ARTICLES, BLOGS & VIDEOS

The latest news, trends and information to help you with your recruiting efforts.

Posted August 11, 2006 by

Sometimes, it can be the little things…

When weighing job options, sometimes it can be the little things that make a big difference. Sure, the actual job responsibilities and salary are often the most prominent features that students consider, but the perks and additional benefits can sometimes be the make-or-break points when deciding between two options.

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Posted July 14, 2006 by

Always in the spotlight

Depending upon your career path, at some point you might find yourself in the spotlight. Maybe you become CEO of an organization. Maybe you become director of a well-established non-profit organization in your community. Or maybe you find yourself in a career field that inherently receives constant publicity (e.g. media, fashion, etc). How you carry yourself both at work and in private can reflect greatly not only on you, but also on your organization. Be very careful how you behave, and learn from the mistakes of others.

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Posted July 13, 2006 by

Stand up for your Employment Rights

It is very important to know what rights you have as an employee, and sometimes you have to stand up for yourself. As a case in point, a school teacher in Tennessee was let go after he came back from serving two tours of duty in the military.

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Posted July 11, 2006 by

Why do employers use Facebook?

Is your Facebook profile tame enough that you could show it to your grandmother? Those and other questions are being posed as word spreads that some potential employers (not to mention school administrators) view students’ Facebook profiles. If Facebook and MySpace are meant just for fun and socially connecting with others, why do employers look at them?

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Posted July 10, 2006 by

The dreaded interview question (what is your greatest weakness?)

One of the toughest interview questions for a lot of people is the dreaded, “What is your greatest weakness?” “Great,” we say to ourselves, “let me just take the next few minutes to completely tell you how awful I am and why you shouldn’t hire me!” That can really be how that question sounds, and how we perceive it. But in reality, it shouldn’t be as hard as we try to make it.

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Posted July 06, 2006 by

Entry-level Expectations

A young graduate was nearing the end of his interview, which was going really well. He had strong and succinct answers for all of the questions posed to him. Finally, the vice-president who was conducting the interview looked at him and asked, “What would it take to get you here?”
The young man paused for a minute before replying, “Well, I would like a 6-figure salary, my own office, a company car, and a secretary.”
The vice-president thought for a second, and came back, “How about a corner office, a salary of $200,000, a BMW paid for by the company, and a secretary?”
The graduate was ecstatic, and exclaimed, “You’re kidding!”
To which the vice-president said, “Well, yeah, but you started it.”
It’s vital for recent graduates to recognize where they fit in an organization, especially as an entry-level applicant. Too often students feel entitled to more prestigious titles, better pay, more comprehensive benefits, and greater responsibility than organizations feel compelled to lavish on them in their first full-time position. Do your homework to know what an appropriate starting salary might be. There are many great resources out there that talk about typical salaries and benefits packages; know what you should reasonably expect, and be honest with yourself.
While a earning a college degree is a remarkable accomplishment, it’s just one step in a very long path you’ll journey down in your life. Don’t expect to come in and change the organization; most of the time, your new coworkers don’t need or want an arrogant student fresh out of college coming in to tell them how to do the job they’ve been doing for years. Instead, they want someone who is talented, but willing to take the time to learn the organization before making suggestions and trying new things.
Likewise, expect to “pay your dues” in a new position or with a new organization. You might think you’re the most talented and experienced person, but to everyone else, you’re the new guy or girl. Don’t sabotage your career by being too greedy or impatient to begin. Start with the responsibilities you’re given; complete them well before taking initiative to tackle new projects. Gain their trust and respect a little at a time.
You have many, many years to continue to work your way up in an organization. You don’t have to receive a promotion within a year. By taking the time to learn and be patient, you are more likely to make a positive impression and gain respect than if you take on too much too early and drop the ball, or if you’re aggressive and demanding.

Posted July 03, 2006 by

Space Savers for Your Resume

College graduates have only one page to market their education, experience, and qualifications (I say one page, because it’s rare that a recent graduate has enough significant and relevant experience to warrant two pages). When I review resumes with students, there are often many very simple ways to save space.
Check your margins – I’ve seen people on the interstate give other drivers less space than the room taken up by margins on some resumes. A resume with huge margins appears weak, and often wastes space. Some people will say .5” is the smallest, others say don’t go below .7”. Either way, they don’t have to be 1.25”.
“References available upon request” – Come on now, if they ask you for your references, would you say, “Gee, thanks for the request, but I just don’t feel like sharing them with you”? Of course they’re available upon request. Don’t waste space by having this line on your resume.
“Permanent” and “Current” address – I really don’t need to know where you grew up and where your parents live; I’m hiring you, and I just need to know how to contact you. Unless you’re getting ready to move (in which case it’s ok to have two addresses), I don’t need to see a “Permanent” address.
Interests: Helping with the little kittens at the animal shelter – Again, we have one page to fully market your experience; don’t waste space by detailing irrelevant interests. Few employers sit around at hiring committees saying, “Well, we have two identically qualified candidates, but this one likes kittens, so let’s hire him/her” (unless, of course, it’s for a position working with animals, in which case your volunteer experience is much more relevant).
Relevant Coursework – I really don’t need to know that as a Biology major you took Intro to Biology when you apply for a research position. I’m going to assume that your major included something like that. “Relevant Coursework” sections are way too passive: you could go to class, pay attention, study hard, do well on the exams, and learn a lot, OR you could skip class, cram before exams, scrape by with a C-, and forget everything you learned within a week. I can’t tell the difference on your resume; I would rather see applied skills and experience. The exception would be to add breadth or depth to your resume not otherwise apparent.

Posted June 29, 2006 by

Cheesy Analogy or Profound Words of Wisdom?

Indulge me for a few minutes. Some of my colleagues often compare the process of choosing a career/job with that of buying a car. While it might be a little cheesy, it can be actually quite accurate.
When you buy a car, one of the first things most people do is read about different cars. You can find tons of information online, in magazines, or in the newspaper. What kind of mileage does it get? What are some of the features included? How many doors? And so on. Then, you learn more about it by asking other people. You might talk to your friend who has the same car; what do they like about it? You might ask your mechanic about how reliable it is. You might even ask the car salesman questions about options, financing, and some final technical questions. But the last step is usually test-driving it. You want to actually take it out on the road, see how it handles, and get a feel for how comfortable it is. So as a whole, you read about the car, talk to others about the car, and finally test-drive the car.
The same goes with exploring different careers. One of the first things you should do when deciding on different career options is to read about various occupations. What are the work tasks like? What are the hours like? What is the job outlook? Who does this type of work? There are many great resources for finding out this information. The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a great starting point, as are professional associations and libraries. And of course, there are tons of websites detailing different careers.
Once you’ve read a bit about different careers to narrow down what seems like a good fit, it’s often great to talk to people about the job and career field. That’s where networking and informational interviewing come in. Actually ask people who are doing what you want to do about their experience. What do they like and dislike about the position? What are the common entry-points, and what are the options for advancement? Let’s get first-hand expert advice.
But even after reading about options and talking to people, you still aren’t going to know for sure what careers would be the best fit. The last step is to actually try them out. Take an internship, volunteer, or work part-time in the field. These are all great ways to “try out” the career field and experience it. And even your first, second, and maybe third full-time positions will be a sort of trial experience for you. Often you won’t know for sure if it’s a good fit until you’re doing it day in, day out, with the same people.
Cheesy analogy? Maybe. But if you approach a career decision in a similar manner, you will hopefully lessen the probability of getting “stuck” in a career you absolutely hate. You will have already done enough research to avoid a job you hate.

Posted June 28, 2006 by

The dreaded cold calling

So if networking and informational interviewing are the best ways to find jobs, how do you identify people to network with? Perhaps you aren’t as outgoing as some people, and the very thought of introducing yourself to random people you meet scares the jeepers out of you. Start with your parents, your friends, your parents’ friends, and your friends’ parents (they’re usually unintimidating, right?). Do they know anyone doing ______? Then turn to your hairdresser, pastor, professor, and even the person next to you in the check-out line (I’ve seen it work!). Depending upon how much effort you are will to put in (and yes, it does take effort), there are opportunities for networking virtually everywhere you go.
If all else fails, start cold-calling people to ask for career advice (which is usually the most intimidating part). Use your school’s alumni office; they often have great contacts. Check out the professional associations on the fields you are trying to break into; they often have directories, or lists of their officers to get names. We’re not calling these people to say, “Hi, I’m Joe, do you have a job opening at your organization?” We’re calling to say, “Hi, I’m Joe, and I’m exploring different career options available. I’m really interested in the ________ field and the work you do at _________. I was wondering if you have 15-20 minutes sometime when I could call back or stop in to ask you a few questions about your job and how people get into the field.” If they say they’re busy, ask if there’s someone else they know of who might have some time. Like I said before, it can take some effort (it can be scary!), but can really pay off, and you can really enjoy meeting people and learning more about them.
Most college students (and to a certain extent, recent graduates) have a wonderful trump card that they can use when contacting others for informational interviews. It’s called, “I’m a student at….” Seriously, it can work wonders on some people. Even better, I used to teach a job searching course where one of the assignments was to conduct an informational interview. Come on, how many people would turn down a student, much less if it’s for a class. It worked great! We even had several students secure internships and jobs through this “assignment.”
Will you get turned down from some people you contact? Absolutely! People are busy, and finding an extra 15-30 minutes to sit down with someone can be tough. But be flexible and persistent, and you just might find someone who is willing to share their wealth of expertise with you and help you in your career.

Posted June 26, 2006 by

It’s not what you know…

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” And you probably know someone for whom that was the case; their parent/sibling/family friend hooked them up with a sweet job while you busted your butt looking for a summer internship. The term networking, to most people, is this nebulous/vague concept of just hitting up friends and family members for jobs. Because of that, many people are turned off from the concept; they view it as shallow, awkward, and often completely useless. Many people don’t have contacts in the field they would like to get into, so they don’t ever start. And so, in disgust, they give up on networking as a viable job-search option. That simple thought process can be one of the most debilitating and paralyzing things you can do in your job search. I implore you to reframe how you view networking.
Instead of this superficial definition of networking, think of it in different terms: Identifying people who are in a position to help you in your career path, and then just taking the initiative to ask for help. Very few people have reached where they are today without any help, and many want to repay the favors they received along the way. Further, most people love talking about themselves (some people like it too much). What it boils down to, networking can be as simple as asking someone about their job or career, and what advice they would have for you as you begin your job search. We career counselors even have a name for this: informational interviewing.
If a student came to me and asked how to become a career counselor, I could tell him/her exactly what degrees they should consider, what internships to look for, where jobs are posted, and even introduce him/her to people in the field who might be able to provide experience and jobs. Unfortunately, I can’t do the same for every student who comes into my office. I know some things about careers in banking, publishing, advertising, and marketing. But for the best advice, let’s ask the people who are doing the very thing you want to do.
Sure, it can certainly help if someone you know can get you a job, but that doesn’t have to be the only definition of networking. One of the best things you can do as you look for a job is to simply talk to people whose jobs interest you, and ask them for help and advice. It’s usually much less awkward than pestering those around you for a job, and can be really fun as well.