Acing the Skype Interview

MaxHeadroom

Apparently, I take requests!

This is the first blog post I have written that was specifically requested by someone. After having read a number of my other posts on the job search, one of my colleagues suggested I needed to do one to help people do a better job on Skype-type interviews. This resonated with me because I am in the midst of chairing a search for a senior level position and when we did such interviews I was surprised by how many of these senior people made mistakes that reduced the effectiveness of their interviews.

So here are ten basic tips for doing great on your Skype/zoom interviews. You will notice that at least seven of them fall into the category of preparation. It is that preparation that will most help you do great on this type of interview.

Test the equipment and connection ahead of time

I am stunned by the number of slow starting interviews because of basic problems in getting connected, most of which could be avoided by testing early. And, while interviewers can express sympathy for such glitches, they ARE affected by them and such occurrences only hurt the candidate.

Check your background

Make sure the room you are in, that is the part the interviewers see behind you, is neat, tidy, professional, and uncluttered. It should be neutral and not draw their attention away from you.

Make sure your face is lit from the front

Many of us set up our computers with windows behind us, because it is easier on our eyes to have light behind us. That means when doing a Skype interview a major source of light is behind you. Ideally, the main source of light should be in front of you, illuminating your face. Being heavily backlit darkens your face and causes the interviewers to strain to see you, and you do NOT want your experience with them to be a strain. So, it is best not to sit with your back to a window, unless there is a blackout shade to cover it.

Dress like it is an interview

Phone interviews are not very much fun, but at least you could lounge in your pajamas when doing them. A Skype interview is not a phone interview. Even if you are conducting this interview from home be sure to dress (at least the part they will see) as you would for an in-person interview.

Make sure to avoid interruptions

We all saw the expert on Korea who became a viral sensation when his kids and wife interrupted his TV interview. You do not want that to happen! Whether you are at work or home, make sure you will not be interrupted.

Avoid computer distractions

Close other programs on the computer in order to avoid pop-ups or visual or auditory alerts that will distract you and the interviewers.

Make sure you are looking into the camera

Some people without built-in video cameras in their computers keep the detachable camera off to the side or, worse, below and pointing up at them. This dramatically reduces the sense of the interviewers feeling like they are making a connection with you. Instead, you should look directly into the camera. The interviewers will experience the illusion of making eye contact with you. That is a strong, positive illusion to make happen!

Ensure effective introductions

If it is a group interview, when individuals introduce themselves repeat each person’s first name and smile into the camera. Again, it gives the illusion of physical connection, acting sort of like a virtual handshake.

Use notes

There weren’t many advantages to phone interviews, but one big one was the ability to spread out documents and notes that could be easily referred to without the interviewers knowing. That is more difficult, but still possible, to do with a Skype interview. You can write notes on post-its and cluster them around the camera lens. The interviewers can’t see such notes and your glances left, right, or down slightly will not be noticed by the interviewers.

Practice

Like any other form of interview, you should practice. You should especially practice if you haven’t yet been interviewed on Skype. You need to get feedback about your “eye contact,” how you are presenting yourself (body language is pretty much restricted to head and shoulders), and how your energy is coming off in this form of communication.

What other tips do you have for such interviews?

Good luck!

Follow me at @pglove33

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Negotiation: What it is and why you should do it!

Black businessman shaking hands with a caucasian one

I have a post on tips related to negotiating job offers, but I have come to realize from conversations with student affairs professionals (especially new ones) that a more basic discussion of negotiation needs to occur.

            First there is this question: What is negotiation?

Negotiation is the conversation an individual has with the person who has offered them a job. At its most basic definition negotiation is a “discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.” Applying this to a job offer then, negotiation is a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement on whether or not a person will accept a job being offered to them.

            Here is what negotiation is NOT:

Negotiation is not just making demands (though there could be requests for the offerer to consider).

Negotiation is not “getting what you want” (though there should be discussion about what you need or desire in order to accept the job offer).

Negotiation is not just about salary (although salary is the most important aspect of a job offer); it is about the entire package (e.g., benefits, moving expenses, title, start date, time off, professional travel, professional development, educational opportunities).

Negotiation is not offensive to the offerer (They may be surprised, but don’t mistake that for them being upset or offended).

Too many student affairs professionals (and especially new professionals) receive the advice “Don’t negotiate” just accept the job. So, what you are being told is – Do not have a discussion about your needs and desires related to the job offer you have been presented. This is further exacerbated for women because research tells us that men are already 4X as likely to negotiate than women!

I am not naïve; I understand the reasons why the advice to not negotiate is offered and why it is accepted in most cases. The assumptions people have about negotiation make it a frightening, competitive, anxiety-provoking process. We need to do a little perspective changing.

Okay, so let’s look at who you are and who you are perceived to be at the moment you are offered a position. Think about this. Seriously. You have been offered a job. That means you are the BEST person of all the people who applied for that job. Your skills are in demand. Your experience is in demand. YOU are in demand! They WANT you!! I offered you a job. I want to make sure you accept it, so you discussing with me your needs and desires become a perfectly natural conversation.

Additionally, as a new professional I would argue that you need to engage in this discussion. People will tell you to wait to negotiate until you are seeking more substantial positions; however, would you run a marathon without training? Would you cook a meal for someone you wish to impress without ever having cooked before? Please think about that!

There is no downside to engaging in a negotiation conversation. You will only either get what they offered you or you will get more. They won’t reduce the offer or withdraw the offer. The worst thing they will do is say no. And, if you engage in a negotiation conversation and nothing is changed from the original offer, at least you got to practice negotiation!

Finally, the attitude one enters such a conversation with matters. If you go in timid, lacking confidence, apologizing for asking fro some aspect of the package to be reconsidered, you will send a clear signal to the offerer who will be less likely to adjust the package. Reflect on the points I have made, then go read my Tips on Negotiating.

Please let me know if you have any questions! Good luck!

Follow me at @pglove33

 

 

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Want Top Talent? MARKET Your Positions!

MARKETING PLAN concept words

The goal of any hiring process is to hire the best person for the position. The problem is that we hire the best person in the candidate pool and assume that we have everyone in the pool who would be interested in our position. That’s a bad assumption.

It has been my experience that most student affairs units do virtually nothing to market their positions. That is, they will advertise in the various higher education periodicals and on social media, but do nothing beyond that to market the position, or promote their units or their institution as a way to interest possible candidates in their position. The result is that our pools do not include everyone who might be interested in the position.

The main assumptions behind this lack of marketing and promotion appear to be:

“It is self-evident that people would want to work with us. All we need to do is post an opening and they will flock to it.”

“It is the applicant’s job to sell themselves to us, not our job to sell ourselves to them.”

“Anyone interested in a job like this will see our position announcement.”

I learned to think differently about this early in my career because I worked at a place where we did not have the luxury to have these assumptions and, in fact, we had proof that they were baseless. The place about which I speak was Residence Life at Stony Brook in the early 1980s. We had a terrible reputation and couldn’t get people to work there despite dramatic improvements that were made (Case in point: In my first hiring cycle we had 15 RD openings, interviewed 15 candidates, made 15 offers, and had ONE person accept!). We realized that we had to do things differently in order to get more people to apply for our positions and have positions accepted when offered.

We decided we needed to be assertive and intentional about letting people know about all the good things that were happening in the department and the changes that had been made. One thing we came up with was our “Resume.” We knew we had to sell ourselves to candidates, so we wrote a document that looked like and was formatted like a resume but outlined the reasons why someone would want to work in our department and the opportunities available to candidates at the institution. We brought this document to all conferences and mailed it to grad programs and departments of residence life. It worked and helped us recruit and convince professionals that we were a good place to work and Stony Brook ended up using that idea for more than 15 years.

The lessons learned at Stony Brook have stayed with me throughout my career, and so I have continued to market positions even at places that had decent reputations. I came to realize that marketing and promoting positions was a way to tell our story, promote our work, and improve our department through the hiring of top-flight candidates.

Before I share some basic tips regarding marketing, one first needs to challenge the assumptions about the need to market and promote positions, especially the three I mentioned above:

“It is self-evident that people would want to work for us.”

Other than for a handful of nationally known institutions, it is not self-evident why someone should apply to the position in your department at your institution. You may think it is a fabulous place to work, but how would anyone outside your institution know that? Without telling the outside world, it is merely a position in a department indistinguishable from positions and departments at other institutions. Top candidates have a choice as to where they will work. You need to let people know why working at your institution and in your department is the right choice.

“It is the applicant’s job to sell themselves to us, not our job to sell ourselves to them.”

Consider how arrogant this assumption is. A hiring process is a mutual selection process between the hiring institution and the applicant. Both have to be convinced they are right for each other. Applicants need to be wooed!! And one of the best ways to woo applicants is to run an effective and caring search process. The goal should be to have even those not receiving the job offer leave as fans of the unit and institution.

“Anyone looking for a job will see our position announcement.”

At least one problem with this assumption is that some people who might be interested in your position AREN’T looking for a job. There are great potential candidates who aren’t actively seeking a new job, but when they see an incredible opportunity may choose to apply. It is important to go beyond trying to attract those already looking for a job and try to reach those who are happy in their current position, but possibly open to something even better.

Once you are convinced about the importance of marketing, consider these tips:

Recognize that advertising is not marketing

Advertising is announcing and distributing a position opening. Marketing includes the activities and processes for creating, communicating, and promoting offerings (e.g., job openings) that have value to target audiences, the general public, and society at large. Marketing is also a mindset where individuals seek ways to communicate and promote their offerings through virtually everything they do, write, and say.

Get creative

When it comes to marketing positions, student affairs presents a wide open opportunity, because so few units and divisions market positions. There is very little marketing and promoting going on. For example, as far as we can tell, our video promoting the campus dean position at NYIT is the first time anyone in student affairs has marketed a specific position with a video (http://buff.ly/1RJi3We).

Borrow ideas from other industries. Analyze ads and commercials that catch your attention. Discuss your target audiences and ways of reaching them. Discuss ways to differentiate your position or unit from others in the field. Analyze what your competition is doing to attract top talent.

Don’t just market the position; market the unit, division, and institution

At Rutgers University each year the Student Affairs division developed a “brag sheet.” This was a one-page sheet (front and back) of accomplishments, awards, and milestones regarding the division that went out with every job announcement. The first year is was a Word document, but then we got creative. The next year we designed it to look like a Facebook page and the following year it was a Twitter page. Both the content and the format communicated about the division and why someone would want to work there.

Obviously, this is just a brief post and only begins to touch on a topic not often discussed in the student affairs search process, but there is so much out there on marketing in other fields that could be applied to our work. If you want to stand out and be different, this is one way to do just that!

Follow me at @pglove33!

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Nailing Your On-Campus Interview

Congratulations! You have been invited to an on campus interview for the job of your dreams. Here are some tips for making sure you present yourself most positively.

Preparation

Arrive the day before and get onto the campus and talk to students and staff! See my previous post on this idea.

Research. In addition to Googling the heck out of the institution and anyone in the unit where the job is located, use your networks to find people who have worked at the institution or in the unit. Get as broad and complex a view of the job as possible. Look them up on Linked In. See what their tagline is because it should reflect their passion, as opposed to their job title. You can also see the organizations they belong to and who they follow. You may find areas of common interest that you can bring to the conversation. Also comb the organization’s website and use a critical eye to see what is shared and what is not. Use this research to prepare thoughtful questions to use throughout the day. Mention the strengths you find online about the organization, particularly about the department you want to work in, and also ask about the areas you would expect but aren’t mentioned.

Get mentally prepared for things to go wrong. Something will likely go wrong. It might be that there is no one there to meet you when you arrive. It might be that you are left alone at some point during the day without knowing where to go next. It might be that no students show up to their interview with you. Ask 10 people in the field and more than half of them will have a story of some interview day disaster. The important thing is that when something does go wrong remain calm, positive, and roll with the situation. Remember that the people organizing and implementing your visit are not experts in such things. They are doing this in addition to their jobs. Be generous of spirit and you will be repaid mightily.

Special Disaster Category: Technology – The thing that goes wrong might be an issue with technology, so have multiple forms of your presentation (if giving one) as it would be the ultimate thing that can throw you off your game. Put it on your Google Drive, have it on a thumb drive, email it to yourself. Make sure you have your content accessible in case technology goes awry.

The Day

Most student affairs interview experiences will be an all day affair. You will have a number of meetings and interviews with different groups of people (e.g., search committee, staff from the unit in which you will be working, students, institutional community members). You will have meals, and, in many cases, you will be asked to make a presentation.

Be aware of and manage your energy. Even extroverts will be physically and emotional exhausted by the end of the long interview day; we are not often ON for more than eight straight hours. The key is to not let the interviewers know when you have an energy lull. Know yourself and your own energy rhythms. If you know you fade a bit after lunch, realize that, and actively counter it. Feel free to take care of yourself (e.g., having coffee with lunch even when you don’t normally). I keep a bottle of 5 Hour Energy with me in case of such an emergency. What you do not want to do is YAWN in an interview.

Be careful and strategic at meals. You are running on the energy of the food you consumed the day before and for breakfast, so eat modestly (that in itself will help with managing late afternoon energy lulls due to digesting lunch). Also, be careful of dishes and sauces that could splash and stain (Bring a Tide To Go stick with you!). If lunch is a group interview, be prepared to eat very little as people will pepper you with questions and might not realize you have hardly taken a bite. I keep a Snickers bar with me in those cases and after lunch when I use the rest room I consume it there.

Every interview. Be prepared to begin each interview with presenting your “case” as to why you are the right person for the job (whether you are directly asked that question or not). Do not recite your resume (most of them will have read it). Realize that you will be asked the same or similar questions throughout the day. Answer them as if it is the first time you are answering them. Yes, you will feel as though you have already said something; just be at peace with that feeling.

Group interviews. It is a rare interview day that is without a number of group interviews. In each case you want to appropriately “command” the room. Walk around the table/space and shake everyone’s hand. Take business cards from all folks you meet during the interview process. Introduce yourself and have them introduce themselves. I recommend focusing ONLY on first names. There is no need to remember peoples’ last names. If you can manage to remember and use the first names of 5 or 6 of the 8 people around the table—that’s a home run!

Student interviews. While the vast majority of student affairs professionals have not been trained how to interview, students may have never even been in an interview. At best they may have a list of questions they have been told to ask. A key is to try to run the interview like focus group or a meeting (especially if there is no professional in the room)—you are managing the agenda, you are (subtly) directing the action. Speak less and listen more than you might otherwise in an interview. Be aware that many times students will be more forthcoming with their complaints and concerns and will want to know how YOU will be addressing them if you get the job. Listen to their complaints, but do not confirm them or promise anything other than you will take all complaints and concerns seriously.

Presentation. Entire books have been written on how to develop and facilitate an effective presentation. Get one of those books if you have not done much presenting. I will share two basic tips to help: 1) make the presentation highly visual (i.e., avoid Death by PowerPoint text-heavy slides); and, most importantly, 2) rehearse. A lot! Too many presenters come into a high stakes presentation such as this without having rehearsed much at all. All their time was spent preparing the presentation. You are the presentation. The slides are visual aids for what you say. Engage the audience with questions, affirmations and with eye contact.

Last interview. Typically, you will end your day with either the hiring person or the chair of search committee. In any case, again, be aware of your energy level. Be sure to “run through the finish line.” Typically, this experience will seem less like an interview and more like an opportunity to process the entire day. Don’t be fooled—It’s an interview! As you head into the meeting (and, actually, look for these things throughout the day), prepare at least three positive/interesting things you learned throughout the day. It shows the interviewer that you were engaged and serious about competing for this job.

Special note to women

As a man, I have not had to directly deal with the myriad challenges facing professional women in an interview process, and, while we are working to level the playing field for female candidates, we are not there yet. So, I asked a number of my female colleagues for tips and suggestions I could share with female professionals preparing for the on-campus interviews. I received tips from several, but one person’s piece seemed to incorporate them all, so here it is:

Real talk: I think that for women, especially younger women, more conservative dress is important. We have to avoid looking “sexy” while sending a message that we are “professional” and confident. Cleavage needs to be covered – think church or funeral. This is also a time to be sure that we are selecting items that fit us well, mostly because it’s too long of a day to be stuck in an uncomfortable outfit, but also because it can be perceived as sloppy. Clothes should be clean and pressed and shoes should be ones that you have worn before and are comfortable in – this is not the day to wear heals if you do not typically wear them! Personally, I opt for mid-sized, closed-toed heels and either a dress or skirt and jacket. This is not because pants or pantsuits are not ok, but because I find dresses and jackets are less expensive and tend to fit me better without requiring expensive tailoring. Plus, wear hose if you wear a dress. Not fishnets or patterned tights and certainly not those with seams down the back of your leg. However, much of this can all be more difficult depending on a woman’s body type, identities, budget, religion, etc.

Personally, I think it’s important that candidates feel comfortable on an interview, even if it means going outside of the “traditional” black suit/interview attire – I would hire for confidence and skill over outfit any day of the week! That said, not all employers think like me and so I think that candidates have to make informed decisions about what is best for them. Things are especially tricky for women of color, LGB women, and trans or gender non-conforming women.

There are two pieces of advice that I’ve received about this that have stuck with me: 1) It’s always better to be overdressed than to be underdressed or too casual; and  2) You want to be remembered for what you said, not what you wore.

I’d rather be the candidate remembered for my knock out presentation than my knock out necklace. The last thing I will say on this topic, and this is not gender specific, is that school colors can go a long way, especially if you know the campus climate. Wearing the school color to my campus interview was noticed, several people mentioned it to me while I was there.

Besides dress, I think that women need to be aware of their body language and presence. Don’t play with your hair, adjust your outfit, or routinely fix your glasses. If you struggle with keeping your hands still, hold a pen or put your hands together on the desk or table. Minimize how much you talk with your hands. Own your space and your delivery – if you don’t think that you’re the best person for the job, why should the employer?  If you have children, be thoughtful how/if you talk about them.

Last, the best feedback and advice I have ever received have come from women who were trusted mentors. If you don’t have a person like that, reach out to a woman who you admire as a professional, tell her that you admire her and would really value some honest feedback before your next campus interview. Ask about clothes, delivery, executive presence… all the stuff that’s really hard to talk about but really important!

Men – Many of the comment about women can also go for men. Be sure to press your clothes, and make sure they are fitted properly. Not many men look sharp in off-the-rack suits. Consider having such suits tailored to fit you.

All genders – Don’t wear cologne or perfume, but do wash and wear deodorant. Brush teeth and do not smoke before the interview.

Follow up

Most importantly, and this is followed by too few candidates, write thank you notes to every person who interviewed you. Personalize each. Make notes on the back of their business cards of interesting things they said, their energy or passion for the institution, or a kindness they extended to you. It will help with personalizing the thank you note.

 

There you have it—some tips across the board to help you be better prepared for your on campus interview. What other ideas and tips do you have for acing the interview day?

Good luck!!

Follow me at @pglove33

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Become an Extreme Executioner

As a Vice President for Student Affairs, I am a big game talent hunter. Most VPSAs are because, while they are working to develop staff within their division, the smart ones are also on the lookout for incredible talent they may be able to lure to their division. And when I am out there, I am hunting for the rarest breed of student affairs professional to populate my division—the Extreme Executioner.

While rare, the ExEx often look a lot like the dominant type of student affairs professional–the Hard Worker. At first glance, they are sometimes indistinguishable from one another. They are both hard working—they tend to take on a lot, work long hours, and they accomplish things. So, it is not surprising that at first glance they appear indistinguishable. However, the ExEx stands out as distinct because they do not just accomplish things; they accomplish practically EVERYTHING they commit to. They take on a task, make it their own while maintaining the core expectations of the task giver, and, quite often, then produce something beyond the imagination and expectations of the person who gave them the task in the first place. Additionally, they do it within the agreed upon timeline; and often they accomplish it ahead of the deadline. These are VERY attractive traits to a VPSA (or any supervisor!).

One thing that distinguishes these two types of professionals is that ExEx have, at their core, an unstopability, a relentlessness. All student affairs professionals experience obstacles in their work that threaten to thwart them in their quest to complete tasks and projects. We all learn to deal with these. However, the curious thing about the ExEx is that they operate with the belief that there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome, co-opted, circumvented, avoided, bypassed, or abolished. They do what it takes to get the job done and get it done on or ahead of time!

ExEx are difficult to identify in the “wild” and one often does not know if you have one until you have them on your team. Too many times I thought I had an ExEx, but they turned out to be a Hard Worker—again, great to have, but not an ExEx. Given the difficulty of finding and hiring actual ExExes, the question for us big game talent hunters becomes—can Hard Workers be developed so that they can become ExExes? Based on my experience, I am not sure. So, I spent some time speaking with the three ExEx that currently inhabit my division to try to discern if they were born ExEx or if Hard Workers can be developed into ExEx?

None of the three had any magic answers for why they do what they do. A couple of them mentioned particular experiences in their upbringing, but nothing other people haven’t experienced. So, I am left without a clear answer as to whether being an ExEx is inborn or a conscious choice on an individual’s part. I do know that each of these professionals has won awards and earned promotions based on their accomplishments, so perhaps the key to being an ExEx is to act like an ExEx. Based on that, if you are interested in becoming an Extreme Executioner do these things:

  • Develop YOUR vision for YOUR job. Many Hard Workers do the tasks that are laid out for them in their job description or as requested by their boss. ExEx go beyond that and have a bold, exciting, even anxiety-provoking vision for their job and what they want to accomplish. Then they set about pursuing that vision relentlessly. Fulfilling all or part of such a vision creates a legacy for them in that when they leave they will have left the position much better than when they started in it.
  • When you receive an information request or relatively minor task from your boss or someone higher up that requires a modest amount of time (e.g., less than an hour), do it immediately. The person receiving your quick response will notice that you have done this, will appreciate that they will not have to follow up, and you will not have to worry about forgetting or having something happen later that causes you to be late. With one ExEx it has become a joke that it took her “almost 10 minutes to submit the info request” when I had given a two-day deadline. My joking is my way of showing I noticed and I appreciated the quick response.
  • When you receive an assignment from someone — OWN it! Make it yours. Immediately consider what the desired outcomes will look like and seek clarification for any aspects that are unclear. Understand the SPIRIT of what is being asked, because you may be able to elaborate or improve on what was expected. The newer professional among the 3 ExEx was tasked with bringing a repurposed facility on line as a programming and meeting space. One of the things I asked was that the building be “spruced up” and painted if needed. When I came to inspect the facility ahead of opening, I was blown away by the fact he had gone well beyond my expectations and had student clubs and organizations do creative and elaborate bulletin boards and even had framed athletic jerseys hung in the hallways. He owned the project and when beyond the request to fulfill the SPIRIT of the project.
  • Anticipate and take on the obstacles you are sure to encounter. Anytime you attempt to create something new or change something in an organization, you will encounter resistance. Work to overcome those obstacles first before calling on the support of higher-level people. In major projects, you are bound to eventually need the active support of someone higher up in the chain. The idea is to overcome as many obstacles as possible first so that it does not become a steady stream of support requests that turn your project into your boss’ project.

If you are a Hard Worker in student affairs, consider the relatively minor changes in mindset and performance that it would take to become an Extreme Executioner.

Follow me at @pglove33

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What is Your President Thinking About?

Pensive woman

Recently, I had the privilege of facilitating a panel of college presidents, each of whom had emerged from a career in student affairs. These individuals represented modest-sized institutions, both public and private, and included a community college. One of the first questions I asked them was about the myriad issues confronting higher education, such as gender-based violence and the rape culture, cost of attendance, learning outcomes assessment, competency-based education, state budget cuts, guns on campus, etc. I wanted to know which of these drew most of their attention. I must admit their answer–they were near unanimous in their response–surprised me.

As one president put it, “What I think about upon waking is the same thing that is on my mind as I fall asleep–recruitment and retention.” It related somewhat to the one national issue I forgot to put on my list–the “completion agenda.” Not that recruitment and retention aren’t important, of course they are, but I thought the attention of these presidents would be drawn to some of the hotter, more politically salient issues we are seeing in national media and that recruitment and retention would be left to others at the institution. I was wrong.

Perhaps I should not have been surprised, but what was clear was that these leaders, while grappling with all the issues facing their colleagues at bigger, better resourced, and better known institutions, had a core focus: getting students in, getting them to stay and succeed, getting them to graduate, and getting them launched into a career or further study. This was the one thing they thought about more than anything else.

The presidents want everyone at their institutions focused on this and had a few points for student affairs professionals to consider about this topic:

Get Involved in Recruitment – The presidents wanted to see their student affairs staff more involved in recruitment. They did not suggest that it should be in the way that admissions counselors recruit, but that student affairs professionals should seek ways to assist with the recruitment effort, including helping with on-campus visits of prospective students, developing sibling programs, finding ways to get out into the community, and finding ways to make student affairs work and successes visible beyond that boundaries of the institution in order to market the institution.

Question: How can you and your student affairs colleagues be more involved in recruiting students and promoting the institution?

Forget About Building Bridges to Academics – From the perspective of these institutional leaders, there was no academic affairs, no student affairs, and no divide between them. There was only the work of the institution–the success of students. I didn’t get the sense that these presidents were being naive about the challenges facing student affairs in this regard, but believed that we have to get over ourselves and the perceived slights we experience from our academic colleagues and focus on the priorities of the institution. The presidents believed that the obstacles to trans-institutional partnerships and collaboration are in us (our thinking, our perspectives, our assumptions, our fear), and not in others.

Question: How are you stopping yourself from building programs and initiatives that cross institutional boundaries?

Every Student Counts – It may sound trite or obvious, but for these presidents it was the absolute truth. Most were at institutions where a shift in enrollment of a handful of students would be noticed financially. So, while they want to see community-wide programs focused on assisting students, they also want to see a recognition of the importance of every single student. One example given was that in disciplinary cases where expulsion is recommended they want to see alternatives considered that would keep the student in school. And for them, it wasn’t just about the finances, but the recognition that once separated from higher education the chances that the student would complete his/her education dramatically declined.

Questions: How can you and your student affairs colleagues better identify individual students who are in danger of leaving? What can YOU do about that?

So, consider what your president is thinking about. It might surprise you!

Follow me at @pglove33

 

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You’re Hired: Now What!?

You're Hired

You have been through the meat grinder of the job search, gotten the offer, negotiated your acceptance [see this post!], and now you are getting ready to start the job. It is time to start thinking about what that means and the fact that how you begin your job contributes mightily to your eventual success.

So what do I know about starting a job? Well, I was recently reminded during a podcast interview, that I have had 11 different jobs. So, I have started many jobs and from those experiences (and especially the mistakes I have made as a new employee), I have come to know what works and what does not. Additionally, I have hired and supervised dozens of new professionals and taught hundreds of master’s students preparing them for their first professional positions.

My first bit of advice is to buy and read the book The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. He does a great job of suggesting perspectives and strategies for those starting new jobs in any field. For example, he advocates for prioritizing like your boss for the first 90 days even if you would do it that way. It is a great way to let your boss know you are on board and you might learn the reason why she/he does it that way.

Here are some additional tips! The overarching idea is “Be proactive!” Especially, don’t wait for your orientation to start or someone to initiate the things that will get you started and connected to your new organization and the people within it.

Pre-Day 1

You are going to want to hit the ground running on Day 1, so you need to “self-socialize” ahead of time. That is, get those things done before you start that will otherwise suck time out of your first week. It will save AND it will impress the heck out of your boss.

  • Go to HR and get your benefits sorted out and get the pile of redundant forms filled out.
  • Get your ID.
  • Get your parking pass.
  • Get your computer account and email set up.
  • If possible, get the keys to your office and move in your belongings.
  • Get on the unit and division website and read important documents (e.g., annual reports, strategic plans).
  • Update all your personal branding–LinkedIn, Twitter, resume, voicemail, etc.

Day 1

It may be trite, but it is true–you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Here’s how to assure that the first impression is a good one:

  • Be on time! That is, be early! As Tom Coughlin, former NY Giants head coach informed his players, “If you are on time, you’re late; five minutes early is on time.” Being new is not an excuse for not knowing where your office is and how long it takes to get there.
  • Immediately start to change your pronouns. For the first weeks in a new job, our tendency is to refer to our former institution as “we,” as in, “the way we did training at…” or “our policies at…” So, naturally we refer to our new place as “you” or “they.” “Your RA training is a lot different than what we” However, “we” is actually the people at the new place, not the old place, and using pronouns in that way reinforces that you are an outsider. It will feel weird, but if you work at changing the pronouns from Day 1 people will start to recognize you sooner as an “insider.”
  • Dress better than you might otherwise choose to, then during that first day, look at what people wear and plan to dress towards the higher end of those at your level. Yes, express your style, but do it within the range associated with the position. I have seen new staff dress “down” as they had as grad students and not be taken seriously by their supervisors. Look at your boss and your boss’ boss as potential examples of the divisional culture as it relates to attire.
  • Be courteous to EVERYONE – secretaries, janitors, security, clerks, etc. This is, of course, good advice for anyone, but as we begin a job, our tendency is to focus on those who will be judging us (supervisors, peers, upper administrators) and this can cause other people (e.g., secretaries, support staff) to become invisible. Don’t let this happen, as you will likely rely on these people down the road.
  • In fact, take time to get to know administrative and clerical staff. They are often the people who have served in the organization the longest and can provide you with historical context you might not get anywhere else.
  • Set up meetings with your supervisor and peers in order to get to know them, their values, and their priorities. At the end of each of those meetings ask, “Who else should I talk to?” and add those people to your meeting list.
  • Ask questions, even when you think you know the answer. The tendency is to fear being perceived as “not knowing.” Consciously suppress this fear and ask anyway. You will learn that much more quickly AND you will often discover you actually didn’t know the answer!
  • Send thank you notes to all who help you during the first several weeks. Keep a box of thank you cards in your desk.

You will be new for a while, but you won’t feel new for long if you proactively take control over your own orientation in order to speed the socialization process.

What other advice do you have for those starting new jobs? Thanks!

Follow me at @pglove33!

 

 

 

 

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