Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Two Considerations for Including Guest Presentations in University Courses

Instructors often invite colleagues from outside the university to speak to their students. These presentations by practitioners typically include a review of the speaker's career and thoughts related to the company, industry, and/or function he or she represents. 

Students gain valuable real-world perspectives from these speakers that energizes what they've absorbed from assigned readings. Guests also may direct students to internships and jobs in the field.   

Yet I've seen guest speakers misused in courses in two ways.

First, presentations must fit into the overall learning objectives for the specific class. A guest speaking on any topic generally related to the course might offer value, yet without an explicit connection to the particular session's learning outcomes students may not reap all potential benefits. The relationship between theory and practice is critical, and it's incumbent on instructors to skillfully incorporate guest presentations only when there's a clear fit with content.  

In my experience, it's harder to plan other activities around an outside speaker than it would be to speak or facilitate activities yourself. That's another reason why I recommend guest presentations only after carefully planning the entire course. 

Second, I've learned that not every guest speaker connects equally well with university students. That might be because of their public speaking skills, personality, and/or experience in the field. Unless you know someone well it's sometimes hard to tell. Their age doesn't necessarily make a difference. I recommend that the instructor speaks with the prospective guest ahead of time to discuss the topic and offer suggestions on how they can best address student interests. 

In short, students gain most from skilled professionals addressing issues directly relevant to what they're learning in class. And those professionals reap greater satisfaction when the instructor spends the time to ensure a fit between the topic, individual, and the students. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

3 Questions I'm Often Asked About Career Coaching

When considering whether or not to work with a career coach, prospective clients typically have three questions--which I share below with my responses. 

1. What is it like to work with a career coach? 

Career coaches help individuals to make progress in their professional lives. These individuals draw on a wide range of industry experience, through work in fields including recruiting, human resources, and career services, to share relevant insight and information with clients.  Some career coaches offer structured programs that begin with assessment and culminate in a clearer, more meaningful professional direction and with that new employment opportunities.  Other career coaches offer a la carte services to clients seeking specific support in terms of transitioning from one industry to another, developing a resume and/or LinkedIn profile, interviewing, providing introductions and making connections to relevant individuals and organizations, and a host of other topics.  

In working with a career coach, as well as serving as one, I’ve found the accountability factor to be critical. Although I’m largely self-directed, I can lag in terms of doing what’s critical for my career amidst myriad other daily responsibilities. I’ve called on career coaches to serve as sounding boards and/or to report on relevant actions I’ve taken, attempted, or simply avoided. I inevitably benefit from the feedback that such an accounting elicits.  I play a similar role with my coaching clients. 

2. How do I know if I need a career coach? 

Individuals contemplating change in their work status often find the process difficult, if not overwhelming. A career coach assists with making such changes, including transitioning from one industry to another; reentering the workforce after an absence; and gradually shifting from full-time employment to part-time/self-employed status, among others. Others may be working, but simply may not feel prepared to generate new opportunities and apply for them.  Career coaches can help them to build discrete skills and increase their confidence when applying them. 

3. What results can someone working with a career coach expect? 

Every client defines success differently, and thus seeks different results. Some need to engage in the challenging work of getting clearer about possible future professional directions, and find that outcome worth the investment of time and energy in hiring a coach. Others know what they want and seek an entrĂ©e into a new industry, and once connected call on networking talents to land the job of their dreams. Finally, some individuals need support at every step of the job search process and consider each tangible service as essential to the ultimate result – landing a new job. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What I learned from eavesdropping on an informal job interview

Earlier today I overheard a conversation at a local coffee shop between a representative of a local employer and a job candidate. The former said to the latter: "You'll see in the job description that the number of years of experience we're seeking is quite high. Don't worry about that, as we put the figure down to scare people."

I take this point as an impetus to 1) reach out to someone you know at an organization of interest to learn such details, and 2) apply if you believe you meet the general functional requirements of the position, regardless of how much experience you claim. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

7 Realizations About Leadership and Personal Development I've Come to This Summer (so far)

As part of the process of wrapping up the latest chapter in my professional life and working diligently to move gracefully into the next one, I’ve taken stock of fundamental lessons I’ve learned. I share these realizations related to personal development and leadership with you here with the hope that you might derive some benefit from my newfound insight. 

1.Self-confidence means intuitively recognizing that what you consider good enough is just that, regardless of how others respond to your work. 

2.If you're constantly reacting to what comes your way, you'll likely never get where you really want to go. Focusing on what’s truly important is critical; the rest can wait. 

3.There are times when you'll find it difficult to be kind. But there really is no other way to be in the world if you want to be happy and healthy. 

4.If you focus solely on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, you'll have little energy left to tend to the alleged foibles of others by criticizing, complaining, and gossiping.  

5.Even the most seemingly insignificant words or deeds have impact. So carefully consider how you engage the world. Make it a practice to demonstrate restraint of pen and tongue whenever you are in doubt.  

6.If you don't put your needs first, you cannot expect anyone else will do so. 

7.If you don't at least aspire to practice what you preach, people may choose not to listen to what you have to say. Strive for consistency between your words and behavior. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Celebrity Professor! But Can He (or She) Teach?

I have worked in higher education for 17 years, much of the time as an adjunct instructor teaching courses in business and communications.  Throughout this period I have invested considerable energy learning how to teach.  I continue to add to my skill set, with the goal of having opportunities to instruct for many years to come. My course evaluations have been strong, which I believe reflects my conscientiousness and unwavering commitment to the education of my students.  

I also have worked as an administrator in higher education.  In that capacity I have interacted with countless tenure-track and adjunct faculty members, as well as other professionals responsible for recruiting, training, and managing these instructors. 

This body of experience fuels my skepticism about the practice of hiring individuals without prior teaching experience as adjunct faculty. These professionals, recruited for their celebrity, industry experience, fundraising skills, and/or political connections, often have little to no teaching experience. I have witnessed situations over the years when such adjunct faculty failed to develop and submit syllabi; neglected to include written assignments in the syllabi they did submit; and relied on a bevy of industry colleagues to complement long lectures on related topics in lieu of structured lesson plans, among other foibles. 

Hiring administrators highly value the social capital potentially delivered by such luminaries. Thus, what and how they conduct their class is moot, or at least it appears to be.  Yet inevitably I’ve seen that once the initial glamour of the celebrity faculty member wears off students grow frustrated with the lack of organization; long, rambling, and (on occasion) repetitive lectures; failure to engage the class in meaningful discussions; and lack of responsiveness to their concerns. The academic experience thus suffers, and with that student learning and their overall assessment of the course. Students share their sentiments with peers, which in turn can influence the program’s ability to recruit students. That’s especially important as every individual matriculating student matters a lot to the institution’s bottom-line, especially for small and/or less well-known academic programs. 

Indeed, I have worked with countless professionals who devote the time and energy to teach effectively during their service as adjunct faculty.  They are committed to their students’ learning, spend considerable time preparing for class and working individually with students who need support, and take seriously the feedback they receive to help them improve. These individuals contribute as much to the classroom, and occasionally more, than full-time, tenure track/tenured faculty members. 

Yet I’ve lived through enough frustrating high profile faculty hires that I believe my concerns merit further scrutiny. My question thus becomes: Is the prospective adjunct faculty member ready and willing to accept responsibility for teaching and everything that it entails or simply show up on class day ready to pontificate?  

Given the current state of higher education, I believe we can ill-afford the participation of even the most illustrious professionals who are not held responsible for their performance in the classroom.  In short, no matter what your experience, pedigree, or education, they’re no substitute for learning how to teach well.