September , 2020
Joseph Hayes serves as Associate Director, Career Development & Employer Relations at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Academic & Career Development Center.
This is not novel. It’s not even creative. It is however an underestimated and practical question that packs a punch. Career educators, this is for us.
We’ve heard the phrases before. Too many, in fact to count: How does my resume look? What do you think of this cover letter? Is my Zoom background appropriate? Ok, perhaps not the last one.
Maybe it’s me, but the one’s asking these questions are the one’s not needing help. The conversation shifts to strategy, being proactive, and finding like-minded humans to interact with during difficult job-finding times.
I aim to please: offering my editing services and practical “next step” tips to move forward. Students have questions; questions are addressed.
I’d wrap up the conversation more meant to affirm my own interest, “is this helpful?” to which I’d universally get the answer I wanted, “yes.”
Case opened. Case closed. Or was it?
Then I had a moment of realization—a coaching self-audit, if you will. It wasn’t planned. In fact, I think it was during a fourth slice of pizza to be precise (don’t judge J). Rarely do good things happen at that slice, but apparently a pepperoni dislodged a neuron that had been stuck in a repetitive cognitive loop of thinking the same way.
What if that student hadn’t implemented said strategies? What if I wasn’t helpful? What if my ending question was simply lip service?
So I changed it up. My sign-off question goes a bit like this: “I feel like we covered a lot here. We discussed X, Y, and Z. Now, outside of yourself, who will hold you accountable to making progress?
The conversation changes from an overall, in-the-moment feeling (that could easily fizzle out and fade) to a forward-looking, responsibility-taking strategy (meant to last). Sometimes it gets a bit awkward. If a student can’t think of someone, no worries—I offer myself.
I add a bit about the importance of stating intended plans not just with me, but the need to let others in on the plan. Vocalize your plans. Share your dreams aloud. Identify a confidant. Write that person down and attach it to your computer or phone as a reminder. And have that person do the same.
All of a sudden the student is not alone. They have a newfound advocate—but more so—a person to give the extra nudge. A push to move forward. Motivation to persist.
Who is your job search accountability partner?