From Career Treadmill to Fast Track

The Total Career Success Blog with Ken & Sheryl Dawson

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What I Learned at the NACE 2008 Conference

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Wow! What a great conference…

I went to the NACE conference this year, not as an exhibitor, but sort of as a researcher – an information seeker. Although I have many years experience in corporate outplacement and career transition, I didn’t claim to be an expert on what college career centers needed specifically. I wanted to find out first hand, so, I headed to New Orleans!

The keynote speaker was Daniel Pink, author of the bestselling Free Agent Nation. His address was titled “What Talent Wants: Inside the Hearts and Minds of the Free Agent Work Force.” That topic really was a great opening to an ongoing theme that permeated the entire conference. The question that I kept hearing over and over again was… “How do we best reach the millennial generation?”

That theme was repeated in every session I attended and by every person I spoke with. I learned so much about what college career centers are doing and what they wish they were doing. Darryl Stevens and Karen McComb from University of California Riverside gave an excellent presentation that addressed some of the technical aspects of this issue. That university has seen tremendous growth over the past several years and it was great to see how the career center worked to keep up with that pace.

Holly Holman and Nancy Bernard of Auburn University presented on the topic “Linking Leadership and Self.” At Auburn University the career center has started a program to get students engaged not only in the career center itself, but also in seeing themselves as everyday leaders. This was just one of the many ideas I heard at the conference about how to get students interested in using the career center’s services.

I had the opportunity to participate in a round table specifically focused on community colleges. Their needs are so specific to their group and listening to these folks was a real eye opener.

It was right around this time that my mind really started spinning it’s wheels. I was thinking “Job Search: The Total System™ is such a great system, one that works for any person, regardless of age, industry, function or level of experience. How can we implement this system in such a way that will meet the individual needs of the career centers???” Sheryl Dawson, who co-authored the system, and I spent a lot of time brainstorming this very question on the drive back from New Orleans and I’ll talk a little more about some of those ideas later.

Sheryl attended a session called “Gone and Sometimes Forgotten: Addressing the Career Management Needs of the Mature Alumni Population,” presented by Sue Hansen, Tim Johnston, Kathy Clayton and Larry Smith from The North 40 Network. When she was talking to me about this session I could tell that she was really excited. Her vision of helping people all over the world find careers that they love was like a bright light beaming from her eyes. She learned in this session that career assistance for alumni is really limited because of funding. Career centers would like to provide more help, but don’t have the means to do so. We had the beginnings of a plan…

Thursday evening people talked as they indulged in rich chocolate-dipped goodies and danced to music by “The Topcats” late into the night. Friday we listened to the closing keynote address by Nancy Giles. She spoke about her career development experiences and as a successful black actress, she discussed the impact of racial issues on the college and career worlds in a new and brave sort of way. Her presentation was hilarious and it was a great way to end the conference.

So, what did I learn at the conference? I learned that most career centers are experiencing very similar issues and challenges. Some of the them discussed were:

  • Reaching the “millennial generation”
  • Providing adequate coaching with limited resource and limited face time with the students
  • Technology…how to best use it, what systems work best.
  • Assessments – most people were using 2-5 different assessments with each student yet still lacked the right information for effective counseling.
  • Alumni – how to meet the needs of this demographic on a limited budget.
  • Streamlining processes
  • Creating a standard for the individuals within the career center so one counselor isn’t correcting the work of another using different techniques.
  • Funding
  • Recognition, respect

I also learned that the people who work in this field do so for the same reasons I work in this field and for the same reasons that Ken & Sheryl Dawson started their company 30 years ago: to help people get a career that they love.

As I mentioned earlier, Sheryl and I discussed the various issues on the drive back from New Orleans. We are making changes to the TCS site daily and the launch date for our membership portal is targeted for August 1, 2008. The portal will be fully updated and will have 2 designs: a “low-tech” version that will be appropriate for those who prefer a traditional format with text, and “high-tech” version that will cater to those who prefer less text and more video/graphics. I am so happy to be working for a company that cares about these issues and can meet the needs of so many through their proven system.

I’ll be posting tips and updates to my blog — you can subscribe at the top right hand corner of the page. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have about how Total Career Success can enhance the resources of your Career Service Center and enable you to achieve more within your budget.

Categories: Career Development · College Grads · Education · Job Search

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