Filtering: The Enemy of Career Progress

photo: clean and dirty water. In my practice, I find myself working most often with people who have great passion, talent and commitment, but have stalled in their career tracks because of self-limiting beliefs, and because of what I describe as faulty approaches to “filtering.” People can have a few kinds of faulty career filters that get them stuck in their tracks. The first faulty kind is the filter that screens too many thing out, and the second is the one that lets too many things in. Both can leave you dead in the water. The key, I think, is to fine-tune your filtering process, so you can let enough options pass through, without having too many random options that lead you down blind alleys, toward disappointment and eventually, despair.

The first kind of filter is caused by self-limiting beliefs. If you find yourself thinking or saying any of the following, you may be over-filtering.

  • I think I’d like the job, but I probably can’t do that.
  • There’s going to be so much competition for that job. They won’t consider me.
  • I’m sure there’s an inside candidate, so why bother applying?

The second kind of filtering really isn’t filtering at all. It’s what I call “shotgunning.” Basically, any option is seen as a good option. Instead of aiming for a particular target, you choose a general direction and apply for everything you see. This may result in interviews, but is less likely to result in jobs that are a good match.

The point of filtering something is to get to its purest possible state, leaving only the best parts in the final product. When it comes to career planning, the point is to filter out options that “muddy” the picture, and leave both you and your potential employer with a crystal clear view of your best qualities.

How, then, can you keep the right things in and the wrong things out of your career plan? By applying the right kinds of filters. The five I suggest you concentrate on are the same ones most recruiters will apply in considering a candidate: Education, Experience, Achievements, Motivation and Fit. In this series, we will explore the best ways to apply these filters toward your career planning and job search efforts.

How are you “filtering” opportunities into or out of your career plan? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The Applicant’s Role in the Screening Process

bigstock-futuristic-networking-13063529-e1359992609269What can a candidate do to affect the outcome of the screening process? Not much. You can’t set the search criteria for an employer. You can’t make screeners meticulously follow the criteria they have. And you can’t eliminate bias.

You can only present a coherent argument, and make sure that it highlights what you have to offer in relation to the position and the needs of an employer.

How can you describe, explain, or imply a high degree of fit between you/your skills and the needs of your potential employer?

It will not be through the use of buzzwords. It will be through the use of keywords. And the best way to discover the most relevant keywords are to study the employer, read the position description or advertisement carefully, and pull out those elements that seem most important. This introduces the value of “word-farming.” There are some great tools out there that can help you distill a job description down to the most important keywords. We’ll delve into them in a later post. For now, let’s start at the beginning. If you are going to make a coherent argument, you have to do one thing first…

Know Your Goal

Have you ever heard the term “He couldn’t hit the side of a barn?”

 It implies a lack of precision and lack of focus.

How about “shooting from the hip?”

It implies that a person engages in hasty, gut-level reactions, rather than taking carefully-considered and well-planned actions in an attempt reach a goal.

Let’s consider these metaphors and attempt to apply them to our thinking about the job search process.

How specific is your job target? Is it the side of a barn, or the barn window?

You see, shooting at the side of a barn is a really aimless activity. It doesn’t take much talent. You could almost do so by accident. Bored teenagers shoot paintballs at the side of a barn for something to do. A serious marksman wouldn’t bother. A marksman would shoot out the windows (or maybe the lights!)

If you ever shot from the hip, it was probably during a moment of reaction, when you had your guard down, felt attacked or confronted, and responded immediately, in a way designed to help you deflect the arguments of your attacker, or to escape from an unpleasant situation. Is that really any way to approach your job search? Some job seekers browse job postings without specific job titles, employers, roles, or responsibilities in mind, taking an “I’ll know the right job when I see it” sort of attitude. If you aren’t imagining an ideal job, or ideal roles, you’ll be less able to coherently present your arguments, and when interview time comes (if you are that lucky), you’ll be responding to questions in the same way. Shooting from the hip is a terrible way to interview.

Aimless is as Aimless Does.

I have a piece of paper tacked to the bulletin board above my desk that reads “Aimless is as aimless does.” It reminds me to set specific goals to hold myself accountable for reaching them.

Notice that the key point is that your goal must be specific.

Aim for a bullseye, not a barn.

Would you really be happy just having any random job? Probably not.

You might get by. You might pay your bills. You might even be able to do so for quite a while. But don’t you deserve more?

Know Yourself First

You are a unique person. No one else has seen the world through your eyes. No one else can bring the exact same mix of qualities to the table.

There is a job out there that you are a perfect match for. And you aren’t going to find it if you view every opportunity equally.

If you are going to have a great résumé, you need to have a goal in mind. My belief is that your goal should be to find an ideal job. Not just any job, but a job that is a good match for your education, skills, interests and motivation.

When I talk to clients who have been looking for an extended period of time, I usually see a common thread: lack of focus. They are shooting at the side of a barn, and wondering why no one’s giving out marksmanship trophies!

So set a good goal. Make it as specific as possible (we’ll talk more about how to do this in a later post). And understand that you may not reach it.

But, as Benjamin May once said:

“The tragedy in life does not lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”

Career Tracks in Higher Education: Assistant Dean of Students

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Eric Grospitch, Ed.D is the Assistant Dean of Students for the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. For this post, which is the second edition of our new guest post series on Career Tracks in Higher Education, Dr. Grospitch answered questions about his role, where it fits within the university, and what he does as an Assistant Dean of Students.

Name: Eric Grospitch, Ed.D.

Highest Degree Earned: Ed.D University of Kansas

Title: Assistant Dean of Students

Division his department falls under:  Student Affairs and Enrollment Management

Enrollment of the University of Missouri Kansas City:  15,492

Number of years of full-time experience Grospitch had when he began this position: 11

 The minimum education required for this position: Masters

Years of experience that were required for the Assistant Dean position: 8-10

What are your major responsibilities in your current position?

Responsible for oversight of Residential Life/Housing; Student Involvement (orientation, LGBTQIA, Fraternity & Sororities, Student Programing) Student Government, Student Allocations, Veterans programs, Campus Discipline

Does your role require direct service to students? If so, explain.

Yes, serving as an advisor to SGA, Allocations and various student focused committees.

How many persons in your department hold an equivalent rank? One.

How many people do you supervise? Are they Full-Time or Part-Time? Professional Staff, Trades/Custodial Staff, or Student Staff? (Please list numbers for each.)

  • Directly – 2 Directors
  • Indirectly:
    • Full time – Masters level –10
    • Full time administrative – 5
    • Full time maintenance – 5
    • Grad students -5
    • Undergraduate students – 50+

What is the title of the person your report to? What is the title of that person’s immediate superior?
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and he reports to the Chancellor.

 What is your typical day like? Your typical week?

That is hard to say because each day is different based on the time of year with the ebb and flow of the academic year.

What do you spend the majority of your time doing in your current role? 

Clearly most of the time is in different meetings and following up on individual concerns, discipline or projects.

What did you think you would be doing more, when you applied for the job? 

I’m not sure what I thought I would spend more time doing, but I have spent more time working on enrollment management type conversations, and how all we do engages us in the recruitment and retention of students.

What survival skill is most important in your current role? 

Creating relationships with trusted colleagues is clearly the most important – and those colleagues may not be on your campus.  As you move “up” you are more and more isolated on your campus.  Having colleagues that you can connect with to bounce ideas, seek input and advice is critical. I have found that through my involvement with NASPA.

 Do you serve on committees within your department? Division? University-Wide? What roles do you play on these committees?

  •  ZIPCar and Transportation Launch Team (Chair)
  • Veterans Services Development Committee
  • Collected Rules and Regulations Review Committee
  • Academic Program Review Committee
  • New Student Convocation (Chair)
  • Divisional Customer Service Training Program (Chair)
  • Campus Safety Messaging Committee (Chair)
  • Case Management Team (Member)
  • Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Divisional Assessment Committee
  • LGBTQIA Partnership Committee (Chair)
  • Violence Prevention Task Force  (member)

What advice do you have for persons seeking this type of position? 

The piece that has been hard for me, but most important is to take your time.  Many of us want Dean, VP roles, but the tradeoffs and politics need to be weighed as you move up – particularly as you balance life & job.  That said, I do think there are a few things to remember that I will tell anyone that will listen.

  1. If you say you are going to do something, do it.  New and even seasoned professionals that forget or fail to follow through on commitments can quickly be chalked up to someone you can’t count on.
  2. If you know something can’t be done in the time given, make sure you are honest in your statements. But again, if you say you can get it done, do it.
  3. Do the things no one else wants to do.  With a smile.
  4. Don’t have one year of experience 5+ times, work to diversify your work to get a true 5+ years of experience.
  5. Look for ways to volunteer and get involved with different offices on campus.  Help with Bid Day, Orientation etc.  Those are tangible experiences that you can use to guide your career path later.
  6. Get involved with a regional or national organization.  Whether reviewing proposals for a conference, volunteering at the conference, begin to build your network of friends and colleagues.
  7. Don’t forget how small our profession is.  If you grotesquely burn a bridge in one place, it is very hard to truly start over, unless you are willing to reflect, learn and share about that experience.
  8. Learn technology.  Twitter, web, etc.  We don’t need more technophobes and serving our students will require it.
  9. Engage authentically in diversity training at all opportunities.  The more we know about ourselves, the better we are able to serve all of our students.
  10. Read, Read, Read.  The student development theories that we learned in grad school are great, but things are changing rapidly and the research is trying to catch up.  Keep abreast of new ideas and concepts as it relates to retention and matriculation of students and bring those ideas (with appropriate citations/credit) to the table.

Eric submitted his article by e-mail, in response to my recent call for first-person perspectives on career tracks in higher education. You can, too! Visit our guest post submission form or e-mail sean@higheredcareercoach.com.

Do you have questions for Eric? Post them in the comments, or send him an e-mail. (He said it was okay!)

Podcast: Career Tracks in Higher Ed With Sarah Craddock, Academic Advisor

Sarah Craddock, Academic Advisor

On today’s podcast, I’ll have an interview with  Sarah Craddock, an Academic Advisor for Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University. We will talk about different aspects of her job and how her education and experience prepared her for it.

Sarah also shares some insights on how her experience in Residence Life was perceived during the interview process, what her work entails, and different roles she plays in working with faculty and other staff at Colorado State.

This podcast is part of a new series about Career Tracks in Higher Education that will be running periodically on Higher Ed Career Coach, to help graduate students and new professionals understand different roles across academia, so they can gauge opportunities during their job search. Listen in Friday July 20, at 11 am ET. Call in to share your thoughts and questions.

Also, updates on news in the higher ed world, including the recent happenings at Penn State in relation to the Jerry Sandusky Scandal, and some updates on upcoming features and programs at HigherEdCareerCoach.Com.

Next week, I’ll be running a guest post from Eric Grospitch, Ed.D., the Assistant Dean of Students for the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at the University of MIssouri-Kansas City. A couple of other guest posts are pending, but I’d like to have a lot of variety, so that readers can get some ideas about how roles may differ, depending on size of university, university type, and different organizational structures.

If you are interested in sharing perspectives about your job, check out the  outline for the guest posts and submit your guest post via the guest post submission form or via e-mail to sean@higheredcareercoach.com. Guest bloggers will be invited to give interviews for the podcast (either live or pre-recorded, depending on availability.)

If you have suggestions for future posts, contact Sean.

Career Tracks in Higher Education: New Guest Post Series

bigstock-Businessman-kneeling-on-the-st-12160124There are so many different career tracks in Higher Ed, and so many different titles and combinations of responsibilities, that it can be hard for graduate students and new professionals to figure out where a position falls in an organization, to understand what the day-to-day experience might be in a particular job, and to key in on skills and interests that will help them make good arguments for a particular kind of job.

In response, Higher Ed Career Coach is introducing a new guest post series where experienced professionals will share more about their jobs, the skills and experiences that helped them get those jobs, and what they really spend their time doing.

In order to have some uniformity to the series, guest posts in the Career Tracks in Higher Education series must answer a common set of questions. The article should be at least 500 words, and when published, will have a headline in the following format:

Career Tracks in Higher Education:  [Area]

For example: Career Tracks in Higher Education: Judicial Affairs

You are welcome to suggest any subtitle you like. Articles longer than 750 words may be published as two or more separate posts. If your article is published, you may also be invited to be a guest on the Higher Ed Career Coach show to discuss your article and your career.

Please submit your post through the contact form on the Write a Guest Post page or via e-mail to sean@higheredcareercach.com.

Common Questions

1. Name:

2. Current Title:

3. Department:

4.  Division Department Falls Under?  (For example: Student Affairs, Auxiliary Services, Academic College, Development, Alumni Affairs, etc.)

5. University:

6. Enrollment of Your Institution:

7. Your Highest Degree Earned:

8. Number of Years of Full-Time Experience You Had When You Started This Position:

9. What was the minimum education required for your current position?

10. How many years of experience were required for your current position?

11. What are your major responsibilities in your current position?

12. Does your role require direct service to students? If so, explain.

13. How many persons in your department hold an equivalent rank?

14.  How many people do you supervise? Are they Full-Time or Part-Time? Professional Staff, Trades/Custodial Staff, or Student Staff? (Please list numbers for each.

15. What is the title of the person your report to? What is the title of that person’s immediate superior?

16. What is your typical day like? Your typical week?

17.  What do you spend the majority of your time doing in your current role?

18.  What did you think you would be doing more, when you applied for the job?

19. What survival skill is most important in your current role?

20.  Do you serve on committees within your department? Division? University-Wide? What roles do you play on these committees?

21. What advice do you have for persons seeking this type of position?