Career Resources

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Make your interests interesting!

Sometimes students balk at the idea of putting an "Interests" section on their resumes. Their reasons are twofold: 1) they say it takes up valuable space that could be used more effectively and 2) they feel that it's just fluff and not necessary. I always give them my twofold answer that 1) one of your interests might be a mutual interest of the interviewer so you can establish an immediate connection and 2) they show the employer that you are a well-rounded person beyond your academics and work experience.

I love to hear stories from students about how their interests helped them get a job. One of my favorite stories is about the student who had put, "Reading Harvard Business Review," as one of his interests. He went to an internship fair in which interviewing was done on the spot and ended up getting interviewed and hired for an internship guessed it...the Harvard Business Review!

When writing your interests section, live by the rule that less is more. Don't provide a laundry list of activities thinking that the more you do, the better you'll be perceived because you'll look like a superior multi-tasker. You will not impress anyone by having ten interests with no specific ones that stand out. It's much better to list a few really interesting interests rather than a list such as "running, traveling, reading, cooking, fashion, movies." Who isn't interested in these things?

It's much better to put, "Backpacking on my own through Eastern European countries" or listing the countries you have traveled to. One of my students who has been successful in the advertising world tells me that her list of countries is always a great talking point in her interviews. Instead of saying "reading," be more specific by saying something like, "reading autobiographies of people who made a difference in the world." Instead of saying, "running," say, "avid runner who has competed in several 10K races and mini triathlons.”

Can you see how the more descriptive statements are much more interesting to read and provide the interviewer with a much clearer picture of who you are? They also will spark the curiosity of your interviewer to want to know more about them. And what better way to start an interview than talking about a hobby or activity that you're passionate about? The gleam in your eyes and excitement in your voice will give you the confidence boost you need and set the tone for the remainder of the interview.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Listen to what people say about you

I distinctly remember the day in senior year when Diane Pagnani told me that I was voted the "Most Sympathetic" one in the class. I was crushed by this very uncool label. Secretly, I wanted to be voted "Most Popular" or "Prettiest" (even though I knew I wasn't either of these). However, the "Most Sympathetic" label proved to be an extremely accurate and fortuitous description of who I would become. For the last nine years I have been "being sympathetic" to thousands of students whenever I provide academic or career counseling to them.

But did I pay attention to what Diane said about me in senior year? No! Luckily, however, serendipity came into play and I ended up doing exactly what I was meant to do. close attention to what others say about you! Others can often see us much better than we see ourselves. Think about your own life and the things people say you're good at, or what adjectives they use to describe you. What do teachers, coaches, friends and relatives say about you? Do you see any consistent patterns, any words that come up over and over? Listen to them. By listening to people's objective opinions (people other than your mother!), you could discover clues regarding which career to pursue.

So, what were you voted in high school? Could it hold the key to your future? Both of my daughters were voted "Class Clown" (how did THAT happen?), and they're both pursuing acting careers. I guess they listened to what others said about them!