Give them a break they may just surprise you!

My days are filled with a revolving door of students, faculty, staff, co-workers, employers and just all the other stuff that comes along through the course of a regular work week. Every now and then, however, something truly amazing happens that deserves recognition.
I don’t know about you but my reading these days is replete with articles, research, books, etc. that fill pages with the unpreparedness of college graduates entering the workforce. They are entitled, lazy, unmotivated, uninspired, confrontational, uncommunicative, irresponsible and completely unaware of the “real world” and what it entails. Ok just to clarify, no my words, or necessarily my opinions. I work with all generations as our student body spreads the gamut of generations, of which all have their unique set of challenges.
Friday’s are normally quiet days for us here in Career Services. No students on campus with the exception of the occasional drop by, we get lots done. Today however, I was met with inspiration. I had several students stop by today asking for me to look at mission statements, final projects, resumes, etc. It took me a few students to realize they were all from the same Career Development class.
I got out of my office leaving my Friday afternoon music mix playing and walked over to the library. I was greeted not by just a few classmates but the ENTIRE class. Yes they came in to get some assistance from me and my team, but more importantly from each other. All on their own, they decided to come in on a non-class day to work TOGETHER on their final projects and get some additional help with their resumes.
Yes I said the entire class! Did it disrupt my otherwise quietly productive day, absolutely! Did I care, not at all. These moments are the ones that I crave, when a student finally comprehends a topic, aces a test and can’t wait to tell me or even when they come by to let us know they just got hired for their dream job.
In this moment I was reminded that, although our newest generation may have their unique challenges they also bring with them a brilliantly unique set of gifts and strengths. One of their gifts being that of social ability and not just on the internet, (although I bet the internet was used to achieve this scheduled grouping of merry men and women).
I guess my point is that, people may, and often do, surprise you. Don’t discount a student or a whole group of students because of their age, demographic, socio-economic standing or ethnicity. They are, as they keep telling us, individuals and should be treated as such.
I learned a valuable lesson today, there will be those who challenge you, those who disappoint you and those who may let you down. What I live for are those who surprise, amaze and inspire me to keep doing what I do to the very best of my ability. I want to be the shoulders others stand on to achieve their goals…while I watch them rise to the top.

Scare Floor or Laugh Floor?

I recently read an article online published by FastCompany titled “Why Humor Makes You More Creative” by Drake Baer. Great article! Here I am arming my entire campus with Nerf guns and water balloons because it’s fun and a great tension breaker. Now come to find out my instinct for making my work environment fun makes me an innovative manager who fosters free and creative thinking. Who knew?

Well actually I kind of did, but not in the formal sense. Many years ago when I was tapped on the shoulder to take over a large sales and customer service department I made an analogy to my then Vice President. I told him I would take on the project, however it wasn’t going to look like the department we had prior. I didn’t want an ocean of cubicles full of downtrodden folks who didn’t feel their value, engage our customers and enjoy their work.

I asked if he’d seen the movie Monsters Inc.? He smiled and laughed, “No I haven’t, but I’ve heard of it”. I told him the short history of a large company, one that had been keeping society functioning and moving in a ‘forward’ direction, only to find out that this direction was no longer sustaining them…their society, very way of life was in jeopardy (did I mention I was working for a newspaper at the time). The crux of the movie was to find new ways of achieving the same ends with different means. However the means weren’t really different, they were just more extreme measures of what they were currently doing. Yes they were beating a dead horse, squeezing blood from a stone, etc. It wasn’t working.

Through a long, and in my opinion very funny progression of events, the discovery was made that laughter is more beneficial to all then fear. Go figure! Now I can take this analogy in all kinds of directions but I want to keep it in the context of the Drake Baer article, “Why Humor Makes You More Creative”. Baer states “while self-monitoring is often useful–you don’t want to say everything that passes through your mind–it can get in the way of new ideas.” Laughter enables you to turn off that internal filter that can keep you from letting the ideas flow. I noticed that in my customer service department, those folks who were more concerned with following a script were less able to genuinely listen, empathize and assist the customer. They couldn’t solve customer challenged unless the answer was written in front of them. Conversely, those who laughed more, enjoyed their job and engaged with the customer were able to think creatively to solve customer issues. They thought out of the proverbial box and did what was right…all on their own.

Now I admit Nerf guns and water balloons may not work in all work environments; however humor, laughter and light hearted communication can be just the drug your team needs to find an otherwise incomprehensible answer. Sometimes the best ideas are those that seem outrageous, silly or just plain ridiculous.

They don’t know what they don’t know till you tell them.

I met with one of my students this week. She was volunteering in an administrative function and came into the office to do some filing. She walked into my office in a cute little sweater dress…emphasis on little. The topic needed to be addressed before she bent over to do the filing. I asked her to sit down and talk to me for a second before she started with the day’s work. After covering the normal pleasantries of, “how was your weekend” and “what did you do”, I asked her how she wanted the world to perceive her. She looked at me completely confused by the question. I asked her if she remembered what I had said during her orientation regarding thinking of school as a job, and that she needed to dress, prepare and act like it was a job. She quickly stated that she remembered the conversation very well, and quoted several other thinks I had also talked about.

I was confused, how could she clearly remember all I had spoken with her and her classmates about and have it not sink in? So I asked her if she thought that what she was wearing would be appropriate in a work environment; especially in the medical field, where she would be working. She immediately snapped at me, “You mean you don’t think I look cute?” I looked at her and very plainly stated, it wasn’t that I did or did not think she looked cute. She did in fact look “cute”, she did not look professional. So I asked her the same question again, “how do you want the world to perceive you?”

After several attempts at an answer and much more conversation regarding the cuteness of her outfit, she finally got the point. She never considered that her revealing outfit, could (and indeed would) keep the world from perceiving her as intelligent and professional.

Yes there are exceptions to the rule. However, they are exceptions. First impressions are so important and if the impression we are putting out there is “cute” it’s very challenging to make that jump to professional.

The next day, my student came in with a huge grin on her face, “Is this better?” she asked. And indeed it was; now she was not interview ready but she was wearing a clean, un-torn pair of pants and a more appropriate blouse. We talked more about how to be both ‘cute’ and professional, no those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Even at my age I want to look cute, however you can achieve this and still be taken seriously as a professional in your field.

Who stopped teaching us this? When does individual expression cross the line to hindering perception? How can we swing the pendulum back to where some sense of self-expression can exist in the midst of creating a professional brand?

It’s Friday what are you doing to further your job search?

No friday’s were not invented for dress down, low productivity or goof off. In the job search world, finding a job should be your full-time job. That means Friday’s should be one more productive day. Jobs still get posted, HR representative and recruiters are still in the building and the internet…surprisingly is still working. Make it work for you!

If you are getting into the habbit of ‘taking friday easy’ it won’t be long until you only spend half day on Thursday focusing on it as well. Before too long you are spending more time taking it easy then you are taking yourself to market.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing…that’s why we recommend it daily.” ~Zig Ziglar

Today could be the start to your career…but only if you are looking for it.

Beef Up Your Résumé: Volunteer

This is great information for our students who are coming to college right out of high school and looking to beef up their resume. If you know your career field, reach out to employers you want to work for and inquire after volunteer opportunities. This is a great way to network, improve your resume and made a sound decision regarding your career of choice.

“Attitude reflects leadership, captain.” I was re-watching one

“Attitude reflects leadership, captain.” I was re-watching one of my favorite sports movies #rememberthetitans, I replayed this section over and over in my head. This four word statement says volumes. It’s not a management lesson, it’s a life lesson. We often make the mistake of thinking that our leadership opportunities are limited to our professional lives. In my world I stand as a leader to not only my colleagues and direct reports but to my students and staff that I come in contact with every day. I also stand as a leader to my children, my nieces and nephews, the young lady at the drive through and the gentleman that bags my groceries. What is my attitude not only toward them, but around them? How often do we catch ourselves expressing a less than positive attitude either physically or verbally around others? “Attitude reflects leadership, captain” is a bold statement. If you are seen as a leader, whether you see it or not, eyes are always watching you, and they will reflect what you project. What image are you projecting to those around you and how will it affect them?