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


The Importance of Saying Thank You

Contributed by Claire Childress, Senior Assistant Director at Virginia Tech Career Services


Thank you. Two words we all like to hear but sometimes don’t hear enough. In the past week, I’ve heard those words from three different students; each time I received their emails, it made my day. My mother was such a stickler for writing thank you notes that five of my lifelong friends read thank you notes to my Mom at her memorial service. Saying thank you was definitely pounded into me, but not everyone can say that. When is a note of thanks called for?

Thanks for your time—a meeting, interview, maybe even a phone call. Recently when I was making a class presentation about interviewing, one student questioned me about writing a thank you note because he thought he would come off as a “brownnoser” (his words). I assured him that rather than be viewed as this, the recipient would consider him a polished professional who knows the proper way to show appreciation for the gift of time out of a busy day meeting with him.

Thanks for the meal. If someone takes you out for a meal, it’s appropriate to send a note of thanks to your host.

Thanks for the gift. I’ve heard of some parents who make their children write thank you notes before they are allowed to play with presents they received. Although my mother wasn’t that strict (and neither am I as a parent), writing thank you’s was a routine during the winter holidays and after other special occasions involving gifts during both my and my two children’s young lives.


Thanks for the training or professional development opportunity. In my almost 20 years of career services work at a state university, I’ve experienced budget cuts more than once. As our office budgets were slashed, our Director, Donna Ratcliffe, never cut our professional development budgets; meanwhile, my SoACE and VACE friends at other colleges were unable to attend conferences, training programs and more as their budgets were reduced. If you really value professional development like I do, then show your appreciation to your supervisor and/or Director by sending a note of thanks after returning from the conference or training program, sharing what you learned—a nice touch that few professionals take the time to write.

Thanks for the raise. When you receive a raise or promotion, thanking your supervisor for supporting this increase is a smart move.

Thanks for being a reference. This is another one that we advocate to students as we talk about references for job searches and graduate school applications. Upon completing the process, thanking those who made recommendations on your behalf is a key action to take. You want to treat your references well, so they will serve in that role in the future.


Thanks. In what form? If possible, putting in the extra effort to write a handwritten note makes the most impact. We all get lots of emails—a hard copy thank you will often stand out. A few years ago I interviewed six students for an HR Intern position to assist me with a career advisor search I chaired. All six candidates were equally strong for varied reasons. How would I ever pick one? One candidate dropped by a typed thank you note. Guess which student I hired? The thank you note made the difference.

A final word of thanks to you for reading this post.


Claire Childress, Senior Assistant Director, Career Services Auxiliary

Claire Childress, Virginia Tech Career Services Senior Assistant Director for Job Search and Graduate School Preparation advises students and leads a team of advisors and a portfolio of services and programs. Prior to over 19 years at Virginia Tech, she worked in distance education and as an adjunct faculty member at New River Community College, as a healthcare marketer and as a banker. A former President of the Virginia Association of Colleges and Employers, Claire currently serves as SoACE Director of Professional Development. She writes regularly for her career advising blog, CareerChasse. Connect with Clair at or on LinkedIn.



Focusing on the One

college classGreat leaders are also great attentive listeners and hear what those around them say.  Leaders listen to problems and then work to find solutions. It may be a solution for one person or many people. The solution may spring from one thought or conversation, but it all comes from focusing on “the one”.

Career coaches “one” are many- students.  Our students are at different stages and we must meet them where they are.  This led to me pondering, what were specific needs of each class and what did students need to be doing in the career development process while progressing through college? For example with first year students, I recalled conversations where students expressed the desire to focus on career goals, but the need to focus on school.  This was a “problem”, as a career coach I had to find the “solution”.    The “Career Shuffle” presentation was born! This presentation educated students on how to balance academics with careers and why that is important.  Students appreciated this specific focus on their needs and learned the small things to do to move forward their first year.  The workshop for second years focuses on how to transfer soft skills in the workplace to future jobs or careers.  Many students feel that if a job is not related to their major or  desired future job, it is not relevant, as career coaches we know this is not true.  It is important to teach students the value of jobs no matter what they may be.   Creating these workshops has helped me become a better leader and career coach by building better relationships with students. Students understand that I understand their needs and it helps build rapport.  As a result of presenting student focused workshops, I have seen an increase in the number of students in my office asking questions and receiving career assistance.  As career coaches and anyone in academia, our role is to meet students where they are and we can learn where they are by focusing on “the one”.   How do you focus on “the one”?

Hanna DeBruhlHanna DeBruhl has been in the career development field for almost 10 years. She is a certified Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) and currently serves as a career coach at Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina. Hanna prepares students for the workforce through on-one-on coaching, classroom presentations, and on-campus workshops on various special topics. Previously, Hanna worked as a career specialist on the secondary level, teaching career exploration courses and connecting community speakers to educate students on various career fields and job oppotunities. Connect with Hanna on Twitter @HannaDeBruhl | LinkedIn | Personal Blog