Student Placements Work


One of the inevitable truths for every business in every employment sector is that there will be changes in personnel. Over time, people come and go, and if you’re fortunate, the people you bring onboard will make a positive impact on both the others they work with and the customers/clients which receive the end products or services they deliver.

Changes in personnel is undoubtedly the biggest area of concern for any organization. When you bring the right people onboard and they turn out to be invested and committed to the company, an organization can succeed and flourish as the owners or stewards envision. However, the opposite is also true, as discovering the people you’ve invested in are liabilities rather than assets can set an organization back, in some cases even tarnish an organization so severely it ceases to exist.

Hiring therefore, becomes the single most important factor in the success of an organization. Employer’s do what they can to ensure those doing the interviewing and making personnel decisions understand this, and they in turn do their best to ensure those hired understand and share similar values, beliefs, and goals. The more someone aligns with these on a personal level, the greater the likelihood that they’ll add to an organization, meeting the employer’s expectations.

The reality is however that businesses must evolve over time in response to societal needs and end user preferences, and that evolution may require new thinking, fresh ideas and if done right, these allow businesses to flourish. It’s a delicate balance to maintain core values and beliefs upon which an organization was built, yet respond to changes in the market which keep traditional customers while attracting new ones to it.

When it goes wrong, you hear comments like, “People just don’t care anymore”, Things aren’t like they used to be”, or, “Where did customer service go?” These comments and others like them, are indicators of regret for what’s changed and a longing for what was.” Given choice, customers may depart from their unwavering loyalty to a brand or organization and seek to have their needs met elsewhere; the biggest concern for a business. And these days, every business has many competitors working hard to grow their own customer base.

So it comes down to having the right people; not only on the front line, but also in middle and upper management. Hire the right people, and they in turn develop the culture, add to the overall value of an organization; safeguarding a businesses integrity and assuring both employees and the public that things are in good hands.

Where I work, my colleagues and I have the good fortune to host university placement students throughout the year. As we’re in the Social Services field, the students we bring on board are from this discipline. They themselves may have personal goals to work in specific areas such as Addictions, Poverty Reduction, Mental Health Counselling, Child Welfare, etc., and they may or may not be considering remaining in school beyond getting their degrees to obtain their Masters.

I really enjoy having these students around. They bring enthusiasm, energy and optimism with them as they are eager to learn and want to make the most of their experience while with us. I think it’s incumbent upon us who act as hosts to do what we can to mentor and support these students as they transition into the workforce fulltime in the near future. Sharing what we do is one thing but of greater importance is sharing the philosophy behind what we do and how we are unique. When they learn and hopefully value the similar values we hold, they have a greater appreciation for those values and are far less likely to innocently act in some way which lessens the user experience.

Now on any team, you’ll find that while everyone is working towards common organizational goals, individuals have unique strengths, areas of expertise and it’s these differences which add to the overall team identity. Hence it only makes sense that staff will provide varying levels of direction to students; some taking on formal responsibilities to guide, train and support a student, others providing encouragement, expressing thanks and having less direct involvement in their individual learning goals.

My trust that the future is in good hands is pretty high when I look at the quality of students about to enter the field. Academic intelligence is highly valued of course, but honestly, what I look for most is personal suitability. Are they caring? Do they demonstrate a receptiveness to growing empathy for the population we serve? Are they compassionate, responsive and willing to seize opportunities to assist and support those who need support and understanding more than anything?

Like I said, I’m feeling pretty good about our students and hopefully my colleagues and I have done enough to train them and expose them to our work in such a way that they benefit from the experiences we share with them. I suppose one thing as placements draw to their inevitable conclusion is whether or not we’ve fed their desire to work in the field; possibly even with us not as a student but as a full-time colleague.

Wherever they end up, playing a small part in shaping their thoughts and actions by sharing our own, hopefully puts the future in good hands.

 

 

Conversations With Young Adults


If I were in the position of being a Professor in a University or College, or if I found myself commanding the attention of any young people in fact, I’d tell them that above all the other skills they could master, communicating effectively through conversation would top my list.

The stereotypical young person is pretty savvy with most forms of electronic devices; they use cellphones with ease, have I-pods and or I-pads, tweet their friends, and are knowledgeable when it comes to using various apps. However, put away the electronics, turn off the phones and start a real conversation and often a weakness arises.

Now to be fair, what I’m saying doesn’t apply to every young adult I know. But with some, once past the surface issues such as the weather, health, recent school performance and known personal interests, I’ve observed a lack of comfort engaging in meaningful conversation. I can read the expression on their faces as they blankly look off to the left or right, the tight forced smiles which come as they strive to survive a conversation as if they are being interrogated.

Maybe it’s the intimidation factor of being young and talking with older people in general. Is it having a lack of things to talk about or not knowing what to share or ask? I do give young people credit for being information smart. Once a topic is introduced that they have discussed in school for example, they can readily give you their own take on what was presented and what they think of it. In fact, these moments wash over them like a wave of relief when they can share what they know.

Conversation fundamentally is a two-way interaction. If one person is doing most or all of the answering and one is doing most or all of the questioning, it’s trying on both people; the one to keep coming up with questions and the other to keep answering. There are some things one can do to improve the flow of conversation.

For starters, create an atmosphere or environment where questions and conversation in general is encouraged and safe. If you were hosting a University placement student, you’d do well to introduce them to everyone, and to have told everyone prior to their arrival who they are and to have encouraged everyone to welcome them and make them feel comfortable. It’s hard enough on anyone when you meet many people at once. Having one person specifically prepared to play host also gives the student someone to adhere to and look for support and guidance from.

As a young adult, it’s also good practice to keep up on some current affairs in the news. Being ‘in the know’ about some major news story can readily give you the feeling of inclusion; you’re able to participate from a position of knowledge in a conversation. If you don’t know what’s being discussed, you are again in the position of being informed or taught, and that separates you again from those around you.

Sometimes when I’m sitting with young adults in my workplace, I’ll ask them a question such as, “What would you like to ask me? – no question is too bold or off the table.” This allows them to ask anything, go anywhere, and because the invitation has been extended, the conversation begins. Sometimes it’s a tried and true, rehearsed kind of question like, “How did you get started?” Fair enough. Their young, I was once young and in their shoes, wondering at that time how to get started myself. Be prepared to answer or volunteer this information for a young person.

People generally like to talk about themselves, what interests them and share things they find interesting. One thing a young person can do – all of us in fact – is consciously make an effort to ask about the person we are talking with. If you turn all your conversations back to you and how you are doing, what you are feeling and what you hope to do etc., that gets tiring real fast. It’s important to ask about others, how they are doing, feeling and what they are up to.

You can and should practice just talking. Get beyond one syllable answers and really engage in conversation. Every parent can probably identify with the teen/young adult where the conversation goes like this:
“Did you have a nice day today?”
“Uh-huh.”
“Learn anything new?”
“Not really.”
“How are things generally?”
“Fine. I’m going to my room.”

Come to think of it, we can probably remember being on the other end of that conversation too if we are old enough. That wasn’t so much a conversation as it was a mandatory daily interrogation where both parties go through the motions; the parent struggling to engage, the teen or young adult seeking to disengage at the first opportunity without being overtly rude. Neither leaves feeling entirely satisfied.

The world of work demands verbal communication skills. Few people can just turn the art of being a true conversationalist at will like a light switch. You’re going to need to speak with co-workers, clients, customers, your boss, folks in other departments, on the phone, in-person. People skills take time to truly master and the sooner you start, the more you enhance the skill – as with any skill.

Love to hear your thoughts on this.