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be redundant in the next 1-2 years, if they aren’t already, with another 38% stating they believe their skills will be outdated within the next 4-5 years.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 categories
  • 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

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)

Continue reading →

Get a degree in weed, get a job

No other 4-year undergraduate degree program in the world combines rigorous coursework in chemistry and biology with research and hands on instrumental analysis built into the curriculum to prepare its graduates for a career in the cannabis industry.  The additional focus on entrepreneurship and laboratory accreditation standards means that our graduates will not only be qualified to perform the instrumental analysis in a laboratory, but will also be empowered to build their own testing laboratory, dispensary, and growing operation from the ground up.

Northern Michigan University launched a degree in cannabis, Officially titled, Medicinal Plant Chemistry, it’s interdisciplinary too. It combines chemistry, biology, botany, horticulture, marketing and finance.

“We’ve had an overwhelming response from growing operations, dispensaries and other businesses who want to take on our students as interns,” said Canfield, adding that a stereotypical stoner need not apply.

That’s the part that caught my attention: employability. Gardeners and concentrate makers can earn in the six figures and job listings aplenty are listed for the cannabis industry. These graduates will be in demand.

In my last role at an east coast Ivy League career services center, several MBA students were interested in the cannabis industry. It’s not hard to see why with a projected market growth of $21.6 billion by 2021. Yet career services wouldn’t touch it. They weren’t open to building relationships with cannabis employers, despite the thriving industry that was alive and well out West (as the Pacific Northwest transplant, I advised students on opportunities). Innovation was cool as long as it fit within what was considered status quo.

While I wrote this post to share this new intersection of cannabis and higher education, there’s a bigger takeaway: Innovation doesn’t necessarily come from the top schools. There’s a tendency in higher education circles to look towards the Ivies and Stanfords as exemplars of innovation. But that’s misguided because they’re well-funded, resource-rich institutions. Sometimes they’re actually risk-adverse. I’d like to see that mentality change in higher education. Innovation can be found across all types of institutions, not just the Ivy leagues. Take a look at Vanderbuilt’s work on digital pedagogy. Or the partnership between 11 universities to improve retention rates among low income students. Then there’s the future-oriented career services training at Hazard Community College. Lansing Community college is using open resources and free online texts instead of textbooks to make college more affordable. In the online education space, an area traditionally thought of as US dominated, there are fascinating ideas happening outside the US.

No doubt NMU is blowing up because cannabis is sexy hot right now. I’d love to see higher education circles promote more creative, forward-thinking degree programs from lesser known schools.

Update: I just searched cannabis jobs on LinkedIn and 420 results were displayed. Well played LinkedIn, well played. 

Cannabis jobs

Are your skills still relevant?

Depending on when you graduated college, they might not be:

“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.” – Getting Ready for the Future of Work

 

Do you ever feel like you need to go back to school so you can catch up?

This thirst for AI has pushed all AI-related courses on Stanford to way over their capacity. CS224N: Natural Language Processing with Deep Learning had more than 700 students. CS231N: Convolutional Neural Networks for Visual Recognition had the same. According to Justin Johnson, co-instructor of CS231N, the class size is exponentially increasing. At the beginning of the quarter, instructors for both courses desperately scramble to find extra TAs. Even my course, first time offered, taught by an obscure undergraduate student, received 350+ applications for its 20 spots. Many of the students who took these courses aren’t even interested in the subject. They just take those courses because everyone is doing it”

-excerpt from Confession of a so-called AI Expert.

The author, Chip Hyuen, is a third year student and TensorFlow TA at Stanford. She’s got a fab internship at Netflix and a killer writing style. The full article is a must-read, in part so you can fully appreciate the last sentences:

“Maybe one day people would realize that many AI experts are just frauds. Maybe one day students would realize that their time would be better spent learning things they truly care about. Maybe one day I would be out of job and left to die alone on the sidewalk. Or maybe the AI robot that I build would destroy you all. Who knows?”

Cutting through the edtech hype

My Stitcher app is crowded. Week after week I watch all the podcasts that could be slip by, unheard. I have too many favorites and not enough time for all of them. But one episode regularly makes the weekly cut: Leading Lines. Here’s how the podcast for edtech in highered describes themselves:

“We explore creative, intentional, and effective uses of technology to enhance student learning, uses that point the way to the future of educational technology in college and university settings. Through interviews with educators, researchers, technologists, and others, we hope to amplify ideas and voices that are (or should be!) shaping how we think about digital learning and digital pedagogy.”

The short version: they provide a much needed perspective on educational technology in higher education. The result is a podcast that dives deeper into how teaching and learning is evolving alongside new technology. It’s positively refreshing. I’ve learned about second-language learning with wikipedia, new technologies for that enhance engagement in the classroom, and designing MOOCs.

I’ve worked on both sides of the edtech sector: as a vendor and client. In 2010, I did business development for an international startup. I worked remotely for an international student recruiting platform which gave students all over the world direct access to universities. My days consisted of scouring websites for university contacts, pitching administrators on email, following up on leads, demoing the platform, and waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. I loved our product and was out to convince the world of higher education how we were going to solve their problems (or at least North and South America, my territory). The job was filled with equal parts rejection and learnings. I didn’t know the term edtech then; we positioned the company as a social tool as social media was all the new rage. Though the term wasn’t around, I embraced the edtech hype. I believed that technology could solve many issues in higher education (ignoring the fact I’d never actually worked in higher ed at that point). The startup eventually folded.

In 2014, when I started work in career services at Yale School of Management, I was on the other side of edtech as a potential client. I was on the receiving end of a lot of pitches in part because of the brand name. The thinking goes like this: if a company can claim Yale SOM as a client and post our public testimonial they can sway other schools to do the same. We did the same when I worked at a startup. I remember trying to close a Notre Dame deal to score a brand name to dangle in front of future clients. The strategy works. At Yale SOM my director always evaluated new tech starting with: Harvard/Booth/Wharton is using it, so we should take a look.

In the beginning I had much empathy for sales teams whose emails I regularly ignored. I was ridiculously busy. The emails and requests for time were competing with ambitious students and a department that loved emails and meetings with equal fervor. Occasionally an email would break through (the power of follow ups!) and I’d chat. But the empathy faded over time as I experienced the worst of edtech sales:

  • Vendors insisting that their dashboard would solve all my problems without actually listening to my problems
  • Vendors who insisted on following their script. Once a person launched into a lengthy explanation on the basic concepts of data collection, ignoring the fact we were an MBA career services office which collects and tracks data on every student for mandatory reporting purposes.
  • Vendors insisting on demos when the product had no fit in our department
  • Vendors pushing to move forward despite my statements that I made zero decisions and didn’t control the budget – I was merely an internal lobbyist and would advocate where possible.
  • Vendors casually ignoring my questions at conference booths until they saw Yale on my badge; then it was all ears and smiles. (I know it happens and I know how boring booth work is but the frequency in which it happened was so disappointing).
  • Vendors ignoring the platform fatigue issue in our department (at one point I had students using 6 platforms and even I was tired of platforms).
  • Vendors with no understanding of UX, a particularly large red flag considering we’re dealing with learning outcomes. If you don’t understand users, how can you support their learning outcomes? Grad Leaders is the worst offender in this case, despite their prominence in the market.

These are the worst offenders of course. To be fair, edtech sales is rough . Decision-making in higher education is opaque. You don’t know who makes the decisions and when. Sales cycles are notoriously long compared to the private sector. Rejection is almost a relief compared to the non-responses. I look back now at some of my sales emails and I cringe. I was definitely a shitty edtech sales person at times (thankfully I’ve improved).

Now I read most edtech coverage with a critical eye. I wonder: did they talk with users before creating their solution? Is their solution based on a real problem? How are users benefiting from this technology? So when I read the edtech news at EdSurge Highered and CB insights I like to balance it with the Leading Lines podcast. I’m also a fan of Hack Education Newsletter, a comprehensive yet critical take on edtech news (and policy).

My relationship with edtech is always evolving. I’ve flipped sides again, having launched a company in the edtech space and pitching universities. But having a critical perspective keeps me grounded as I build and pitch. Podcasts like Leading Lines remind me regularly to consider both the learner’s and administrator’s perspective when designing for education.