- Network. There is a reason everyone tells you to network: it works! Remember to work hard and try your best at every internship or opportunity you have during school because you never know what type of opportunities you may obtain afterward. If you do an amazing job at an internship, they just might hire you or recommend you to another business.
- Get lots of recommendation letters from jobs and professors. Once you're done working hard for a class, job, or internship, always ask for a recommendation letter. This shows that professionals stand behind you and will help a potential employer see all your glowing qualities.
- Make yourself a professional website. Use an easy and free website such as Weebly.com to create a simple and professional looking website that features information about you, your resume, published work, and contact information. It is a great way to stand out when potential employers ask for samples of work or more information about you.
- Make use of Linkedin. In my previous post on being a social media savvy post grad, I wrote about the benefits of using social media to your job hunting advantage. Linkedin is a great way to network, get your resume, blog, and website out there, and to even search for job openings.
- Search for jobs with your college's help. Most colleges and universities have a career center as well as a website that posts job listings. Be sure to talk to their counselors and use any websites they offer. I have found it to be more useful being a post grad than using other websites such as Monster.com, that are usually more geared toward more experienced professionals.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
The Resume and Cover Letter
The resume and cover letter communicate for you when you are unable to speak for yourself. Look at your resume and evaluate what type of impression you are forming on potential employers. There are a few areas that are often overlooked to which you should pay special attention.
Email Address – Establish a separate email address that is dedicated solely to job hunting. The email should be simple, straightforward and professional. Do away with your unprofessional email address that communicates personal or unfavorable information such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paper Style/Color – Simple and professional is your best bet. Use white or off-white paper with no color or design. Use a heavyweight bond paper that can be found in any office supply store.
Voice Mail Messages
From the instant that the HR manager picks up the phone to call you, you are creating impressions. Many phones now have the feature of listening to music instead of ringing while the caller waits for an answer. A ring is best, but if using music choose your music carefully and don’t use anything inappropriate or unprofessional. Additionally, your voicemail greeting creates an impression of the type of person you are. Be polite, cheerful and concise in your message.
The Phone Call
If you are able to receive the phone call from an HR manager regarding an interview, once again you have a chance to manage your first impression. Make sure you are able to speak without distractions – kids, traffic, televisions, barking dogs, etc. Don’t forget to smile when speaking on the phone to the employer, the smile will come through as warmth and enthusiasm in your voice. Keep a file of information next to the phone so you can quickly access the job posting details. Keep a pad of paper and pen handy for notes and details about the interview to ensure you show up on time and well prepared.
Making a good first impression is a multi-faceted endeavor. It is a combination of attention to details and common sense. Ensure your first impression won’t be the last impression you ever get the chance to make on your potential employer.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Computers are an integral part of almost any work environment today. As such, employers expect employees and prospective employees to be proficient in basic computer skills. For those returning to the workforce or transitioning from manual labor into new and different roles, learning basic computer skills may seem daunting. The good news is that basic computer training resources are available in most communities—often at no charge. Look for these in local and regional public workforce offices and public libraries. Also, computer courses are usually offered for a reasonable fee through community education programs and community colleges.
To get an idea of what many employers perceive as basic computer skills, review the list below.
- Turning on and off a computer
- Navigating with a mouse, including clicking and scrolling
- Typing on a keyboard
- Using email, including opening, sending, and deleting email, as well as pasting text from another document into the body of an email
- Starting a program
- Opening, downloading, and saving electronic files
- Using a word processing program, like Microsoft Word, to create a new document or edit an existing one and to perform basic formatting tasks
- Launching an Internet browser and performing a search with keywords
- Typing or copying an Internet web address (aka: a URL) into a web browser address bar
Advanced Computer Skills
Once you have mastered basic skills, you may want to continue developing your computer skills. Learn to reboot a computer and to distinguish between various file formats, like JPEG, PDF, and GIF files. Venture beyond word processing and e-mails in getting familiar with other popular computer programs used for the following business purposes:
- Creating spreadsheets
- Developing presentations
- Managing calendars and contacts
Of course, specialized occupations may have their own computer requirements. If you’re interested in a specialized field, learn what the computer requirements are and look for training opportunities before you start your job search.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
1. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
TRUE – Studies have shown that it takes up to seven encounters to erase a bad first impression. You may be able to overcome tripping on the way into the interview or spilling your water all over your potential boss. However, you can guarantee their first impression will never be forgotten.
2. The more money you have, the better your chances of having a good image.
FALSE – Money is not necessary for a professional image, there are plenty of discounted, sale, or second-hand clothing items that can communicate professionalism. With proper planning and attention to the details of image, almost anyone can have a positive professional image.
3. How you come across is more important than what you say.
TRUE – If you examine two candidates for a job, the candidate who is less qualified but comes across with a poised, professional image will receive the job more than 80% of the time according to recruiters.
4. Controlled, smooth movements communicate confidence.
TRUE – I often teach the job search motto: “Fake it ‘til you make it!” You shouldn’t lie on your resume or overstate your qualifications. However, confidence can be faked using your body language and professional image. Nervous gestures are distracting to your message when communicating, especially when meeting one-on-one.
5. More than 50% of communication is through the spoken word.
FALSE – 93% of how you communicate with the world is non-verbal. That means only 7% of our communication actually comes out of our mouth. Ask yourself what you are saying without uttering a word.
6. The fit of your clothing is more important than the style or the quality.
TRUE – Even the most expensive suit or garment will look shabby if it does not fit. When deciding what to wear to that important interview, sit down in a chair in front of a mirror in your interview clothes. Take a good look at what your interviewer will see when they sit across from you.
7. The safest smell in business is no smell at all.
TRUE – It is very important to avoid perfume and cologne in a business setting – most importantly the interview. There are many people who are allergic to perfume. If a potential employer is allergic to your cologne, they just want you to go away so they can breathe easier. With that attitude, do you think they’ll be paying any attention to what you say?
Those are the words that every career services professional wants to hear after spending time coaching a student. The elation and confidence that oozed from Jamie’s (name changed) voice was enough to energize me on an otherwise humdrum Friday. He recounted the “zone” that he was in after crossing the threshold into the conference room where the interview was held and the validating nods and smiles he received from the panel of interviewers. While he has not been offered the job yet (he will hear back this week), he felt that there was nothing more he possibly could have done to better sell himself in that interview. Every candidate should feel that way.
As proud as I am of Jamie, what he did was nothing special. He just took to heart these important components of interview preparation.
Practice the right way: In my opinion, there is one right way to practice for an interview: create the same conditions you are likely to encounter in the interview itself. Jamie knew that he was going to be asked behavioral questions so he almost exclusively studied and practiced these questions when preparing. Further, he didn’t just read the questions and try to come up with a mental response for each one. He-with the help of his girlfriend-practiced in front of a mirror, with her asking him a randomly selected question he wrote on a flash card. The flash card method helped him become comfortable hearing the question and formulating a response, and practicing in front of a mirror-as awkward as it sounds-helped him better gauge his nonverbal nuances to ensure that they were not distracting or unprofessional.
Know your audience: Through careful research, Jamie came to understand what the institution where he was interviewing-a medical clinic-was about and he tailored his answers to cater to this audience. Embedded in this clinic’s mission was patient care above anything else, so after every answer he gave in the interview he emphasized how that particular scenario or strength he possessed or skill he had developed would enhance his ability to deliver outstanding care to patients. Once you determine what the core function is for the organization where you applying, exploit it: keep referring back to it in the interview. It demonstrates awareness of the organization’s mission and purpose and the ease with which you will fit into its culture.
The end is not the end: Jamie understood that the end of the interview was not really the end: he still had to impress the panel. Thus, when he was asked if he had any questions for his interviewers he did not make the mistake of asking about work-related benefits or how much time off he would receive. Instead, he impressed them further with questions like:
- What distinguishes a good candidate from an exceptional one?
- What gaps do you see between what you are looking for in a candidate and my experience?
- What are your biggest needs right now that you would hope the person you hire would quickly address?
These questions indicated his primary interest was to be an above-average candidate, showing that he was committed to the organization and not simply his own interests.
The next time that you interview, be like Jamie and feel confident through your painstaking, intentional preparation. Follow these principles to make your interviews more successful and leave them wanting more!
Friday, March 25, 2011
At some point in your career, you will make a mistake or two. Since we are all prone to human error, it is usually not the mistake that matters most, but the way you deal with it. The words and actions you choose demonstrate your character. Following are some tips for successfully dealing with your mistake while keeping your professional integrity intact.
The best thing you can do is own up to your mistake—take responsibility. Bring it to the attention of your manager and/or other internal colleague(s) who could be impacted. If your mistake has no impact on your co-workers, inform your manager anyway. This will prevent him/her from thinking you were trying to hide the mistake. Taking responsibility also translates to not blaming others for your error. Even in situations where someone else’s actions may have contributed to your mistake—for example, by not giving you adequate instructions—pointing it out can be interpreted as a weakness. Chances are, the full details may come out over time as the matter is resolved, without you casting blame.
Present a solution(s) to the problem. If you have immediate ideas, share these with your manager If not, offer to do whatever it takes to identify a solution and correct the problem, like working extra hours.
Ask for Help
Sometimes a reluctance to ask for help may have led to making the mistake. For example, if you didn’t completely understand directions, you should have asked clarifying questions. Mistakes also result when large workloads cause you to rush your work. If this is the case, ask your manager to help you prioritize assignments and tasks.
Don’t waste valuable time and energy beating yourself up over your mistake—learn from it, identify ways to prevent it in the future, and move on.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
BEFORE THE CAREER FAIR
• The first step is to get your resume in top shape. A resume can not get you a job, but it can prevent you from getting the opportunity! Some recruiters may ask you to submit your resume online when you get home. Make sure you have an internet ready resume to send.
• Preregister for the career fair and submit your resume online so that potential employers can pre-screen your qualifications.
• Conduct research and find out what companies are going to be attending the career fair. Next, research the companies to identify their openings. Choose 3 to 5 target companies and write a targeted resume and cover letter for each of these companies and their openings.
• Prepare your self-introduction that you will go through as an ice-breaker when you meet each of the recruiters. Instead of walking up to a booth and asking “What does your company do?” make an impression by demonstrating your knowledge of what the company does and how your skills would benefit their organization.
THE DAY OF THE CAREER FAIR
• Bring plenty of copies of your resume to hand out to potential employers.
• When you walk in the door, develop a “plan of attack” to meet the recruiters of your target companies. Hit your target companies first and then walk the career fair to ensure you don’t miss employers that may not have been listed.
• Create a positive first impression and stand out from the crowd by dressing to impress. Leave the shorts, t-shirt, and the kids at home. Dress as though you were going for a job interview – you might just get one. Use non-verbal communication, body language, and appearance to create an impression of confidence and enthusiasm.
• Use the career fair as a networking opportunity. Trade business cards, resumes or even just phone numbers with your fellow job searchers. You never know who you might meet and how they may be able to help you in your search.
AFTER THE CAREER FAIR
• The most overlooked part of the career fair is the follow-up. Within a week after the career fair, send a short handwritten thank you note or even just a phone call expressing your appreciation for the recruiter’s time and asking for an opportunity to meet in person to further discuss your qualifications.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Keep in mind that we live in a fast-paced society and employers already admit to only giving your resume 10 to 15 seconds of attention. Therefore you must be concise, brief, and only offer information that is relevant to the reader. How long your resume ends up is determined by what you have to say that is important to your potential employer. Not everyone can fit on one page. However, there are some guidelines when deciding on the length of the resume.
If you are on two pages, fill both pages entirely. A resume that is a page and half long looks as though the second page is a mistake or an afterthought. Often, this second page will be overlooked if that is the case. If you can’t fit everything on one page without crowding your margins or using font smaller than 10-point font, then consider going to a second page.
If your resume is on two pages, make sure you capture their attention on page one. People who use two-page resumes often put too much “fluff” into their resumes. The entire first page ends up being a summary and the work experience does not start until page two. If you don’t grab an employer’s attention right away with benefit statements and evidence of how you can help them, they may never even look at page 2.
Always put your name, contact information, and page numbers on subsequent pages. Just in case the second page gets misplaced, be sure your name AND contact information ends up on all the pages of your resume.
Make sure every item on the resume is relevant to the targeted employer. Read through every line of your resume and ask yourself if it all demonstrates a benefit that you can offer your potential employer. If something is on your resume because you are proud of it (i.e. winning first place in the company track meet last year) but does not add any value to your potential employer, it probably does not belong on the resume. Often, when a resume goes longer than 2 pages the writer is providing too much information or too many details.
Focus on the few: Career fairs can have anywhere from 25 to 250 employers attending. Simple research on the event website or other promotional material can give you an idea of what companies will attend…specifically, the ones that you want to seek out. Once you have identified these companies, get to know them inside and out. Research their culture, organization structure, competitors, and any interesting bits of recent news about them. This information will provide you an opportunity to have more substantive conversations with the recruiters, ensuring that you stand out through your knowledge and familiarity.
Problem solve: Companies obviously want to hire those who meet their needs. Using your research from the step above, try to identify or anticipate needs that the company explicitly or implicitly has. For example, if the company is growing, where geographically? In what business sectors? What kinds of support staff will they need to support this growth? Reflect on the company’s current and future state, and write down ways that you can help. Incorporate these into your conversation with the recruiter so that he/she gets the message that you are someone who can contribute to the company’s goals.
Reverse Interview: To create a connection with someone, oftentimes it’s best to have him or her do the talking. Develop questions that speak to the recruiter’s personal experience at the company, which can include:
- What do you most enjoy about your company?
- How would you describe the company culture?
- What kinds of people are successful at your company?
- What experiences have you valued the most at your company?
Showing interest in the recruiter’s experience by asking thoughtful questions will help you be remembered in the future. Be sure to actively listen and respond to his or her statements with what you are looking for in a company, the kinds of experiences that have made you successful, and other responses that keep the two of you talking but also highlight your strengths for their benefit.
Don’t get caught in the career fair stampede: take the bull by the horns and make connecting with the recruiter through targeting companies, problem solving, and reverse interviewing your principal strategy when attending a career fair.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Pros of grad school:
1. You'll have more education under your belt and another degree. More and more these days, employers are looking for more education and experience. You'll learn so much more about your chosen career and get a leg up on those who just got their Bachelors. Getting your masters or even PhD can give you an edge or make you a more attractive applicant.
2. You can prolong the job hunt for now. Finding a job in this economy is scary. Some students think it is safer to continue their education and to get another degree. Then keep their fingers crossed it will give them that extra time and push to find a job when they graduate again.
3. You can set your own schedule. Unlike the real world and the dreaded 9-5 job, you can set your classes to when you work best. Early bird? Have all your classes in the AM and have the afternoon off. Like to sleep in? Schedule all your classes for the afternoon or night and sleep in until noon.
Cons of grad school:
1. The money aspect. I don't have the income to pay for more schooling and I wasn't ready to go into debt with loans to continue my education. You have to decide if you need the extra degree or if it is something that can wait until you save money.
2. Let's face it: school is hard and time-consuming. Graduation is a really exciting time when all your hard work pays off! Grad school might seem like that last thing you want to do. Some people feel ready to begin the job search and not go through any more years of school!
4. Grad school can be highly competitive. You have to really work hard and want your spot. You need to be confident of your choice given the competitiveness of grad school.
So whether you decide to find a job with your newly acquired degree or continue your education, remember to do what is right for YOU. Both decisions require hard work and dedication towards your long-term goal of finding a job you love, so whichever you chose, keep that enthusiastic attitude.
Friday, March 18, 2011
As the U.S. economy starts to make a slow recovery, companies using independent contractors are on the rise. Independent contractors (also referred to as temporary, supplemental, and freelance workers) enable companies to manage increased work levels—typically in the form of short-term assignments—without investing in permanent employees. Since employers do not provide healthcare and don’t have to pay social security and unemployment insurance taxes for independent contractors, these companies realize some significant cost advantages.
Working Directly with the Company or through an Employment Agency
Independent contractors can be self-employed and hired directly by the employer, or they can work through a contract employment agency. These agencies are compensated by the companies that hire them to find qualified workers for performing specific tasks and/or completing short-term assignments. Independent contractors can derive certain advantages from working with an agency. For example, they can benefit from the variety and number of potential work opportunities that agencies have with companies across industries. Additionally, agencies often manage payment arrangements, provide job preparation services, and may even offer some benefit options.
Pros and Cons
Before you decide whether working as an independent contractor is right for you, consider a few of the most common pros and cons:
· Increased flexibility—you choose which temporary job assignments to take and may have some control over specific work arrangements
· Exposure to a variety of industries and experiences
· Opportunities to develop new skills
· Expanded networking prospects
· Unpredictable, fluctuating income
· Lapses between work assignments
· No employee-provided benefits, unemployment insurance, and worker’s compensation
· A perception that you are not part of the team, resulting in possible exclusion from certain company privileges and information