skies of opportunity and possibilities of what could be for students, staff, faculty, and community members. In our presentation titled Principles for Creating Student Focused Postsecondary Organizations, we examined how communication, resource allocation, and institutional culture are perceived as shaping the development of student-focused organizational approaches.
The current study was initially undertaken as part of a case study research methods course. Data from two institutions were analyzed as part of the class project; data from two additional institutions have since been analyzed to develop the broader set of findings presented at the CACUSS Conference. Data from an additional 1-2 institutions will be analyzed prior to presenting overall findings at an upcoming scholarly conference (to be determined). If you attended Tricia Seifert’s recent CACUSS presentation on publishing in student affairs, you likely recall her encouragement to “never let a good class paper go unpublished”. This blog post represents one of many ways to disseminate findings and concepts developed during course and work-related projects.
The purpose of this blog is to provide an overview of the study, current findings, and a working set of principles for creating student-focused postsecondary organizations derived from the findings. It will explore some of the “muddy waters” (challenges) of supporting student success as well as how communication, resource allocation, and institutional culture can come together and create “blue skies” (opportunities and possibilities) for all students.
About the Current Study
The findings in this study were derived from an analysis of data collected during the first phase of the Supporting Student Success study. During this phase, qualitative interviews and focus groups were conducted with nearly 300 student affairs and services staff from 9 universities and 5 colleges across Ontario. The purpose of the original study was to develop a more complete description of how Ontario’s post-secondary institutions are formally and informally structured as well as how staff perceive these structures as supporting and/or creating challenges for their ability to support student success.
This research focused on the larger research-intensive universities included in the broader sample given the range of centralized to decentralized organizational structures within this subsample and the range of stakeholders groups within each of the institutions and complexity of relationships between the many constituents.
Several theoretical frameworks including resource dependency theory (eg. Hillman, Withers, & Collins, 2009; Leslie & Slaughter, 1997; Tolbert, 1985), organizational ecology (eg. Carroll, 1984), and institutional logics informed the current study (eg. Thornton & Ocasio, 2008; Thornton, Ocasio, & Lounsbury, 2012). The current study tested propositions stemming from these frameworks as advanced by Pitcher, Cantwell, and Renn (2015).
Research Questions and Design
Central research question:
How do student affairs and services staff perceive their institution’s organizational structure and culture with respect to the development of a student-focused approach for program and service delivery?
- How are communication and resource allocation perceived as interacting with the development of student-focused organizational approaches?
- How do perceptions of communication, resource allocation, and institutional culture compare between more centralized and more decentralized organizational structures?
In terms of analysis, NVivo software was utilized to analyze interview and focus group transcripts as well as strategic planning documents. Open coding was utilized (Corbin & Strauss, 2014) followed by a theory-driven approach to collapse codes into categories. Themes within cases were identified by the researchers and then analyzed across cases. Pattern matching techniques (Yin, 2014) were utilized to examine if findings reflected perceived opportunities and challenges of centralized and decentralized organizational models as identified in the literature.
Institutions were placed along a continuum of organizational structures, ranging from more decentralized to more centralized, for the purposes of comparing findings across the institutions. Two of the institutions were categorized as highly centralized (Centralized University A and B) in which nearly all of the student affairs and service areas reported to the senior student affairs and services officer. An additional two institutions were identified as having a combination of centralized and decentralized features (Federated University A and B). Decentralized features may include units like career services that exist at both a university-wide and faculty-specific level. The number and nature of reporting lines as well as the distribution of student services determined degree of centralization.
Building Relationships and Communicating
At all of the institutions, participants perceived relationship building and communication as critical to one’s ability to support students. That being said, how informal networks developed varied in terms of:
Inward versus outward facing focus:
- At the Centralized Universities and within centralized units at the Federated Universities, participants focused on internal communications with fellow centralized staff
- At the Federated Universities, more examples were provided regarding relationship building and communication that was outward facing (eg. cross unit; with faculties)
Role of physical spaces and proximity of services:
- Participants at the Centralized Universities as well as participants working in centralized units at the Federated Universities spoke of the importance of physical placements of services and how location influenced the development of relationships
Strategies utilized to foster positive relationships:
- Participants at the Centralized Universities and Federated University A commented on the importance of forums, town halls, and socials
- Participants at Federated University B described fewer campus-level initiatives, however, mentioned many meetings amongst staff working in the centralized unit
Interpreting the Relative Value of Resources
At all of the institutions, concerns were expressed regarding perceived declines in fiscal and human resources as well as subsequent impacts for students and staff.
Impact on relationship building and communication:
- At Centralized University A and B as well as Federated University A, human resources were viewed as influencing the amount of available time for communicating with stakeholders and participating in socials
Impact of space and proximity of services on students and staff
- At Centralized University A and Federated University A, participants discussed the appropriateness of types of spaces for programs/services offered, whether spaces were viewed as welcoming, and if proximity of locations supported informal relationship building
Viewing Students and the Role of Student Affairs and Services
At all of the institutions, providing the best possible support to students was considered a top priority. Yet, the focus of support varied. At Federated University B, students were often described as clients and customers and educating students regarding why and how to get involved was considered a strong emphasis of student affairs and services’ work. At Centralized University A and B and Federated University A, students were often described as co-facilitators and co-decision makers and students’ holistic development was prioritized.
Utilizing Strategic Planning to Offset Organizational Weaknesses
At Centralized University A, Federated University A, and Federated University B, strategic plans were described as providing clarity and direction regarding how the unit and institution would navigate critical issues. Strategic planning was also described as helping to mitigate tensions over resources by conveying priorities and creating fewer unknowns. At Centralized University B, participants referred less to strategic planning, however, staff members engaged in comparable levels of discussion related to departmental and institutional values as conveyed and fostered by senior leaders.
On that note, we have attempted to summarize our learning thus far in a working set of principles for student-focused postsecondary organizations.
Principles for Creating Student-Focused Postsecondary Organizations
As a student affairs unit,
- Strive towards achieving “optimal” balances of inward versus outward facing communication
- Enable and empower stakeholders to develop ongoing communication and relationships that support student success… and themselves! Support stakeholders towards feeling comfortable and confident in reaching out to one another.
- Consider how current space allocations and proximity of services influence communication, organizational culture, and student success.
- Use strategic planning processes and outcomes to augment organizational strengths and offset organizational weaknesses or gaps. Unify stakeholders, create conversations, bring clarity to change and in doing so, reduce tension and competition.
- Work as a community to define and co-create the learning environment that you aspire to become.
- Invite, listen to, and engage with the perspectives of faculty, students, and other community members.
- Foster individual and organizational resilience so that “when the going gets tough”, student success and learning remain paramount as organizational values and overall objectives.
Navigating the Muddy Waters, Blue Skies of Creating Student-Focused Postsecondary Organizations
Organizational shifts, not to mention organizational change, can be downright difficult. During the conference presentation, attendees discussed how to employ the principles outlined above in hypothetical case studies. When immersed in our own institutions, it may be challenging to see the possibility of the principles at work. Sometimes it is easier to think about organizational shift at a distance, which is precisely what case studies offer. We share the case studies, one situated at Centralized University and the other at Decentralized University here. With staff retreats just around the corner, we invite you to use these case studies with your staff. Having discussed the principles in the safety of a case study, it may open up the possibility to imagine applying these principles to your daily work and organization.
During the closing session of the conference, our Conference Weavers, Tricia Seifert and Neil Buddel provided an analysis of overall themes within conversations that unfolded during the week. Tricia and Neil encouraged conference participants to commit and take responsibility for creating change on our campuses and asked what we would commit ourselves to doing post-conference. In a similar spirit, I would like to close this blog post with a simple question:
What can you commit to doing to shift your postsecondary institution towards an increasingly student-focused approach?
One of my post-CACUSS commitments: writing this blog post with the hope that our findings will support colleagues in their efforts to support student success ☺. If you are willing, share your commitment(s) by “leaving a reply” in the space below or tweeting us @CdnStdntSuccess; we look forward to retweeting as many of these as possible!
Carroll, G. R. (1984). Organizational ecology. Annual Review of Sociology, 10(1), 71–93.
Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2014). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Hillman, A. J., Withers, M. C., & Collins, B. J. (2009). Resource dependence theory: A review. Journal of Management, 35(6), 1404-1427.
Leslie, L. L., & Slaughter, S. A. (1997). The development and current status of market mechanisms in United States postsecondary education. Higher Education Policy, 10(3-4), 239-252.
Pitcher, E. N., Cantwell, B. J., & Renn, K. A. (2015, November). Inside access: Examining the promotion of student success through organizational perspectives. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Denver, CO.
Thornton, P. H., & Ocasio, W. (2008). Institutional logics. In R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, R. Suddaby, & K. Sahlin-Andersson (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of organizational institutionalism (pp. 99–129). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Thornton, P. H., Ocasio, W., & Lounsbury, M. (2012). The institutional logics perspective. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc..
Tolbert, P. S. (1985). Institutional environments and resource dependence: Sources of administrative structure in institutions of higher education. Administrative Science Quarterly, 30(1) 1-13.
Yin, R. K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods (5th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
The Supporting Student Success research team had an amazing time connecting with old friends and making new ones this past week in Vancouver. A big thank you to SFU and the #CACUSS15 conference planning team for putting together such a tremendous professional development event. Looking out what is arguably the most beautiful window in Canada, it gave attendees place and space to reflect on how the whole campus can support the whole student.
We were thrilled to share tips on survey design, findings from Phase 3 of the research study and opportunities to highlight innovative programs and initiatives on the Blueprints for Student Success website. In rooms that had people standing as well as sitting on the floor, conference attendees talked about developing better student surveys and improving outreach to faculty and other student affairs and services staff. Throughout the conference, folks stopped us in the hallways wanting to talk more and asking for our slides. We will post these in the coming week to the main portion of the blog as well as to the Publications/Presentations tab. So stay tuned!
If you came to one of our sessions and have suggestions on how we can better present the content, please “leave a reply.” We are putting together an infographic and would love to incorporate your thoughts and ideas.
Finally, we invite you to take a look at the awesome poster that Diliana Peregrina-Kretz and Kim Elias shared on how people feel encouraged to partner to support student success on their campus. CACUSS 2015 Poster Presentation_SSS
It was a time of great celebration. Although some of our team members weren’t able to join us, they were definitely there in spirit. Thanks to all who made this such a special conference.
This is a guest blog from Dr Nicholas Bowman. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Higher Education and Student Affairs at Bowling Green State University.
Higher education scholars and practitioners have attempted to determine what contributes to post-secondary student retention, persistence, and graduation. Unfortunately, some of the most common factors that have been examined (such as integration into the social and academic environment) have a surprisingly modest relationship with student persistence. It appears that current theories may be missing some important piece or multiple pieces of the “student departure puzzle” (to borrow a phrase from John Braxton).
In trying to figure out what this missing piece might be, I considered the concept of identity centrality from social psychology. As described by Robert Sellers and others, identity centrality conveys how important some aspect of one’s identity is to their overall self-image or who they perceive themselves to be. These identities may pertain to our life roles (such as being a parent or working in a certain occupation) and our demographic characteristics (such as race, gender, or sexual orientation). Drawing upon this framework, I suspected that students who see their identity as post-secondary students as central to their self-definition might be more likely to remain committed to staying in college or university and more likely to eventually complete their credential. Among those who are high in student identity centrality, persisting as a post-secondary student is critical for maintaining and actualizing an integral part of oneself.
Student identity centrality may also serve to buffer the potentially negative effects of challenges that may deter students from achieving their goal of completing a post-secondary credential. For example, students who face substantial stress from family or financial difficulties may be likely to drop out if being a student isn’t important to who they are, but those with high student identity centrality should be more likely to do whatever they can to remain in school and maintain this important aspect of themselves.
To explore this possibility, one of my students and I collected data from over 400 undergraduates at a large, public university in the United States; this institution is largely residential, and it primarily contains traditional-age, full-time students. Some of the findings from this initial study are intriguing, and a colleague of mine is currently collecting data at another institution to corroborate these results. In our questionnaire, we included some of the “usual suspects” of student success research (such as demographics and high school GPA) as well as some concepts that are understudied in higher education (such as stress from external sources and validation received from faculty and staff members, drawing upon the work of Laura Rendón and others).
In this study, student identity centrality was positively related to one’s commitment to the goal of receiving a university degree; this relationship was actually as strong for identity centrality as for social integration and academic integration, which are two of the most widely used concepts in research on student success. Student identity centrality was also associated with greater commitment to their current university and intent to persist until graduation. These patterns occurred even when statistically accounting for various precollege characteristics, college experiences, and social and academic integration. In addition, the effects of external stress, campus climate, social integration, and academic integration on goal commitment were all weaker among people who were high in student identity centrality. This finding is intriguing, because it suggests that students who are facing challenges on or off campus may be less affected if being a student is central to their sense of self.
So how can we promote student identity centrality on our campuses? This study’s findings show that campus climate and social integration are positively associated with identity centrality, so efforts toward those bolstering those attributes would be a good start. Encouraging certain forms of student engagement may also be helpful, since some roles on campus involve directly helping other students develop and flourish, including resident advisors, peer mentors, academic tutors, orientation leaders, and student government officers. By actually “seeing” themselves help with the post-secondary transition, these students will likely believe that being a student is important and hold it as more central to their own identity.
Finally, in many discussions of theories about student retention and persistence, people have debated whether the proposed factors that lead to student dropout are the “student’s fault” or the “institution’s fault.” In the case of student identity centrality, I believe that this is largely outside of students’ conscious control. As a thought experiment, is there a major part of your own identity that was previously unimportant, but you consciously decided to make it important?
Incoming undergraduates may be predisposed toward student identity centrality through various socialization processes that involve family members, peers, schools, neighborhoods, and media exposure. In addition, both before and during college and university, students from marginalized identity groups may receive frequent messages—whether explicit or implicit—that they may not be valued as students to the same extent as others, which could certainly affect identity centrality. And one could argue that post-secondary education is objectively more central to the lives of traditional-age, full-time students who live on campus than for part-time students with full-time jobs and substantial family responsibilities. It is very likely that many students who attend college or university part-time are high in student identity centrality, but having other life roles that are time consuming and personally important may decrease the likelihood of holding this particular identity as central. More potential factors may be involved in shaping this form of identity, and the ones listed here are speculative and have not been directly supported by research evidence.
Clearly, there is much more to discover about student identity centrality. However, this concept seems promising, and it may ultimately prove useful when seeking to understand and improve student success.
CACUSS 2014 (#CACUSS2014) is less than a week away and the Supporting Student Success team is excited to present in a number of sessions. This post showcases the three sessions directly related to our ongoing research project as well as other presentations which involve members of the research team. For those who are not able to attend the conference in Halifax, we will post our presentation slides after the conference. Please check out the “Presentations and Publications” tab in late June.
301 – Blueprints for Student Success: Improving High School Students’ Awareness of Student Affairs And Services: Presented by: Christine Arnold and Kathleen Moore
Student affairs and services (SAS) have become integral components of Canadian colleges and universities. Increasing high school students’ awareness of service areas, programs and initiatives is imperative in order for students to make informed decisions regarding involvement, academics and health/wellness. This presentation will engage participants in our research-based Blueprints for Student Success website and mobile application developed to provide high school students with the knowledge and language necessary to navigate their transition to postsecondary education. Monday, June 9, 3:30-4:00 Session # 301, 200C2
602 – It’s All About What You Ask Them: Using Cognitive Interviews to Improve Student Assessment: Presented by Jeffrey Burrow, Diliana Peregrina-Kretz, and Tricia Seifert
The assessment of programs and services is a crucial step in improving and understanding student learning and development. Cognitive interviews can improve the quality of student affairs assessments by uncovering the cognitive processes participants use in responding to questions. This learning lab will introduce the theory and practice of CI’s and will highlight how they can improve assessment. Participants are asked to bring their own assessment examples so they can conduct mini-cognitive interviews during the session. Tuesday, June 10, 1:45 – 3:00, Session #602, Meeting Room #4
913 – How Do You Know? Why Do You Think So? Using Research to Inform Practice: Presented by: Tricia Seifert, Janet Morrison, David McMurray, and Karen Cornies
This panel presentation highlights the experiences of senior student affairs and services leaders in using research from the Supporting Student Success study. The panelists will share how they have used the findings from this research broadly, and in some cases their institution’s data specifically, to foster conversations with colleagues about the role of student affairs and services in supporting student success, re-organize and structure a division, and influence organizational culture. Wednesday, June 11, 9:30-10:45, Session #913, Suite 307
Members of the Supporting Student Success research team are also presenting in several other sessions. We invite you to check out their great work.
305 – Employer Perceptions of Co-Curricular Engagement and the Co-Curricular Record in the Hiring Process: Presented by Kimberly Elias
Universities and colleges promote the value of co-curricular engagement and the Co-Curricular Record (CCR) as a means to highlight transferable skills to employers. Listen to the results of a thesis study which examines the question: How are co-curricular experiences and the CCR perceived and valued by employers in the hiring process? This study explored current hiring processes, competencies and factors employers look for, and perceptions of the value of the CCR in the hiring process. Monday, June 9, 3:30-4:00, Session #305, Suite 306
411 – OPEN BOOK: Recent Literature in Student Affairs: Deanne Fisher, Rob Shea, Tricia Seifert, Ross McMillan, John Austin, Tamara Leary and Jeff Burrow
Each year, the Open Book session introduces participants to relevant and recent literature – good and bad – in student affairs and related fields. Our panel of readers present mini-reviews of books that have influenced our practice and the institutions in which we operate. This usually provokes a conversation about the big ideas that shape our work. Audience participation is encouraged! Monday, June 9, 4:15-5:30, Session # 411 Suite 205
90 Ideas in 90 Minutes: Research and Assessment section: Tricia Seifert and Jeff Burrow: Tuesday, June 10 | 8:45–10:30, 200C2
501 – Moving Forward – Transitioning Beyond the First Year: Presented by: Adina Burden, Diliana Peregrina-Kretz, and Lake Porter
The growing number of students with disabilities enrolling in post-secondary education requires that institutions provide comprehensive and tailored programs to meet their unique needs. Transition programs that introduce students to campus and student life are an integral component in supporting students with disabilities acclimate to the new environment. This session will provide participants with tools necessary to develop a successful transition program for students with disabilities including: planning, executing, and follow-up programming to support students. Tuesday, June 10, 11:15-12:30, Session #518, Meeting Room #4
518 – Understanding Icky: Making Difficult Ethical Decisions in Student Affairs: Presented by Chris McGrath and Tricia Seifert
We all make tough decisions under tough circumstances. But when the difficult choice results in a negative outcome for our students, our personal and professional ethics can easily collide. This is an opportunity to learn about models of moral and ethical decision making in professional practice, and to begin mapping our “moral languages” (Nash, 1996) towards a better understanding of how we make tough professional choices. Tuesday, June 10, 11:15-12:30, Session #518, Suite 202
605 – Navigating Transition Through Online Mentorship: Presented by: Leah McCormack-Smith and Steve Masse
In the spring of 2013, we rejuvenated our student transition program by pursuing a unique experiment with e-mentorship. Informed by current theories of student engagement and best practices emerging from our campus Student Communications Summit, we committed to matching our entire first-year class with successful upper-year e-mentors. During this session we will introduce you to the program, share our successes and challenges, as well as discuss our plans for the future! Tuesday, June 10, 1:45-3:00, Session #605, Suite 306
801 – Transfer Literacy: Assessing Informational Symmetries And Asymmetries: Presented by Christine Arnold
International researchers have voiced concerns regarding students’ understanding of credit transfer and the resulting impediments. An investigation of students’ clarity and confusion with credit transfer processes centers on the existent information system in place and its accessibility. In the Ontario context, this information system includes government/agencies, institutional administrators and students. This research seeks to examine the extent to which the college-to-university transfer information system is performing efficiently and identify (a)symmetries existent in stakeholders’ understanding of this process. Tuesday, June 10 4:15-4:45, Session #801, Room 200C2
1002 – Co-Curricular Record/Transcript: Establishing Standards and a Community of Support: Presented by Kimberly Elias and Chris Glove
The rapid adoption of the Co-Curricular Record/Transcript (CCR/T) program across Canada created a need for the CCR/T Professionals Network to form. This network recently met in May 2014 to develop a framework of recommendations on how CCR/T’s should be structured in Canada as it pertains to quality and standards. Participate in the ongoing discussion and share your thoughts and feedback on the recommendations developed at the Summit. No experience with CCR/T is needed to participate. Wednesday, June 11, 2014 11:15-12:30, Session #1002, Suite 202
We hope your conference is a great one, and that you are able to attend some of the eleven (11!) presentations we have featured here, as well as the dozens and dozens of other, amazing presentations scheduled for CACUSS 2014. See you in Halifax!
The last couple months, we’ve been sharing posts about the incredible ways that students support their peers’ success. Recently, one of the Supporting Student Success research team members introduced me to Aly Madhavji, a University of Toronto alumnus who wrote “Your Guide to Succeed in University.” Aly exemplifies the student who connects his peers to opportunities and coaches them through tough times. He is definitely a role model and one worth copying.
With convocation upon us and summer just around the corner, I invited Aly to guest blog and share tips for staff members who work with students during this busy season of job-searching. I invite you to share his post both with your staff and students.
Simplifying the Experience Building Process + Networking
Two of the biggest things that students miss out on during their post-secondary education are building career experience and learning how to network. Regardless if a student is a recent graduate or has simply finished a year of college or university, building experience and networking are vital to a successful long-term career. As with anyone, sometimes students need to learn and hear about these topics multiple times, in different ways, or from various sources.
Over the summer months, it’s critical for students not leave a gap in their resume. The main possibilities are: taking summer courses, part-time/full-time work, travelling, developing a skill (dance, languages, sports, etc.), or volunteering. I would recommend a combined approach but we’ll focus on developing skills through volunteer or work experience. My distinction between volunteer and work experience is that volunteering generally provides flexibility, leadership opportunities and more personal development; whereas, work experience will supplement income and build independence related skills.
What are the first-steps for students?
Start by putting together a refined resume. Be sure to incorporate feedback from the Career Services Centre, peer feedback, and reviewing various online formats & templates. Once a student has a refined resume, they are competitive for the job searching phase.
Let’s break down job searching into a few different avenues for what a student should do:
1) Have others search for them (Recruiting Firms)
a. Contact recruiting firms or recruiters through online searches, LinkedIn, and through their network.
b. Students should meet with the recruiters, and explain their credentials and what type of position they are looking for.
Results: Get access to new job portals and even while they’re not looking, recruiters will be looking for them.
2) Post their credentials (online resume for numerous companies)
a. Ensure they have a LinkedIn profile and update it with their resume.
b. Find job portals to create a profile, such as Workopolis, Monster.ca, Career Centre portals, etc.
Results: This will allow individuals, companies, and opportunities to find the student, even if they didn’t directly search for them.
3) Apply to positions of interest
a. Find specific positions of interest through their college/university, Career Centre, LinkedIn, job portals, networks, etc.
b. Try to seek opportunities to personalize the process through coffee or lunch meetings.
c. Submit a tailored cover letter and resume for each position
d. Follow-up with friendly phone calls or emails.
Results: This will allow the student to target specific opportunities build relationships with staff from the specific entity.
It’s important to remember that job searching isn’t easy, especially in this tough economy. A student ought to know that they are not alone if they’re having trouble, but perseverance is the key to success.
A critical area of the job searching process is building relationships, which forms the networking component. Networking is a give and take relationship. One of the biggest misconceptions related to networking is that networking is limited to a specific time and place. Networking is something you can practice anywhere, anytime!
Here is a brief introduction to my networking formula which comes in 4 key pieces and it is very useful for students:
1) Network up and Down
- Networking shouldn’t be confined to superiors, think about the people both within or outside of your circle; every single person has a talent, skill and a connection that could be beneficial.
2) Help others including your competition
- Remember the people around you aren’t your competition; working together to refine your applications, tag-team networking, and practice interviewing is more beneficial.
- The key here is that being genuine and helpful pays-off.
3) Make friends not “Networks”
- Approaching the networking process as a way to build friendships will help you enjoy the process and you’ll be more successful.
- Networking is a 2-way street; make sure you’re “giving” at least as much as you’re “taking”.
4) Be yourself but don’t be nervous
- Remember that this is just a learning experience and you’ll get better from observing the people around you and through trial and reflection.
Remember, this is only a snapshot into building experience and networking skills. Feel free to get a Free copy of Your Guide to Succeed in University, rated the #1 Hottest Study Aid in Canada and #2 in the US, which discusses these topics in more depth. It is available on all major e-platforms (iBooks, Google Play, Amazon, etc.) at http://www.SucceedinUniversity.com . There is also a free downloadable poster on the “About the Guide” section of the website, which is permitted to be customized with your institutions logo and used in print and electronic format.
Posted by Aly Madhavji, Author of Your Guide to Succeed in University