Second Round Students

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Photo credit: Flickr user: AdventuresWithBob

Does your office look like this? A wall of credentials filled with certifications and different types of recognition from years of service to participation and completion of a workshop or training.

After reading this and other articles that state that the workforce isn’t just new graduates anymore but people reinventing themselves or revisiting old pastimes in hopes of finding a new career, I couldn’t help but think, “Orientation will look very different in a few years, if it exists at all.”

Soon enough (perhaps it is already happening at some institutions) the incoming classes will no longer be the “traditional” student coming fresh out of high school, they will be adult learners looking to get a new credential to open up new doors in new industries. They will be second round students. These incoming students will typically already have a degree of some sort, whether it be an associate degree or a doctorate, that won’t apply to the new industry. Instead, they will need to learn a new field of study with proof that they are competent a la a new credential. This is where your institution, if it hasn’t already, can find a new revenue stream through the creation of a school for professional studies.

Find some subject matter experts who understand how to teach adult learners, hire them, and market your program to this growing market segment of employed job seekers. I recently completed a program like this and my cohort was made up of people seeking a number of different things; from a retired K-12 teacher seeking to move into the college field, to college administrators looking to broaden their skills, to folks looking to take their current experience and couple it with this new certificate in hopes of creating a side hustle of consulting and training. These are the future incoming class of students you need to prepare for. They’ve been students already and now they want to develop further. They don’t need your standard orientation program, they need a welcome program to get their paperwork processed and to understand the services available to them.

With the start of a new semester if your institution offers free tuition or free credits you need to seriously consider utilizing the benefit. Depending on the credits or package, that could be thousands of dollars (literally thousands!) that are there for you that you are letting go to waste.

I don’t know about you but if someone handed me a check for $5,000 and said, “Here, go earn a certificate. We will pay for it.” I’m not going to rip of the check and say, “Sorry, I just don’t have the time.”

The “Near” Win in Education

I’m very familiar with the “near” win. Whether it was almost beating M. Bison in Street Fighter 2 after playing for an hour, or the “near” win of coming within seconds of a PR during a race. The “near” win is extremely frustrating as noted by the teeth marks I apparently left in my SNES controllers 20 years ago but also satisfying as you are able to say “Ugh. I can’t believe I just missed it. Let me prepare so next year (or next turn) I can finally beat it.

I think this concept of coming so close to accomplishment and falling short is directly related to the concept of grit. Grit, in simple terms, is deep resilience and motivation through tough circumstances. How does this relate? You need grit if you want to get more than one “near” win because some people would give up after landing in 2nd or 3rd place for the first time.

How does the “near” win relate to higher education or education in general? Grades. Involvement. Sports.

You will earn your grade, I will not give it to you.

When I had the pleasure of teaching a few courses that required reflective essays, no one in my class earned lower than a C. This is not because I had outstanding students or because I was an “easy” grader, this was because I simply didn’t accept the paper if it was less than average. If you handed in a paper that was less than average you earned a “NY” grade meaning “Not Yet.” This meant that your paper was filled probing questions to get you to dig deeper and write more to get to the core of your point. You will keep getting the NY until I am satisfied with your effort. Some students took advantage of this and thanked me for showing the personalized care and attention, others were annoyed that them “trying” the first time wasn’t good enough to get a grade. It was an interesting experiment that I’d like to try again more formally and track to see the long/short-term impact of that grading practice.

We can’t offer you a position but we hope you stay involved.

I’m guilty of putting something like this in a letter informing a student that they didn’t get hired for a position they applied for. Can you guess what typically happens? The student gets angry, disappointed, disengaged and perhaps doesn’t come back to your office for anything else. I’m not arguing for an increase in “alternative” positions because I’ve heard that solution. I’m saying that we need to not only teach students how to accept not being picked BUT we do need to provide something after the grieving period ends. This is a “near” win. You’ve applied. You’ve interviewed. You feel good about it but then you don’t get it. What’s the solution? One idea is to keep all candidates on a mailing list that is categorized by strengths and interests so you can do targeted outreach to get them engaged. (Talk about an easy retention strategy to increase engagement and awareness of opportunities!)


We see “near” wins all the time in sports. Our student athletes, our student club athletes, our athletic students that are engaged in the rec center all have experienced the pain or exhilaration of a “near” win. Nearing that personal record, or almost hitting the game winning shot, or almost beating your friend in racquetball. These students, perhaps more than most, know what a “near” win is. So what do we do about it? Nothing. The most recent example of what needs to be done for these athletes is what Coach Belisle did for his little league team. I’m not saying we have to coddle these students but we do need to support them in ways that ensure their confidence, well-being, and resilience to succeed stays intact. How? The answer isn’t to hand out participation ribbons. We need to teach students how to reflect and how to think critically about their performance, their effort, and their impact. This isn’t easy but it is one of the most powerful and under utilized practices for most people and we do not do a good enough job of instilling this in students at an early age.

Take a critical look at your program, your office or your courses this year and see what “near” wins you can push to wins. You may find it takes less effort than you realized.


17 weeks of orientation = 4 lessons learned

When you run an orientation program that lasts for 17 weeks you tend to learn a lot about yourself, program design, and program facilitation. Here are the 4 biggest takeaways from running over 75 sessions this summer:

1. Presenting vs. Preaching

You either present your material or you preach it. Presenting is no different than a server reading off the daily specials. Here is the information I need to make you aware of, please listen and let me know if you have any questions. You can get fancy if you like with slides, demonstrations, and even singing but you are still presenting information. Preaching is not presenting. Preaching takes effort. Preaching is exhausting. Preaching is you fully believing in what you are saying to the point that you find your heels leaving the ground as you make a point. Preaching isn’t sharing knowledge, it is creating it. Preaching is what gets people to nod, to clap, to laugh, to shout out “AMEN!”. Preaching creates knowledge as the audience feels attached to the words, sayings and research being shared.

Don’t present your material, your idea, or your training. Preach it.

2. Autopilot Blinders

When you are doing the same presentation for 17 weeks, you tend to go on autopilot with a routine. Print this, click that, set this up, e-mail that. Lather, rinse, repeat. While that may seem great for efficiency and effectiveness it really does the opposite. In the process of setting up processes and routines at the beginning, I didn’t leave time for reassessment of those policies at any point. Thankfully, student volunteers and colleagues chimed in halfway through and suggested some tweaks to the process. Those tweaks would have never been noticed by me because it would have been like reassessing menu options in the middle of a dinner rush with food on the tables already. Getting comfortable with routines and processes could make you ignorant to other possibilities.

3. Know Your Numbers

I checked my orientation numbers every day. Attendance rates, registration rates, number of reservations for the upcoming week. More often than not, if I was stopped in the hallway and asked how orientation was going I would throw out the numbers. While this isn’t a great assessment of how it truly is going for the students, it is a great assessment on production. While I am big on storytelling and narratives, most of senior management will want to know the bottom line to be able to mention it quick in a meeting. Knowing your numbers means you will know your trends. With a quick glimpse at my numbers, I could tell you which day, time, and month was the most popular for orientation. That means I can now look at what has happened and use that to attempt to predict what will happen. If you aren’t already doing this, start now.

4. Week 1 = Week 17

The only thing that changes from when I present in week 1 and when I present in week 17 is timing and tone. After presenting the same thing close to 100 times, you begin to notice how much impact timing and tone has on an audience. My presentation is usually getting refined and tweaked until around week 3 (about 12 sessions in) when it comes to timing and tone. The challenge is to never get bored. Which means, the energy and excitement you had in week 1 needs to be there in week 17. The jokes need to be delivered with the same enthusiasm and the serious points need to be brought with the same weight. This is easy as long as you do not get bored with your material. Like I tell anyone in a customer-service oriented position, the person asking you a question you’ve heard twenty times already is still asking you for the first time. You may have given the presentation 5, 10, 100 times but for your audience it their first time, act accordingly.