Do you expect too much?

I recently rediscovered an article that appeared in the The Washingtonian a while back.  It’s a little old, but I think it still resonates:

Are Twentysomethings Expecting Too Much?

If you are a twentysomething, the parent or grandparent of a twentysomething,  the parent of a child that will eventually be a twentysomething, or the boss of a twentysomething – read this article!

Here is the tagline: They were raised to believe they could do anything, and now they’re demanding more from work than previous generations ever did. Will they change the world or have to lower their sights?

We all have different standards for measuring success and satisfaction with our careers. How do you measure success? What combination of work-life/family-career balance are you striving to achieve?

These are all choices – personal choices; choices you have to make for yourself, because they are the choices you have to live with. And, don’t forget – your choices and your expectations must be compatible with each other.

When you assess you career options, how compatible are your choices and your expectations?  I will often quip to those I advise:

You’ll never be a social worker and live in a big house, drive a fancy car and vacation in the tropics, unless you marry well, have a trust fund or win the lottery, because even though the work they do is very important and rewarding, social work will never pay big bucks.

The only way to know you are satisfied and happy with your career choices, with your life choices for that matter, is to define and decide what satisfies you personally and professionally.  If you don’t – how will you know what to work toward and when you have arrived?  Trust me, you won’t know it when you get there, because there will always be something bigger, better or newer on the horizon.

Someone once asked billionaire Howard Hughes, “How much money does it take to make a man happy?”  

His response?:  “Just a little bit more.”

The moral of the story:  It’s not just about the work you do!  It’s about the life you live.

Do you expect too much?  Only you know the answer to that question.  Be honest when you answer.


Life is all about choices!

A while ago, I came across an article on ABC News titled Tattoo Removal Booms in Slow Job Market.  It reminded me of the importance of the choices we make, because life is all about choices!

“This is America! I have the freedom to choose to do whatever I want” – you might be thinking. And, you’re right. Just remember that employers enjoy this same freedom, and they might choose to NOT offer you a job because the the choices you have made.

Some of the choices people make – like those that result in a felony conviction! – disqualify the for certain kinds of work.  A DWI on your record might prevent you from getting a job that involves driving.  A conviction for financial fraud will likely prevent you from getting a job at a bank or as a financial planner. We understand this and, by and large, we accept it as legitimate and right; but the world is full of gray areas:

Gentlemen – if you choose to wear an earring, smoke or have easily visible tattoos, it might cost you a job opportunity.

Ladies – if you choose to wear a lot of make-up, strong fragrances, unprofessional clothing or, you guessed it, have an easily visible tattoo, it might cost you a job, too!

This won’t always be the case, but you have to understand that employers are not going to change their work environment or corporate culture to accommodate your preferences.  You are the one that typically has to make the adjustment.

Don’t get mad.  Don’t blame the company.  Just recognize that you have the ability and the option to make a different choice (if you want) or stick to your guns.  So, . . .

  • if you want complete latitude to do/wear/say anything you want at work, either go into business for yourself or seek out employers with cultures accepting of your choices
  • if you never want to wear a suit or work in an office environment, don’t apply for jobs that require business attire or require that you work in an office setting
  • if you want the ability to work at home or have a flexible schedule, seek jobs that are flexible enough to accommodate your preferences

Some companies, industries and professions are very flexible in their expectations of employees, others are not.

Some jobs lend themselves well to flex-scheduling and telecommuting; many do not.

Life is about choices.  You must decide which battles are worth fighting and which are not.

If you think getting a tattoo is expensive, just wait until you look at what it will cost to get it removed!

Think before you tat!  It’s your choice, but it might influence an employer’s choice as well.

A wake-up call for the class of 2017

rise-alarm-clock-app-2Class of 2017, it’s time for a wake up call.

What you are going to do after you graduate?

You would think a fragile job market, looming student loans, and high expectations for post-graduation employment would motivate graduating seniors to be very proactive in their job search, apply for more jobs, flock to employer information sessions, submit their resumes and cover letters in greater volume for on-campus interviewing opportunities, and research and explore their career options so that they will have career options.

The reality is far too few students are genuinely proactive when it comes to seeking employment upon graduation.  Far too many students wait until the last minute (or after that last minute) to address life after graduation.

So, if you want a job when you graduate; prove it!  Step up to the plate and start your search early.  Don’t assume it will all take care of itself . . . eventually.  And, don’t be too quick to play the “I think I’ll go to graduate school” card.

In short, get in the game!


If you don’t know what you want to do when you graduate – that’s okay.  It’s just not okay to do nothing about it.

It’s not the employers’ job to figure out why you will be a good fit for their job opportunities. It’s your job to tell employers why you will be a good fit. You have to tell employers why you want their jobs and why you are a good fit for them.  You have to make your case.  Showing up isn’t enough, but you do have to show up.

Show up!

College students seeking employment have some great advantages over other job seekers:

  • You can be public about your job search.
  • Many employers (though not all) will come to see you on campus.
  • Even though you don’t currently have a job, employers aren’t going to ask you why you are unemployed.
  • Alumni and others are eager to give you career advice.
  • And if you start early, you aren’t under any undue pressure to accept a job just to have a job.

In fact, you can start laying the foundation for your job search early.  IF you do so, you might actually have a job (or be close to one) by the time you graduate.

Apply for jobs!

Be honest, now.  How many jobs have you actually considered or applied for?  How many more have you not considered or applied for because you weren’t certain you wanted to do that kind of work or work for that specific company?

When you aren’t certain about what you want to do, how can you be certain about what you don’t want to do?

Be selective and smart in your job search; just don’t be so picky that you rule out most possible jobs before you’ve given them real consideration.


Don’t just punt and opt for grad school.

“I’m not sure what I want to do, so I’ll go to grad school.  A graduate degree is really necessary these days to get ahead anyway.”

I hear comments like this one a lot from graduating seniors.  On the surface it seems to make sense, but in reality it is fundamentally flawed.

More education is not necessarily better.

A graduate degree will not, by itself, make you more employable, make you worth more on the job market, cause employers to seek you out, or help you figure out what you are going to do when you graduate with that degree.

All of these things can happen, given the right circumstances, but they will not happen just because you go to grad school.

If you are considering graduate school immediately after your undergraduate degree, you had better be able to answers the following questions:

  • What do I want to study and why?  How will this field of study better prepare me for a career?
  • What is the job market for graduates in this field?  What can I expect to earn? What types of jobs can I expect to pursue upon completing this degree?
  • What proof do I have that a graduate degree is necessary to advance in my chosen profession? Note:  If you don’t have a chosen profession or at least a target profession, you probably shouldn’t be considering graduate school at this time.
  • How will this graduate degree make me more marketable than I am with a bachelor’s degree alone? Be really honest with yourself in answering this one.

Some people can afford to go to graduate school for the simple joy of learning; to become more educated.  Most of us have to be a lot more intentional than that.  We will have student loans to repay.

If you are going to invest the time and money necessary to get a graduate degree, make sure you are making a sound investment of your time and money.

Your wake-up call

You are not likely to wake up one day and suddenly know what you want to do with your life.  Life and your career are a process of discovery, so start discovering.

Don’t wait for it to get easier, because chances are it will only get more difficult.

Starting now, look in the mirror – at least once a week – and ask yourself the following questions (and demand some answers):

  • What did I do this week to explore my career options?
  • Who did I contact this week that might be able to give me advice or assistance in my career exploration and job search?
  • What did I do this week to learn more about the fields/industries I want to enter?
  • Where did I look this week to learn about job opportunities and what did I find?
  • Am I looking in the right places to find the kinds of opportunities I want?  Where else can I look?
  • How much time did I invest this week in my career exploration and job search?

You can’t just “want to” find a job.  You have to work at it and hold yourself accountable.  You must take ownership of the process.

A 100% Guarantee

I cannot guarantee you will find a perfect job, but I can guarantee you a few things:

  • If you don’t apply for jobs, you won’t get a job. It really is that simple.
  • If you don’t explore your options, you won’t know what options and opportunities exist.
  • If you don’t reach out to people who can help you, they will assume you don’t need or want their help or advice.
  • If you don’t measure the progress you are making in your job search, you won’t know if you are making any progress.

Sure, looking for a job is hard – just don’t make it any harder than it already is.

The alarm clock is ringing … don’t hit the snooze button on your future.


Four Things College Students Can Expect from Their Career Centers


Across the country, colleges and universities are deep in preparation for crossroads1the first day of classes for fall 2016 semester.

Returning students (like my sophomore daughter) have long since realized that summer is over and the school year is about to begin.

Freshmen are nervous, wondering what life as a college student will be like.

Seniors are beginning to contemplate life after college (and many, their student loans).

Parents of soon-to-be graduates are wondering what their blossoming adults are going to do when they graduate, when they are going to be able to get a job, and when they are going to start paying their own bills.

Surely, with all the money they have invested in their college education, these soon-to-be graduates should be able to get jobs, right?  That’s the next logical step, isn’t it?

The university is providing the education; it should also provide a direct path to that first job out of college, right?

And that job had better pay enough (regardless of the field) so that they can afford their current lifestyle!

That’s the way it should work, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, unless you pursuing a major that directly tracks into a talent-starved field (engineering, accounting, and many of the other Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) related majors), that’s not usually the way the world works for most students.

Finding a job – particularly a job you will like and one that will match your skills and interests – is a process.  Like any process (for example, trying to lose weight or training for a marathon), it requires planning, personal accountability, discipline and focus.  In short …

It takes a lot more than “want to” to get a good job after college.

It takes planning and action!

It’s easy to say “I want a good job when I graduate.”  It’s hard to define what that means to you. And it takes planning and action to get that job.

Your college career services office can’t get you a job, but they can help you get a job.

As the 2016 academic year gets underway, I want to take this opportunity to share with new and returning college students (and your parents) four things your college career services office can do to assist you in making the transition from the classroom to the workplace.

#1 – Career Services can tell students that job search help is available, but they cannot force them to look for a job.

You’ve heard the old saying: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Well, most college career centers offer a broad range of career services, but they cannot force students to use these services. They offer services that are relevant to students at all stages of their education, so Career Services is relevant to all students.

They are ready to help. All students have to do is ask!

#2 – Career Services can help students explore and evaluate their career options, but they cannot place students into specific jobs.

It sure would be nice (and would certainly be easy) if students could walk into career services just before graduation and choose a job from a variety of opportunities prepared exclusively for them.

Unfortunately, getting a job is not like ordering dinner or shopping for groceries.

By law, career services staff cannot select candidates or make hiring decisions on behalf of employers; employers have to make these hiring decisions themselves, and that means students have to be prepared to apply for jobs and present their qualifications in interviews.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want someone else choosing a job for me any more than I would want someone to arrange my marriage.

I would want to be a part of that process.

#3 – Career Services can reach out to employers, but they cannot force employers to come to campus.

Employers recruit on college campuses only when they need to.  If they can generate a sufficient volume of qualified candidates for their job opportunities without physically coming to campus, they usually won’t come to campus.

And, employers that do recruit on college campuses do not typically go to all college campuses, recruit to fill all types of positions, or recruit all majors.

Lastly, on-campus interviewing is not the only tool employers use to recruit entry-level talent from colleges and universities.

As a job seeker, your job is to understand the hiring dynamics of the industries you wish to enter and adjust your job search strategies to these dynamics.

#4 – Career Services can help students identify and pursue jobs that match their skills and interests, but cannot do so if the students won’t identify their skills and interests.

This is the toughest part!

In order to find a job you will like and one that will match your skills, experience and other qualifications, you have to spend some time identifying and articulating your likes and dislikes and your skills and interests.

If you can’t describe your likes and dislikes or identify your skills and interests, how will you be able to know when you find a job that is compatible with them?

By the way – this usually isn’t an easy process, and it does take time …. so, start now! Don’t wait until just before (or after) graduation.

The start of a new school year is full of excitement, energy, uncertainty and hope!  There is no place on earth as vibrant as a college campus at the start of the fall semester – everything feels possible; almost everything is possible. There isn’t a better place in the world, IMHO.

Turning possibilities into reality takes work, perseverance and intent.  It doesn’t just happen.

Okay, sometimes it does, but people sometimes win the lottery, too!  Don’t live your live waiting to win the lottery.

Good Luck!

Matt signature


Career Center Directors: Does your college President know your name?

Update:  I first penned this post back in 2013.  While we have see some change, old habits are hard to break at our institutions of higher learning.  This message rings just as true now as it did then, so here it is again – polished up for 2016!

Now more than ever, American colleges and university are being told by students, their parents, and their state and federal legislators to quantify the return on their investments in higher education.

The age-old question “what can I do with this major?” has morphed into “what can I do with this major, how much will I earn,  how soon after graduation will I get a job, and how are you going to help?”

And, the expectations that colleges will provide both an education AND assistance in finding a job related to that education are growing faster than tuition is increasing.

The value proposition for a college degree has changed, and American colleges and universities have been very slow to respond.  In an era when calls for greater university accountability for student outcomes are becoming louder, too many schools are responding by increasing their investments teaching and learning and decreasing their investments experiential learning and career services.

The historical attitude – experiential education and career services are okay, as long as they don’t get in the way of academic learning and research objectives – must give way to one that recognizes that integrated experiential learning complements academic learning and research and integrated career services helps students connect the dots between theory and practice, between curricular and extracurricular.

Experiential education and career services are now central to the value proposition for a college degree. Students expect to be well educated AND well prepared to enter the workforce.  Their parents and state and federal legislators expect the same. Colleges and universities that meet these expectations will thrive; those that do not will likely suffer.

How can you tell whether or not your institution is poised to thrive? Try answering the following questions:

Does your university President know your name?

As the Career Center Director, can you get on your President’s calendar? Are career services and experiential education part of your institution’s strategic plan? If an influential alumnus your President about the career services your school provides for students and alumni, what will your President say?  If your answers are no, no, and I don’t know – it’s time to get on your President’s radar screen.

Can employers and students find career services on your university home page?

If not, how many clicks will it take them to find it? One? Two? Three?  This isn’t complicated: If something is important, you will be able to find it on the university home page.  Career Services is important to your institution if it’s accessible directly from the university home page.

Have your resources increased, maintained or been cut in recent years?

If your resources (budget and staff) have increased or maintained in recent years, your university likely recognizes the value of career services and experiential education.

If career services is one of the first places that your university looks when it’s time to cut expenses, you should be concerned.

When money is tight, schools invest in what they believe is mission critical. Is career services mission critical at your university?

Career Center Directors, it really is that simple:  If your president is paying attention to you, if you have real estate on the university home page, and if you’re not a first and frequent target for budget cuts – chances are good that your University sees career services as mission critical for delivering a college education.

So, does your university president know your name?  If not, it’s time to introduce yourself.

Six Questions to Frame Your New Year’s Resolutions

I resolve to . . . .

How will you finish that sentence this year?

As 2011 starts to appear in the rear-view mirror and 2012 rises on the horizon, my thoughts are turning to resolutions.  Why do we make them?  Why don’t we keep them?  The new year presents the opportunity for new beginnings, and new beginnings – big and small – are important for helping us move forward in our personal and professional lives.

So – as you ponder your possible new year’s resolutions, consider building  your resolutions around your answers to the following in questions:

What will I do in 2012 to grow professionally?

We all have jobs. Whether you are a manager, a line employee, a stay-at-home parent or  a student, you have work to do.  Do it well.  Take pride in your efforts. Seek out ways to enhance your skills and abilities.  Whatever you do – you can always find ways to do it more effectively.  If you’re not moving forward, you are – by default – moving backward.  This is a choice you make.  No one else can make this choice for you.  Whatever you do – don’t be satisfied with the status quo in 2012.

What will I do in 2012 to grow personally?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  We all have skills, abilities, interests and relationships that are not part of our work lives.  Don’t neglect yours.  Balance your efforts to grow professionally with your efforts to grow personally.  Invest more time to your family.  Invest more time in your hobbies.  Life is not all about work unless you choose to make life all about work.  If you want to grow personally, you must be intentional about it.  The easiest person to neglect is you.  Don’t make that mistake in 2012.

What will I do in 2012 to nourish my body?

Eat better. Eat less. Eat more.  Exercise.  Exercise more frequently. Exercise differently. Get more sleep.  Get an annual physical.  Do what your doctor suggests. Pay attention the signals your body sends you.  If you don’t put gas in your car it won’t run, and if you don’t do the routine maintenance, your car will break down.  The same goes for your body. As a chief offender in this area, I can attest that we can all do a better job of nourishing our bodies.  Let 2012 be the start of something good for your body.

What will I do in 2012 to nourish my soul?

Just as you need to nourish your body, you need to nourish your soul. I am a Christian, so my advice is decidedly Christ-focused:  Spend more time in fellowship, worship and prayer.  If you are feeling distant from God, you probably aren’t spending much time talking to Him.  Pray and study the Scriptures daily, and God will nourish your soul. Skeptical?  I suggest you read Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, Jesus by Walt Wangerin or the Book of John in the Bible. See, it isn’t possible to nourish your soul with materials things; to nourish your soul you have to turn to things spiritual.

What will I do in 2012 to help others?

Helping others is a great way to develop yourself professionally and personally. It can be a means to nourishing your body and your soul, too.  Be intentional in your efforts to help others – to put the needs of others before your own – and you will be amazed at how much better you will feel inside and out.  God gives us two major directives:  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and Love your neighbor as yourself.  Love God and Love others.  What will you do in 2012 to love others?

How will I make difference in 2012?

You exist for a reason.  You are not here by chance or mistake.  Your job is to seek this purpose and to work toward it.  When you do what you were placed on this earth to do, you will make a difference.  It make not be a difference that shows upon in the news or gets recorded in history books, but it will be a difference that impacts the lives of the people in your life.  Be intentional about how you will make a difference in 2012.

Looking toward 2012 . . .

. . . I will strive to grow professionally and personally.  I will try to be more consistent and persistent in my efforts to nourish my body and soul.  And,  I will  work to lead through my service to others.  So – when December 31, 2012 rolls around, how will I know whether or not I actually made a difference?  I’ll leave that to God and His Resolution recorded in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 29:11
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Have a very happy new year and do great things (big and small) in 2012!

Social Media Etiquette is NOT an Oxymoron!

Just because you are using a Smartphone, iPad, laptop or desktop computer to communicate via text message, webcam, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare or any other social media/mobile communication app doesn’t mean you have to abandon common sense, personal judgement or professional etiquette.

Social media etiquette is NOT and oxymoron; or at least it doesn’t have to be one!

Anna Post, with wrote an article titled How to Manage our Mobile Manners .  In it she cites some alarming data from the 2011 Intel State of Mobile Etiquette Survey:

  • 91% of all US adults say they have seen people misuse mobile technology
  • 75% believe that mobile manners are becoming worse
  • 92% wish people practiced better mobile etiquette

Kind of sad, isn’t it?!

Well, I’m not Emily or Anna Post, but I do have the opportunity to witness many breaches of etiquette and common sense as a career coach/advisor.

Based on nearly 20 years of experience,  here is my advice and commentary for anyone who interacts with the world – sometimes or all the time – via a communication device:

  1. If you wouldn’t show it or say it to your mom, don’t post it online or tweet about it!   Not everything that crosses your mind should come out of your mouth or show up as an online status update. Think before you post.
  2. If you wouldn’t want your employer (or a prospective employer) to see it, don’t share it online!  The internet is a public place, regardless of your privacy settings.
  3. Don’t post a photo of someone other than yourself online without their permission! Think of others before you post. It’s called common courtesy.
  4. Cell phones have “vibrate” and “silent” functions for a good reason.  Use them!  No one needs to hear your ringtone in a restaurant, library, movie theater, business meeting, or airplane, or at a dinner party or reception.
  5. When you are having a face-to-face meeting or conversation with someone, give them the courtesy of your attention. Put your cell phone away.  You can respond to that text later.  In most instances, your immediate response is not necessary.
  6. Learn how to write!  Apply the fundamentals of grammar, vocabulary and language application in your writing; and don’t let the abbreviations you use online creep into your business communication.  Communication with professional colleagues is different from communication with friends and family; treat it differently. Respect the context of your communication and people will respect you.
  7. If you are visiting with someone via webcam, realize that you are on camera – they see everything your webcam shows them.  Communicating via webcam is different from communication via telephone or text message.  Your non-verbal communication matters.
I know this list isn’t comprehensive, and it certainly isn’t objective!  But if everyone used a little more common sense, common courtesy and personal discretion when using mobile technology and social media apps, social media etiquette would not be viewed as such an oxymoron.  We are better than that, aren’t we?