Spartan Insights: Featuring Career Educator/Talent Connector/Business Developer, Christopher Sell

This week’s Featured Spartan was Christopher Sell: Career Educator, Talent Connector, Business Developer (See his LI profile.) Christopher had agreed to answer questions about his industry, career background, and anything else he can help you learn to further your career. This discussion was open from 05/12/15 until 05/26/15.

Spartan Insights is a regularly scheduled Linkedin discussion thread inside of the MSUALUMNI Linkedin group. Each discussion is meant to give you the opportunity to ask questions regarding one Spartan’s experience within a specific company, industry, or occupation. Answers will be given at the convenience and discretion of the featured Spartan and will be answered from the Spartan’s own personal experiences and opinions which are not meant to be representative of his/her company’s official position. Questions regarding a person’s applicant status at the featured Spartan’s place of business will not be answered in this forum. Interested in being a helpful Spartan? Contact me at isbelld@msu.edu.

Christopher Sell

Hi everyone! A sincere thanks to Dave Isbell for the opportunity to participate in this conversation. I currently serve as the Internship Coordinator for the College of Natural Science at Michigan State University. I have 6+ years of experience in career services, employer development, student affairs, and higher education administration. I’m also a proud graduate of MSU (2010). Go Green! For a more detailed history of my academic and professional background — as Dave mentioned — feel free to browse my complete LinkedIn profile. I’m really looking forward to answering your questions about higher education, college recruiting, career development, what it’s like to serve students at a college or university, and more. Cheers!

Dave Isbell

Thank you Christopher. I’m glad you are here! I’ll kick off the discussion with the first question and hope a few others will join in as we go. As you know, last week was graduation week at MSU. I want to ask you a couple of related questions. (Really, it’s sort of the same question with the two different populations in mind.) Now that college is over, what do new graduates need to know as they move into the next phase of their journey? Second, what advice do you have for an incoming freshman to be successful during college and to set themselves up for post-graduation opportunities even while they are still in school?

Christopher Sell

Hi Dave, great questions! Regarding your first inquiry, I’ve always encouraged new graduates to be mindful of ways in which they can find jobs/experiences rich with learning opportunities. Sometimes our graduating students can be easily swayed by salary offers and benefit packages. And I don’t blame them, considering the financial investment college requires, but I remind them that their career is a marathon (not a sprint) that will last 35 – 40 years (or probably longer). When you’re starting out in your career, you have flexibility that others simply don’t have. You can take more risks and commit more time and energy to professional development opportunities. Embracing a position that offers a collaborative environment where you can learn from the best and brightest in your respective field, regardless of pay, will pay you exponentially more down the road. I tell graduates to think of it as a long-term investment. I also strongly encourage graduates, if they haven’t already, to identify several mentors who can be a sound board and/or source of inspiration and sage advice throughout one’s career. Early on in my career, I overheard someone explaining their philosophy regarding mentors by comparing it to a Board of Directors that oversees a company. Much like a Board provides a vision and accountability for an organization, I recommend graduates identify multiple mentors – seasoned professionals or young innovative minds that have made a name for themselves in the profession – and seek them out. How? Just ask. Most people, including CEO’s of prestigious companies, are flattered by an invitation to be a mentor to someone else. Having the guidance of several rock stars or close confidants in your industry will guarantee you the chance to get multiple perspectives and stellar advice every time you encounter key junctures for decision-making in your career. Lastly, I think graduates need to know that life after college will feel very different from life during college, and that’s okay! Life beyond college is certainly different. Different challenges, different obstacles, different friendships are made or lost along the way. But it’s amazing and fun and exciting all the same.

Christopher Sell

Dave, to answer your second question regarding advice for first-year college students: the best and most important step incoming students can take to increase their likelihood of successfully finding post-graduation opportunities…is to get as much exposure and experience as possible (and in different fields/industries, too). It’s common for students to change their academic major multiple times between the time they step on campus for the first time and their college graduation, but unfortunately, students aren’t nearly as keen on participating in as many internships and job shadow opportunities. Most data now suggests that students need to participate in at least one internship to have a fighting chance to land the competitive post-graduation job of their dreams. Internships are critical to helping students gain exposure, learn new skills outside of the classroom, and broaden their personal and professional network. However, internships aren’t the only way by which students can get significant exposure to different career paths. Part-time on-campus jobs, volunteer experience, service learning opportunities, job shadowing, informational interviews — there are many ways in which students can begin to zero in on career pathways that are a good fit for them. I actually wrote a blog post about this topic a while back, that includes some additional perspective, which your readers can find here: http://wednesdaywakeup.com/2013/08/28/letter-to-college-freshmen-everywhere/

Dave Isbell  Thanks Christopher. Great advice in both answers!

Drew – One of the things I work on as an educational consultant is helping teachers, schools and districts create authentic and meaningful connections outside of the classroom. In many cases this can and should entail students doing real work for real companies, not in the typical “co-op” where they’re putting in hours during the school day, but as partners working with and using their course content to solve challenges and problems for those business partners. It’s these types of experiences that help them connect and contextualize their learning with experience and make connections that increase their network but also their ability to think critically, communicate, collaborate and be more innovative and creative.

Christopher Sell

Drew, thanks for you comment and perspective. And thanks for your work as an educational consultant, helping school districts create connections outside of the classroom. We can all agree that those types of *authentic* experiences are so integral to students’ learning. Your definition of meaningful experiential learning is spot on — and is very similar to the types of experiences we’re trying to ensure MSU students get in an internship or cooperative education experience. The co-op program with the MSU College of Engineering is world-class!

Dave Isbell

Christopher, I want to switch gears here to ask about your business development expertise. What do employers need to know about the students at MSU, or in your particular college at MSU, to help them decide they need to focus their recruiting efforts in your direction? Or, if you’d prefer the question to be more generic, regardless of the institution you may be working in, what are some effective ways to aid recruiters in their efforts to secure appropriate talent?

Dave Isbell

Thanks Drew for chiming in with your insight here. Since you are apparently working in the K-12 school systems, I wonder if you might be able to expand your thoughts here about the role that teachers play in helping their students to become “business partners” even prior to college? Are there specific things that teachers can do to help students to become career (or college) ready? What about parents, do you have any ideas for them?

Drew – Sure…it’s not so much business partners as much as partners with business. Much of the work I do with schools is around project based learning and in some cases that leads to partnerships with businesses, ideally as a challenge to solve real problems. This can go all the way down to elementary as those kiddos come at old problems with a new, often unfiltered lens. They don’t always solve the problems but the process is the real value as students learn success skills like those I mentioned above that are certainly career and college ready skills. Even when they’re not partnering with business the ideal is for students to doing authentic work where they have a real purpose for creating something and an authentic audience they’re doing the work for. The biggest key though is the role of inquiry. Many teachers and professors are doing experiential, hands on learning “projects” but they’re missing the inquiry skills that separate great thinkers from others. Parents should be utilizing inquiry too. Don’t give kids answers, ask them questions that help them discover the answers. Even better empower your kids to ask great questions at home and demand it at school. The ability to think critically is much more powerful than learning of content and nearly every business or professional asks for those skills from graduates. I have a blog link on my web site that has more on this if anyone is interested. http://www.perkinsed.com

Dave IsbellThanks Drew! Great insights!

Christopher Sell

Hi, Dave! Thanks for the great question regarding ways we can assist employers and recruiters with their efforts to find top talent. This is one of my favorite subjects to address. I believe, as a profession, career services advisors need to invest more time in building relationships with employers, understanding their needs, and educating recruiters and organizations on best practices for recruiting the talented students we serve at our respective higher education institutions. I liken the role to that of a consultant — someone who is willing to take the extra steps to truly understand an employer’s needs. Someone who is willing to walk through the recruiting process with a recruiter to help them understand the demographics of the students at our college/university, the optimal timeline for branding/recruiting on our campus to ensure they’re connecting to top talent in a timely manner, and to match programming opportunities for recruiting with the employer’s said needs. Folks working in business and employer development need to be mindful of the broad spectrum of employers we serve — a small life science start-up company will have different talent needs than a large pharmaceutical company or a local communication non-profit. For companies that didn’t originally have a significant recruiting presence or partnership with our college, I’ve found a lot of success in starting small. By that, I mean, building relationships with key alumni or staff in university relations/talent acquisition and inviting them to learn more about the quality and breadth of the talent at our institution through college events or initiatives that are low-cost but offer high-reward.

Christopher SellDrew, thanks for your perspective! I really appreciate your point on making a priority of the role of “inquiry” in experiential learning. Learning the art of asking questions is so important, isn’t it?!

Drew – Yes, I did an interview with Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question, that was really insightful. https://youtu.be/cQ_zo8BLUZ8

Dave IsbellThank you Christopher for your insights and to each of you who joined in to the conversation. This discussion is now closed but new ones start every week in the MSU Alumni Association Linkedin group.

 

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