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Posts Tagged ‘Hiring Employees’

College is supposed to prepare you for your career and to lead a productive work life. In what ways do you feel most prepared for this challenge? In what ways do you feel least prepared?

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Yes, it is.

I could stop there and make this my shortest post ever. But my short answer to this frequently asked question needs some explanation.

I teach public relations/communication management at Towson University. A valid question is, can someone be successful in PR/communication without a college degree?

The answer is, of course, yes. But here’s the rub — you have to be hired first. And why would an employer hire someone for even an entry-level position without a college degree when so many graduates are churned out each year who vie for low-salary entry-level jobs?

Get the picture? You must have credentials to get hired. “Credentials” means “qualifications. You can become qualified over time by on-the-job training, but as I said, you have to get hired first. That’s the hard part.

The first thing any reputable employer looks at is your experience (qualifications) for the open job he/she is trying to fill. The old chicken-and-egg question is, “but how do I get experience if I can’t get hired?” The simple answer is, “go to college and get a degree in the field.” That gives you, at best, the entry fee to seek employment.

Businesses must consider the  return on investment (ROI) on all big decisions. Like any business, a high school grad must consider the ROI in deciding whether or not to earn a college degree.

But in considering college, a student must view the payout in more than just enhanced earnings over the life of a career. Enhanced lifetime earnings for those who have college degrees is well-documented. But intangibles like personal growth and life experiences should factor into the decision, too. College can help you in so many more ways that what happens in the classroom.

Does this mean you can’t obtain personal growth and life experiences without a college degree? Of course not. But the four years you are in college are an intense time of learning and growth that prepares you for your career and your life, too.

To many of us who have hired, trained, and fired employees over the years, a college degree is really just an entry fee for the world of work. Real learning begins on the job. Sadly, many organizations must offer remedial training to raise the level of competence of new hires, often on things they should have mastered in school.

Remember, to be hired for any job, you must demonstrate qualifications. It takes time to gain the qualifications you need, but earning a college degree puts you well ahead.

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What are the most important skills/abilities necessary for success in the Public Relations career you envision as being perfect for you? How will you demonstrate to potential employers that you have those necessary skills/abilities? How will you continually improve your skills/abilities after you graduate?

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The helpful folks at the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) have recently provided vital information for college graduates entering the work force. This is must-have information, for knowing what employers want in new hires should be part of every graduate’s career plan.

According to NACE’s Job Outlook 2013 Survey, the number one skill/quality employers seek in job candidates is “ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization.”

Here’s the NACE top ten in order:

  1. Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization.
  2. Ability to work in a team structure.
  3. Ability to make decisions and solve problems.
  4. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work.
  5. Ability to obtain and process information.
  6. Ability to analyze quantitative data.
  7. Technical knowledge related to the job.
  8. Proficiency with computer software programs.
  9. Ability to create and/or edit written reports.
  10. Ability to sell or influence others (NACE, 2012)

This information is timely and relevant for me as well. For my doctoral dissertation,  I am currently formulating research on the influence of Web 2.0 technologies on Millennial Generation students’ interpersonal communication skills and abilities. My own research echos the NACE finding — employers want new hires who can communicate effectively face to face.

In fact, Numbers 1 and 10 go hand in hand. Successful employees need excellent interpersonal communication skills in order to sell and influence others. Book after book, study after study, all proclaim that employers want effective communicators, but these works often cite “written and oral communication skill” equally. However, the NACE study is clear: the ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization is critically important.

Why is there such sudden emphasis on face-to-face communication among employers? Could it be that there really is a deleterious effect of growing up digital, of being a heavy user of Web 2.0-enabled technologies? Could it be that college grads of today are less skilled (or less predisposed) to communicate effectively face to face?

I have been curious about such questions since I began my college teaching career in 2004.

By next spring, I hope to have clear answers to such questions once my mixed methods research is completed. I intend to study the phenomenon of Millennial Generation students’ interpersonal skills and abilities in considerable depth. I am excited about what I will learn.

But in the meantime, I hope all my students will pay attention to what NACE’s study found out.

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If I were asked to give a college’s commencement address (fat chance), here is what I would tell the graduates:

1.  Lose the narcissism. Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough Jr., recently covered this better than I ever could, and I agree with McCullough; I would tell graduating college students that “you are not all that special”, even though, as members of the Millennial Generation, you have been told that you are all of your lives. The difference here is that McCullough was addressing high school seniors. My commencement speech is to college students, whose egos, by this time, have been knocked down a peg of two. But the point is still important — you are not the center of the universe, so get over your self-importance. In the grand scheme of things, you are just one among many out there scratching to make it. That simply means that you are not entitled to a high starting salary or the job of your dreams immediately. You will have to earn what you get, beginning with an entry level job and working your way up.

2.  Work means work.  When you take a job, you are expected to earn your keep. Being hired is not a license to coast. You must work to prove yourself every day, with every task, and on every assignment. You are being paid to do a job. Do it to the best of your ability, and then improve on your performance continually.

3.  Results are the only thing that matters. I love my Millennial Generation college students, but I get sick of hearing this excuse for a bad grade: “But I worked so hard on that!” Who cares that you worked hard? You are supposed to work hard. Do not ever tell an employer who critiques your poor performance that you tried really hard. The implication is, as it is with my students, that you should get some sort of credit for your effort. No way. You are supposed to give every task, every assignment, and every project your 100 percent effort. That is merely an entry fee. Results are all that matters. Yoda said it best: “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

4. The Golden Rule is the only thing you ever need to know about diversity.  Simply treat people like you want to be treated. The Golden Rule is the golden key to living a successful, meaningful, and productive life in harmony with other people.

5. As members of the Millennial Generation, you must deal effectively with other generations in the work place. Learn to understand and respect Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. They got there first. They have paid their dues (if they are still employed there with you). Respect them. Help them. Learn from them.

6. You can’t text your way into super-stardom. You are not inherently smarter than the Boomers and Xers  just because you “grew up digital”. Just because you can text and Tweet and Facebook and email and surf Websites, often all at the same time, does not mean you are smarter than they are. They can do these things, too.  Being adept at Web 2.0-enabled social media, a hallmark of the Millennial Generation, is of small advantage in the face of the incredible life experience that these older generations have on you.

7. Never drink too much at an office social function. That is a career-limiting move for sure.

8. Happen to things; don’t let things happen to you. That was important advice from one of my mentors, David Hogan. When I went to him for advice about how to do a difficult project, he advised me to “go make something happen.” In other words, he advised me to figure it out. That is what he was paying me for anyway.

9. Accept the guidance of a mentor. Like David Hogan, and David Wesley before him (See my blog post below dated October 21, 2011), my mentors have been invaluable to my career success. You will find them, too, or they will find you. The is much truth to the old Zen proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

10. You, and you alone, must find your own way. And here is the good news — you will. I know you will, and it will all be okay.

Good luck.

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In this difficult economy, in which one in two recent college graduates is unemployed or underemployed, what do you think is most important to prepare yourself to get a job in public relations?

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As we approach graduation, many of my students are already interviewing for jobs. But students, you must be aware that you may be asked unethical and illegal questions. You must know your rights in order to protect yourself in a job interview. The purpose of this post is to inform and educate you on the traps and tricks you may encounter so that you will be best prepared for a successful, fair, and professional job interview.

The personal interview is a logical and necessary part of the process of making hiring decisions. However, it can be filled with unethical and illegal questions. The simple truth about the job interview is that  any questions that tries to get at an individual’s personal attributes, orientations, or background is illegal. Employers cannot ethically or legally ask you about personal matters. The interview questions must be kept to job requirements and to the qualifications of the applicant for that job.

There are specific things that you cannot be asked in a job interview. Here is the list:

  1. Questions about your race. Making race a factor in the hiring decision process is illegal. However, it is legal for an employer to ask an applicant if he or she is legally authorized to work in the United States on a full-time basis.
  2. Questions about where your were born or your native language. National origin is a no-no for job interview questions.
  3. Questions about sexual preference.  Sexual preference has no legal bearing on whether or not an applicant can perform the job.
  4. Questions designed to find out if you’re married, pregnant or planning to have a baby.  Women have historically been discriminated against because they have or may plan on having a baby, thereby missing work for periods of time. Questions related to children or plans for a family, etc., are all illegal.
  5. Questions relating to drugs or alcohol use or abuse. Be careful of this topic, although it is legal to ask whether an applicant uses illegal drugs.
  6. Questions regarding hospital stays. To protect your privacy, it is illegal to ask  about your medical history.
  7. Questions about existing or potential mental illness. This is an invasion of your right to privacy, and therefore, is illegal to ask in a job interview.
  8. Questions about disability. Unless you have a disability and willingly disclose it, then this topic is illegal in a job interview.
  9. Questions concerning religion or about your personal faith, such as “do you celebrate Yom Kippur?” The same is true of asking about any Christian or other religion’s holidays. Such questions are illegal, and you do not have to answer.
  10. Questions regarding whether or not you have ever filed a workers’ compensation claim.  As an employee, you have the right to file for workers’ compensation for job-related injuries. This cannot be used against you later in making hiring decisions.
  11. Questions about your age. Because of historical age discrimination, questions designed to determine your age are illegal, except to establish that you are of legal age to work.
  12. Questions like, “are you in the National Guard?” Employers cannot discriminate against applicants who serve in the National Guard, and therefore, may be called to active duty away from the job.
  13. Questions about whether or not you belong to any clubs or social organizations. This may be trying to get at your religious or political affiliations, which is off limits. However, telling a job interviewer that you are a member of the Student PR Group, Lambda Pi Eta, or the AAF is okay though.

Thanks to http://www.bspcn.com/and writer Laura Strachan and to http://www.techrepublic.com, and to http://www.focus.com for this information.

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