Career Resources

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Stay in touch with your network with a holiday greeting

As most career coaches do, I always emphasize the importance of networking to my students, and one of the questions they commonly ask me is "How do I continue to stay in touch with people in my network?" Well, the holiday season provides the perfect opportunity to do so.  Over the past couple of weeks, several of my students have sent me holiday greetings via email.  Along with the greeting, they usually express thanks and appreciation for the help I have given them in the past year and that they look forward to  working with me during the upcoming year.  I am inevitably touched by the thoughtfulness behind these emails, and it creates a positive impression in my mind about the student who sent it.

So, in between the holiday parties and winter break festivities you're engaging in, find some time to do the same for your mentors and people in your network who have helped you with any aspect of your career over the last year.  This simple act of appreciation will definitely impress them and demonstrate your professionalism, while helping you maintain the networking relationship.  On top of that, it will keep your name fresh in their minds so that when they hear about an internship or job opportunity, you'll be one of the first people they think of.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Ten Worst Mistakes of First Time Job Hunters

The advice in this article is right on.  Although the tips may sound simple, the reality is that most job seekers don't do these things.  If you can implement as many of these tips as possible, you'll position yourself as a competitive candidate and increase your chances of landing your dream job.

http://www.fins.com/Finance/Articles/SBB0001424052970204226204576601420036627098/The-10-Worst-Mistakes-of-First-Time-Job-Hunters

Monday, August 22, 2011

Seniors: Are you ready for fall recruiting?

Since summer is my favorite season, I always hated those relentless and annoying back-to-school commercials that infringed upon the lull of the all too short summer season and yanked me back to the stark reality of fall, which is why I'm reluctant to post this today.  On the other hand, since the goal of my blog is to help you succeed in your career, I feel the need to post this now, lest you miss out on the critical fall recruitment window.  Because, just as they say in those equally annoying commercials for bankrupt businesses, "once it's gone, it's gone."

Many seniors are surprised when I tell them that certain companies, industries and programs recruit only in the fall semester for full-time positions.  They mistakenly think that all companies recruit in the spring since it's closer to graduation.  The accounting, finance and consulting industries, for example, typically recruit in the fall, as well as several leadership and rotational programs.  Bigger firms, with more formalized programs, tend to recruit in the fall, as opposed to smaller firms which might hire more on an ad hoc basis.  However, since many seniors have their sights on the top firms, it's in your best interest to get ready sooner than later.  I always tell my seniors to be ready to "hit the ground running" at the beginning of the fall semester.

So, what does that mean?  First of all, it means making an appointment with your college's career center.  Fall appointments in my career center fill up very quickly, and I would assume it's the same on many college campuses, so you should book an appointment as soon as possible.  I would suggest calling now to book a September appointment.

Listed below is my senior "to do" list for the fall recruiting season, which I recommend you discuss with your career counselor at your appointment.
  • Make sure your resume is perfect and is strategically targeted to the industry you want to enter
  • Have a cover letter reviewed to make sure you're writing them correctly
  • Schedule a mock interview to practice and perfect your interviewing skills
  • Attend your school's career fair (even if you think there are no companies you're interested in - I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised)
  • Go to as many industry and company events as possible to network with recruiters
  • Establish a LinkedIn profile or update the one you have
  • Practice and hone your 30-second pitch so you can deliver it flawlessly
By gearing up early, you'll be able to take advantage of any and all opportunities that come your way this fall.  Come spring break, you'll be in that enviable position of being able to totally relax while some of your friends are scrambling to gear up for the industries that recruit in the spring!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Recent Grads: Having an open mind pays off!

This week I have been meeting with recent graduates who are looking for a job, and the main piece of advice I am giving them is to have an open mind.  I tell them to explore as many opportunities as they can - and so should you - whether on your college's internal database of jobs or on an Internet job board.  Don't just look at a job title and assume that you know what the job entails - you really need to read the entire job description. When I have students do this in my office, they are usually pleasantly surprised by the variety and scope of available job prospects, and their eyes are opened to new possibilities.

If you can't find a permanent, full-time position, be open to the possibility of doing an internship or a temporary position because you never know where it can lead. One of my students took this approach, and things are really working out for her.  Recently, she was offered a fantastic position in her dream industry where she would be working on a variety of interesting projects and managing people.  The problem was that it was only temporary and didn't pay as well as she would have liked. She decided to take the position anyway as it was a great way to gain experience in her field and to build her resume. Well, it turns out she absolutely loves her job and is thriving there.  She is eager to learn new things, help solve problems and work extra hours, if necessary.  All of this hasn't gone unnoticed by her supervisors. After a few short weeks, they have been so impressed with her that they are training her in web design and constantly giving her interesting new projects.  To top it all off, they have been paying her for the additional hours she works and are now discussing the possibility of keeping her on full time!

So the moral of this story is easy to see.  You just never know what can develop when you approach each and every opportunity presented to you with an open mind and a positive attitude!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

College Seniors: It's not too late to find a job!

One of the seniors I have been working with emailed me yesterday to tell me that she had gotten four interviews since I last saw her and...count 'em...three job offers!  She ended up accepting a terrific position at a very well known company in the Boston area.

Was she gloating?  Absolutely not!  This particular student had been feeling discouraged about her job search so continued to see me for biweekly "pep talks."  And they paid off for her.  The key to her success was that, despite feeling discouraged, she remained positive, proactive and persistent in he job search.  She didn't give up.  And neither should you.

If you're feeling discouraged about your job search, you should definitely seek the assistance of a careeer counselor at your school's careeer center.  They can keep you motivated in your job search and help you strategize ways you hadn't thought of to find a job.

Some seniors think that if they haven't found a job by graduation then they're doomed to moving back home or going back to a previous job in their home town.  Please don't succumb to this defeatist attitude!  There are many, many good jobs still available.  Many graduates find great jobs after graduation, and you could very well be one of them.  In fact, when colleges report employment statistics to Business Week, they do so six months after graduation knowing that it can take that long to find a job.  So what are you waiting for?  Go and visit your college's careeer center today. Most college career centers are open all summer long and are just waiting for you to come in.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Seniors: How to Successfully Manage Job Offers

Finally...after much perseverance and persistence in your job search, the offers are coming in. What a great feeling that is! And while this is an extremely exciting time in your career, it can also be somewhat overwhelming as you try, for the first time in your life, to make sense of offer packages and wonder how to professionally manage multiple job offers. Understandably, many seniors have been coming in or emailing me with questions they have about their job offers. In this post I will provide some general guidance, but I highly recommend that you discuss your individual situation with your school's career counselor and keep in touch with that person every step of the way throughout your negotiation process.

1. When you receive the initial offer, always thank the person who is contacting you for the wonderful opportunity, even if you are not interested in the job. Never give an immediate answer either way. It's perfectly fine and professionally appropriate to ask for 24-48 hours to think the offer over.

2. Once you receive the formal, written offer, I would encourage you to show it to your career counselor, especially if you have questions about it. He or she can also help you determine how competitive the package is compared to other students at your college.

3. If you have any questions or concerns about your offer package, also discuss them with the recruiter. You want to make sure your get all of your questions answered before you sign on the dotted line.

4. Once you do sign on the dotted line, you have made a commitment to the company and should end your job search. It is unethical and unprofessional to renege on an offer. Not only does it reflect poorly on you, but it also reflects poorly on your school, and the company may be reluctant to go back there for future recruiting. Also, recruiters can move to other companies and there's a good chance you'll meet the same recruiter during a job interview at another company. This approach will ensure you maintain a clean professional reputation in your industry.

5. Many students have trouble juggling multiple offers. What a problem to have, you might be thinking! Again, I would highly recommend that you speak with your career counselor regarding how to diplomatically and professionally handle these situations. Essentially, you want to try to "buy time" from Employer A while you wait to hear back from Employer B. In all of your interactions with Employer A, you need to continuously thank them for the opportunity and reiterate why you are still very interested in the company and the position.

6. In our office, when seniors decide to accept an offer, they come into the office and get to ring a very loud bell on the wall and everyone in the office comes out to congratulate them! Your college might not have a bell to ring, but I'm sure that your counselor will be delighted to share in your good news. I personally love hearing these stories and seeing how the student's hard work paid off.

7. Your school most likely tracks employment statistics so make sure to fill out their employment survey. By doing this, you'll be helping to improve your college's rankings, reputation and brand. It will also benefit you as an alum when you see the value of your school's brand steadily rising.

8.  Decline the offer you don't want professionally and gracefully.  Always start out by thanking the employer for the wonderful opportunity and ending with the open-ended possibility that your career paths will cross in the future.  In the middle, I would recommend stating simply that you have decided to accept another opportunity that is a better fit with your career plans.  Don't feel obliged to provide details.  I think it's also a great idea to say something like "it was a difficult decision for me because both offers are good opportunities." You can decline your offer through email or a phone call, but I would recommend a phone call as it demonstrates a certain degree of confidence and professionalism.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

It's not who you know, but who knows you

There's an old saying about finding a job, particularly when it comes to new college grads, that goes, "It's not what you know, but who you know," meaning that your connections in the workplace are more important than your education. While this adage is certainly true, as evidenced by the high percentages of people finding jobs through networking (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of jobs are found through networking), a better measure of your networking success these days can be found in the amount of people who know you.

Many of my students have told me about the amazing opportunities that came their way as the result of reaching out to people at the companies they want to work at and conducting informational interviews, particularly with alumni. The alums will be quite impressed that you took the initiative, and you’ll most likely be one of the first people they contact when an internship or job opening occurs in their company. It is almost becoming a career necessity for students to network, as more and more companies adopt the practice of obtaining internal referrals from current employees when seeking to fill vacancies.

Understandably, some students find this process to be intimidating and overwhelming. They usually think, "Why would an industry professional want to talk with me, a lowly student. What can I offer them?" Well, in fact, most alumni do want to help and give back to students at their alma mater. It wasn't so long ago that they were in your shoes. A word of advice: it’s better to reach out to alums that are in entry-level positions, as opposed to alums farther along in their career path, because they can more easily relate to where you are right now. One way to demystify this scary process called informational interviewing is to think of it as “having a conversation,” as one of my students so simply described it. And just think about this…you’ll be providing the alum with the opportunity to reminisce about his or her college days, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself bonding over mutual team projects, professor preferences and dining hall disasters.

Other students have had tremendous success by attending company information sessions and networking with recruiters. Recruiters love it when students take the initiative to find out more about their company, demonstrate their interest in working there and maintain the relationship with them over the course of their college years. Some students have shared stories with me about recruiters making exceptions for them and allowing them to apply for positions, even when they don’t meet all of the hiring criteria, because of networking.

Another great way to “get known” by people in your industry is to have a robust LinkedIn profile, frequently joining in on group discussions, updating your status regularly and highlighting your industry acumen.  Make it a point to share with your LinkedIn network relevant books or articles you're reading, projects you’re working on, or events you’re attending. 

According to the results of NACE’s 2009 Student Survey, nearly 70 percent of students found networking helpful in finding a job. Shouldn’t you be joining the growing number of students who are taking advantage of this guaranteed approach to career success? Trust me...you’ll be glad you did. Not only will it pay off in terms of short-term results, but you’ll be developing and honing the networking skills that will reap benefits for you throughout your career.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Have you test driven your resume?

Recently, I contacted a student about a position that she might be interested in and asked her to email me her resume.  When I opened her attached resume, her name was nowhere to be found!  Knowing how conscientious this student was, I knew it had to be an oversight.  Intuitively, I realized that I was able to see her name on my version by hitting the backspace key.  But, will recruiters have the time or the inclination to try to figure out why your name isn't on the resume (or for other discrepancies).  Probably not.  When I emailed the student about the problem, she said that her name did appear on her version of the resume.  It turned out that this student's resume also went over onto the second page, another major faux pas for college students' resumes.  Moral of the story?  Always "test drive" your resume by sending it to a few friends or family members and ask them if there are any problems when they open your resume...before you send it to a recruiter.  Better yet, send it as a PDF document.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do you have good stories for your interview?

If not, you should.  Don't you admire people who can tell a good story?  Well, you want to be "that guy" in your interview.  In preparing for your interviews, think of some good stories that have happened in your life so that you can use them, when appropriate, during your interview.  And no, your stories shouldn't involve anything to do with parties you've attended, people you've dated or quirky family traditions.  Instead, your stories should be about accomplishments you're proud of, successes you've achieved in life, times when you have satisfactorily resolved a problem, times when you used your creativity to think outside the box or times when you took initiatve.

During a recent mock interview with a student, I asked him if he had ever dealt with a difficult customer in his last job at a shoe store.  "Oh, yes," he enthusiastically replied.  "One time there was a woman who was trying on a boot and the zipper got stuck and she couldn't get the boot off.  My manager had warned me that I had to solve these situations on my own and not go to him any more so I had to think quickly.  I went into the back room of the store and Googled, "How to unstick a zipper," on my cell phone. The advice I found was to get some hand soap and a pencil.  Quickly, I ran to the bathroom to get some soap and then found a pencil. Then I went back to the customer, put some soap on the zipper and used the pencil as leverage to unzip the zipper."  "Then, what happened?" I asked.  "Well, the customer ended up buying two pairs of the boot in different colors!"  Wow! Not only was his story interesting but it showed that he would do whatever it took to make the customer happy and that he resolved the situation in an extremely positive manner.

Another student, who was Captain of his track team, was telling me about his greatest achievement during a mock interview.  His team was competing at a meet, and he was in the lead.  Suddenly, he realized that one of his teammates had fallen, and he was trying to decide what to do.  Should he keep going to ensure personal victory or should he stop to help his teammate?  I was on the edge of my chair, wondering what he ended up doing.  Well, you guessed it!  He went back to help his wounded teammate but still was able to break his personal record.  That story demonstrated many qualities about the student:  leadership, compassion, achievement and being a team player.

After you have chosen your stories, practice telling them to your friends and family members so that you can deliver them flawlessly in your interview.  By having several good stories in your back pocket, you can pull them out when needed during your interview, and they may be especially handy when you're stumped with that one question you hadn't prepared for.

By being a good storyteller on your interview, you'll increase your chances of having a happy ending to your interview by landing the job!    

Monday, February 21, 2011

What's your greatest weakness?

Ah, the dreaded weakness question...the bane of every college student's interviewing existence.  Each semester I conduct about 75 mock interviews with students and, invariably, they struggle with this question.  Admittedly, it is probably one of the most difficult questions you will have to answer on your interviews. I think the problem is that most students think it is a sign of weakness to admit that they have a weakness.  During a recent mock interview, I asked a student why it was so difficult for him to answer this question honestly, and he replied, "Well, aren't the interviewers screening out candidates based upon how bad their weakness is?"  While I could definitely understand why he felt this way, I told him that this was not the case (unless you give a horribly horrendous weakness!) and proceeded to explain why interviewers ask this question and the appropriate way to answer it.

Interviewers ask this question for a number of reasons:  1) to see if you can remain confident and positive when discussing a negative aspect of your life; 2) to see if you will answer it honestly and not try to pretend that one of your strengths is actually a weakness (for example, "I'm such a perfectionist that I end up spending way too much time on my projects."  Excuse me, but where is the weakness here?).  Here's a clip from The Office where Michael does exactly what you're NOT supposed to do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uszfCDwvtME; and 3) to determine if you are mature enough to routinely reflect on areas of your life that offer room for professional growth.

The typical way that most career experts say to answer this question is to state a true weakness, but then show how you're working on overcoming that weakness. If the thought of stating your true weakness makes you break out into a cold sweat, then consider my approach to answering this question. Reframe this question in your mind and think about it as, "In which areas do I need to grow professionally, and how am I doing that?"  This is what interviewers are trying to evaluate with this question. And if you're not growing professionally, then that is undoubtedly a weakness. As I always point out to students, every professional, no matter what level, needs to be continuously assessing themselves to find ways to improve in order to increase their chances of upward mobility and to remain competitive candidates in the job market.

Listed below are a few examples showing how your answer to this question can be changed from the weakness approach to the professional development approach:

Weakness approach: "My public speaking skills are not that great."
Professional development approach: "Because my public speaking skills were not up to par, I enrolled in a Toastmaster's course."

Weakness approach: "I tend to dominate team discussions and not listen to others' opinions."
Professional development approach: "Being an extrovert, I tend to get excited about sharing my ideas, but now I'm stepping back more to give everyone else a chance to speak before I present my opinions.  I've realized from doing this that my teammates have a lot of great ideas to contribute."

Weakness approach:  "I tend to be really shy and don't like to attend networking events."
Professional development approach: "I am attending at least two networking events each semester so that I can improve my professional networking skills."

One last point:  Never state a really bad weakness, that is, one that is directly tied to the job responsibilities.  For example, if an internship requires strong analytical skills, don't say, "I hate working with numbers."  If the position requires strong customer service skills, don't say, "I always lose my patience with people."  If the job involves a lot of writing, don't say, "My writing skills aren't the best, but I'm taking a creative writing course." If writing is a major requirement for the position, you should possess that skill right now.  If you're finding that your true weakness is in direct opposition to the job requirements, then it might be time to pursue another career direction or find a way to overcome that weakness through some form of professional development before you embark on your internship or job search.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Seniors: Are you residing in Neverland?

Ah, it’s spring semester of your senior year. If you’re like most college seniors, you’re probably in a mild state of panic right now about finding a job. “Wow, how did this happen,” you’re probably wondering, as you start to think about what’s next. “Wasn’t I just a freshman trying to maneuver an uncooperative rolling cart, jam-packed with 'dorm essentials,' into my new dorm room?” It’s hard to believe that in a few short months, you’ll be expertly maneuvering that same cart as you leave your cozy college cocoon to embark on this scary thing called life. And just like Peter Pan, you may be inwardly declaring, “I won’t grow up. I don’t want to wear a tie. And a serious expression in the middle of July."

To make matters worse, I’m sure you were barraged with questions and advice from your parents and other adults about getting a job while you were home over winter break. You probably found yourself dodging questions such as, “So you’re graduating this May, do you know what you’re going to do?” Other “well meaning” relatives may have grimly shared the most recent unemployment statistics with you or said things like, “I heard there are no jobs in (insert your major here).” You might have even had to smile and nod as someone told you how his super-star son or daughter just landed a highly paying job with a prestigious company that involves traveling around the world. Ugh! It’s enough to make you want to turn that rolling cart around and stay on to get your master’s degree.

But wear a tie you must (well, maybe not in July), as well as do other grown-up things, as you go about this scary process called “Looking for a Job.” As an undergraduate career counselor in the School of Management at Boston University, I have seen my share of seniors who are feeling pressured and anxious about find a job and making the transition into the real world. Undoubtedly, part of my job is to calm them down, to give them inspiration and to motivate them to move forward. In addition, a large amount of my time is spent dispelling myths. I often hear statements like, “All of my friends already have jobs,” or “There aren’t any jobs,” or “I know I won’t get that position because of (fill in the blank).” After I debunk their myths with true information, bolster their confidence and provide them with a positive action plan to move forward, I can quickly see their anxiety melt away, and they leave my office recharged and reenergized.

So if you’re feeling anxious about finding a job after graduation, don’t take up permanent residence in Neverland. Rather than avoiding the issue and hoping it will go away, the best thing to do is to take action. Make an appointment with your school’s career counselor who can give you a career checkup and coach you onward to success. According to the NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) 2010 Student Survey, “…the more frequently a senior used career services, the more likely he/she would receive a job offer. In addition, the study found that the likelihood of getting a job offer increased with the frequency of use.”

Here are some things that should be included in your career checkup, as well as things you can do to move forward in your job search:

1. Have your resume reviewed. Although you may think your resume is ready to go because there are no misspellings or typos, your career counselor can help you write your resume more strategically to target the career/industry in which you want to work by rearranging the components of your resume, highlighting accomplishments and using key words relevant to your industry.

2. Have your cover letter reviewed. I always tell seniors to come in and meet with me after they have written a cover letter for a real position. (Remember: never use a cover letter template! Recruiters can spot them in a minute.) If their cover letter does a good job of stating why they’re a strong candidate, why they want the job and why they want to work at the company, then I usually send them off to write subsequent cover letters on their own.

3. Conduct a mock interview. Even if you think you’re a terrific interviewer, I would highly recommend that you schedule a mock interview with your career services office. There may be one little thing you’re doing or saying (or not doing or saying) that could mess up your entire interview.

4. Start thinking outside the (computer) box. Many seniors think that searching for a job means sitting at your laptop, latte in hand, and applying to as many positions as possible. It’s so easy to sit there and apply for positions, simply by clicking “send.” Remember I said you had to take action above? This also means getting away from your computer and networking with professionals in your industry.

5. Attend events. Attend company information sessions, professional association meetings and career fairs, both inside and outside your school. This is another great way to start building relationships with professionals in your industry.

6. Develop a list of target companies. Do some research and make a list of the companies you would really like to work for. Once you have your target list, bookmark the career pages of these companies so that you can continuously check them. If there are no advertised positions, then you can send a prospecting cover letter and your resume to the HR departments of these companies.

7. Establish a profile on LinkedIn. Establish a profile on LinkedIn, invite people into your network and join your college’s alumni group, as well as professional groups. Join in discussions and post questions in your groups in order to gain visibility and credibility. LinkedIn is also a great way to find and reach out to alumni for informational interviewing purposes.

8. Have an open mind! Explore all opportunities available in your college’s database and external job databases. Look beyond the brand name companies and explore opportunities at lesser known firms. Don’t just read a job title and assume you know what the job involves. Read the entire job description. When I have students do these things during counseling sessions, they are usually very surprised (and pleased) to discover the amount and variety of jobs available.

After obtaining your clean bill of career health from your career services office, I guarantee that you’ll be feeling confident and energized about embarking on your job search. Soon enough, you’ll be whistling, “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go.” The ultimate cout d’├ętat will be when you can look your relatives in the eye at graduation and proudly declare, “I have a job!”

Sunday, February 6, 2011

If the caller's unknown, leave it alone!

A student was in my office the other day telling me that a recruiter had called him while he was eating his lunch in the school's dining hall and proceeded to interview him on the spot. Not only did this student have to think extremely quickly on his feet but he also had to conduct his interview within such a noisy, crowded and distracting environment.  Needless to say, the interview didn't go well, and he was not selected to move onto second round interviews.  To top it all off, the recruiter who had called him was from his dream company.  If only he hadn't picked up the phone.

Another student told me that she picked up a call from an unknown number while she was in class, and it happened to be from a recruiter.  Hello! She ended up whispering to the recruiter that she was in class and asked if she could she call him back after class.  Think of the impression this might have made.  As eager as you are to get a call for an interview, picking up your cell phone in class is a bad idea for the obvious reasons, but it also sends a fairly negative message to the recruiter as well.  They may wonder if you'll be picking up your cell phone during staff meetings or whether you understand proper business etiquette.

More and more companies are conducting first-round, screening interviews over the phone to save on resources so you need to be prepared to get these kinds of calls.  And many times they launch right into the interview no matter where you are.  So, what's the solution?  Don't pick up the phone!  If you aren't prepared to conduct an interview, never pick up the phone from an unknown caller.  Let all of those calls go into your voice-mail so that you can call them when you're more prepared and ready to conduct an interview.  By doing this, you'll be more in control of the situation.  Speaking of voice-mail, make sure that your outgoing message is professional and doesn't include the word "hey" or a long waiting period where the caller is forced to listen to your favorite song before leaving a message.

By following these guidelines, you'll increase your chances of getting the call to tell you that you're moving on to second round interviews or that you got the job!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What makes you "younique?"

At the university where I work, I teach a career development class to sophomores and juniors.  As an ice breaker activity in my first class last Thursday, I had each student stand up, introduce him/herself, and tell the class one unique thing about him or herself.  One student said she had been on the Oprah show regarding a community service project she had been involved in, another said he spoke seven languages, another had jumped out of a plane with skis on, and another student had played the piano for 12 years. 

As we went around the room, I was amazed and impressed by all of the extraordinary accomplishments of my students!  Their animated expressions in sharing these accomplishments showed me that they were equally as proud.  An unintended outcome of this "getting to know you" activity was that I found myself saying things like, "Wow! You need to put that on your resume under your "Interests" section," or "That would be great to list in your skills section," or "You definitely should mention that during your interviews!"

So, think about what makes you "younique" and then think about how you can leverage this skill or experience or interest in your career planning.  Perhaps you can put it on your resume or perhaps you can mention it in a cover letter.  Or perhaps you can mention it during an interview when the interviewers says, "So, tell me a little bit about yourself," or "What is the accomplishment you're most proud of?" As I mentioned in another post about interviewing, when you start talking about something you're really proud of or passionate about during an interview, it boosts your confidence level and sets a positive tone for the rest of the interview.

Another way you could leverage your unique characteristic would be to talk about it during a networking event.  Oftentimes, students tell me they don't know what to talk about during these professional gatherings.  After the initial name and "So, what do you do?" exchanges, I think it would be a great idea to talk about your unique activity.  The other person will most likely want to hear more about it, just as I did when my students shared their stories last Thursday.  Maybe the other person will even share your passion, or interest, or hobby and wouldn't that be a terrific way to establish your professional relationship?

Now, what if you can't think of something unique about yourself?  (I'm sure there is something!)  However, if you really can't think of anything you could use in your job search, then it might be time for you to try something new or to challenge yourself.  Perhaps you could join a club at school, try a new sport or hobby, or take a class just for fun.  I have no doubt that you'll soon realize the "youniqueness" in you that was just waiting to be discovered!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Your Interview: Improv, Dress Rehearsal or Final Performance?

I just started taking acting classes last week, and the first thing we had to do was improv.  It was fun, but extremely challenging, to act out my scene which was set at the top of the Statue of Liberty, while other students shouted out various emotions to me that I had to instantly adopt.  While the ability to think quickly on your feet is a wonderful skill to have and is useful in certain situations, it shouldn't be the basis of your interview style.  An interview is not the place to practice your improv, nor should it be a dress rehearsal. Your interview should be your final performance.

So how do you make your interview your final performance?  Well, the first thing you need to do is find a list of the most commonly asked interview questions for college students.  Your school's career services office is a great place to start.  You might also want to check out CollegeGrad.com's list http://www.collegegrad.com/jobsearch/Mastering-the-Interview/Fifty-Standard-Interview-Questions/.  While preparing your answers, you can't just think about how you'll answer these questions...you need to write down your answers...but they shouldn't be in paragraph form.  Instead, you should use bullet points to highlight the key things that you want to say in your interview. Unlike an actor, however, you don't want to memorize your lines because your interview will come across as a monologue.  You just want to have a general idea of how you'll answer each question.

The next step is to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.  The best way to rehearse is to conduct a mock interview with your school's career counselor.  During the mock interview, your career counselor will ask you the standard interview questions that college recruiters ask and provide feedback about the content of your answers, your delivery style and how you present yourself.  If your first mock interview doesn't go so well, then you should consider doing another mock interview, preferably with another career counselor, so that you can get multiple perspectives and experience different interviewing syles.  You could even conduct mock interviews with other school staff members or faculty, family members and peers.  The more you rehearse, the better your interview performance will be.

Now as much as you prepare for your interviews, you will inevitably be given a question that you hadn't prepared for.  But if you have conducted enough dress rehearsals, you'll be feeling quite confident and assured and be able formulate an articulate, intelligent answer to any question that is thrown your way. But this is not the time to practice your improv skills because you'll probably end up blurting out a quick, knee jerk answer that might not be your best response.  What you want to do instead is use a stalling technique to buy you some time.  You may say something like, "That's a great question, Mr. Interviewer, may I have a moment to think about it?"  This technique will give you the time to provide a more well-thought out answer.

By putting in the necessary rehearsal time for your interviews, your performance is bound to elicit thunderous applause from your interviewers, who will be shouting, "You're hired! You're hired!"

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is there buried treasure on your resume?

Hopefully, not!  The quest for buried treasure is a common theme throughout childhood classics.  However, it shouldn't be the theme for your resume.  Employers shouldn't have to hunt to find the hidden gems on your resume because, chances are, they'll never find them.  Employers don't have the time, nor the inclination, to search for much on your resume and usually scan it in a few minutes or less to determine if you're someone worth interviewing.

Recently, I was working with a student who was looking for an accounting internship.  Buried deep within her interests section, way at the bottom of her resume, were "Participated in PricewaterhouseCoopers Leadership Conference" and "Volunteering to prepare tax returns for low-income citizens in the Boston area."  Any recruiter who was quickly scanning her resume would never have seen these important pieces of information which were so relevant to any accounting internship. Later, during our meeting, when we were looking for leadership examples she could talk about during an interview, she told me that she managed 10 work students every spring regarding an Open House project.  But where was this experience on her resume?  It wasn't!  She hadn't put it on because of lack of space!

After some discussion, we decided to put her PwC experience higher up on her resume underneath her college activities.  We also decided to put her tax prep volunteer experience under the experience section and, because she is currently doing this, it appears first in this section.  Lastly, she added her work study position under the experience section and a bullet about managing ten other work study students to complete an annual project during Open House.

When we were through, her resume was screaming "accounting."  And that's what you need to do.  Your resume needs to scream whatever position it is you want by highlighting your experiences, activities, interests, volunteer, etc. that are relevant for the position and using lots of industry key words.  If you're thinking about exploring options in more than one field, then you guessed it....you need to have more than one version of your resume.

One other key thing:  When writing your bullet points for your job or volunteer experiences, always put the most significant bullet points first and then work backwards to the least significant thing you did.  Why?  If an employer only has time to read the first bullet point for each of your positions, you want to make sure it is the most relevant one, or the one that highlights your skills, or the one in which you achieved a significant accomplishment.  Speaking of accomplishments, a great way to strengthen your bullet points is to start with your accomplishment.  For example, if you have something like this on your resume, "Cold called 700 prospective clients to promote new product line which resulted in a 10% growth in new business during the first month," turn it around and say, "Achieved a 10% growth in new business during the first month by..."

It's always a great idea to enlist the support and guidance of your school's career counselor who can help you identify the key things that you shoud be highlighting on your resume with respect to the industry you want to join.  By implementing these tips when writing your resume, your resume will be much more powerful and increase your chances of unburying the hidden treasures of interviews and internship or job offers!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cool way to see if you're a match for the job!

I just discovered a cool way to visually see if you're a good match for a position, thanks to my colleague, Gary Bergmann, who is always on the cutting edge of technology and creativity!  It's called Wordle http://www.wordle.net/.  What you do is copy and paste your resume into the Wordle text box, and it will generate a graphic design of the words on your resume, highlighting the key words that appear most often.  After you Wordle your resume, Wordle your cover letter too.  Then Wordle the job description you're applying to in order to get a quick, visual depiction as to whether or not you're a good match for the position.  If you're not seeing comparable key words standing out, then it's time to rewrite your resume and cover letter.  Click here http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/2944896/My_Resume to check out my resume Wordle.  As you will so readily see, STUDENTS are the center of my universe!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Great news for 2011!

I just found out that my blog got picked up by the Riley Guide website, "A guide to the best the Internet has to offer for job search and career information," http://www.rileyguide.com/jsguides.html#guides.   Woo hoo!  What a great way to start the New Year!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Here's to a new year filled with P's and joy!

The day before Thanksgiving, one of my students stopped by my office to tell me that he had just received an offer for his dream position in a leadership program at a Fortune 500 company. His jubilation was hard to contain and quite contagious. He excitedly elaborated that the position would involve working on mergers and acquisitions and traveling around the world! Wow! I was so excited for him. But the best part of his story is that "Joe" demonstrated what I call the "Five P's for Career Success": passion, positivity, proactive approach, persistence and perseverance. Essentially, Joe didn't take "no" for an answer. His inspirational and motivational story embodied all of my "Five P's," so let me share it with you.

When Joe saw the position on our internal database of jobs, he realized that, unfortunately, his GPA did not meet the company's posted GPA requirement and, as a result, he was not eligible to apply for it. At this point, Joe could have given up...but he didn't. He contacted the Human Resources department of the company to see if he could arrange a half-hour informational interview, and they said "yes." After he met with the woman in HR, she was so impressed with him that she agreed to make an exception and allowed him to apply for the position. Well, three interviews later, it appears that Joe impressed quite a few people along the way because they offered him a spot in this highly coveted and competitive leadership program. Joe was one of only four seniors from across the country that was made an offer...out of a total candidate pool of 2500 seniors! Talk about inspirational!

I have heard countless similar stories to Joe's when student panelists share their success stories for finding internships and jobs during various career-related workshops. The underlying theme in all of their stories is their steadfast adherence to following the "Five P's."

Passion: You need to be able to demonstrate your passion for the position, career field and company at all times: in your cover letter and during all of your interviews. Companies want to hire people who are passionate about their business. If you owned a business, wouldn't you? They can clearly see through someone who isn't passionate. So, if you're not passionate about the internship/job, the career field, or the company, then you need to reassess your career plan. Are you making your choices based on what you think you're supposed to be doing, or because someone else said you should do it or because everyone else is doing it? What do YOU really want to do?

Positivity: This trait speaks for itself. Basically, employers want to hire positive people. And, as discouraging as your internship or job search may be at times, you need to keep your attitude positive. People can pick up on negative energy. Do whatever you need to do to keep yours positive.

Proactive approach: Take initiative in your job search. It will impress employers because most people don't do it. It also demonstrates how you will behave as an employee.

Persistence: Don't take "no" for an answer. If you really want something (see "Passion" above), you'll do whatever it takes to get it. If you're finding that you don't have the drive to do whatever it takes, then maybe you really don't want it.

Perseverance: Keep picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and moving forward no many how many times you've been rejected. We've all heard those quotes about how the most successful people in life failed so many times before achieving victory. Nobody wins every game and nobody gets every job. All you need is one.

By practicing my "Five P's" for career success, you'll inevitably obtain my "Sixth and Seventh P's": unlimited "possibilities" and your full"potential" in life. Now here's to a 2011 filled with "P's and joy!"