Letters of Recommendation – How? Why? From Whom?

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation Are Key

Recently, I had asked a long-time friend for a reference for myself and our business. When asked, he was more than willing and happy to do so and this was much appreciated! We’ve had a long history as friends/colleagues so he had a pretty good scope to draw from to write on my behalf, but his first response, was “can you write it up and I’ll edit it and send it back?”

Which got me to thinking as I’ve noticed that this now seems to be the new exchange in the way letters of reference/recommendation are being done the majority of the time? I’ve worked with many college students over the years and this was a common theme; they’d ask a professor or supervisor who’d request something to be written and then they’d edit, remark and send it in as a reference.

I wrote back saying, “I really appreciate your willingness to write this up for me, but if I did it that way, it’d be written in my own words?” What I really am asking for is that it is written in YOUR words, YOUR observations as I’d really prefer it to be objective and not influenced by my own evaluation. Afterwards, he wrote a wonderful, thoughtful recommendation on my behalf, most important to me though, was that it was his words, his observations, not mine.

This ‘new-ish’ transaction style in referral and recommendation writing has, to me, somehow devalued the process and with the assumption, or even the expectation, that a letter or recommendation is now to some degree partially self-authored, makes it less credible in the process of the reader being able to be properly vetting good candidates.
With that, here are some thoughts on how to ask for a letter of recommendation in your job search as you’re to be looking for that first job? Perhaps making a transition? You’ll need a reference or letter of recommendation. Especially, if you’re soon to be a college graduate, this can be a daunting task, asking someone to speak on your behalf, but it is an important part of the post-graduate, getting hired process.

What are references/recommendations used for?

On the average, employers will check two to three references for your potential candidacy, so it’s important to have established a few relationships with professors, administrators, supervisors and, if working, colleagues and/or your boss. It’s paramount to know your reference(s), to select the right people, and to get their permission to use them as such.  The references and/or recommendations will be used by employers in the process of, hopefully, getting an outside, objective assessment on your work habits, works style, moral and ethical standing and trying to look ahead by examining past performances and relationships for potential fit within their organization. 

Who should you ask to provide references?

Generally, there are two types of referrals; the ‘high-profile one’ and the one who knows you, in depth, really well. In a ‘perfect world,’ that person will be one-in-the-same?  It’s great to have someone author a letter on your behalf, especially if they have prominence or credibility within their field of expertise.  But, if they do not know you, have not worked with you or seen you in class or a work-related context, they will have a difficult time writing anything other than something very generic.

When thinking about who you want to ask to author for yourself, It’s very important to have a good sense of how well they know you, the context of such, and what they are going to say about you, your background and your performance? A reference can be from one of many sources; business acquaintances, professors/academic advisers, customers, and vendors can all make good references. If you volunteer consider using leaders or other members of the organization as personal references too.

How To Ask For a Letter of Recommendation?

Once you’ve decided on who you’d like as an author for a letter of reference or recommendation, don’t immediately ask them, “could you write a letter of reference for me?” Remember, anyone willing can write you a letter but would you want them to? The issue here is what they are going to write about?

So after deciding on who can author on your best behalf, questions and approaches to have are more along the lines of “do you feel you know my work well enough to write me a good recommendation letter?” or “do you feel you could give me a good reference based on my past performance?”

This way, your reference writer has been selected by you with a relationship and past context in mind and you can be relatively assured that those who agree to do so will be enthusiastic and authentic about your performance, writing you a positive letter specific to an opportunity.

When approaching a potential letter author, offer to provide an updated copy of your resume and information on your skills and experiences so the reference writer has some context and current information to work with. This will make the process much easier for them and the willingness to then say “yes” is more the likely.

Remember that references and recommendations are all a part of the networking and relationship management you’re needing to be doing as you look to enter or transition in the workforce. This is a relatively easy thing to do but takes time to do so. Keep these relationships fresh, up to date with what you’ve done, you’re doing in the moment, and what you aspire to be doing in the future!


Interview Success – Some Learning Tips

Successful Interviewing Means Learning from Each Time

Successful Interviewing Means Learning from Each Experience

Some Thoughts on Interviews and ‘learned’ Success!

The path to a new job is usually an exercise in ‘statistical failure,’ meaning that one’s securing a new position generally means that many others have gone by the wayside in your process.  Rarely does one apply for one job, get the one interview and then get that offer. It is a process of more misses than hits and this can be pretty discouraging for those seeking, especially if one is looking for instant results in the process.  If one had the option to get a commission on the failed interview as compared with the successful one, take the percentage on the failed one’s every time as the numbers will always lean that way.  

The key to interview success is to know that odds in the process are against you and what’s an important by-product about the interviewing process is to learn from each experience and generate a list of take-away’s for a better performance for the next time around.

1) Networking and Building Bridges

Today’s job search process is really about networking and building a community of concentric circles for you to be communicating with.  If you’ve received an interview, remember that first and foremost, you’ve built a bridge with someone in that organization. Clearly, if you’d been invited, there had been something in your materials that had caught the attention and deemed worthy of an invite. This is good news if you think about the sheer number of other potential applicants!  If the interview went well and there was a good connection with those whom you met, and that a good rapport had been established, take that as a strong positive. Never be afraid to reach out and again connect with these people.  You can do so via LinkedIn and email, among many other digital conduits today.  Keep that person or those persons as a connection and a possible referral for you in the future.
Always be sure to thank the person or persons involved in your interview process.  Use the time after the interview to thank them for taking the time for facilitating the interview with you.  This also gives you an opportunity, after seeing behind the scenes, to tell them what you think of the organization and to reiterate your interest for that position and with that organization.  There’s always the possibility that another position might come open or that the job you had interviewed for might again be available.

Also, it is not uncommon that connections made from the job interview could send you leads and tips on other jobs or positions within their network.  Remember, each networking contact you add, as stated above, is a new concentric circle and with that you’re potentially adding everyone they know to your search!

2) Your Uniqueness

Remember that if you’ve been contacted after applying for a job, to keep in mind there was something about your materials that enabled you to rise above the other candidates to get an interview.  So you must be doing something right!  Even if you didn’t get the position, you really should feel good to having been selected from the many candidates for that interview, and the experience of interviewing at an organization that you spent the time and effort researching will certainly help you to be a better interviewer the next time invited to do so.

Each interview experience will also help you shape an opinion of the kind of industry or organization, sometimes even the very people you would ultimately want to work for.  Too often we look at an organization from the outside thinking that it’s the dream job only, once in, to find that things aren’t as glowing as you may have thought.  Consider the interview as a two-way street, where they are finding out what makes you tick, but also an chance to examine them behind the scenes also.

3) Be Professional

It’s important to be professional and to respond professionally on every level regardless of the outcome of an interview. Sometime this means knowing the difference between when the person tells you “no” and what they are actually saying is “not this time.”  These are two completely different responses to an interview that has not generated an offer.  The latter being one of those times when you might not be the right fit for what they are looking for at the moment and it is more down to timing than anything missing or deficient in your approach.  Keeping the lines of communication open may ultimately end as a job that might be perfect specifically for you.

Professionals have to accept success and failure with equal parts grace and humility.  These economic times have been tough on the average job-seeker but especially tough on the Millenial generation, but you have to keep your head up and your mind open to possibilities you hadn’t thought of.

In the end, and it can’t be said enough, be professional through and through!  People look to positive people when they do their hiring and while this interview in particular may not have led to an offer, it may have led to another opportunity that wasn’t something you’d seen coming.  Keep the lines of communication open, clear and professional on all levels!  This will lead to positive outcomes in the process!

Good luck!



Soon to be College Graduates: Time to Prepare!

Yes, you’ve known it’s ‘out’ there and here it is – May 2014 is right around the corner!

College Graduation is Right Around the Corner

College Graduation is Right Around the Corner!

If you are one of the few million college and university seniors preparing for graduation this coming May, here are some suggestions to take to heart in making your graduation day transition more seamlessly into a job waiting for you on the back-end.

Perhaps you may have heard that the economy is going through a bit of a rough spot as of late?  In fact, unless you’ve been living in a cave, there’s no way that the economic numbers, anecdotes of doom and gloom, and the related dour stories around such couldn’t be coming across your field of view in some way.

With this, what I’ve noticed is a trend of negativity, but especially, understandably among the newer job-seekers, and it’s creating a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy out there – “there’s nothing for me.”  “There are no jobs out there.”  “Any job I can get is a minimum wage, do you want ketchup with that?” sort of role.  Now while true that the economy is a bit in the doldrums and many positions are indeed service oriented jobs, this negativity, counter-intuitively, is exactly the attitude that’s actually going to help YOU out as a serious job seeker!

Let me explain. There are so many budding, potential candidates out there already, not even mentioning the soon to be released class of 2014 and with that, a finite amount of positions available. This negative and downward self-fulfilling prophecy is exactly what you want, around you, as comparatively, if you present the opposite, it’s going to help you stand out as a refreshingly unique candidate!

If you can be one of the few that goes into the process with a positive attitude, thoughts of forward movement and simply out-pacing those around you in terms of preparation for the job search, understanding of the needs & nuances of the job market, and making the two a good match, you can position yourself as a stand-out candidate in today’s times! Remember, the job search is a competition like none other so those that don’t embrace it as fully as you, will be a step behind!

So! For all you new, soon to be graduates ready to cut their teeth in the working world, here are some thoughts and suggestions to be considering as you head further into the spring semester of your final year of college – soon will be spring break and then suddenly, the next thing you’ll know, you’re walking the stage for your diploma!

Graduation Preparation – Steps to Begin Right Now!

Start taking stock in where you’re at in the moment – This is the time to really start looking at yourself and thinking about what you’re wanting to do.  You’ve got less than three months left.  Be honest and think about what you really like and enjoy. Be very careful here in that I’ve met with many, many students over the years that would define themselves by their degree or major.  This is fine but the door is not closed to such and it’s a very limiting mind-set.  Every major and degree is only a concentration and with that, much learned and many of the transferable skills that accrue allow a nice ‘cross-pollination’ of jobs, positions, careers and industries.  Be careful not to limit yourself in possibilities.

Examine your academic, work, volunteer and extra-curricular activities – start to think about all of these as a mosaic and what each can provide for you in terms of your job-seeking candidacy. There are no ‘unimportant’ roles from one’s past.  It’s just a matter of examining each and being able to express what you had learned from such and what skills you had developed.

Meet with faculty and supervisors – This is the time, if you’ve not already, to really align with your professors and supervisors. There are a number of reasons to do so.  Mainly, they could be conduits to positions and people of interest for you.  It’s your ‘job’ to get to know them better, in and outside of the classroom, so that they know YOU better.  That way if anything comes across their desk, you want to be the first one they think about if so?  Also, when it comes time for a letter of recommendation, how can they possibly compose anything beyond the generic, if at all, if you’re just one of many there asking for such.  Think of a typical faculty member that’s teaching a 3-2 course load.  They have a litany of students in front of them and if you throw in a seminar, it could be well into the hundreds, so you need to stand out in this crowd.  Have discussions, use office hours, tell them your aspirations and interests.  Get them to ‘know’ you.

Visit your college or university career center – This is the place on campus where they are tangibly trying to make a connection for you between your academic life and the working world. Meet with an adviser or counselor.  Start developing your resume and a framework for your cover letters in this process.  Try doing a mock interview and go to the variety of topical meetings & discussions.  Also, get involved with campus recruiting.  Granted in the celestial sense, each college or university’s campus recruiting is one little solar system in the galaxy, relatively, but this can be a huge beginning to your meeting people in fields of interest, getting some feedback on your materials and practicing the interviewing processes.

Set up informational interviews – These next two to three months are a great time, especially over spring break, to find people that are doing something of interest to you, contacting them and asking if they’d be willing to meet with you to have a discussion or ‘informational interview.’  In the process, by default, you’re networking, learning about specific organizations and industries, meeting players in in their field.  You’re planting yourself in their minds and getting fantastic feedback on your own approach and presentation skills.

Contact almuni/ae that are in fields of interest to talk with – This is something that’s availed to you as a member of your college or university; access to those that have ‘been where you’re going!’  Take advantage of this.  Get out there and meet people that have graduated from your institution already and have made their mark.  You’ll get fantastic advice and feedback, not to mention that your network will be growing exponentially with every phone call & meeting.

Start or push along your social media presentation to the world – Get out there in the social media public eye, but do so carefully.  Employers will be looking for you on-line.  They’ll be checking to see what your social media character portrayal is and if it is a good representation of you and, potentially, your inclusion with the organization in question.  This is definitely the time to also do some maintenance on such!  Start ‘cleansing’ the posts and photographs of the party antics or controversial content that is out there with your name attached.  Give your social media wall a good scrubbing!

Personal Branding – Speaking of social media, now is the time, if you’ve not done so, to get your LinkedIn account up and running and as ‘professional’ as can be.  It is a virtual wall of you, your achievements, skills, interests, and a chance to present your history and ambitions to a prospective audience. Remember that this will be looked at, frequently, so keep it professional, up to date and no ‘puffery’ allowed.  Be honest, sell yourself but be honest with your entries and offerings.  This ‘branding’ of you is important to start now and not while in the throws of your job search.  The more you can do before graduation day, allows for more to be done in an effective search.

Credit, credit & credit – If you’ve not thought about such, or have no interest, now’s the time to discover a strong interest in it! Credit health is critical for you as an individual and it has ramifications around so many things today: want to buy a car?  Get a cell phone?  Buy a house or rent an apartment?  Plan on renting a car?  What’s more common today is that employers may or will be doing a credit check on you if they are interested in you as a candidate.  Remember, real or not, your credit ‘worthiness’ is a reflection on YOUR potential employment to many.  Organizations like Credit Karma (I have no affiliation but am a user) allow you to sign up for free, never a fee, and you can have all your credit information at your fingertips and keep it monitored constantly. You can see your financial history and actions and there is much information and advice there to use as a guide in getting the numbers up!

Think about what you really are interested in doing – Every employer and contact is going to be asking what you’re interested in doing (important) and why (even MORE important)?  The latter being even the more difficult part to answer but speaks to your intentions and motivations.  You need to be thinking about this – in depth, so that you can talk and converse legitimately and confidently with prospective employers or people in your network.

Volunteer somewhere – Get involved! This is a great way to get some experience, make some new contacts, develop some strong referrals that are outside of your academic circles and, simply, learn how organizations can run.  Also, when asked about it in an interview, think how powerfully it sounds when you say, “yes, I worked/volunteered there, for free!”  Says much to one’s commitment.

You can ‘front load’ your graduation day and job search very quickly by embracing the above suggestions and getting those building blocks in place for a very successful transition from the academic ranks to the world beyond.  A world that’s waiting for you and actually needs you!  It is your ‘job’ to, simply, stand out in a sea of others after you get your diploma!  By the way, in advance, Congratulations!


Job Seekers: The Value of an Internship!

Internships can be the Difference!


Traditionally, after years of studying, epic all-nighters, the rigors of the classroom and the anxiety brought on by a litany of exams and papers, earning a college degree has been cause for great revelry!  A badge of honor, if you will.  An event calling, legitimately, for celebration!  It is a right-of-passage and an achievement that for many signals the onset of adulthood, offering the credential of promise for a great career that may start in mere months, if not weeks.  

Sadly, in today’s job market, which for the newly graduated Millenials has one of the highest rates of unemployment OR underemployment ever, anyone leaving the college & university ranks today armed ‘only’ with a degree and a tidy ribbon around it may not be so fortunate walking into this new stage.

There has been much in the news about internships as of late.  Perhaps you’ve seen some of the media reports on such asking the philosophical question about unpaid internships and if it is ethical or not, legal even, to have people in an intern capacity working for free?  Stepping aside from all of the political debates and claims surrounding the topic of internships that are unpaid, and whether or not it is fair for the person working in the internship capacity to do so without remuneration, that’s a different discussion for a different time.  My focus here is to speak more to the value and necessity of an internship, especially in these trying times.

Realizing the fact that there are almost 5,000 institutions of higher-ed in the US, each graduating a class of seniors that combine in number into the millions, destined for the workplace every springtime.  As a new graduate, think of this from the employer’s perspective.  They are looking at you as a potential new hire, but they also have the luxury of looking at many, many others at the same time. In that scenario, what makes you stand out?  Why would an employer choose you as a candidate over another?  What makes you special to that employer?  These are all questions that can start to be addressed with some tangible, real-world, seat-of-the-pants, experience; an internship!

In a 2010 survey report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the majority of employers, 73 percent, stated their desire for higher education to put more emphasis on “the ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings through intern­ships and other hands-on experiences.”  Employers and graduate schools examine numerous résumés, applications and transcripts looking for evidence of tangible experience & understanding that goes beyond the confines of the classroom.

It’s no secret that it has become harder and harder for college graduates to find work right out of college with nothing but a framed diploma in-hand.  The primary reason for this is that today, to put it simply, everybody has one.  The bachelor’s degree today is the ‘new high-school diploma’ with it being such a common achievement. Comparing candidates, as they will do, most organizations can afford to look for something of differential.  If you’ve graduated, or will soon, and ‘all’ you have to wave is that college diploma, what are you really offering to a prospective employer?  Especially, when the candidate next to you can say “for the last two summers, while in school, I worked at so & so to see an application of my *insert major of choice here* and to get a feel of what it was really like.”

Something to consider is the ‘competitive advantage’ for you as an intern and job seeker:

  • Boost maturity and self-confidence
  • Enjoy greater clarity about career decisions
  • Expansion of social and professional networks
  • Prepare for life after graduation
  • Integrate classroom theory with real-life experiences
  • Increase motivation to learn
  • Explore & “try out” a potential career field
  • Develop career-related skills and abilities
  • Exposure to the habits of professional practice
  • Potentially developing mentoring relationships
  • Gaining a competitive edge for employment or graduate school

Granted, in a perfect world, all internship experiences would be paid, fruitful and valuable experiences.  But even if unpaid, an internship is one of the best investments of your time you can make and a good return on a student’s energy, intelligence and desire in the approach to a fulfilling career.  It really is a way to try out a career and to be able to tell a prospective employer, with confidence, “I’ve seen this, I’ve done this and I want to do this…”  As an employer is meeting many candidates, think of the difference in how this helps your case!

Despite the low pay, or NO pay, internships can definitely be worth it in the long run if you want to get your foot in the door and figure out your future.  Think of doing such as an invaluable investment in your time and “paying yourself” in terms of experience and gaining a competitive advantage!


The Buzz Words are Killing Me!

Overheard from the planet, umm, table next to me recently while sitting at a café; 

Academic Buzz Words

Buzzwords of Academia

“Often I see a common core representation of the information exposure delivery model with an achievable outcome of deliverables that best fits our pedagogy in increasing students’ knowledge of self and of work and learning options. These best practices in increasing student’s understanding of hegemony in the process of engaging incoming students in major exploration prior to their arrival on a college campus and allowing us to blend the marginalized into a better acknowledgement of cultural acceptance and awareness…”

Huh?  I could feel the headache starting to come on…. 

I was, in fact, minding my own business for the most part, but the unintelligible pretension next to me was too much to ignore so I started to tune in.  On an intellectual level I understood each and every word.  I was able to process what was said; “dog,” “staircase,” “banana,” each word I knew, but while understanding such, when strung together, what the hell did I just hear?  What are you meaning to say?  It makes absolutely no sense!  Is it even English? 

So, it got me to thinking as I live in a college town and these sorts of discussions are pretty commonplace.  Enough so, that it’s almost the norm and it’s easy to forget what simple, normal, regular, refreshing laymen’s speak is like.  I looked around a bit and actually found there’s a coined term for this alternative form of English; “Academese.”

“Academese” – An artificial form of communication commonly used in institutes of higher education designed to make small, irrelevant ideas appear important and original. Proficiency in academese is achieved when you begin inventing your own words and no one can understand what you are writing or saying (as defined by the “Tameri Guide for Writers”).  A “new language” used to communicate amongst each other that is so patronizingly littered with industry jargon, that it can only elicit two possible responses; the quizzical head-shaking of one who hears it, doesn’t get it, and feels they may be missing something, OR the nodding of heads in Jim Jones like, ‘drink-the-Kool-Aid,’ admiration by the very loyal followers that commit to such.

Now let me just qualify that this writing is in no way meant to be a condemnation of the academic institutions in our nation, nor those that work within.  Bear in mind that it is written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and that this may be seen as an attempt to take away people’s ‘boxes’ that they like to work within, but there is cause for something to think about.  What’s said and communicated in the academic ranks today is a far different way of speaking, literally a different form of communication than in the ‘work place’ of America. 

This may not be ‘news’ as it’s really nothing new, but what IS new is how divergent in recent years the language chasm has evolved?  Realizing this, and that it is our nation’s preparation of a new generation for the work force, does bring to mind the question, are the college grads indeed being best served by those who steward?

David Foster Wallace is quoted as saying;  “I regard Academic English not as a dialectal variation but as a grotesque debasement of Standard Written English, and loathe it even more than the stilted incoherencies of Presidental English… or the mangled pieties of ‘Business Speak….’  and in support of this utter contempt and intolerance I cite no less an authority than Mr. G. Orwell, who 50 years ago had Academic English pegged as a ‘mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence’ in which ‘it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.’”  – Harper’s Magazine, April 2001

Time in college & university is frequently some of the most intellectually stimulating years of one’s life.  Unfortunately, it also means navigating an exhausting and expansive gauntlet of ever increasing pretense and jargon that is a verbal exercise of intellectual leap-frog, if you will.  Let’s examine a few of the now ubiquitous linguistic words & phrases of the academic elite, in no particular order;

“Giving 110%” – When you hear this said, you’re basically hearing someone yelling that they’ve failed 3rd grade math!  Effort’s certainly measurable but 100% is everything!  You can give no more!  Your ‘everything,’ no matter what it consists of, is 100%, that’s it!  Such a cliché expression and because ‘everything’ is ALL you can give, if you’re claiming it, you’ve essentially duped someone into expecting less so that anything more can be perceived as that ‘110%!’  If that’s the case, you’ve still only given, at most, ‘everything,’ or 100%!  Even if you were to clone yourself, then you’d be expected to give 100% x 2.  At 110% you’ve then failed by 45%.  See the maths!?

“Reach Out” – this has become a mainstay in the language of wanting or needing to include others.  Jargon for, “let’s set up a meeting” or “let’s contact this person.”  Just say that.  Use your words people! 

“Leverage” – This is the granddaddy of all when it comes to nouns converted to verbs, second only to Facebook as in, ‘facebook me!’  ‘Leverage’ is sweepingly used as a pseudo-verb to describe how manipulation can be applied to a situation.  Should be a noun and remain such.

“Think Outside the Box” – This is a ridiculous and overly used phrase coined by the consulting industry and then adopted by academia long after it had already become cliché.  No one thinks ‘inside’ the box anymore!  They’re not allowed to!  This tired cliché means to approach a problem or situation in an unconventional fashion.  How about this?  Just think!  Get rid of the box!!!

“Best Practice(s)” – Ugh!  I can’t go an hour without seeing or reading about someone asking for best practices!  This refers to a method or technique that is supposed to deliver ‘superior results’ compared with other methods and techniques.  But who knowingly uses ‘mediocre practices’ and who defines what’s ‘best?’  Singularly one of the most pompous linguistic confections sprinkled over the industry.  Particularly annoying is the fact that it flows like cocaine in ‘Tony Montana’s’ house in the movie “Scarface.”

“Deliverables” – Deliverables?  Really?  How and when did this become the term for a finished product?  Granted, it does sound sexy in the meeting; “why yes, the student deliverables are in the final stages.”  Proposals, workshops, brochures, whatever the case may be, just say what you mean instead of trying to make it sound more important than it is.

“Multi-Tasker”Let’s give this one its LONG overdue resting place.  Multi-tasking is doing a lot, poorly.  Simple.  Sadly, it’s used waaay too often as a badge of honor; “I’m so busy but I’m multi-tasking to get the job done.”  In saying such, you’re telling people two things; 1) that your time management is essentially poor so you’re scratching at a lot of things at once, and 2) you may be ‘getting a lot done’ but nothing particularly well done!  No matter the accolades for your heroic undertakings, quantity kills quality.  This phrase really needs to be sent to the dust-bin.

“Empower” – Everything and everyone is always being ’empowered.’  Sounds good on the surface but what’s not realized is that this overly used verb basically says “you’re allowed do a little bit of this, but I’m still in charge here.  I am empowering you.”  Essentially tasked by someone above you in pay grade when they would like you to do a job of some importance. It’s also called the ‘most condescending transitive verb’ ever.  If ever you hear this platitudinous request directed your way, duck, ’cause you’re being talked down to but you’re NOT supposed to realize such….

“Irregardless” – This is the only ‘word’ on this list that isn’t actually a word!  Please; if you mean ‘regardless’ or ‘irrespective,’ say such!  All too often, these are now combined, so much to the point that somehow this bastardized amalgam of the English language seems to have made a place in our vocabulary.  Once, at a campus-wide meeting, I listened to the Dean of the School of Education let this one fly in the presentation.  No one said anything but you could hear the collective gasp!

“Buy-In” – This means agreement on a course of action.  Sadly, it is laced with a disingenuous undertone.  Notes David Logan, professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business: “Asking for someone’s ‘buy-in’ says, ‘I have an idea.  I didn’t involve you because I didn’t value you enough to discuss it with you.  I want you to embrace it as if you were in on it from the beginning, because that would make me feel really good.’”  

“Cultural” – Sure, “cultural” is already a relatively common word, but academics tend to let it flow as freely as a Porsche on the German Autobahn.  Presumably, this is because they want their oft-captive audiences to think them ever so worldly and knowledgeable.  Its use is never ending as a shameless inclusion and plug; “we’re off for a cultural meal!”  “I have a cultural meeting to attend.”  “The get together was so cultural in nature…!”

“Dichotomy” – The ubiquity of “dichotomy” understandably happens due to its near-universal relevance as conveniently it can be made to have context in anything & everything.  Every class and degree path guarantees studying at least one!  That being said, the good thing is that once you’re done with your degree and have graduated, you’ll not hear the word again and can forget it exists. 

“Diaspora” – As a concept, it is entirely necessary for students to understand the social, political, anthropological, sociological, psychological, geo-political and economic elements of the word and how it relates to the world around them.  Just don’t confuse it with ‘diorama’ as the art majors have a hold on that one!

“Empirical” – Visible, tangible, simple as that!  No matter one’s major, he or she will likely encounter “empirical” over and over and over and over and over and over and probably over again until you’re using it everywhere unbeknownst as we do in the word “like;” “hold on, I’m going to get my empirical example of a sandwich.”  Granted, it can be an essential component of debate and rhetoric, but would it kill professors to use a few synonyms for variety’s sake?

“Hegemony” – There exists no aesthetically sexier term than “hegemony.” But college students know all too well that even hotness with a touch of Marxism gets tiresome after repeated exposure, especially if it keeps hammering out the exact same points.  We get it!  (Wikipedia definition) “Cultural Hegemony describes the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of the society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.”  Huh?

“Collaborate” – If your department head or supervisor says ‘you need to collaborate,’ they are telling you, without telling you, that they are not entrusting you on you own to handle the task at hand and there remains better or more credible sources elsewhere so “reach out” (see above) and get them involved!

“Marginalized” – Marginalized and education walk arm-in-arm on the way home every night.  Like plenty of other terms highlighted here, few will deny that “marginalized” doesn’t have its place at the table too.  The fringes of society should be heard and have a place but with the frequency of its application, students also have the right to hear the idea relayed with different words, and there’s a numbness growing to its use as ‘everything is now in the margins.’

“Pedagogy” – Good luck getting those first-years (remember, “freshman” is a tired, old anachronism) to listen to anything attached to this in a sentence.  While it actually sports a simple, straightforward definition; one more easily conveyed using layman’s terms, people will spend more time wondering if the second ‘g’ is pronounced ‘gee’ or not?

Very few classrooms, not to mention the institutions themselves, around the nation provide effective career readiness curriculum and understanding that actually demonstrate career decision-making models that show students how to analyze, evaluate, decide, set career plans while in the midst of their studies and then tangibly put them into action. There is a huge gap, a chasm if you will, between academic institutions and what they provide, and what the employment market on the other side of the fence is actually looking for? 

The interesting thing is that the institutions don’t see this or see it in varying degrees of acceptance and, as the saying goes; ‘they don’t know what they don’t know?’  The language, as mentioned in this writing, is part & parcel to the divide.  You might even say “empirical” evidence, from the list above. 

People don’t communicate like this off campus, after graduation.  Not recognizing such shows a great anachronism in the teaching, the preparing of our nation’s youth, the college grad, for their next endeavor; adulthood and the employment that comes packaged with such. 

Until ‘life after college’ connection permeates every department and academic major on the nation’s campuses, this divide will be evident and students leaving with their degrees in hand, wet-behind-the-ears being told, “You’re going to be great!  Do great things!  You’re you!” and other such cliché and empty accolades, the divide will continue in its evidence and the students, now graduates, will be looking back asking “why did I pay for that!?    

So the next time you hear someone mentioning the need to “reach out,” “touch base,” “shift a paradigm,” “leverage a best practice” or worse “join a tiger team,” please kindly lean in and tell them to ‘do it!’  Just don’t let them say they’re doing it!