HR in the Car - Episode 8: "Make Sure the Cows Are Happy”
We’ve known Suzanne O’Connor for a long time and have always enjoyed hearing her thoughts about the next generation of great employees. This bridges college students/grads and employers from all around the region. Her stories from working with students coming into the professional world will make you laugh and appreciate where today’s younger generation is coming from, in addition to uncovering their passions. Seatbelts on folks, listen in, and learn a little more about what Growth Mindset is.
More about Suzanne
As Associate Director at the Siena College Career and Internship Center, I have many responsibilities including program planning, creating class presentations, and teaching the Exploring Careers class. However, my FAVORITE role is having career conversations with students in one-on-one coaching sessions. It is a gift to serve students as a guide in decision-making at this very important time in their lives. I have learned to listen more and talk less. Providing a safe space for all students to explore their identities as they impact career development is so rewarding. Before I moved into counseling in higher education, I spent many years in the business world. I am living proof that one can study liberal arts, in my case English, and follow a path from business to higher education. Remember, choosing a major is not the same as choosing a career.
I enjoy gathering with my very large and extended family. Pool parties and holiday dinners provide plenty of opportunities for teasing and laughter. My 6-year-old grand-niece continues to delight me with her incredible life observations - and love of all things cats. Also, I am in a daily Wordle competition with two siblings and one niece. Competition is the operative word!
I am an ordained interfaith minister and enjoy guiding people to whatever spirituality looks like for them. This is a very important part of my life.
I live in Colonie with my husband and very large dog, Bear.
Advice to students: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is the wrong question. College is a time to explore your interests and understand your career options. Your path will not be a straight line and trust that you willfigure it out. There will be many steps along the way and seeking guidance from career counselors, professors, internship supervisors, summer jobs and community service colleagues will all impact your decision-making. Stay with it and see where your career will take you!
Suzanne O'Connor, M.S.Ed.
Career and Internship Center | Siena College
Information & Links
Miriam Dushane: Welcome to HR in the Car, with Miriam Dushane and Tom Schin of Alaant Workforce Solutions, where exciting HR professionals and business leaders share laughter, insider stories, and maybe even a few tears about HR in today's world. Buckle up for the best half hour of your week.
Tom Schin: I love our next guest. She's been in this HR career realm for so many years. When I think of career readiness, this is who I think of.
Miriam Dushane: Absolutely, and in addition to that, I have personal firsthand knowledge with the students that she's been making career- ready and how they have benefited Alaant, so it's going to be really exciting to talk to her.
Tom Schin: Suzanne O'Connor's our next guest. Listen in. You're going to enjoy this conversation.
Thanks for joining us, Suzanne. She's the Associate Director for Career and Internship Center at Siena College. Welcome to HR in the Car, Suzannne.
Suzanne O'Connor: Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
Tom Schin: We're so thrilled to welcome you on the show. I know we've been at this for a little bit now, but you were one of the people that we were seeking and I'm so glad that you reached out to us to join us this afternoon.
Suzanne O'Connor: Sure.
Tom Schin: One of the things we like to start folks out with is more of a casual introduction. When you go to a cocktail party or a summer barbecue and folks ask, " Hey, what do you do?" How do you describe that?
Suzanne O'Connor: Okay, sure. I work with college students, who I love. What I do is help them find their way. People assume as a career counselor that I write their resumes for them, but there's so much more than that. Also, this generation is often flummoxed by what their next step will be-
Miriam Dushane: I love that term, flummoxed.
Suzanne O'Connor: That's really the main thing I do. I also attend a lot of meetings, a lot of planning, but I really think it's a gift to be able to guide these young people. I love it.
Miriam Dushane: Tell us a little bit more about the Career Readiness Initiative, and why people would be interested in it and, why is it so important for business that Siena is doing this in the college to get these students ready?
Suzanne O'Connor: Sure, and as recruiting professionals, you should both appreciate this.
Miriam Dushane: Yes.
Suzanne O'Connor: The initiative started about seven years ago. A national survey was done and it ranked eight particular skills that employers told career professionals they were looking for in young people. I can just tell you what they are and I think they should ring true to you and your listeners, communication, critical thinking, equity and inclusion, career and self- development, professionalism, leadership, technology, and teamwork. The reason we at Siena started to get involved in this is we had gotten feedback from employers that our students, on their resumes, had done really interesting things, but they can't articulate them in a language that employers speak. That's really the gist of what we've been doing. We've introduced it in various parts of the campus, and now we're at the point where we're bringing it into academics. For example, a philosophy class might be able to say to students, “Look , this assignment is going to help you with your critical thinking skills." They make the connection for the students so that when a student is interviewing, they have an example.
Miriam Dushane: Right.
Tom Schin: I love that.
Suzanne O'Connor: They can't just say, " I'm a problem- solver." They have an example of how they solved problems.
Tom Schin: I did this when and I did this here and I did this there. I run into that even with my own kids. I don't know if you do, Miriam.
Miriam Dushane: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
Tom Schin: My kids are always... Well, you try to have them articulate something, and they're like, " Yeah, I did that. “Or when they're writing a paper or something, you're just wondering, where's the backstory. How are you going to prove that you did this? Oh, I did this in this class and this, and I'm like, that's what needs to be on the piece of paper.
Suzanne O'Connor: Yes. One of the most common answers is I'm a people person, when you ask what your strength is.
Miriam Dushane: Oh, yeah.
Suzanne O'Connor: What does that mean? You're not working in the animal community. But they have to be able to articulate their communication skills and an example of where they did that. Not just, I like people.
Miriam Dushane: It's so important. I mean, we get feedback from employers all the time that a person couldn't articulate what they did in their class project or their internship or their last job. And there's only so much as recruiters we can do to help advocate.
Suzanne O'Connor: Sure.
Miriam Dushane: I mean, it really is up to the individual to land their job. And the only way they're going to be able to do that is through all of these competencies and being able to demonstrate those competencies in an actual interview setting and then in a work setting.
Suzanne O'Connor: Exactly.
Miriam Dushane: It's interesting because this resonates through so many different things, because when you think about all the different jobs that even Alaant gets into our office, everybody always thinks, oh, technology skills or programming skills or math skills or science skills. Whatever it is. But the reality is you just listed off eight things that had nothing to do with a degree or a line of work. It encompasses every single job, every single industry. They're like, duh, no brainers to you and I, but it's fascinating that even employers nationally are saying, " We don't care as much about Sequel or Java. We care about teamwork."
Suzanne O'Connor: They can teach you that.
Miriam Dushane: Right. Exactly.
Suzanne O'Connor: Right. These are the skills that we want our students to be able to say, " I'm already developing these." They might not all be strong. One of the things we do is we have them rank them and to give an example of where they've developed the skill, but also to maybe take their lowest ranked one or their second lowest and talk about how they can further develop this. I know teamwork is probably something that your clients all talk about.
Suzanne O'Connor: Sure.
Suzanne O'Connor: We have gotten feedback from employers that they don't want students to give an example of teamwork where they were working on a class project and there were four people on the team and one of the teammates wasn't doing their work, so they went to the professor and talked to them.
Suzanne O'Connor: That is not a good story to tell about teamwork.
Miriam Dushane: Absolutely.
Tom Schin: I'm glad that you bring up that thought process of what skills to work on. Because so many people will read these sort of part pie charts and graphs and think they need to be eights or nines or tens on everything, and that's not the case coming out of school. And certainly for the entry person into the job market, a lot of times they may be at a 6, but they have the opportunity to grow to that 7, 8, 9, 10. And it's just a progression that takes time. I get questions from folks, " How do you know this?" I'm like, " Because I'm old. I've been at this for 20 years. So I have stories to tell."
Suzanne O'Connor: I'm like your grandmother.
Miriam Dushane: Ya know what’s interesting, I'm curious, because you said you have the students rank themselves. How self- aware do you think they are? How honest are they really are? Because that's another area where we sometimes are like, " Wow, that person is so clueless." Because they don't really take that hard, honest look at themselves, which is really important in the workforce, frankly. So tell us what do you think?
Suzanne O'Connor: That's a really good question because I think they inflate their skills. These studies that NACE has done, it's really interesting because the one where the students think they're the best is communication. And that's the one where the employers think they're the worst.
Miriam Dushane: Worst.
Suzanne O'Connor: But the other one, you mentioned technology, the employers rate the students higher on technology than the students rate themselves.
Miriam Dushane: Wow.
Tom Schin: It's all relative.
Miriam Dushane: Well, think about it. It's the old people that are ranking the younger people. And let me tell you, my son gets many calls for tech support from me. So I can see how, to them it's like, oh, that's just normal. But to us, I could see us ranking them higher on that. That makes a lot of sense.
Suzanne O'Connor: But some of the technologies that the young people use, sure their phones and Snapchat and Instagram, but they may not know a platform that one of your clients is going to have to teach them. But they in turn have to talk about how they learn a new software platform. What's their process, so that the potential employer can trust that they can learn whatever they need to know for their job.
Tom Schin: I was listening to a conversation the other day about- It was from my son. He was talking to his friend about his parents don't know how to use technology. And mom does, but dad doesn't. And I said to him, "Think about it. You grew up with touchscreen. That's your whole life. Your parents have 40 plus years without it." Or however many years, now I'm making them older than they are. Sorry. But it's a whole context of what we grew up with and where we're at these days. Now you mentioned NACE. Tell our listeners what that is.
Suzanne O'Connor: NACE stands for the National Association of Colleges as an Employers, so it is a group of both employers and career professionals. And it's really important that we all work together so that we can make sense of what the employers are looking for and how we can better prepare as career people, prepare these students for career readiness for the future. They're a professional association, so they offer webinars and conferences and trainings from everything you can think of, from diversity in the workplace to trends in higher ed. And one of those, you just actually described it, Tom, and you probably didn't even know that you did this, but I am really interested in the concept of growth mindset.
Miriam Dushane: Okay. Yeah.
Suzanne O'Connor: Are you familiar with that?
Tom Schin: Mm-hmm.
Suzanne O'Connor: And it's the work of a psychologist at Stanford University, whose name is Carol Dweck, D- W- E- C- K. Just Google her. It's a mindset, a thought process where some people have a fixed mindset and others have a growth mindset.
Miriam Dushane: Growth mindset, yep.
Suzanne O'Connor: And fixed means, I can't do this. I was never good in math. I can't do math. And growth means, failure doesn't mean failure. It means you can give yourself the opportunity to get better at it. She even gives an example of a high school in Chicago, I think, where the way they grade their students is A, B, C, D. If they fail, they just write not yet. Which I think is the coolest thing, because it just demonstrates that you can grow into whatever it is that you don't know.
Tom Schin: It's a good book. You should read it.
Suzanne O'Connor: Oh, did you read it?
Tom Schin: I know you love books.
Miriam Dushane: Well, I'm familiar with the concepts, and yes, I'm not a big fan of books. I prefer to listen to my books.
Suzanne O'Connor: Oh, that was a joke.
Miriam Dushane: Yes. It was a joke. Spreadsheets and books, no. I'm very literate. Don't get me wrong. However, I prefer them to be read to me, via Audible. There's so many out there. It's almost like it's overwhelming. I guess that's where I am. I'm overwhelmed with books, but-
Tom Schin: But you already have that mindset.
Miriam Dushane: Right. Exactly.
Tom Schin: We look at our business and how people learn and develop and grow. It's always looking at what can you do more? Not necessarily from you're doing this poorly, but you can add to the portfolio. Have all the space in our heads, in this big block we call a brain, there's just so much more we could do.
Miriam Dushane: So what if you had a student, or let's turn the tables a little bit. We have an employer and I'm talking about the mindset piece of it now. We have an employer that sees potential in a student, so they hire them. But that student has that fixed mindset over the growth mindset. How would you give them advice on how to coach or mentor them to move away from that fixed, I can't, I can't to that growth, not yet, I'm getting there. I will learn that.
Suzanne O'Connor: Ya know Miriam, it has to do with confidence. And I think the students talk, many, talk themselves out of being able to do something.
Miriam Dushane: Yes. I agree.
Suzanne O'Connor: I even hear it when I'm talking to students in my office before they graduate. They're nervous. I don't know how to do that. Why would they hire me? And as far as an employer mentoring them, I think feedback is really important. That they don't just let the person run amuck in their office, but talk to them about the way they presented in a meeting or the way they're interacting with a client or their time management-
Miriam Dushane: Yeah, that's a big one.
Suzanne O'Connor: And making decisions on what should I get done first and for whom? I would say feedback. I know there's a perception that students need, young people need, constant awards and pats on the back even to get through a day. And I'm not a big fan of doing that constantly, but I think once in a while to say, " You've really grown in the last six months. And I appreciate that you're now more comfortable presenting in a meeting," for example.
Miriam Dushane: Absolutely. No, I agree. And I do agree with you. We do run into that. But a thank you goes a long way, too. And that sometimes is enough that helps them keep pushing forward in the right direction. So Suzanne, remind me again, how long have you been with the college? I feel like you've been there my entire life.
Suzanne O'Connor: I'm coming up on 21 years.
Miriam Dushane: Okay.
Tom Schin: Wow.
Suzanne O'Connor: Now you can guess my age.
Miriam Dushane: Almost my entire work career, because I'm 25. 25 years. I wish I was still 25. Oh God, do I wish I was still 25, but that's what I thought. What keeps you there? What keeps driving you to do this? I mean, my goodness.
Suzanne O'Connor: I just, as trite as it may sound, I have always had a drive to help. And in this case, and I realized it when I was probably in my thirties, that I wanted to help young people. Because I could just see the challenges that they have.
The other trite phrase is every day is different, but it is truly different. I never know who is going to walk in my office and what they're going to say. Here's one little story. Way back when I first started at Siena, I was a little nervous about meeting with students. I used to work in the recruiting profession.
Miriam Dushane: Right. I know.
Suzanne O'Connor: I met with adults. So this one young woman walked in, closed the door and she said, " I'm pregnant."
Miriam Dushane: Oh, okay.
Suzanne O'Connor: This is career counseling.
Miriam Dushane: I think the medical office is down the hall.
Suzanne O'Connor: But Miriam, it impacted her career decisions. What do I do now? I have this job offer and how do I handle it? So that was a little surprise for me.
Tom Schin: Well, and kudos for her for stepping up and basically asking for help.
Suzanne O'Connor: Right.
Miriam Dushane: Right. Exactly. I actually do get that.
Tom Schin: And not everyone would. They'd go hide under a rock.
Suzanne O'Connor: And I didn't even have a reputation at that point. I think now students, I've been told I'm approachable, so I think students are comfortable coming and talking to me about many, many different issues.
Miriam Dushane: Oh, I'm sure. I'm sure. 21 years we said at the college? So you could probably write a book.
Suzanne O'Connor: I could, I could.
Miriam Dushane: And would the book be a funny book? Would it be a scary book? Would it be a serious book?
Suzanne O'Connor: I think I would have different chapters, to answer your question honestly.
Miriam Dushane: Okay.
Suzanne O'Connor: I lean toward the funny, because sometimes I just shake my head because they're unintentionally funny. They don't even know it. Here's an example. I do teach a class and this is one of my favorites and it's on helping students who have come into college undeclared and they have no idea what they want to do. Overwhelming. So I have them-
Miriam Dushane: I think every student should come in undeclared, by the way. But go ahead.
Suzanne O'Connor: No, we do talk about that. I have an assignment for them where they have to go through all the Siena majors and cross off the ones that they absolutely are not interested in, and then as the semester goes on to choose one or two. So as you probably know, a lot of students are interested in forensics because they watch CSI, or NCIS. They want to be Abby Sciuto.
One of the students, and she was a first year student, she started off talking about forensics. And I explained that most of the opportunities in forensics are really more of a science position, like a chemistry-
Miriam Dushane: Yeah. Absolutely.
Suzanne O'Connor: DNA kind of knowledge. So she's doing her thinking and then I have an assignment where they have to write about why they would like the career and why they wouldn't. So she talked about how she would like it, because of course they're all thinking forensic psychology.
Tom Schin: So TV is what they're thinking.
Suzanne O'Connor: Yes, they are. So why she would like it is she wants to learn how people think and why they would commit a crime. Here's my favorite part. Why she wouldn't like it is she grew up in a very small town and not too many people get murdered there. I was correcting her paper at home. But just as you're laughing, I laughed. Good woman, I don't mean to make fun of her.
Miriam Dushane: Oh, no, no,
Suzanne O'Connor: But that's the mindset. Speaking of mindset.
Miriam Dushane: Yes. Well, if I was going to do this, I'd have to move to a much bigger city.
Suzanne O'Connor: Where there's more murders.
Regarding other stories in the book, resumes are a big part of what we do with students. As I said earlier, we don't write them for them-
Miriam Dushane: Good.
Suzanne O'Connor: But we want to pull out of them, what did they do in a particular position or even community service experience. And that's where the competencies come in, too. They often will write the obvious. Say somebody's working at Starbucks and they write, serve coffee to customers. Well, that isn't helpful. We've all been in a coffee shop and we know what goes on. So we want to teach them to talk about teamwork and communication. But some of the statements on resumes, I have to practice a poker face, because sometimes they're really funny.
I had one where the student had written, he was an athlete, and he had written that, he meant to say he was a liaison between the coach and the players.
Miriam Dushane: Oh no.
Suzanne O'Connor: And he said he was a lesion between the coach and the players. I had to gently say, " This is a typo." And of course spell check wouldn't find it because it's a word. And to explain that he has to be more careful and read it out loud and make sure he's putting the right word.
Miriam Dushane: Yeah, you don't want to be a lesion. No.
Suzanne O'Connor: Not a lesion.
Miriam Dushane: And how do you not recommend that?
Suzanne O'Connor: And then another one was just this year, the student grew up on a farm. And that's so interesting because he learned about hard work. His father owned a business, so much you could talk about.
Tom Schin: Getting up at the crack of dawn, yep.
Suzanne O'Connor: Yes. He had a couple good bullets, but one of them was making sure the cows are happy. That's not really appropriate on a resume. There's probably another way you can say it, but it was so cute, because he probably does have to make sure that the cows are happy.
Miriam Dushane: Absolutely.
Tom Schin: Right. In their everyday lives, that's just what it is.
Miriam Dushane: You know what? I would've brought that guy into interview. Just saying. Farm girl and me is coming out. And if he put on his resume that he was making cows happy, I'd need to talk to the guy, if for nothing else to learn more about his farm.
Suzanne O'Connor: Right.
Tom Schin: Well, and you see that both with the student population, but also folks that have been at it for 10, 20 years. We do a lot of volunteer work with CRHRA and some of the other HR job fairs and so forth where you just volunteer a couple hours to critique. Folks don't know how to give themselves credit for things. So I would always tell folks, write down a typical day, like a diary or keep a diary if they're at the start of their search, keep a diary of what you're doing every day. And then we'll go back to those notes. And again, I take the same approach. I'm not writing a resume. I look at enough of them on a regular basis-
Miriam Dushane: Oh God.
Tom Schin: I don't want any part of it. And once they start doing that, the ideas just start flowing. It's magic.
Miriam Dushane: Sometimes it's very overwhelming. Especially people who've been out of the industry, or not out of the industry. I meant to say, they've been working at the same job for so long that they haven't looked for a job. We dealt a lot with that in the pandemic. I tell everybody, you should always be updating your resume. I mean my resume right now, if you said to me, " Miriam, can I have a copy of your resume?" I would be able to hand you a copy of my-
Suzanne O'Connor: Excellent.
Miriam Dushane: current resume. And I'm a business owner. I'm not looking for a job. But it's just, if I'm going to tell other people to do it, I feel like I have to do it myself.
Suzanne O'Connor: That's good advice. And also you never know when you might be invited to speak somewhere-
Miriam Dushane: Exactly.
Suzanne O'Connor: -and they want all the details on what you've done a short bio.
Miriam Dushane: Or sometimes proposals for work.
Suzanne O'Connor: Right. Exactly.
Miriam Dushane: And not necessarily just for recruiting, but I'm just saying in general, that happens frequently. So you should always have an updated resume. Any other resume gems?
Suzanne O'Connor: Those are the ones that stick out in my mind.
Miriam Dushane: The cow.
Suzanne O'Connor: I have a me gem, though.
Miriam Dushane: Oh, do tell. I'm leaning in.
Suzanne O'Connor: This is a perfect example of being more detail oriented when I wasn't. I was speaking to a room full of parents for students who had been accepted and the parents wanted to know, in our case, how can the career and internship center help them?
Miriam Dushane: Yes, because they want you to be a magician and make sure that little Sally walks out with a diploma and a job offer.
Suzanne O'Connor: I'm so glad you said that, Miriam, because we also have a little joke in our office that a student will come in and they'll say, " I'm looking for a job and I'm going to be in South Dakota and I want to be a cyber security, whatever." And our joke is that we have a drawer and we pull the drawer open and say, " Here's your job in South Dakota to be a cyber security expert."
Miriam Dushane: You're so funny because, I want to get back to your story about yourself, but you're so funny because, we call it a people closet. I swear, I swear to God, sometimes when employers will come to us with pretty difficult outlandish stuff, we'll be like, " Hold one second. I have to go check the inventory in the people closet." Because, yeah, it's the same type of concept. It's like, oh poof. There it is.
Suzanne O'Connor: Don't they call that a unicorn, a purple unicorn or something?
Tom Schin: Purple unicorn. That's a little different.
Miriam Dushane: Purple squirrel.
Suzanne O'Connor: Purple squirrel.
Miriam Dushane: Purple squirrel, that's one term for it. The other one is obviously a unicorn. But a lot of times they're like, let me just-
Suzanne O'Connor: I like that. A people closet.
Miriam Dushane: People closet.
Suzanne O'Connor: That's the reverse of what I'm saying.
Tom Schin: I have the magic wand with a wizard hat. That was always my example. Abracadabra. Poof!
Miriam Dushane: I just had an image with you with the big Mickey mouse hat from Fantasia. I want to hear your story.
Suzanne O'Connor: My story was, I was representing how awesome we are in the career center and how we work with your sons and daughters. And I also talked about how they, as parents, could assist students, maybe they own a business or maybe they know someone who might be interested in taking an intern. So up on the screen, which I was standing in front of said, it was supposed to say, you are now a part of the Siena family. And it said you are not a part of the Siena family. And I could see some scrunched up faces.
Miriam Dushane: Like what the heck?
Suzanne O'Connor: And then my colleague was behind driving the PowerPoint and I turned around and saw her face. And of course I felt very silly, but everybody laughed. But I think that's a really perfect example of having somebody else look at your work before you present it.
Miriam Dushane: Yes, absolutely. But you know why I like that story is, I find our younger generation, and I'm including my children in this. They're 20 and 22. They're both in college. My son is going through- last night we were joking that he was mad at life. Because he's just last year of college, he's worried about what's next. I was like, " Hon, just chill out." But my point is that, I see so many of our younger kids afraid to make even one tiny mistake, that it's going to be the end of life as they know it, end of the world as they know it. How do we get them to overcome that and understand, again, the growth mindset of making sure? So telling a story that is one way.
Suzanne O'Connor: Even I made a mistake.
Miriam Dushane: Exactly. We all make mistakes and that's how you grow. That's how you move forward.
Suzanne O'Connor: And it's what you do with the mistake.
Miriam Dushane: Thank you.
Suzanne O'Connor: Not just go bury yourself.
Tom Schin: I might do, don't spell not N- O- W sixteen times, or vice versa.
Miriam Dushane: Exactly.
Suzanne O'Connor: I'm curious about something. I don't know how much time we have here.
Miriam Dushane: Please ask.
Suzanne O'Connor: With your children, are your children college age?
Tom Schin: Same age? Yes.
Miriam Dushane: Yeah.
Suzanne O'Connor: Okay. Do you ever hear them talk about their passion? I want to do what I'm passionate about or that's not my passion. I hear that a lot from students.
Miriam Dushane: No, I never hear that.
Tom Schin: Little bit.
Miriam Dushane: Do you?
Tom Schin: My younger one started with one major. He's moved over, he wants to be a game designer, more on the artistic side. He started in environmental engineering just because he cares about the environment. I can remember when he was six and I'll admit it, I flung a piece of gum out the window after done chewing it. He's like, " Dad, what are you doing? That's going in the environment." And spats out these statistics as a six year old would. I'm like, okay. And ever since then, never again, never spit it anywhere but in the garbage can. Parent guilt, child guilt. But yeah, he talks about that a little bit. The other two, they stick close to what they like the most. Our oldest is very much cyber security, computers. Everything's computers. They don't talk back to him.
Suzanne O'Connor: Okay. Understand.
Tom Schin: The other, everything about him is he loves aerospace and he's always mechanically trying to think about stuff. It's fascinating to watch when your kids are figuring something out.
Suzanne O'Connor: You have some really smart children.
Miriam Dushane: Absolutely.
Suzanne O'Connor: I tell the science majors that I'm afraid of them.
Tom Schin: Absolutely.
Suzanne O'Connor: Because I'm a liberal arts major and my brain doesn't work that way.
Miriam Dushane: I always tell everyone, my daughter, she's going to pharmacy school at ACP in the fall and she's a chemistry major currently and valedictorian and 4.0. I'm totally bragging, so we might need to cut this out of the podcast. But anyway. I always say, well, she's going to use her talents for good or evil. We shall find out, because yes, I'm afraid of her, too, when it comes to her knowledge and her ability to problem solve.
I don't think I've ever heard her use the words passion, but she exudes it in her studies. I mean, this is a chemistry major who's got a 4.0, and she just eats, dreams, breathes everything about science and chemistry. It's what gets her up in the morning. She doesn't say it. I don't know if she realizes it, but that is her passion.
Suzanne O'Connor: That's a gift, and not every student can say that.
Miriam Dushane: No.
Suzanne O'Connor: And I think some of the students, this is an undergraduate institution, so some of the students might have a roommate like your daughter, and then they're all concerned because they don't know what they want to do. And they're scared. There's a podcast and a gentleman I really enjoy listening to, is Cal Newport. He has books and a podcast. And his theme, a TED Talk, is why following your passion is bad advice.
Miriam Dushane: Interesting.
Suzanne O'Connor: I use that in the class that I teach. Because it implies that your passion is innate and that you can only do one thing and you should know what it is. And he goes on to tell a story about Steve Jobs and how he stumbled into, he had this little idea about Apple and it just took off, but that he got passionate about it as it grew.
Miriam Dushane: Exactly.
Suzanne O'Connor: When he was six years old, he may not have been-
Tom Schin: I'm going to make something that nobody ever thought of.
Suzanne O'Connor: Right. Just growth mindset, you grow into the passion. What can you do to become an expert or somebody who has energy around an idea?
Miriam Dushane: Right. And that's what it comes down to. It comes down to the energy. And it's interesting because my son would need to hear the it's okay to not follow your passion because I think he's still trying to figure out life.
Suzanne O'Connor: And he looked at his sister, right?
Miriam Dushane: And I think he does. We have a joke in our house, and I'm sure you've heard the saying before, and he just looks at her and he goes, " You're just built different." And you know what? And that's okay. So we do a lot of reassurance for him to understand that please do not compare. We actually worry about her sometimes, frankly, because she's so intense. Like I said, good or evil, she could go either way and snap. So just saying. As we wrap up, first of all, thank you so much for sharing your insight and some great stories with us. One, I just want to put a plug out there for Siena. We were counting the amount of hires that I have made for Alaant through Siena College. Six or seven.
Suzanne O'Connor: Good.
Miriam Dushane: Let me tell, you're doing a great job.
Suzanne O'Connor: Thank you.
Miriam Dushane: You are doing a phenomenal job. I hope other employers and organizations can take a look at these programs, because when I tell you you're doing a phenomenal job with these kids, holy crow, you really are.
Suzanne O'Connor: Two of your hires, more recent hires, actually work in our office.
Miriam Dushane: I know. That's part of the reason why we hired them.
Suzanne O'Connor: Yes. Abby and Christina.
Miriam Dushane: Christina. And they're doing phenomenal.
Suzanne O'Connor: Yes. They've both worked with us. Abby's an example of an environmental studies or environmental sciences major.
Miriam Dushane: That's correct.
Suzanne O'Connor: And I know she loves bunnies.
Miriam Dushane: Oh, yes.
Suzanne O'Connor: She's an animal activist.
Tom Schin: Yes.
Suzanne O'Connor: But she always thought she was going to do something in environmental science. And I think it was her work with us, and you recognizing her work with us, where she understood careers and resumes and recruiting, that really got her into this field, which I know you know, but she loves it. She is so happy.
Miriam Dushane: Yeah. She's so good at it. I always call her my silent assassin.
Suzanne O'Connor: Does she know that?
Miriam Dushane: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. The reason I call her that is because she's just off in the- I don't want to say in the corner. I don't put anyone in a corner, especially not Baby. But I always say to her, she'll just be working away. She doesn't tout her own horn very much. We have a bell and you ring the bell when you make placements, and we have to kind of force her to do that, because she's just doing her job and she's doing it brilliantly. And all of a sudden she'll be like, "Oh, I just made 10 placements this week." It's like, where the heck did that come from? Abby is, I'm glad to hear that you have that feedback because Abby's also someone who she's just heads down, just getting her work done so serious, too.
Suzanne O'Connor: Her very first six months there, I ran into her in Starbucks.
Miriam Dushane: Of course.
Suzanne O'Connor: Sorry I'm putting a plug there, but she came up to me with the biggest smile, and I think you were having a holiday party awards thing?
Miriam Dushane: Yeah, probably.
Suzanne O'Connor: And she was just glowing. I think she was being recognized. That makes me happy to see the big smile and to know that someone has found their passion.
Miriam Dushane: Exactly.
Tom Schin: Especially in our industry. I mean, how many of us dreamt of being in this human resource realm?
Miriam Dushane: I didn't even know what it meant.
Tom Schin: I never even knew it was a term and sort of fell into these things. But we have the benefit of always thinking about reading between the lines, and I know you can see that too from the career services side, seeing between the lines of what this student, what this person has to offer and applying it to something else. Hey, what you bring here fits this. Or you might consider this and just planting some seeds and off and running they go, and they flourish and do fantastic things.
Miriam Dushane: So before we end, we always like to hear what other things are you involved with outside of work? What other passions, since we're on that term, might you have? Are there any organizations on a nonprofit or charitable side that you'd like to talk about or at least make a mention of, because we may not have heard of them.
Suzanne O'Connor: I think that most times, and I've seen this even with students choosing careers, that you're influenced by something that has happened in your family. I had a sister with a disability, so I am always very attentive to that. I also have someone in my life who's on the spectrum for autism and I'm attentive to that. So support, Equinox is an organization that helps people with disabilities.
Miriam Dushane: Absolutely.
Suzanne O'Connor: And also people who fall probably into the mental health category. And mental health affects everything, homelessness, ability to do daily living. And so I lean toward organizations that serve those people.
Miriam Dushane: Excellent.
Suzanne O'Connor: And even at Siena, I'm particularly sensitive to students with what I call invisible disabilities. When you think of a student who's physically disabled and in a wheelchair-
Miriam Dushane: You can see it.
Suzanne O'Connor: -You probably could find a place, that student, that person very easily, as long as the accommodations were there. But a student who is saddled with social anxiety or is someone on the spectrum for autism, they have some issues about communication and I feel they have a right to work just like the neuro typical people.
Miriam Dushane: Absolutely
Suzanne O'Connor: We have to educate the employers about these issues-
Miriam Dushane: Agreed.
Suzanne O'Connor: And help them to open their minds, but also understand, for example, with a person like that, that they can't have a traditional interview and ask questions like, tell me about yourself. Because the person would be very, very literal in what they said. So the advice now is that the employer present a problem for the person to solve rather than just firing questions at them.
Tom Schin: Interesting approach.
Miriam Dushane: We talk about it a lot in our office, because it's what you just said. A lot of times it manifests itself or it presents itself as something like not being able to communicate, or the eye contact thing drives me batty.
Suzanne O'Connor: Do you mean that they can't? Or that-
Miriam Dushane: Yeah. They didn't make eye contact or all of these little nitpicky things that employers can use to eliminate someone. And I think we have to continue to talk about it because I think we are overlooking, and when I say me, I just mean the general population of employers, they may be overlooking some amazing talent.
Suzanne O'Connor: They're strengths, and ability to focus and problem solve.
Miriam Dushane: Because they're too focused on an interview question.
Suzanne O'Connor: You should refer your employers who say that to read a book called Look Me in the Eye. And that's exactly what it's about that this-
Miriam Dushane: Interesting.
Suzanne O'Connor: -Now grown man went through his elementary school where teachers would say, “Young man look me in the eye." And it was not something that he could do. It's really a fascinating look at somebody's life.
Tom Schin: I would get in trouble for looking my dad in the eye. I would get yelled at. " Don't look at me in the eye." Because he thought I was- I don't know. That must have been-
Miriam Dushane: Challenging?
Tom Schin: -to swearing at him or something. Challenging, standing up. Doesn't go unsaid, my parents were six inches shorter than me, so probably it had something to do with that as well. But I always look off into space when I'm having conversations with folks, mostly from a creative juices, that's where things populate. But I'm sure it sets some folks-
Miriam Dushane: You do do that a lot, now that I think about it. It never even occurred to me until you said it, so now I'm going to be aware of it. Oh well.
Tom Schin: Even on camera. I'm just like, oh, I'll find a spot on the screen. I'm like, oh, all right. This is my daydream spot so to speak, but it helps me just focus on things. And I use toys, but there's other folks, they have their own manifest of whatever is going to keep them in the sandbox without it spilling over. I know your sister had a great video, and we'll have to share that back in our social feed when we get to the notes for this, about being in that neuro divergent world and what pushes somebody over the top where they just have no more bandwidth to consider things. So thanks for bringing those up. I'm going to look up that book and put it in our notes.
Suzanne O'Connor: Sure.
Miriam Dushane: Absolutely. Suzanne, thank you so much for joining us today. It has been fun, informational and employers out there, go talk to Suzanne. She's got tons of great students that are looking for opportunities and you will not regret it. Thank you.
Suzanne O'Connor: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
Tom Schin: Thanks, Suzanne.
Miriam Dushane: So Tom, I want a job where I make cows happy.
Tom Schin: That was one of the funniest stories I've ever heard. She talked about a lot of great things and she had a bunch of stories. I was expecting one or two, but the cow story took the cake.
Miriam Dushane: Definitely. But you know what I loved about this conversation is, I think it was really important for employers to hear it, parents of college age kids that are about to graduate and enter the workforce, what's important, what's possible supports are out there from them, for them, excuse me at Siena College. Other colleges do have great programs, too. I know we focused on Siena because it was Suzanne, but in our area we are blessed with a number of great colleges. Definitely look into those career services programs for employers that are looking for great talent, but also know what the colleges are out there doing to help get these kids ready to go work for various employers.
I love how she talked about making mistakes herself. I think that's super important for everyone to hear, not just young people, that it's okay to make a mistake and learn from it. But no, it was a great conversation. We could have talked to her for about 40 minutes, 50 minutes.
Tom Schin: Probably longer. And I like that you phrased that, everyone could benefit. I think this is one of those opportunities where we'll make the shameless plug, coerce, influence your friends and colleagues and other managers in your organizations to listen to these conversations, because one of the things we talked about was that book " Look Me in the Eye".
Miriam Dushane: Absolutely. I'm going to look that book up, because I want to learn more about. That sounds fascinating to me. It was a good conversation. I was glad we had it with her.
Tom Schin: Fantastic. Well, listen for more HR in the Car next time and we'll bring you more fabulous guests.