Perspectives Online

Masterminding career motivation

At the beginning of every recent Masterminds training session, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences career counselor Marcy Bullock asked for one of the students to stand up and sing part of his or her favorite song. And each time, no one volunteered. But when asked to sing together, everyone chimed in.

The lesson? Everything is easier with a group, according to Bullock.

This principle is the cornerstone of a new program designed to help students meet their career goals. Masterminds, an initiative of the College and the N.C. State Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC), kicked off in early February with 50 students.

“All of these students volunteered for the program; it is not a requirement,” Bullock said. “They’re doing it because they’re motivated. They all want to achieve something by May, whether it’s a job or an internship.”

The students are divided into groups of three -- carefully placed together by Bullock and co-program director Marcelo Anderson of BTEC -- based on class year, career goal and “motivational score” on a questionnaire administered upon the students’ entry into the program.

The groups meet every week until May for just 20 minutes, following a regimented timetable that allows each student to speak for about six minutes on job-related successes and goals. Three roles – meeting leader, time-keeper and note-taker – are rotated among the students each week. A CALS Ambassador serves as an adviser to each team.

One minute is allocated at the beginning of each meeting for small talk. For the program to be effective, Anderson says, the students should adhere to the meeting schedule. In other words, keep it quick and get back to work on your goals.

“They’re keeping each other accountable, motivating each other,” Bullock said. “The economy is a big hurdle right now, and many students face a lot of anxiety over the transition from school to workplace. Nearly 70 percent of college grads move back home after graduation. We want to change that.”

Between meetings, the groups stay connected through Web-based document-sharing programs. Each student is expected to make career-related efforts every week, whether researching companies, making calls or actually setting up interviews. Slackers can be fired by their peers.

“You’re driving each other and pushing each other,” Anderson said to students at a recent training session. “This is a pretty big risk, stepping outside of your comfort zone.”

However, Anderson also reported a 75 percent success rate in a previous Masterminds pilot, so it seems a risk worth taking.

-- Suzanne Stanard