The student loan struggle is too real.

This tweet summed up all my feels on the soul-crushing burden that is student loans:

It should surprise nobody that this tweet currently sits at 47K retweets. On a follow up tweet she adds that these are all federal loans, not even private ones.

This is the reality of being buried by student loans. Scroll through the responses too and you’ll see even more people crushed by higher education debt.

 

Do employers care about your online certificate?

Recently I came across a certificate in Higher Education Administration from Northwestern. For $19,975, I can “deepen (my) understanding of the field and expand (my) networks.” Details on career outcomes or paths are notably absent. Instead the page offers the basics of college career services: “access to ongoing professional development support, one-on-one career coaching, academic advising and networking opportunities.”

The certificate reminded me of a Northwestern ad I saw last year promoting a $10,000 global mobility online certificate. The ad was marketed towards future international education professionals. As someone who has worked in international education for over a decade, I got a bit riled up. Aside from the fact that you don’t need a $10K certificate to get a job in international education, the program’s career preparation promises were lackluster at best. The lack of testimonials from employers raving about the certificate, or explaining how the certificate signaled a candidate’s competitiveness, was telling.

Despite my frustrations with certificates with lackluster career promises, I recognize the role certificates play as career paths and institutions adapt to changes in the market. Certificates are revenue generating programs which help institutions shore up revenue from diverse sources. Certificates also provide an attractive option to employees who want to upskill or change careers. They usually take under a year to complete. Certificates are frequently associated with a university brand name. While affordability varies by institution and certificate program, they’re cheaper than a full degree and they qualify for financial aid.

However, data on career outcomes from non-degree credentialing – i.e. certificate holders – is hard to come by. Employers’ attitudes towards certificate holders are difficult to pin down, which makes it hard to know if certificates hold their value in the market or even determine the ROI on a $20K certificate.

Thankfully we’re a bit closer to understanding employer attitudes to non-degree credentials thanks to a new report by Burning Glass Technologies. A recently released report, The Narrow Ladder: The Value of Industry Certifications in the Job Market, examines how employers use certifications (not certificates) in the hiring process. Using their vast database of over 700 million job postings, Burning Glass Technologies examines the types of certifications that employers value, along with the skills and salary bump employees receive post-certification. It’s well worth a read for anyone who advises students or mid-career professionals about their upskill options.

“It’s not that the “non-degree” credentials are rare; more than a quarter of the employed U.S. population holds a license or certification, on top of any degrees they may hold. Certifications can be precisely tuned to industry needs, and they hold the promise of reducing the need for employers to rely on imperfect proxies, like college degrees. In certain occupations, certifications outline career ladders that define industries and give employers and job seekers alike guidance about what skills are necessary to advance.
Those occupations, however, are the exception, and if the nation is to close the skills gap, perhaps they should become the norm.”

Though the report focuses on certifications, its analysis provides material for examining certificate programs as well. Most importantly, it provides a clear difference between between certifications and certificates. The report examines employer attitudes towards certifications, which are “awarded by a certifying body, often an industry association or trade group, based on an examination process assessing whether an individual has acquired the designated knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform a specific job.” This differs from certificates, which the report defines as “short-term, professionally oriented credentials awarded by an educational institution (as opposed to an industry body) based on completion of specific coursework.” 

This distinction is important since few people outside of mobility circles realize the difference. There is a critical difference between these types of upskilling. With such similar terms an employee looking to upskill could be forgiven for thinking a university certificate in higher education administration will provide the same signal to future employers and salary bump as a CISCO Cisco Certified Network Professional certification (it doesn’t). The former is a revenue generation program from a university with little focus on skill building and an unclear career trajectory. The latter is an industry-approved career training model with clearly defined career paths.

What struck me most from this report was the role that certifications played in outlining both the skills and career paths that job seekers and employers agree on. Certifications are built from industry needs. Here’s an example of the skills needed for a AMA Digital Marketing Certification:

Are university certificate programs mapping their content offerings to industry needs? Maybe but we don’t know. The report also finds that employers value certifications that improve technical skills. Do employers feel the same about certificates? Hard to know.

On top of that, the report finds that employers vastly prefer certifications over certificates.

In 2015, the demand for certifications is approximately 1.5 million job postings, whereas only about 130,000 postings ask for certificates.

Is it possible that employer demand for certificates aren’t as in-demand as universities promise? Again, we don’t know, but this stat and the lack of employee perspectives in program marketing for certificates is telling.

Among the most important takeaways from the report, however, is this nugget:

Relatively few certifications actually have market value, and there is a shortage of easy-to-find information to sort out which credentials are pathways and which are blind alleys. More transparency in the certification market can significantly improve the returns people receive on their certification investments.

Finding out which credential pathways are legitimate is difficult. I’d argue the same for certificate programs. Will a certificate in higher education administration make a candidate more desirable than a candidate with 5+ years working in higher education? Will a certificate provide a salary bump or launch a job seeker into a more senior role? Will a certificate ensure the skills learned are still relevant in the next five years? The lack of this data makes it tough to answer these questions.

Since we don’t have those answers yet, it’s up to the job seeker/future certificate student to ask the hard questions before taking on a certificate. So for job seekers thinking about getting any certificate – online or in person – ask yourself these six questions before committing:

  • Does this certificate add to or improve your technical skills?
  • Does this certificate put you on a path to a hybrid job?
  • Does this certificate map to industry needs?
  • Does this certificate frequently appear as a requirement in your future job posting?
  • Will this certificate give you a salary or title bump? 
  • Will this certificate be relevant in five years? 

If you can’t answer these questions on your own or through a Google search, ask admissions. You’re investing in a certificate; it’s perfectly fine to ask about career outcomes. Ask to speak to participants in the program (don’t rely on testimonials). Look at LinkedIn profiles of certificate holders to understand their career paths. If you don’t get a clear answer, consider other options that are either cheaper (i.e. MOOCs), bootcamps, or certificate programs that detail the results.

Employees will need to upskill throughout their career. Certifications and certificates are one of many paths to do so. To make sure they’re actually beneficial to job seekers, we need a lot more data like the recent report from Burning Glass Technologies.

Higher education should do their part by ensuring their certificate programs bring career outcomes data – or employer perspectives towards their certificate – to the forefront of their marketing and information websites. Because right now career outcomes from all these certificate programs basically look like this:

Certificate programs career outcomes page

More career advice like this, part 2

Once again I’m finding fabulous career advice on Twitter. This time from Professor Tressie McMillan Cottom whose book, LowerEd, is top of my list of summer non-fiction reads (and should be on yours).

The entire thread is worth reading but I’ll post my favorite parts here.

On how to figure out what you’re qualified for:

On communicating what you’re targeting:

On the reality of your first post-college job:

On getting alllll the tech skills before graduating so you stand out:

On in person informational interviews when you’re broke af

Just solid career advice. No bullshit. No false promises. Just reality.

Artificial intelligence is going to wreck your carefully planned career

Yesterday I presented to a group of undergraduate students at PSU about FutureMe School and the coming changes to the workforce. As someone who regularly talks about the future of work this was the first time I’ve stood in front of soon-to-graduate students and tell them they’ll need to become lifelong learners because artificial intelligence. It’s a bit of an awkward message to deliver. They’re in their last term, weeks aways from finishing up four years of learning, working, and preparing for their next career move. They are ready to take on the world with their new skills. And I’m telling them they’re going to need to keep learning, upskilling, post-college.

But the students were game for the discussion and asked solid questions about my business plan and online courses.

The experience, however, highlights one of the biggest challenges I have right now. Everyone working in future of work spaces is working to educate employees and students about the coming changes to the workforce. Despite the blazing headlines about robots taking our jobs, the subject (or fear?) isn’t tangible enough to stick. How do we get people to shift from outdated career models and thinking to commit to lifelong learning and upskilling? How do we get people to see how artificial intelligence is changing the workplace and our jobs, if they aren’t yet feeling affecting by the technology?

Predictive analytics and algorithmic decision making happen outside of our view, behind the scenes of our daily lives. Yet we are increasingly influenced by these invisible algorithms from what we see in our newsfeeds to what prices we pay for flights. Algorithms are shaping our workplaces too. From managers that monitor employees using predictive analytics, to algorithms that rank resumes, to smart platforms that determine how we get hired, these technologies shape our career decisions and job search outcomes.

Yesterday I asked if any of the students had experienced an interview using the HireVue platform. One had. I asked if she knew she was being evaluated by algorithms. She responded that she wasn’t, and the audible, “Whaaaat?” and gasps from the audience indicated most students weren’t aware either. Job seekers need to know about the technology that’s being used to evaluate them. 

For yesterday’s talk I put together the resources to help students understand the coming changes, the technology, and how to prepare for an ambiguous career. If you’ve seen the headlines about robots taking our jobs and want to get beyond the headline hype, check out the resources below.

Start with the video below as an introduction to the subject.

BONUS WATCHING: Learn about the digital skills gap

Next, play with this fun tool: Willrobotstakemyjob.com

If you have extra time, dive into this episode, McKinsey Global Institute Podcast: How will automation affect jobs, skills, and wages? It’s a bit dry because it’s consultants talking but it’s worth understanding in depth just how dramatic of a shift is coming to the workforce. Here’s a quote from the episode to put it in perspective:

It’s something that has been a bit of a mantra in the educational field. Everyone is going to have to be a student for life and embark on lifelong learning. The fact is right now it’s still mainly a slogan. Even within jobs and companies there’s not lifelong training. In fact what we see in corporate training data at least in the United States, is that companies are spending less. As we know right now people expect that they get their education in the early 20s or late 20s and then they’re done. They’re going to go off and work for 40, 50 years. And that model of getting education up front and working for many decades, without ever going through formal or informal training again is clearly not going to be the reality for the next generation.

Continuing on that theme is another article by McKinsey, Getting Ready for the Future of Work, which is worth reading if only for this shocking quote right here:

The time it takes for people’s skills to become irrelevant will shrink. It used to be, “I got my skills in my 20s; I can hang on until 60.” It’s not going to be like that anymore. We’re going to live in an era of people finding their skills irrelevant at age 45, 40, 35. And there are going to be a great many people who are out of work.

Then spend some time reading about how artificial intelligence is changing the way we find and get jobs. Start with, AI is now analyzing candidates facial expressions during job interviews. Then read about my experience trying to interview with a chatbot. Finally, put it all together in The grim reality of job hunting in the age of AI.

And if this all has you thinking, holy shit, am I at risk of being irrelevant?!?! read, How to Stay Relevant in Today’s Rapidly Changing Job Market.

While you’re at it sign up for early access to FutureMe School because we exist to smash traditional career narratives and prepare you for this new world of work.

If you’re super interested in understanding AI in depth from a non-tech perspective, and want your mind blown while being entertained by stick figure comics, read with this fabulous introduction to the subject: The AI Revolution part 1 and part 2. They are both long reads so settle in.

So about that graduate program you’re thinking about doing

Nearly 30% of professionals believe their skills will be redundant in the next 1-2 years, if they aren’t already, with another 38% stating they believe their skills will be outdated within the next 4-5 years. – LinkedIn Economic Graph

Has anyone told the students who are putting down 10K for graduate certificates or taking on $90k in debt to pursue uncertain career paths that are at risk for AI disruption? Who’s working to make sure that these programs – especially those outside of elite schools – prepare students for emerging jobs?

Who is responsible for that discussion? Admissions? Career services? Deans?

Professional New Year Resolution: No Unpaid Speaking Gigs

My speaking experience runs from global executive workshops at Yale School of Management, to MCing a weekend conference, to interactive workshops for code school graduates. I’ve spoken at conferences in the US and abroad. I’m damn good at it. I love public speaking and getting audiences fired up.

I also like getting paid for it. Lately I’ve seen more conferences charge their speakers to attend the very conference they’re speaking at. This is particularly common in higher education spaces. This practice goes beyond not paying speakers; it’s taxing the very people who are helping educate their community. It’s also cheap AF. It’s particularly infuriating when I see conferences for women charging their speakers (mostly women), further contributing to the invisible work women are expected to do.

As someone who teaches women how to negotiate for a better salary, it’s particularly insulting when organizations who promote women’s empowerment neither pay nor waive the conference registration free.

I took an unpaid speaking gig earlier this year because I had a professional crush on the organization that asked me to speak. They too tried to charge me to attend (though I negotiated for a free ticket). The experience wasn’t worth it.

So this year I’m a no on all unpaid speaking opportunities. My expertise isn’t free.

 

 

So how you feeling about your future career?

“So what should we tell our children? That to stay ahead, you need to focus on your ability to continuously adapt, engage with others in that process, and most importantly retain your core sense of identity and values. For students, it’s not just about acquiring knowledge, but about how to learn. For the rest of us, we should remember that intellectual complacency is not our friend and that learning – not just new things but new ways of thinking – is a life-long endeavour.” Blair Sheppard Global Leader, Strategy and Leadership Development, PwC

60% think ‘few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future’. PwC survey of 10,029 members of the general population based in China, Germany, India, the UK and the US.

74% believe it’s their own responsibility to update their skills rather than relying on any employer.

Source: PWC Workforce of the Future report.

Upward mobility and clear career progression are no longer guaranteed. So how does this shape what we teach students about their careers? Learning to write a resume and taking career assessments seem quite pointless in the face of type of change.

Young alumni need support not reunions

Alumni relations

Source: Switchboard

Our young alumni climb the ladder to a successful career and prosperous life all through college only to graduate and find the next rungs missing. Young alumni don’t need cocktail mixers and reunions. They need help…We need to stop equating cultivating donors with buttering them up and start cultivating them by actually helping them grow as human beings. – The Missing Middle: Advancement and Alumni Relations’s Ongoing Generational Deficit, Switchboard

Hot damn, Switchboard gets it. When it seems alumni relations still spends so much time courting older, richer donors at the expense of the rest, it’s  refreshing to hear from alumni professionals who recognize the potential. Switchboard, an online platform for connecting students and alumni, tells it like it is: young alumni need help.

With young alumni facing a professional future filled multiple career changes and upskilling, alumni departments have an opportunity to step in and guide recent alumni.

I led multiple career engagement activities with international MBA alumni in my last role at Yale SOM. I wasn’t part of an alumni department so I was limited in the scope of what I could actually do. So I’ve been storing up ideas for alumni career training for ages.

Here’s my idea drop on how to help young alumni navigate careers:

  • Educate alumni about the changing nature of careers and how to prepare for multiple career changes, automation, and new job types
  • Build partnerships with bootcamps and offer discounts to help alumni upskill
  • Offer affordable (see student loan debt above) technical event training sessions (data analytics, SQL, data-based decision making, etc) with faculty
  • Create an alumni only access list of employers who offer student loan repayment as an employee benefit
  • Host a “How to Manage Your Student Loans/There’s hope for a debt-free future” event (online or in person)
  • Build interactive online career courses for alumni, taught by alumni
  • Share casual video interviews with younger alumni focused on the work they do and what they enjoy about their job and workplace
  • Plan a take-an-alum to work day twist on traditional mentor/mentee programs; livestream the results and interactions on Instagram as the day goes on.
  • Build a career changer workshop day with tours of your local startups and hot companies followed by interactive job search activities
  • Offer virtual career advising hours so alumni can ask career-related questions and get advice (I do this with international students in my courses)

Also, I would love to see more creative and interactive events to attract the Insta generation. Imagine the buzz an alumni event like this would create:

Play, intentional interaction, unique spaces, and new experience create perspectives. They also facilitate interaction and conversation which makes networking so much easier (also: more fun, more tolerable, more desirable). Even better these experiences translate into buzz which engages your community.

Most alumni departments don’t have the budget for these large scale pop up events. But I’m willing to bet plenty of alumni relations staff have the creative mindset to experiment. I bet those ideas are plentiful among the lower level staff who aren’t chasing high donor relationships or wrangling logistics for printed alumni books.

I’m so on board with Switchboard’s thinking. Now I’m going to watch my own alma mater to see if they get on board with this mentality too.

I’ll end with one last piece of creative event inspiration: A cliffside popup shop for climbers.

 

Professional development by podcast

I feel like we’ve made online learning really transactional.
— Maria Andersen, on the Teaching in Higher Education podcast

It’s a challenge to find (and fund) relevant professional development opportunities as a self-employed person launching a new company.

I network a lot to keep connected to communities and ideas. I try to build learning networks from those connections but I have gaps in my learning networks. Recently I discovered the Learning in Higher Education podcast by Bonnie Stachowiok. The podcast focuses mostly on improving digital pedagogy, a subject near and dear to my heart. I’ve binged so many episodes of this podcast while neglecting my weekly favorites like Reply All, Game Plan, and On the Media. (there’s just not enough time for all my favorite in a week).

As I’ve binged I’ve realized how valuable this podcast is for my own professional development. I’m binging not just because I love the subject but because the perspective is so useful as I build the future of career education. I’m taking notes and thinking about how I’ll integrate play into courses or use new edtech resources. On the episode, Learning is not a spectator sport, I yelled in support, banging on my steering wheel, when the guest Maria Andersen said

You don’t actually learn until you engage with it.

With the flood of mediocre online learning experiences out there this rang so true. My goal as an instructional designer is to get students to engage with the content (without discussion forums) so the concepts stick. And thanks to this podcast I’m learning ways to do just that.

The host’s teaching skills are what makes this podcast such a joy to listen to. Not only am I getting incredibly useful content, she presents it in a thought provoking manner, much like you’d expect your favorite professor to do.

And then there’s the curated resources alongside the podcasts. This podcast is a goldmine for anyone who wants to improve their teaching, coaching, or facilitation skills. As an entrepreneur and instructional designer, it’s opened up a new way of thinking about professional development and growth.

International Student Career Outcomes: Recommendations Aplenty

UPDATE: Thanks for your emails! If you’re interested in career services support for international students, check out Get Hired: The US Job Search for International Students. For $29/month, international students get access to online career training courses designed specifically for them.  

I’m breaking from my usual posts on algorithms taking over our lives to share insights from the new report by WENR: Career Prospects and Outcomes of U.S.-Educated International Students: Improving Services, Bolstering Success. If you’re new to working with international students it’s worth the full read to better understand your international students’ career ambitions. If you’re a career services director the data can help you build out a stronger international student engagement strategy and support your training efforts. I work with international students through my company GlobalMe School. I’ve got recommendations aplenty to add to this report. So fair warning: #longread ahead (or at least longer than what I normally write. I’m a proponent of lazy blogging)

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