• Realistic expectations: Master these 7 traits to become ready for a move to management

    January 17, 2017 by

     

    Some employees, ready or not, are promoted into management roles as a reward for succeeding in their previous job. Others, through education and professional training, get hired into management roles. No matter one’s road to a management job, there is no one-size-fits-all guide that determines when one is really ready to be a manager.

    “Unfortunately you can’t teach management in 10 minutes,” says Jayne Heggen, President of Heggen Group, a management consulting firm.

    But whether one is a first-time manager, new manager, or seeking a career in management, there are certain skills, traits, and attributes that all good managers have. Mastering these traits can help all managers succeed in a leadership role. Here are seven traits managers must master to successfully prove they are ready to move into a management role:

    1. Be willing to change: Many new managers get promoted because they are good at doing a job, says Heggen. Realize that what worked as an individual contributor won’t necessarily work now. “New managers need to understand their own tendencies and learn when they need to change their management style based on the person and the situation,” says Heggen. Adjust and adapt based on individual and team characteristics.

    2. Understand mistakes will happen: Mistakes will happen and that’s okay, says Karen Young, the award-winning founder and President of HR Resolutions, a full-service human resources management company. “What’s important is how the mistake is handled,” says Young. “Are you prepared to accept ownership of your mistake? Are you prepared to go to your boss and say this happened, caused by you or your staff member, and this is how we are addressing it? It’s important to create a safe environment for your employees – one in which they feel comfortable coming to you with mistakes.”

    3. Conflict identification and resolution: The ability to identify and head off conflict is an important trait new managers need to develop, says Liz Sophia, Senior VP of Marketing for Hodges-Mace, an employee benefits technology and communications company. “New managers tend to shy away from conflict and are more passive aggressive in dealing with employee issues,” says Sophia. A good manager will identify issues upfront and work quickly to resolve them. Conflict resolution is best done in person when available. If not, via phone. Don’t use email or text to solve issues/problems.

    4. Hold employees accountable: A manager must hold employees accountable, says Young. That means team members must understand expectations, and follow through on those expectations. As a manager, you’ll have to correct mistakes along the way. When doing so, remember to praise publicly, and constructively criticize privately. “Fixing another’s mistakes is often easier and quicker if you do it, but you, as the manager, have accomplished nothing by doing that,” says Young. Learn how to manage without cramping the style of team members.

    5. Learn how to manage up: Managing up is a manner in which a manager works with their boss to effectively get the training, support and resources needed for the position and department. For example, if you want to add a full-time employee into the department, do not go and say “we’re sooooo busy, everyone’s stressed, no one can get their job done.” That’s what the whiny manager does, says Young. Instead, back up requests with proof. Saying something like: “if we added an additional employee, we would save $X.XX in overtime, employee A would be able to begin to make outbound calls to generate more business; employee B would be available then to assist me with Project C.” Always make a business case.

    6. Lead by example: You have to be willing to lead by example, says Sophia. If there is no policy around working from home, yet you tend to work from home yourself, it sets the wrong tone for your employees. If you overreact and treat other team members poorly, others may follow that lead. You also have to be mature enough to handle confidential information and not leak it or use it to strengthen your position. Managers set the tone and positive attitude/image of the team/department. Don’t portray negativity or hostility.

    7. Strong communication skills: This seems like a no-brainer, but just because one is a manager doesn’t mean they are a skilled communicator. “Knowing how to communicate with different audiences is key,” says Sophia. Communication also includes, tone, body language and non-verbal communication cues. Understand how these affect people’s view of how you are communicating with them. A smile can ease tension, and make one feel more relaxed. A frown, or scowl, can intimidate. These non-verbal cues can change the message greatly.

    Mastering these additional skills are also key to proving one is ready to become a manager, says Sophia:

    • Be humble and accept input from others.
    • Be willing to admit your mistakes, but learn from them and don’t repeat.
    • Give your team and peers proper credit for their ideas/contributions. A simple hand-written thank you note goes a long way.
    • Know that you don’t have to be perfect in all areas, but make sure that you have folks on your team who compliment your weaknesses.
    • Acknowledge your areas for opportunity/growth and nurture them – invest in yourself professionally.

    Becoming a good manager takes time, practice, and the ability to continually learn and adapt. Mastering these seven traits is a good start for the aspiring, or newly hired manager wondering if they are ready to manage.

    Are you a new manager looking for more management tips and advice? Stay connected to College Recruiter by visiting our blog, and connect with us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

  • Ask Matt: 5 tips for new managers who are now managing friends

    January 12, 2017 by

    Dear Matt: I really like my current job and company. But what I like most is the team I work with. We are all close and get along well. We are also good friends outside of work, and do a lot socially. However, I recently received a promotion, and am now the manager of these co-workers who are also my friends. I went from being part of the team, to leading the team. And now, I have to conduct weekly meetings with them, performance reviews, approve their days off, and face the fact I also suddenly know their salaries. It’s created an awkward situation for me in and outside of work.  Do you have any tips for a new manager who is now also managing friends?

    Matt: It’s exciting to be promoted, but when you’re now supervising former peers that are also friends, there’s an added complexity to the situation. Here’s how to handle both the professional and personal relationships when you suddenly find yourself managing your friends:

    1. Schedule group and individual meetings
    To address these changes and challenges, schedule a group meeting, and one-on-one individual meetings with your team, says Arlene Vernon, an HR consultant who provides management training for first-time managers, small business owners, and corporate clients.

    Set guidelines and expectations from the start.

    “Be prepared for these discussions – do not wing the meetings, as it will look like you’re not taking your new job as supervisor seriously,” says Vernon. “Use the group meeting to set the tone for future meetings and general ground rules for attendance and participation.”

    Analyze what was and wasn’t working under the previous supervisor, and decide what to keep and what to tweak. “Don’t bash the previous supervisor, just introduce the enhancements as part of your style,” says Vernon.

    Then schedule a one-on-one meeting with direct reports. This is the most important step in this new relationship.

    “This helps establish your new supervisory relationship with each individual,” says Vernon. “Some of your former peers may be thrilled that you got this new position – others may not.”

    So approach each discussion, taking into consideration each person’s feelings.

    Sample one-on-one discussion items may include:

    • How you plan to supervise – pointing out where you can be hands off and where you may need to be more hands on.
    • How often you want to meet.
    • The best ways to communicate with you (in person, email, text).
    • The strengths you recognize in the individual and how you want to best utilize those strengths.

    “The first discussion is not the time to point out the individuals’ weaknesses and how you want to see them improve,” says Vernon. “This meeting is to set the stage for a successful partnering with each person considering your new role.”

    2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
    Chances are, your friends are truly happy for you and will be supportive and understanding that you have this new role. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes for fear of disappointing friends, says B. Max Dubroff, an HR Consultant at Einfluss, LLC, an HR advisory firm, in Albuquerque, NM. Dubroff has led teams from 2 to 570 people in a wide variety of industries throughout his career, leading those businesses to many best of workplace lists.

    “The promotion is a sign of confidence that you can learn to manage and lead well,” says Dubroff. “All manager-leaders make mistakes and are imperfect; the ones who hide their errors or feign perfection are less effective as leaders because they miss out on the lessons of leadership. Manager-leaders who show integrity and embrace their errors will earn credibility, their network of friends will provide feedback and perspective, and their progress will be even greater. Capitalize on the open communication, because in the long run that is what is going to be more important.”

    The promotion is also a sign that any awkwardness is your challenge to solve. Tap into the experience of your boss and fellow managers, but in the end, solve it yourself. Also, if you find yourself saying or doing things that you would not respect about your own boss, don’t say/do them; they undermine your integrity.

    3. Transitioning from friend to boss
    The elephant in the room, of course, is how you handle transitioning from friend to boss. Some people can handle this dual role effectively and others cannot. That goes both ways – from the boss and the employee perspective. So it’s important to discuss this reality with each employee up front and early on.

    “Discuss the importance of maintaining a solid relationship with the person along with the recognition that you cannot show favoritism for your friends – that you will be treating everyone as equally as possible,” says Vernon.

    Set ground rules for not discussing co-workers or work after hours, during work. Vernon also recommends discussing confidentiality.

    “It’s likely you have confidential and/or personal information about your friends that shouldn’t be considered from a boss-employee perspective and the same applies to what private information they have about you,” says Vernon. “These can be difficult discussions, but it’s vital to set communication standards, personal/professional boundaries, and to recognize that while at work, you’re committed to taking your leadership responsibilities seriously.”

    4. How to address the relationship in social situations
    But even though becoming a supervisor of colleagues who were formally peers does present a somewhat awkward social scenario, it doesn’t mean friendships and social relationships have to end, says Elliot D. Lasson, Professor of the Practice and I/O Psychology Graduate Program Director at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County at Shady Grove. In fact, aside from the one-on-one conversations to be open about the changing relationship, Lasson suggests maintaining the same type of social relationship off of the job.

    “If socialized together off the clock before the promotion, there is no reason why that should not continue,” says Lasson.

    His reason is simple.

    “Life and transitions happen,” he says. “The same way that you would include someone who has retired or left for another company beforehand, you should continue to maintain those same social circles. Part of professional maturity is to adapt to new roles and reporting relationships. If there is any anticipated anxiety about the modified role, that should probably be preemptively broached during the one-one-one meeting by the supervisor.”

    There could be another added benefit: Your friends may work harder for you because they respect you outside of work. Now you just have to earn their respect as a manager. They also be more willing to bring up issues, concerns, or ideas – positive and negative – because they feel a closer connection to you.

    5. Understand things will change
    Keep in mind though, that despite attempts to salvage personal and professional relationships, managers must ultimately realize that some personal relationships fall apart when one person is now the supervisor.  Whether or not that occurs is unique to each relationship.

    Through it all, make sure that you’re consistent in how you interact, oversee, communicate with, and lead all your employees.

    “As a manager-leader, you have a responsibility to manage any perceptions of favoritism to the best of your ability,” says Dubroff. “The tough part about this is others may attribute favoritism, even if you know facts that demonstrate otherwise. Since your facts are not going to change their perceptions, the only control you have is through your actions.”

    Vernon agrees.

    “Everyone is watching to see how you begin your supervisory position and whether they can trust you in that role – to do your job well, be their voice for upper management and treat employees fairly and equitably,” says Vernon.

    Want more career and job search advice? Stay connected to College Recruiter by visiting our blog, and connect with us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

    Matt Krumrie CollegeRecruiter.com

    Matt Krumrie is a contributing writer for CollegeRecruiter.com

    About Ask Matt on CollegeRecruiter.com
    Ask Matt is a new monthly career advice column that offers tips and advice to recent college grads and entry-level job seekers. Have a question? Need job search or career advice? Email your question to Matt Krumrie for use in a future column.

  • Middle management: How new managers gain company wide trust and respect

    January 10, 2017 by

     

    For many first-time managers, it can be hard to gain professional respect from a more experienced management team and other senior leaders. It can be discouraging to attend leadership meetings, management training, or be involved in the decision-making process and feel like you don’t have a voice.

    Gaining trust as a manager can take time, but it doesn’t mean new managers need to wait, or feel like they have to gain approval from more experienced leaders to start building trust, and credibility within an organization. While the first goal should be to lead your new team and be the best manager you can be, it’s never too early to focus on how to become a manager who can influence others within the organization.

    Be accountable

    To gain that trust, respect, and a strong reputation, start by being accountable, says Greg Bustin, author of Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture. Bustin has dedicated his career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of companies on this crucial topic of accountability. During the last six years, he has interviewed and surveyed more than 5,000 executives around the world – from companies that include, but are not limited to, Marriott, Container Store, Ernst & Young, Sony, Herman Miller, Nucor, and Southwest Airlines – to understand how high-performing corporations successfully create and sustain a culture of purpose, trust, and fulfillment.

    “Lack of accountability is the single greatest obstacle facing even the most experienced leaders,” says Bustin. “It saps morale, drains profits, and disenfranchises employees—and can shift your team into crisis mode on a daily basis.”

    Bustin also created the highly popular best and worst in workplace accountability survey, and offers these five tips for new managers looking to make an impact in the organization:

    Continue Reading

  • Women managers: discrepancies begin at first chance of promotion

    January 04, 2017 by

     

    “Women are less likely to receive the first critical promotion to manager—so far fewer end up on the path to leadership—and are less likely to be hired into more senior positions.”

    That ton of bricks comes from the Women in the Workplace report, released last fall by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company. What is getting in women’s ways? Does bias against women managers tell the whole tale? Or is something else going on?

    That women fall behind so early in their careers should be a wake-up call to female college students. Seniors, who will be entering the workplace soon, should especially take notice. For years, young women have made up more than half of the college student population (and as high as 60% at private schools). The Pew Research Center reports that 71% of recent female high school grads turn their ambition to college. Compare that to 61% of recent male high school grads. Once they’re in college, women continue to outperform men. They earn better grades and graduate with more honors than men. It would be easy for today’s driven, hard-working young women to believe that inequality is something only their mothers had to deal with. Unfortunately, the real world is different than college.

    “There are multiple factors that contribute to entry-level women being behind men at first chance of promotion,” says Simma Lieberman at The Inclusionist.

    Many women need a boost in confidence

    “Many women have internalized messages from media and have bought into other people’s bias about women’s abilities and careers,” says Lieberman. “They have not learned to negotiate or ask for what they want. I’m still surprised by how many women still believe that by working “hard” they will be discovered, that it’s not okay to promote yourself to managers, and they have to “wait their turn” to get promoted.”

    You can’t take rejection personally

    If an employer hires someone else, women need to stop seeing this rejection as personal and permanent. Liebrman continues, “Women need to learn how to separate getting turned down for a promotion or not being chosen for a project, from other parts of their life. There is a tendency to give up after one try which holds them back, rather than find out why they didn’t get a promotion and to let that cloud their ambitions and settle.”

    Bias still exists

    Women in the Workplace finds real biases out there. Women may need to work on their negotiation skills, but that doesn’t explain the whole pay gap. The report finds that “Women who negotiate for a promotion or compensation increase are 30% more likely than men who negotiate to receive feedback that they are ‘bossy,’ ‘too aggressive,’ or ‘intimidating.'” Our implicit biases persuade us to believe that men are more suited for leadership. That first promotion to manager is just the beginning. The STEM fields are especially male-dominated, which can make it particularly challenging for women to be taken seriously.

    It’s hard to blame young women who ask why they should be the ones to change. Lieberman advises women to be “flexible and develop tools to show their talent and be recognized. Lack of confidence is not a trait that should be continued.” Women who want to become managers should be aware of how the cards are stacked, seek advice from senior women, and keep working hard.

  • Key managerial skills recent college grads should master to be successful

    January 03, 2017 by

     

    To become a manager, one must show an employer they possess a wide variety of skills. Leadership skills are crucial. So is the ability to communicate, handle adversity, and deal with diverse personalities and skill sets.

    A first-time manager must also develop strong critical thinking, analytical, and problem-solving skills to be successful, says Sylvia R.J. Scott, Founder of Girls’ C.E.O. Connection™ (Girl’s Creating Enterprising Organizations), a for-profit social enterprise dedicated to engaging and equipping high school girls as entrepreneurs. They also must show the company can trust them, which is why they were hired as a manager.

    “A manager is the one with the ability to plan, direct and coordinate the operations of a business, division, department or operations,” says Scott. “To be a first-time manager as a recent graduate shows the company trusts the person and believes in his or hers capabilities and ability to help grow the company.”

    In February Scott is speaking to a group of college women, primarily seniors, at the University of Colorado, about what it takes for first-time managers to succeed. She will focus on these eight skills, traits and attributes of a successful first-time manager:

    1. Know and understand your company culture.
    2. Know the parameters of your particular position. That includes how much leeway you have on decision making.
    3. Ask questions and get clarity even if you think you understand. As a manager you don’t have time for you and/or your staff to make mistakes.
    4. Expect the best-not perfection from your staff. Praise them when it is appropriate. If there are issues face them immediately.
    5. Learn each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Play on their strengths, not their weaknesses.
    6. Control your emotions, tongue, and actions. Avoid gossip, even after hours or with colleagues. Take a break if someone is pushing your buttons. Watch the tone of your emails when responding to challenges, and watch the tone of your voice.
    7. Always use proper English, grammar and spelling when writing any type of communication, even an email. They need to be as clearly written as any other business communication.
    8. Find a mentor within the company and then one outside your company that knows the ropes of being a manager and what is needed to excel.

    Continue Reading

  • 10 strategies December college graduates should follow for job search success

    December 27, 2016 by

     

    As 2016 comes to a close many college students have now handed in their final paper, taken the last exam of their collegiate careers and entered the job market. But according to a study of 503 entry-level job seekers by national career matchmaking firm GradStaff, recent college grads seem largely unaware of career opportunities and unsure of how to apply their skills in the workforce.  So what strategies can December college grads put into action now to create results that land a job? Start by following these 10 strategies for success.

    1. Develop a strong value proposition: Start by developing a strong value proposition and identifying those important soft and transferrable skills, says Bob LaBombard, CEO of GradStaff, a company that serves as a career matchmaker for recent college graduates, and companies that are looking to fill entry-level jobs.

    “These soft skills – such as critical thinking, effective communication, time management and leadership – are in high demand among prospective employers,” says LaBombard. “Grads should consider how and where they’ve applied these skills during college, whether in classes or extracurricular activities, or in non-professional jobs, including restaurant and retail service positions.”

    2. Sell what you want to do next: Next, be prepared to talk about what it is you want to do now that you are graduated.  Everyone that you know, run into, or talk to, is going to congratulate you on graduating, then ask “what’s next?” or “what do you want to do now?” The “I’ll take anything” approach is not a good option, says Kathleen I. Powell, Associate Vice President for Career Development at The College of William & Mary, and President, National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Case in point, if you tell someone you’ll take anything, it’s hard for that person to find “anything.”

    But…

    “If you tell someone you’re interested in arts management, accounting, psychology, now you’ve given that person an area to focus on and they can start thinking of contacts in their networks,” says Powell.

    3. Casual conversations can lead to opportunities: Don’t blow off those casual conversations with friends, family members – that wacky uncle just may be well-connected in an industry where you want to work and be able to point you to a job opening, a mentor, or someone with whom you can set up an informational interview. Members of your church, social networks, parents of high school friends, relatives of your significant other, when they ask “what’s next” they are generally interested – so be prepared to effectively sell your excitement of what you want to do next. That’s the only way they can possibly help you, by knowing what you truly want to do.

    4. Network, network, network: Because, it really is about networking. Recent ADP employment reports show the bulk of all new job growth – often as much as 70-80 percent in a given month – is driven by small and mid-sized businesses. “These companies often don’t have the resources to recruit on campus, and tend to rely on referrals from employees, clients, vendors and other partners to identify candidates,” says LaBombard. “As a result, personal networking is critical. All entry-level job seekers should seize opportunities to ask parents, teachers, friends, clergy and even former employers for connections in industries of interest, and they should continue engaging with professional associations, alumni groups and others for face-to-face networking opportunities.”

    LaBombard offers these additional tips:

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  • Four ways recent college grads benefit from completing Massive Open Online Courses

    December 15, 2016 by

    Looking for unique ways to add skills and complete classes to advance your career? Then consider completing a Massive Open Online Couse. Also known as a MOOC.

    According to Techtarget.com, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), are “free Web-based distance learning programs designed for the participation of large numbers of geographically dispersed students. A MOOC may be patterned on a college or university course or may be less structured. Although MOOCs don’t always offer academic credits, they provide education that may enable certification, employment or further studies.”

    Why should recent college grad consider completing a Massive Open Online Courses?

    Because lifelong learning is essential to career success, and that’s exactly what Massive Open Online Courses provide. Through a MOOC, college students, recent college grads, and adult learners are able to take free classes to improve their foreign language skills, add additional tech/software skills, and/or learn about machine learning or artificial intelligence. Students can complete a MOOC to complement their current major or area of study, to learn how to start their own business, or to add critical skills to a resume. There is no limit to the course topic a MOOC can cover, and there is no limit to the location of the students completing a MOOC. As MOOCs evolve, the completion of these courses are becoming more respected by employers, and some MOOC programs offer, for a small fee, certifications and badges upon completion, which bolster the credibility of these courses.

    “Taking courses online can open doors to opportunities you never thought of,” said Gelena Sachs, Director of People Operations for Udemy, the world’s largest destination for online courses. “Finding a full-time job that aligns with a major or degree, right out of college, can be the ultimate challenge for many grads. Online learning allows job seekers to further expand their skills and broaden the landscape of opportunities.”

    One Udemy student, Alexa, moved to New York after graduating to pursue her dream job of working in an art gallery, but had to take another job in the meantime to pay the bills. She took courses through Udemy to learn about marketing and transformed the job she thought she’d settled for into a different kind of opportunity she never knew she wanted.

    Here’s another example: Social media continues to transform industries, while the tools themselves continue to evolve. Social media careers are hot, and constantly evolving. According to Altimeter’s recent Social Business Survey, 41% of enterprise marketing teams say ‘social education and training to build new skills’ is a top priority. To meet this growing demand from employers, Hootsuite Academy offers online video-based training on social media skills and strategy at a great post-graduation price point: Free.

    “Even with a diploma in hand, graduates should never stop honing their skills,” says Cameron Ugernac, Senior Director of Community and Education, Hootsuite, a leading social media management platform.

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  • The #1 networking tip for recent college grads who are introverts

    December 08, 2016 by

    Are you a recent college grad and self-proclaimed introvert? No worries – the solution every young professional should follow is here.

    In fact, this may be the most effective – and beneficial, way to successfully network. Especially for introverts.

    And this method is a great way for recent college grads to learn how to feel comfortable and communicate in a group setting, become involved in a professional networking or industry association, and add important experiences to a resume. And because of the role they will take on, they will absolutely communicate with others, including those who are putting on the networking event, or attending the event.

    What is the No. 1 way to networking success for the recent college graduate who is an introvert?

    Volunteering!

    “We always encourage introverts to volunteer at a networking events/conferences,” says Robin Darmon, Director of Career Services at the University of San Diego. “This provides the introvert with a purpose and provides an opportunity to make meaningful connections with professionals.”

    Think about it: Volunteering at a network event provides numerous developmental opportunities, including these specific roles: Continue Reading

  • Reference checking: Secrets employers won’t tell recent college graduates revealed

    December 06, 2016 by
    Business woman unhappy with resumes of applicants and throwing them on the table courtesy of Shutterstock.com

    Milles Studio/Shutterstock.com

    References – job seekers submitting them – and employers checking them – seems like a simple process. Unfortunately for the recent college grad embarking on that first or second job, the reference checking process is anything but simple, and clear.

    Why? Because just because a job seeker submits a list of references, it doesn’t mean those are the references employers will contact. In fact, the days of providing three references to employers and expecting those to be the only sources employers check with are long gone, says Chris Dardis, VP of HR Search and Consulting for Versique, a Minneapolis-based search firm. Many employers may not even check the references job seekers submit, and it’s perfectly legal, because a prospective employer does not require permission to check any references. Employers are also relying on new tools and tactics to research potential candidates’ backgrounds.

    “Social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the first place hiring managers tend to explore candidate information,” says Dardis. “Whether you think it’s right or wrong, potential candidates need to be aware of the brand they are displaying on the Internet.”

    Jeff Shane, spokesperson for Allison & Taylor Inc., an employment verification and reference checking firm, agrees.

    “Don’t assume that employers will only check with human resources or your former supervisor for reference purposes,” says Shane. “Employers are increasingly scrutinizing less-traditional references such as peers and co-workers.”

    Employers also use tools like Checkster, to conduct the legwork on reference check gathering, says Dardis. Checkster is a tool that provides hiring managers with quantifiable data on the hire-ability of the potential candidate. Employers also use their own network and conduct what is known as “backdoor reference checks.” Hiring managers learn about the candidate’s previous employers, identify where they have connections and call around within their network to simply inquire about their reputation – all of this being done without the candidates knowledge.

    “These days, it doesn’t necessarily matter what your official references are saying,” says Dardis. “What matters is the kind of reputation you are leaving in the marketplace.”

    So how can recent college grads be sure they are providing references the right way, and that backdoor reference checks won’t hurt them? Follow these tips from Lynne Martin, Executive Director of San Francisco-based Students Rising Above, an award-winning nonprofit that helps low-income, first-generation students get into – and more importantly graduate – college The organization also offers their free, online College2Careers Hub which offers personalized assistance via online advisors that provide real-time answers and support on such themes as reference advice.

    Continue Reading

  • How recent college grads use gamification to stand out in the job search

    December 01, 2016 by
    Startup business people working at modern office courtesy of Shutterstock.com

    dotshock/Shutterstock.com

    Employers are constantly looking for new ways to recruit and assess new talent and hires. The standard method of asking candidates to submit a resume and go through an interview process works for some employers – but not for others.

    Because of that employers are now using gamification to recruit and assess recent college grads.

    “Today’s employers face the challenge of recruiting and hiring recent college grads and Millennials, the largest generational demographic in the American workforce,” says John Findlay, co-founder of Launchfire, a digital engagement shop that turns boring content and mandatory training materials into a fun, easy-to-digest, game-based learning experience. “Many companies are finding that using game-based learning and gamification, which integrate points, badges, competition and role-playing, can be used to effectively attract and assess candidates.”

    When using “games” as a recruitment tool, employers are looking to assess problem solving, creative and critical thinking skills, says John Reed, senior executive director for Robert Half Technology. Although they are meant to be engaging and somewhat entertaining, recent college grads must treat these games as carefully as one would any actual professional assignment.

    Large employers such as Google, Microsoft, Deloitte, PwC, Cisco, Domino’s Pizza, and Marriott International are among the many employers using gamification as part of their recruiting strategies.

    “If you’re hoping to gain employment with the organization, you should take all gamification exercises seriously and remember that this is all part of the interview process,” says Reed. “Don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s a professional reflection of you and this is, most times, your first impression with hiring managers and you want to put your best work out there.”

    Some colleges and universities are already introducing gamification to its students in hopes of better preparing them for the job search, and for real-life gamification-focused recruitment processes. Kaplan University uses gamification as a way to better prepare students and recent college graduates for the job market. Kaplan University has a main campus in Davenport, Iowa and headquarters in Chicago, and serves 42,000 online and campus-based students.

    “Career Development doesn’t just happen, it’s an ongoing process of building skills and abilities and we’re utilizing gamification as a way to reinforce and reward career development with our students,” says Jennifer Lasaster, Vice President of Employer and Career Services at Kaplan University.

    Kaplan University students are invited to participate in an internal CareerNetwork that was built with a video game developer and includes badges and quests for students who build and receive critiques on resumes and social media profiles, read field-related and career related articles, practice interviewing, review, and apply for jobs. Students are introduced to Kaplan’s CareerNetwork through classroom interactions and begin to accumulate points and badges throughout their time as a student, and can continue to do so after graduation.

    The team at Kaplan has also built a feature for students to compete against each other in a resume showdown that will premier in 2017. In that scenario, Kaplan partners with an employer who shares a job description. Students are then encouraged to submit their resumes for that job. Five resumes are then selected for competition. Personal information is blocked out and the recruiter provides feedback to students on how and why one resume is declared the winner.

    “This teaches students the importance of customizing their resume for each job, and that a quality job search is much more valuable than just taking one resume and sending it to various employers,” says Lasaster. “It’s also a great way for employers to receive resumes and feel like they are making a difference by teaching students what they need to do to apply for jobs at their company.”

    “We’re using gamification as a way to better prepare our students for the real world,” added Lasaster.

    The reality is, whether or not one is involved in a gamification-based recruiting process, recent college grads should still treat the job search like a game, says John-Paul Hatala, Ph.D., Director, Research and Development for SnagPad, a tool that enables career professionals and the job seekers they support to learn about and manage job search activity in a visual and strategic way.

    “The most important challenge job seekers face today is conducting a strategic job search,” says Hatala. “In order to win this game, the idea is to think of it as going from step-to-step in the typical hiring cycle. The length of the cycle depends on the type of job/industry.”

    For example, if a recent college grad is looking at an entry-level position, the cycle might be eight weeks until interview or job offer, says Hatala. So if a job seeker has applied to a job but hasn’t heard back in four weeks, move on to focus on the next opportunity.

    “The more cycles you get involved in, the greater your chances of getting an interview or hired,” says Hatala. “This way you can stay realistic about your chances of a getting a particular job and move on to the next. This will help maintain a level of motivation that is necessary for a job search.”

    Many projects that can be used during the gamification process are based on actual business issues or reflect what a new hires responsibilities will entail. Findlay points out two ways recent college grads can use gamification to their advantage in the recruiting process:

    1. Experience a “Real” Work Culture: Do you ever wish you could experience a company’s culture before you even take the time to apply for the position? Many companies are using simulations to allow prospects to live a week in the job. This not only allows the candidate to better understand the role and their job responsibilities, but helps sets realistic expectations about what they could expect in the position. That way if candidates don’t like the experience, they don’t have to apply, saving everyone time.
    2. Is this position for me? New college grads often think they are interested and qualified for one position when in reality, another type of position may be a better fit. Game simulations can be used to introduce candidates to positions that they may not have otherwise considered. This not only shows candidates the wide variety positions that could fit their skill set but gives applicants a realistic preview of what the work really looks.

    “Use this opportunity to analyze the kinds of projects you’ll potentially be working on and be honest with yourself about whether or not these are aligned with your goals, strengths and desired career path,” says Reed. “While you should be presenting your best work, you should also evaluate whether or not the work is something you’d enjoy long term.”

    While you’re the one being assessed for a role, this is also your chance to get deeper insights into the organization.

    “Before you get to the in-person interview, the gamification process will let you choose whether or not you’d like to move forward with the process,” says Reed. “Take the time to get a feel for the culture and organizational goals of the company and use this opportunity to make a sound decision about next steps.”

    Game on!

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