A reader writes:
I am a former HR manager who decided RIFing is not good for my soul. I decided to get into Higher Education a couple of years ago. I have recently accepted a position as a Director of Career Development. I know all about the bad and outdated advice that university career centers dispense to their students—I’ve seen it in action when recruiting candidates in my former life. I want to do better.
I am being pushed by those with fancy titles to create a portfolio program, encouraging all students to develop portfolios to present at interviews when they enter the world of work. I hate the idea—mostly because when I got them as an employer, my thoughts were along the lines of a snarky “Ohhh, but you forgot your dental records!” I realize it is vital for some fields, like graphic design for example. However, I think it is ridiculous for a business student to hand over a folder full of records of participation, awards certificate and writing samples from a theory class.
I’d rather ditch the idea and focus on teaching students to talk about these experiences intelligently in an interview. Is it worth the fight with upper level administrators, or am I just a cynical former HRer?
Hell yes, it’s worth a fight. This is a realm where you can’t give in on stuff that you know is a bad idea, or the next thing you know, you’ll have resigned yourself to telling students to send their resumes via postal mail and call hiring managers several times a week to check the status of their applications.
It sounds like you need to have a talk with the people who are pushing you to do this, to explain that there’s an awful lot of bad or outdated career advice floating around, that you saw lots of it in action when you were doing hiring yourself, and that you’re excited about your position because it’s a chance for students to hear from someone who was hiring for a living very recently. Explain that few employers would care about this type of portofolio (except for fields like design, as you mentioned), that it will actually hurt most students by making them look naive, and that they will get the biggest bang for their buck by focusing on having a strong resume, an awesome cover letter, and fantastic interviewing skills … as well as understanding what type of experience they should get while they’re in school to be better positioned for job-hunting later.
Hopefully you had the “there’s a lot of bad advice out there and it’s important for students to get job search advice from people who actually hire people” discussion when you were being interviewed, and hopefully whoever hired you hired you because of your experience in this area. If not, have that discussion now.
(And let me know how I can help, if at all, because I’m becoming obsessed with the need to reform college career centers. And students, you should be getting obsessed with this too, because right now your very expensive college is probably failing you in this area.)