Career Resources

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Your Resume Should be as Unique as a Snowflake

Right now we’re buried with snow here in Boston so I figured a snow analogy would be in order in this blog post. Just as no two snowflakes are alike out of the gazillions that have fallen in the Boston area over the last three weeks, no two resumes should ever be alike. That’s why any article entitled “The Top 10 Resume Tips” or the like should always be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Unlike some products where “one size fits all,” there is no resume advice that fits everyone. Each person’s resume should be unique and targeted to their specific career field. That’s why the best resume advice is “it depends.”
Granted, there are definitely resume “do’s and don’ts” that should be adhered to in order to avoid having your resume placed in the “no” pile, but my concern is that some people, particularly college students just starting out in their career, may take resume advice too literally. For example, I read a resume advice article recently that said you should never put your GPA on your resume. While this may be true for someone in mid-career, it is certainly not true for college students since GPA is one of the top criteria employers use to assess students’ candidacy.
When I meet with students to discuss their resumes, they often ask me if a certain experience should go on their resume – things like a volunteer experience, a part-time job that seems irrelevant, or a student club activity. I always say “it depends.” I advise them to keep a master resume which includes everything on it (paid and non-paid work experiences, volunteer/community service, student club activities, leadership roles, etc.) and to extract from this master resume anything that is relevant to the job they’re applying to. Contrary to what they think, an experience doesn’t necessarily have to be paid in order to be relevant.
This point may be particularly important for those who are seeking to transition from one career to another. For example, I was recently working with an alumna who wanted to transition from a career in accounting to a career in real estate. After some discussion, I discovered that she was president of her condo association so we decided to put that at the top under her “Experience” section. We also decided to highlight the fact that she was currently taking a real estate course, something she hadn’t thought to include on her resume.
If you’re unsure about what to include on your resume, it would be a great idea to meet with a career coach who can help you create a resume that is as unique as you are and presents you as a highly qualified candidate.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What Happens at the Career Fair Shouldn’t Stay at the Career Fair

‘Tis the season for college career fairs. As a matter of fact, we held our annual business career fair last week at UMass Boston and hundreds of students attended. Prior to the career fair, I presented a couple of workshops entitled “How to Prepare for the Career Fair,” and several students also came to see me in my office to get advice and pointers on how to make the most of this premier career event. While preparing for a career fair is definitely important, what happens after the career fair is even more important.

A few days after the career fair, one student came to my office and expressed her dismay that she did not have a lot of time to speak with recruiters and that one recruiter seemed eager to move on to the next person in line. I reassured her that this is a normal practice since recruiters want to make sure that they get to speak with every student in line. She was left wondering however, “What’s the point of going to a career fair if I only have a few minutes to make an impression?” and “How will recruiters even remember who I am given the fact that they meet hundreds of students within the span of a couple of hours?” Good questions.

I think the best way to answer these questions is to first clarify what students should realistically expect from attending a career fair and what they shouldn’t expect in order to avoid disappointment and frustration. At a career fair, you will not be interviewed, offered a job or have a chance to have an in-depth conversation with a recruiter. However, what you will get from attending a career fair is a chance to meet and speak with recruiters at your dream companies and to personally hand them your resume, as opposed to having to submit it through the online job application black hole. Just think: If you hadn’t gone to the career fair, none of this would have happened!

To make the most of your career fair experience, you need to maintain those relationships with recruiters in the following days, weeks and months ahead in order to reap the full benefits. By doing the following, you’re bound to be noticed and remembered!

Send Thank You Notes

Send each recruiter you spoke with a personalized thank you note. Mention why you are interested in their company and why you are a good fit. Also state that you look forward to applying to positions there.

Recruiters keep these emails and refer back to them when you apply for jobs at their companies. All things being equal, the person who sent a thank you note will get the interview over someone who didn’t. It also shows the recruiter that you were interested enough in their companies to make time to attend the career fair and make a point of meeting them.

Connect with Recruiters on LinkedIn

Connect with the recruiters you met at the career fair on LinkedIn and make sure to change the default email message to a more personal one, mentioning something you spoke about at the fair. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional and complete before you do so.

Reference the Career Fair in Your Cover Letters

When you write your cover letters to apply for internships or jobs at these companies, make sure to address your cover letter to the recruiter you met at the career fair. Then mention where and how you met them in the first paragraph of your letter.

Follow Companies on LinkedIn

Make sure to follow the companies you interacted with at the career fair on LinkedIn. That way you’ll get updates about what’s happening at these companies and can make comments about those updates. This is a terrific way to get noticed!

Attend Other Company Events on Campus

Often companies will have separate information sessions, workshops, and networking events on campus as a way to connect with students. Make sure to attend those events to meet recruiters for a second (or third) time.

Stay on Recruiters’ Radar Screens

Send them periodic email updates about your academic accomplishments or links to articles that might be of interest to them. Post frequent status updates on LinkedIn which will show up in their newsfeed if they’re in your network.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Proven Success Tip for Your Informational Interviews

Recently, I was asked by a colleague to conduct an informational interview with her. Being a huge fan of this form of networking, I readily agreed. We had a nice lunch and great conversation. To my surprise, most of her questions were about my career path and things she had read on my LinkedIn profile, as opposed to questions about the career counseling field or the university where I currently work. To be honest, I loved the opportunity to talk about myself and my career path. How often do we have a chance to talk about ourselves without boring others to death or appearing to be egotistical? 

I know that many students are intimidated at the thought of conducting informational interviews with professionals in their career field. However, if you remember that people love to talk about themselves and can get them to do so during your meeting with them, it is almost gauranteed that they will take a liking to you and want to help you out in your career. So, when preparing for your informational interviews, make sure to research the person's LinkedIn profile and develop a list of questions about his or her career path.

This principle is actually discussed in Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends & Influence People. A book that has been translated into every written language and sold more than 15 million copies can't be wrong now, can it?

Got Skills? Show them!

When working with my students in developing resumes and cover letters, I always recommend that they incorporate key words from the job description because many companies these days are electronically scanning resumes and cover letters for key words. If you don't have the key words they want, you won't make the first cut.

The key, however, in using key words is to show how you used them in an internship, job, school project or volunteer or leadership experience. It is not a good idea to just have a laundry list of skills - anyone can do that. For example, I could list on my resume that I have super human intelligence, but if I can't prove it, no one is going to believe me. On your resume demonstrate through your action statements how you've used your skills and provide examples in your cover letter. Show them what you've got by putting your skills into action!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Job Search Strong!

Before, during and after this year’s Boston Marathon, we all were exposed to countless images and poignant stories of heroism, courage and determination exhibited by victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Collectively, we marveled at how they were able to overcome their wounds, both emotional and physical, and rebound this year by participating in the event in some form or another and how they have chosen to focus on the positive outcomes that emerged from such a terrible act of violence. They persevered by keeping their eye on the prize, as opposed to letting an unfortunate event deter them from reaching their goals and pursuing their dreams.

The same is true in your job search. Having coached numerous college seniors in their job search over the last several years, I can attest to the fact that perseverance is the key ingredient to landing a job. I think that sometimes students give up too quickly in pursuing their career goals when, if only they had just stuck it out a bit longer, their dream job would have been just around the bend.

You can rest assured that you will experience your own version of “Heartbreak Hill” at some point during your job search (or several times!). It may be because you’ve sent out 20 resumes and haven’t gotten one response. Or you’ve been on 10 interviews and haven’t received any offers. This can be discouraging, for sure. But you need to stay in the race and send out that 21st, and 22nd and 23rd resume. Go on that 11th interview. The next one could be the one, so it’s critical that you don’t give up.

I’ve worked with many seniors who came into my office feeling really down about the job search only to contact me days or weeks later to share their joyous news that they had landed a job. The same will happen to you if you stay in the race all the way to the finish line!

Read my eight tips below to ensure your job search success:

1. Get a Coach
It’s no secret that the job search can be grueling and frustrating at times so make sure to enlist the support of a career counselor at your college. They will not only supply you with awesome career tips and advice but will also keep you motivated all the way throughout your job search. Remember too that most colleges continue to provide career services after you’ve graduated and as an alum.

2. Be Realistic
Keep in mind that the job search can take an average of three to six months. It’s also a numbers game. The more jobs you apply to, the better your chances are of getting interviews and landing a job. Don’t stop after you apply for a certain number of positions and then sit back and wait for the phone to ring. Keep on applying.

3. Avoid the Doomsayers
I’m sure you’ve all heard things like, “There aren’t any jobs,” or “It’s a rough job market,” or “It’s really tough to find a job with your major.” Ignore them.  Remain focused and positive about achieving your career goals.

4. Get Unplugged
It’s pretty easy to sit at your laptop and click 'send' as you apply for as many positions as possible that you find online.  Since it's so easy to do, think about just how many other recent college grads are doing the exact same thing. Scary, huh? Well, there's a solution. Set yourself apart from the competition and be proactive in your job search by setting up informational interviews with your school’s alumni or attending professional networking events.

5. Create Your Destiny
If you have extra time, do an internship or volunteer at your dream company. This is a great idea for several reasons.  It gets you up and out of the house, allows you to hone your professional skills, keeps you current in your field AND could possibly lead to a full-time offer if you "wow" them with your amazing abilities.  If your dream company doesn't have any posted internships, create an internship proposal for them.

6. Have an Open Mind
Explore every opportunity that comes your way because you just never know. What initially may not have seemed like an ideal situation could turn out to be a wonderful opportunity for you to gain professional experience, develop your skills and build your resume. Look beyond the big brand companies – there are wonderful professional opportunities with companies you’ve never heard of. Remember too that the average person will have 15-20 jobs in his or her lifetime so your first job won’t be your only job.

7. Boost Your Confidence

Think about the things that will boost your confidence, and then do them.  It might be connecting with your favorite mentors who can motivate and encourage you. Or it might be challenging yourself at the gym to achieve new workout goals.  Do things that you excel at to increase your sense of confidence.

8. Set Goals and Reward Yourself
Establish daily and weekly goals for yourself that move you forward in your job search and put them on your calendar. By setting and meeting goals, you'll not only feel good about yourself but you won't feel so guilty when you do decide to go to the beach...after you've completed your job search activities. Find other ways to reward yourself after you accomplish each of your goals.