Career Resources

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's list  While preparing your answers, you can't just think about how you'll answer these 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 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  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 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,"   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!"