Using Insta-Language to Connect with Students

By Andrew Kohls, Assistant Director, Kansas State University Career Center

As an aging millennial, the drive to conquer all available social media apps is real! This is especially true with student affairs professionals, as we see our students effortlessly switch back and forth between platforms. For me, the big push came when I realized more and more students were dropping Facebook or not creating an account at all. I wanted to get away from Facebook and place my efforts on beefing up my Instagram account, where I could better connect with the “younger” world!

Looking back, I think I was forced to create an Instagram account to connect to a website or another app; I honestly can’t remember. I knew it was there, but I rarely touched it. (Kind of like some of our students and their LinkedIn accounts!) Like every “big” decision in my life, I wanted to seek input from experts who were familiar with the topics I was not. For my Insta-overhaul, I consulted only the best: my high school cousins and one of my faithful student workers! ☺

As I was looking through other Instagram accounts, I noticed that most people had a little blurb about them underneath their profile name. To be consistent, I realized that I also needed something! I texted my experts right away and said,

“Hey! I need a catchy, cool blurb for my Instagram! Can you help?”

Their responses…

“What does that even mean?”
“Like the part that goes under your name?”
“You mean, a bio?”

Obviously I needed a lesson on Insta-language! Once the experts finally understood what I was talking about, the A-HA moment happened!

They responded…
“What do you want viewers to know about you?”
“What do you want it to encompass?”

MIND.BLOWN! Suddenly, I felt as if I were the student and they were the professionals (which in this case, they were!). As a career advisor, my mind immediately went to cover letter and resume development. The questions these students had just asked me are the same questions I ask my students daily! I’m always looking for parallels between my students’ worlds and how they can apply their skills to university careers, and THIS.WAS.IT!

Since my breakthrough, I’ve started using Insta-language with all of my students, particularly my first-year students. Of course, I still use the Instagram “bio” (not blurb!) example to discuss tailoring documents to their intended audiences, but I’ve also started using “Finstas” to discuss personal branding and specific content that may not be appropriate for employers to see. (P.S. “Finstas” are Instagram accounts that students set up, in addition to their regular Instagram accounts, to post certain content they may not want everyone to see!) I’ve also used Instagram “followers” to discuss networking, which enables students to look at their own accounts, explain why they follow certain people, and how they can apply that same concept with networking for their careers.

Overall, my students have reacted very positively to my use of “ Insta-language connections.” The key is to keep the convos light. Be mindful that some students DO NOT want you to know anything about their social media presence, and that’s ok. But above all, stay positive, make clear connections, and HAVE FUN!

This article was originally published by the author at


Andrew Kohls received a B.S. in Psychology from Kansas Wesleyan University and an M.S. in Academic Advising from Kansas State University. He is currently an Assistant Director in the Career Center at Kansas State University, working with the College of Architecture, Planning, and Design, as well as graduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences. Kohls also serves as an instructor, working with first-year students every fall as part of the K-State First Program. He has been working in higher education since 2010, having previous experience in immigration advising, orientation programming, and admissions. Connect with him at: LinkedIn: Instagram: @andkoh52


#WeToo: The Courageous Conversations We Should Be Having with Women About Career Readiness

By Ashley Motley, Kansas State University

Rosie the RiveterTuesday evening I was sitting in my car, heat on full blast, listening to NPR’s All Things Considered as I drove to meet up with the small group of women I spend time with on Tuesdays. Ailsa Chang, the host, began the next story by sharing that Naomi Parker-Fraley, the California woman who inspired the famous “Rosie the Riveter” poster had died that day. Thinking about the striking image of the woman in a red-polka-dotted handkerchief, her fist raised in strength and defiance to symbolize a new era of women working, made me pause to think about where we are now.

Women in the workplace have accomplished a lot since the 1940’s and yet, as Ann Curry put it in her recent interview with People Magazine, “The women’s movement got us into the workplace, but it didn’t make us safe once we got there.” She was referencing the recent, brave revelations of the many women sharing during the #MeToo movement and Times Up campaign. These thoughts of where we currently are with workplace culture for women lingered as I reached my destination and settled into conversation with my small group. The lovely, smart, career-driven women in front of me began to share the frustrations of the last week – many frustrations including the constant struggle to balance family and career, secure respect, and have community outside of work while still maintaining sanity because of limited time.  We talked about our desire to cultivate what matters in our lives – but what is that? What if we miss the important stuff while we are focusing on the wrong stuff?

Then, I thought about my students, as I have many times in the last few months. How do I have conversations with the young women I’m advising about what they cannot possibly understand yet? How do I tell them “I know you are facing adversity now, but gather all of your courage because the workplace is a wild frontier for women who want to lead…there are still so many challenges…”? I think about the students I’ve advised that are career changers. We’ve sat across from each other and tears have welled in both our eyes because we both know the struggle and the grit it takes, as a woman, to push past challenges from a past workplace experience and march boldly forward into a new season.

Therefore, I have a proposal. I believe as career professionals on campuses, we are uniquely situated to have powerful conversations about what is happening in culture in regards to women in the workplace. Here’s my proposal – let’s have courageous conversations with the women that enter our offices to talk about career readiness. Instead of just talking about how to negotiate salary, let’s also talk about what specific cultural challenges women face in different industries. Let’s give the women we are advising permission to want a career now and permission to change their minds if they decide they want something different down the road. Let’s equip women to be able to confront what we hope they’ll never have to face – harassment in the workplace. Let’s talk about what is okay and what isn’t okay and what to do about it. Let’s empathize with young women about what it feels like to not have the same respect we may see male colleagues receiving. Let’s go there, because I have big hope for the next wave of graduates entering the workplace. I think they can help move us forward.

Not sure where to start with a courageous conversation? Here are a few “active listening” questions you may utilize.

  • Have you thought about what you value in a work setting? Have you thought about what you value outside of work and how that might be affected by this work? Do you think this will look different 10 years from now?
  • Have you had the opportunity to shadow in this industry yet? Let’s talk about why that might be a good idea before taking an internship.
  • Are you working with a female mentor? Let’s talk about how to build relationships with women that have been doing this work, so you can seek feedback about how to best prepare for the industry.
  • Have you ever felt as if your voice was ignored or silenced? How did that make you feel?
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
  • Where do you usually sit in a classroom or meeting room? How can you practice positioning yourself so that you are heard?

More great questions to consider with women advisees can be found in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Discussion Guide.

The difficult truth is that without additional workplace changes and enacted policy, women in the modern workplace may have reached the limits of their ability to multi-task. As career professionals, we can be advocates for the changes that would create more flexible and empowering work environments, but it is also our job to prepare our students for the truth they’ll encounter.

As I write this, I have just returned from a speech by Martin Luther King III commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to our campus – the last campus he would speak on before his assassination. In his speech on the values of his father, Mr. King paused to say, “we will have gender equality one day.” He went on to talk about how, as we saw with the action of his father, a small group of men and women can create much change. I believe the individuals that make up our SoACE membership are capable of great change. We have the ability to be the great voices and advocates our students need.


Ashley Motley lives with her family in Manhattan, KS. She serves as an Assistant Director and liaison to the College of Arts and Sciences for Kansas State University. She received her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, college student affairs, from the University of South Florida. Currently, she serves as the KG Chair for the SoACE Experiential Education Knowledge Group.  She enjoys messy family dinners with her 4-year-old and husband, hiking the Konza Prairie and the CO mountains, and traveling to see friends in the southeast. 

Recap: Majors and Career Selection Anxiety in Students: How Can We Help them?

Doug Meyn, M.Ed., Career Consultant to the Muma College of Business, and Jean Keelan, M.S. NCC, Director of Career Planning, from University of South Florida presented findings from a study on how visiting the career center affected student anxiety levels, as well as tools that can be utilized to help alleviate anxiety in students. This re-cap is by Jen Harlan, Career & Internship Advisor at Kennesaw State University,

Doug Meyn kicked off the presentation into this important topic with an anecdote about a student situation that those of us in the advising field are likely familiar with: a student came in to his office anxious about his future. The student told Mr. Meyn that he wanted to become a doctor, but he was anxious about taking the MCAT. From there, he started to spiral – not only was he anxious about taking the MCAT, he was anxious about how he’d do on the MCAT, then he was worried about if he’d even like being a doctor, and so on. He wasn’t certain about his choices, and, as Mr. Meyn puts it, he was “stuck in neutral” and unsure about what to do next.

Stories like these are familiar for a reason. The Spring 2016 American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment found that 17% of student respondents had been treated for anxiety, 14% for depression, and almost 11% for both conditions in the last year. This same study found that over 25% of respondents reported “career-related issues” as traumatic or difficult to handle.

To help put the student back in gear and to speak to his analytical leanings, Mr. Meyn came up with a formula: a + i = a3, or if we are anxious and add inaction then it triples our anxiety. Additionally, he came up with a solution: a + (kpA) = a/2, or if we take anxiety, add knowledge, power, and action, then we cut our anxiety in half. While this interaction eventually led to the study undertaken, the formulas Mr. Meyn created paint a decent picture of what we try to do as advisors; we try to fill in the essential variables of the equation, i.e. knowledge, power, and action, so as to cut a student’s anxiety in half.

The University of South Florida study corroborated this sentiment. Undergrad first-time users of career services seeking assistance with any topic were surveyed through pre-appointment and post-appointment questionnaires. The six questions included in each of these surveys were essentially identical, utilized the Speilberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and were chosen to get a read on the level of the student’s anxiety prior to and after the appointment. Additionally, students were asked to rank resources by most effective to least effective by level of helpfulness for them individually.

Based on the results, 69% fewer students identified with “anxious”-related statements–such as “I am tense,” “I feel upset,” “I am worried”— after their appointment. There was an additional significant decrease in the number of students who did not identify with “at peace”-related statements—such as “I feel calm,” “I am relaxed,” “I feel content” — between their pre- and post- appointment questionnaire. Eighteen percent more students identified with “at peace”-related statements after their appointment. Perhaps most striking, 87% of respondents reported “increased confidence” after their appointment at the USF career center. Students ranked the following as some of the most helpful resources gained from their meeting:

  • Gained information about the job search
  • Learned about resources available to help me
  • Identified a plan to develop career direction
  • Learned new tools I can apply

Mr. Meyn offered several key takeaways from this research, such as developing a plan with students who are anxious, identifying their needs and concerns, utilizing next step concept and messaging, and recommending beneficial resources.

Jean Keelan, in the second half of the presentation, offered further strategies for decreasing anxiety in students when dealing specifically with major selection, based on a presentation she completed for a group of students at USF. Ms. Keelan utilized five areas for structuring this presentation: statistics about major selection, the Systems Theory Framework of Career Development, an activity to measure self- and workplace knowledge, information about decision making and personality types, and, finally, next steps for students in the presentation.

The statistics utilized offered a “you’re not alone” approach; for example, from the National Center for Education Statistics, Ms. Keelan shared that about 80% of students in the U.S. end up changing their major at least once. The Systems Theory Framework of Career Development approach further added the role which chance plays in an individual’s career path. Ms. Keelan led the student’s through the activity of filling out a knowledge wheel, essentially ranking considerations in their major selection process, such as experiences, personality, chance, abilities, etc., from those the student is most knowledgeable of and least. Finally, students were led through considering how their own personality type could impact the decision-making process when selecting a major.

By providing all of this information, Ms. Keelan was able to set the students up to take the next step in their own individual major selection decision-making process. Her presentation provided a different message for different types of students represented in the room, and allowed them all to gain some sort of lead toward continuing in their decision-making process.

These two studies offer important practices in working with students who are anxious about big decisions coming up. Taking note of the best practices and recommendations based on these studies can provide professionals in the advising field a better platform and a larger tool belt for working with students in this situation.

A copy of the presentation can be accessed under the SoACE Membership portal.