Career Ready at La Trobe

I hate those blog posts where the author apologises for not updating their blog in a while. So I’m not going to do one.

I’ve been working. Reading, writing. Riding my bike. Work got intense for a time which means my doctoral studies were sidelined and my exercise habit got disrupted somewhat.

CAreer REady

It’s exciting times for the La Trobe University Careers and Employability service. We’re now called Career Ready, which is the brand of a large initiative on the part of the university, which has included:

  • a major expansion of our team, from around five to more than 15 staff.
  • the development of the Career Ready Capability Framework, which represents the language we’ll use around employability.
  • The Career Ready Advantage scheme which rewards students for learning or life activities that improve their employability
  • An app which gamifies the Career Ready framework and constitutes a kind of reflective portfolio.
  • A curricular framework which we will use in our work with academic course.
  • The renovation of a student consulting space, at the heart of the campus.
  • A lot more besides, the topics of other posts

It’s a little weird to be honest, because we’re the belles of the ball at the moment, which is not normal for university careers practitioners. It is offering up a lot of great opportunities for research related to my doctoral studies (or not so related, but still interesting and purposeful). Again, the topics of other posts.

 

 

Three words to avoid in applications, Adobe Captivate project

It’s no secret that the language a person uses in a job application can have a huge affect on their success, but not all my students understand just how subtle this is. In particular, I’m often struck by the negative impact the Aussie characteristic of being humble, understated, and playing things down can have on a resume or in a job interview. Students don’t want to seem arrogant, but in most cases they take it too far and actively diminish their experience, skills, and achievements.

This Adobe Captivate project that I created for the La Trobe University careers blog sums up my advice to students in this regard by teaching them to be a little more direct in their language and to remove a couple of common diminishing phrases. To be perfectly honest, it didn’t really need to be a Captivate project, as it doesn’t really have any interactions, but I felt like having a play in Captivate and so here it is.

 

 

The tricky question of ethnicity and nationality on resumes

Australia_Entry_Stamp_HensleyIn my role as careers consultant at La Trobe university, I enjoy the diversity of students that I work with. It was a challenge after working at relatively  homogeneous RMIT Vietnam, but a refreshing one. I enjoy being amongst a wide range of nationalities, backgrounds, perspectives, goals, languages and cultures.

But one thing I’m struggling with is how I talk about ethnicity and nationality with my students, particularly when it comes to their resumes. I know that Australian employers can be reluctant to hire international students and that prejudicial hiring practices are a significant barrier for non-Anglo job seekers. I feel that I need to address it in my consultations, but I fear that in doing so I contribute to the marginalisation of these students.

I feel uncomfortable when asking the question “what is your visa status?” I dislike the idea that I am signalling to the student that I see them as a foreigner and expect others to as well. They may have a “foreign” name, a “foreign” accent, “foreign” schools or jobs on their resumes… yet they could be a citizen of Australia, which is more than I can say. Some of my students were born here, yet because of their name, religion, or accent, may be viewed as foreign by employers and thus placed at a disadvantage. I have also noticed that I tend to assume that students with Greek or Italian names are true blue Aussies, due to the way these nationalities have become part of the social fabric of Melbourne, whereas an Asian or Indian name will raise the question of nationality and foreignness in my mind.

More than once I have asked lazily “are you an international student?”, and felt sheepish when I’m told “I’m a citizen”. More than once I have had Australian born students ask me if they should use their actual name or an English nickname on their resume. Several times I have coached students on how to achieve “culture fit”, often a convenient proxy for discrimination.  Far too often I have been totally unable to suggest any useful advise to a highly employable student who has received zero interest from employers. In these cases, even my expressions of sympathy feel hollow and condescending.

My solution for some students is to address the hidden work rights question up front, by listing their citizenship or visa status at the very top of the resume, near the contact details. It is contrary to the recommendation of “no personal information” on Australian resumes, but I see it as a necessary compromise in the face of discrimination.

I’m not sure what the answer to my discomfort is. I do believe that it’s an important matter and that my advice can help students achieve their goals, but how can I address it without inadvertently perpetuating an othering experience for these students?

 

The job application “self destruct button”

Self destruct

My resume-checking consultations with students often begin with the student telling me “I’ve been sending my resume out to heaps of jobs but have had no replies”. This sentence is loaded with all sorts of danger signals, so before looking at the resume I always take some time to explore what the students’ job search strategies are like.

99% of the time, they’re awful.

It’s telling that the word resume is singular in that sentence. Students are sending out the exact same resume for a wide range of jobs. Leaving aside the fact that job search sites are a poor source of career opportunities, it’s obvious that none of these applications have a well targeted resume. Unfortunately, job search websites such as seek.com encourage this self-defeating behaviour by including an “apply now” button which instantly sends off a stored resume.

To try and combat this I put together this short blog post for La Trobe’s Career Ready website: Beware the job application self-destruct button. I enjoy producing career education nuggets like this, because although they focus on one quite specific message, you can load them up with a lot of incidental learning. For example, this post’s message is “don’t use the apply now button”, but the reader is also exposed to important ideas such as targeting resumes, reaching out to employers, and following application instructions.

I’m very interested in microlearning and using social media for career education. Workplace and social learning expert Jane Hart‘s idea of learning flow neatly summarises this approach:

A Learning Flow is a continuous steady stream of social micro-learning activities – accessible from the web and mobile devices

I’m looking forward to exploring and learning more about how I can use learning flow and social learning to improve the career education outcomes of my students. What this space: further study and research ahead.

Design note:

The image is my own, created in PowerPoint from a free stock photo from Unsplash.com, a public domain mushroom cloud, and a tutorial on creating a comic book format from elearning design guru Tom Kuhlmann. It took longer than it needed to because there was a learning curve involved in getting the odd frame shapes right, but I learned a couple of new functions. It’s a quick and dirty effort, but I think it does the trick.