With this new free time I’m launching a new summer project. It’s based on my love of podcasts, conversations, and people. 50 Conversationsis a limited run, mini-podcast featuring informal conversations with career changers.
Mini-podcast is really just code for informal podcasting because these audio nuggets won’t include intro music, editing, or sponsors. It’s simply short conversations with people who have made the jump from one career to another. You can sneak a listen to these stories on your commute and between meetings.
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:
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.
A good example is today’s workplace, where hundreds of new AI technologies are already influencing hiring processes, often without proper testing or notice to candidates. New AI recruitment companies offer to analyze video interviews of job candidates so that employers can “compare” an applicant’s facial movements, vocabulary and body language with the expressions of their best employees. But with this technology comes the risk of invisibly embedding bias into the hiring system by choosing new hires simply because they mirror the old ones.
Beyond bias we should be asking serious questions about the data that these algorithms are based on: what data are they using to determine the connection between facial movements, vocabulary, and body language as predictors of job performance?
More from the article above:
“New systems are also being advertised that use AI to analyze young job applicants’ social media for signs of “excessive drinking” that could affect workplace performance. This is completely unscientific correlation thinking, which stigmatizes particular types of self-expression without any evidence that it detects real problems. Even worse, it normalizes the surveillance of job applicants without their knowledge before they get in the door.
Using data on the historical movement of GE employees and the relatedness of jobs (which is based on their descriptions), the app helps people uncover potential opportunities throughout the company, not just in their own business unit or geography. Lots of companies post open positions on their websites. What’s different about this tool, says Gallman, is that it shows someone jobs that aren’t open so that he or she can see what might be possible in his or her GE career.
Showing employees what’s possible, regardless if the opportunity is available, is a smart move. It helps anchor the company in the employees mind, giving them a path to work towards. I left a few jobs because I had no idea of what was possible (and neither did my boss). Having multiple paths to explore can open up valuable conversations and go a long ways in retaining talent. Pair that with a new tool that “recommends the training or education someone needs to better perform his or her existing job and to progress.” GE is making clever use of new analytics and algorithmic tools to retain employees.
I just flaked out on another Coursera course. I thought this would be the time I stuck with it; I even paid for it in hopes I wouldn’t flake. But flake I did.
I’m still focused on upskilling, so I joined another online school, Treehouse. I’ve used them before to learn html and css basics. I love their UX and the entire feel of their learning experience. I’m surprised that feel matters so much to me – but then again learning environments matter offline, so why shouldn’t it matter online?
So I’m onto a new online learning platform, this time focusing on skills that I need right now. I’m taking their WordPress track as all my websites are hosted on WordPress. I can cobble together awesome themes pretty well but I have no idea how WordPress actually works and Treehouse has a robust track that dives into everything I need to know.
As I was pursuing courses I noticed Treehouse excels in another area: storytelling. More specifically, telling the stories of successful career changers. Making a shift to a new career is a daunting task: you have to obtain the skills and convince employers that you can do the job, the latter of which can be even harder than acquiring the new skills. Career changers struggle with doubt, lack of self-confidence, opaque career paths, and lack of knowledge about hiring companies and opportunities. Treehouse uses profiles to share stories from a wide range of people – former customer service specialists, laid off professionals, personal trainers, urban planners – from across the globe.Seeing diverse stories of successful career changers helps learners visualize themselves doing the same. It’s even possible it gives them a bit more confidence. As they read, they’re likely telling themselves, hey, if they can do it, I can do it too.
Testimonials about impact are important for prospective online students. But the full stories that dive into the learning journey and offer advice serve a purpose too: to motivate career changers. Treehouse puts out a clear message to career changers: everyone’s doing it and you can to.
So bravo to Treehouse. Here’s hoping other online schools invest the time in career storytelling too.