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Posted December 31, 2019 by

How do I robot-proof my career?

Throughout human history, automation has displaced people. The difference now is that automation is starting to displace those with the most rather than the least skills, and so the conventional answers about getting more education no longer apply.

The reality is that no one will be able to robot-proof their careers if they’re at the beginning of their working life as no one can predict which jobs will existing decades from now given the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence.

But some careers are less likely to be displaced by robots, artificial intelligence, and other automation than others. These include jobs where significant critical thinking skills are necessary, as artificial intelligence is far less advanced than self-serve kiosks where the critical thinking is actually performed by the customer. 

Posted December 26, 2019 by

Ask the Experts: What is the one piece of career-related advice that you would provide to a student or recent graduate searching for a part-time, seasonal, internship, and entry-level job?

First Answer:

Put your strongest credentials near the top of your resume. Whether it is coursework, projects, volunteering, GPA or strong “soft skills” lead with what you are best at. Keep tweaking your resume until it generates some –callbacks (phone screens), so you can tell your story in more detail.

— Jeff Dunn, Campus Relations Manager, Intel Corporation

Second Answer:

My advice would be a bad paraphrase of JFK:

Ask not what the company can do for you but what you can do for the company. Too many graduates forget to fully tailor their application approach in a bespoke way for the company they are applying for, and also tend to major on how the job/internship will benefit them rather than what value they will add to the organization. Focus on what you’ll bring and why you particularly want to work for that exact company. 

— Martin Edmondson, CEO, Gradcore

Third Answer:

My one piece of advice is that ALL work experience counts. Don’t hold out for your dream internship or even your dream entry-level job. You will switch jobs, positions, and careers many times throughout your lifetime. Nike says, “just do it.” I say, “just start somewhere.” Each experience matters and each experience helps you build skills.

— Vicky Oliver, author, 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks, 2005) and author Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots (Sourcebooks, 2008)

Fourth Answer:

In my role as a digital marketer, I would advise students or recent graduate to fully explore every career-related channel a company has to offer. To make an educated and career decision, it is important to understand how a company works and values its employers inside and outside the workplace.

— Lorenz V. Esposito, Digital Marketing Specialist, Potentialpark

Fifth Answer:

Make it count. By that I mean, get all you can out of the experience.

  • Where possible, seek out a job that taps into something you’re curious about. Interested in drones? Check out what jobs are involved in drone pilot training. Spend hours on YouTube? Look into jobs at a local video production company. Planning to be an entrepreneur? Look for small business owners locally who need some end of year or seasonal help so you can see up close what it’s like to run a business. 
  • Think about what you want to get out of the experience. Are there skills you want to learn? People you want to talk to? Types of work you want to try? Craft this ahead of time, and add to it while at your job so you’re learning about what fits you every step of the way. It’ll make bigger decisions down the line far easier.
  • Make the most of the jobs you hate. Ideally, these will be short-lived, but spending time getting clear on WHAT you hate about the work, the environment, the management style, the commute, the industry and so on helps you avoid more of this later on. I’ve learned far more from these jobs than I did from most of the others.

— Pam Baker, CEO, Journeous

Sixth Answer:

Skip the entry-level jobs. They waste your time because the pay is low, people don’t respect entry-level employees, and the jobs take a long time to get because there are so many people with no experience and it’s difficult for hiring managers to figure out who to hire when no one is particularly qualified. 

Look at the jobs that require 3 – 5 years of experience. Find a job that is in the location you are now that you’d like to have in a couple of years. Make a list of all the experience the job requires that you do not have. Hire a professional resume writer to see if they can spin your current — probably random and temporary — experience into the experience employers are looking for. 

Here’s are some examples from real people who have hired me to make their resume look like they are beyond entry-level:

I changed this: Collected emails from the staff and put them into the support email folder so everyone could access client information. 

To this: Reorganized customer service systems to streamline inter-departmental cooperation and decrease customer service wait time. 

Both bullets describe the boring and low-level task of data entry for client emails. But the rewritten bullet uses the language of someone who has worked in business and understands how to impact the bottom line. Additionally, the second bullet looks at the work from a high-level which implies that the person doing the work was at a higher level. 

A smart resume writer can do this with all your experience to make your resume read like you have much more experience than you do. 

After you have a new resume, you will see yourself differently. You’ll start to believe that you ARE actually qualified for higher-level positions. Then you’re ready for the next step. 

Make a list of the qualifications an employer lists for the job you want. Pull out any qualifications you don’t have. You can get that experience right now, this week, before you start applying for jobs. Make the most recent job on your resume freelancing. And make the dates the last few years. Because we are all freelancers. We all help other people talk through ideas for a wide range of things. That’s what friends do. 

As a freelancer, you can say you did anything. Because you can choose to do anything. You don’t have to get paid. A resume is about what you’ve done. Not about who paid and who didn’t. So, for example, if you want to get a job that requires have done a social media campaign, do one, for any company, and write a bullet about it. If you need experience giving presentations, give one to your friend and then write a bullet about it. 

When you’re in the interview, you can talk about whatever you did. You don’t need to say you did it for free. You don’t need to confess that no one cared at all about what you did. Because really, if everyone confessed how stupid their bullets were, and how fake their job duties were, then no one in the world would be able to write a resume. But that’s for another discussion! 

— Penelope Trunk, CEO, Quistic

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Posted November 19, 2019 by

Why are so many parents obsessed with getting their kids into ‘elite’ schools?

Parents and students are obsessed with getting into the “best” college or university largely for status reasons but also for rational, economic reasons. Somehow, if your kid gets into an elite university, that makes you a better parent in the eyes of some, but that’s truly unfortunate has allowed the banks and higher education industries to redistribute to themselves and their shareholders enormous amounts of wealth from the middle class. 

However, there are good, rational, economic reasons to enroll in and graduate from an elite college: your chances are higher of landing a well-paying job with a well known and respected employer. Most of the best known and respected employers recruit the bulk of their professional, entry-level talent from colleges and universities and for decades they’ve done so largely by sending recruiters and hiring managers to interview on college campuses.

Fortunately, an increasing minority of employers are looking at their outcomes data — which employees are the most productive — and are finding that there is a weak and sometimes negative correlation between the perceived quality of the school and productivity of the employee. That is leading these employees to become school agnostic, meaning that they are being more inclusive in their hiring by reducing or eliminating their on-campus hiring efforts in favor of hiring through job boards and other Internet sites. 

Posted November 05, 2019 by

Do this year’s college grads face the likelihood of crippling debt and delinquent repayments?

The student debt that Millennials and now Gen Z have and are incurring is crippling and, long-term, could financially devastate an entire generation. Those who went to college in the 1980s or earlier simply can’t relate as the cost to attend college then could be covered by working part-time as a waiter or bartender and any debt they graduated with could be repaid within a handful of years working at a job that paid well but not even great.

Today’s students are often attending schools that charge $25,000 or more per year plus another $15,000 in related costs such as traveling to and from school each semester, rent, food, and books. A four-year degree, therefore, often costs $160,000. Part-time jobs typically pay about $10 per hour. At 20-hours a week, that’s $41,600 over four years, so about $120,000 needs to be financed. Student loans often carry interest rates of eight percent or more, so over 20-years the average student is going to see about half of their gross wages disappear to repay the principal plus interest on their student debt.

The end results is that the average graduate of a four-year college or university is effectively being asked to live on about $25,000 per year. If they run into any unexpected, significant expenses like the need to replace a car or have surgery, then there is a very real possibility of them falling into delinquency. Many of the student loans then charge huge penalties, including significantly higher interest rates. So if you miss a payment one or two times, your already exorbitant interest rate of eight can easily escalate to 16 percent and then 24 percent. Before you know it, you’re paying 24 percent interest on a six-figure loan that is non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. If that’s not a recipe for financial disaster, I don’t know what is.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Posted October 29, 2019 by

Why should you consider switching jobs even if you don’t necessarily want to?

Changing jobs, even when you don’t want to, is one of the best ways to get a pay raise and improve the hard and soft benefits you receive.

Unfortunately, many employers give raises to existing employees only when forced to, but they’re typically willing to pay new employees the going wage for the same work. So it isn’t unusual for an employee to advance into a more senior role but still be paid like they’re doing their old job. But if they move to a new employer, that new employer is more apt to pay them for the work they’re now doing.

Also, it is easier to win better hard and soft benefits when you move jobs. Hard benefits are those which aren’t negotiable such as 401k and medical plans, but they differ significantly employer-to-employer. If your current employer’s medical plan is terrible, you’re not going to be able to get them to provide a better one to you but you can apply to work for employers with good medical plans. 

Similarly, soft benefits are often easier to obtain from a new employer. These are typically negotiable, such as flexible working hours. If you’ve worked for the same employer for five years from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, it will likely be difficult to convince them to allow you to work from 8am to 6pm, Monday through Thursday and then 8am to noon on Friday. But it should be easier to convince a new employer to allow that.

Posted October 15, 2019 by

Why are apprenticeship programs so much more popular in Europe than the U.S.?

One reason that apprenticeship programs are far more popular in Europe than they are in the United States is because employers in Europe tend to take a far more long-term view of their employees than do employers in the U.S. In Europe, it is more a part of their culture to hire people with some but not every single desired skill and then train them until they have all of the desired skills. In the U.S., employers expect employees to hit the ground running and, therefore, train them only when necessary. Apprentices, by definition, require substantial training.

Another reason that apprenticeships are far more popular in Europe is that it is far harder to terminate an employee in Europe than it is in the United States. In Europe, you can often only terminate an employee for cause and, even then, often need to provide severance. In the U.S., employment is typically at will and you can be fired for any reason or no reason, as long as it isn’t a bad (illegal) reason.

Apprenticeships require a long-term commitment by both parties that, sadly, isn’t as much a part of our culture as it is in Europe.

Posted October 08, 2019 by

Lists you need to make when you start your job search

Many job seekers, especially those who are more toward the beginning than end of their careers, struggle to decide what kind of a job they want to do. For those, we recommend pulling out a legal pad and dividing it into four columns:

  1. Competencies
  2. Interests
  3. Values
  4. Compensation

Under competencies, list in a few words everything you’re good at, whether it is career-related or not.

Under interests, list everything that catches your attention, whether it is career-related or not. 

Under values, list everything that matters to you, whether it is career-related or not. 

Under compensation, list all of the things that you want and need to do which cost money and estimate how much each costs per month or year.

Now, look for commonalities in the first three columns. Are there items which are in the competencies, interests, and values columns? Circle those. Now look at the items which are circled and consider those along with your compensation needs. Can you do any of the circled items for work — even part-time — and meet your compensation needs? If so, you’ve just found at least one career path.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Posted October 04, 2019 by

How to convince your boss to let you work from home

All of College Recruiter’s employees work remotely from home-based offices, but that hasn’t always been the case. Before we moved to a fully work-from-home, distributed team model, only some of our employees worked from home. How did we decide who would work from home? Not only did the employee need to want to work from home, but we also needed to see that they had demonstrated an ability to work from home successfully. 

Some of our home-based employees had done so successfully for other employers. Others had not yet had that experience. For those who had not yet tried working from home, we started off by allowing them to work from home occasionally, such as a half a day or a day a week. If that went well, then they might work from home four days a week and be in the office a day a week. If that went well, then they’d start working from home all of the time and only coming into the office when in-person meetings were imperative, such as all-team meetings.

There were employees who wanted to work from home, whose home office seemed well suited to success (not just a desk in their bedroom), and who seemed to have the discipline and self-starter skill set that we found were necessary. Yet they floundered. Sometimes, pilots that everyone expects to succeed instead fail, including employees trying to work from home. 

Why did the work-from-home pilots fail? A variety of reasons, but the primary reason was the lack of a suitable workspace. One employee who had worked from home with great success bought a dog who barked non-stop unless sitting on the lap of our employee, which prevented her from being productive in her customer service job as she needed to be on the phone a lot. Another employee didn’t make childcare arrangements for his three young kids and so they interrupted him multiple times an hour with a variety of requests such as for snacks. 

Home-based employment can be a wonderful thing for both employee and employer, but those who have never worked from home may be surprised at how hard it is to do successfully.

Posted May 13, 2019 by

I’m willing to do anything. Why can’t I get hired?

I founded the company out of which College Recruiter. We’ve been helping students and recent graduates find great careers for 28 years, which is about six years more than the typical college grad has been alive.

One of the most common questions that we get asked by students and recent graduates is why they can’t get hired by an employer despite being willing to do any work asked by that employer. The response is almost always a variation of, “Well, that’s the reason. Employers don’t want to hire people who are willing to do anything. Few have the time and fewer still have the patience to coach candidates.

Corporate recruiters — those who work in-house for a specific employer — are typically evaluated based upon how many people they hire. If they take extra time to help you or work with you to figure out which of their openings you’re best suited for, chances are that they could have helped their employer hire multiple people in that same amount of time. Third-party recruiters (also known as headhunters or executive recruiters) are under even more time pressure as they’re typically paid a straight commission only when a candidate they refer to an employer is hired by that employer. For them, time truly is money.

Your skills are transferable to a wide variety of roles. I get it. You’re willing to just get your foot in the door and then work your way up. I get it. You’re happy to work for just about any sized organization, provided that it is a dynamic, growing company. I get it. You’d be happy living where you currently do but are also more than willing to relocate at your own expense. I get it. You just want a chance to prove yourself. I get that too and so do the employers that you’re contacting, but the sad truth is that most don’t really care.

Make their job easy. Commit to the type of organization for which you wish to work, maybe a few metro areas that you already have ties to, and a handful of roles and then pursue those with a vengeance. When you apply, be sure that they know that you’re really applying to the specific job by customizing your cover letter and resume to perfectly fit the job. You’re applying for a sales position and the job title the employer uses is “account manager”? Then be sure that your cover letter and resume use “account manager” to describe the work you’ve done and the work you want to do. Their job title states that they want a candidate with a major in computer science but your school calls that information technology? Then be sure that your resume states that your major was, “Computer Science (Information Technology)” or something along those lines.

Oh, and when you do start to engage with the recruiter, be sure that everything you talk about is for the benefit of the employer. They’re a multinational with offices in Chicago, Kansas City, Fort Lauderdale, and Barcelona? Great, but if the recruiter you’re talking with is filling a role for the Chicago office then don’t tell her that you’d love to work in Barcelona someday unless she asks you if you’d be open to starting with the firm in Chicago and a year or two from now working out of the Barcelona office. She’s trying to fill a seat in Chicago, not Barcelona.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia and author, Barnellbe.

Posted April 26, 2019 by

What are the consequences to students who renege on job offers?

I’ve been participating in an interesting discussion in a listserv managed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Most of the readers are talent acquisition leaders from Fortune 1,000 and other large employers and college career service office professionals. A small percentage of readers are like me in that they work for organizations which, in one way or another, help college and university students and recent graduates find great careers.

The discussion that prompted me to write this blog article is about whether employers should report to a career service office that a student who accepted a job offer later reneged on that offer. One employer volunteered that they do send lists of those reneges to the career service offices. I wonder if that employer and others like them are providing any context provided to the reasons for the student reneging on the offer or any opportunity provided to them to provide the context.

Let’s be honest, sometimes the student reneges on their employment-at-will relationship because they change their mind and we can point a finger at them as the party to blame, if there is a need to assign blame. But what if an objective, third-party would actually point to the employer? Reasons are numerous, such as when employers oversell the opportunity, materially change the compensation or position, the hiring manager is terminated or reassigned, a family emergency prevents the student from starting, the employer pivots or even eliminates the business unit that recruited the student, the economy very suddenly and very dramatically changes as it did in 2008, etc. 

Realistically, if an employer is going to report student reneges to the career service office, what do we expect the career service office to do with that information? Wouldn’t it make sense that there would be negative repercussions to the student, and are we trying to help that student or are we trying to punish them and dissuade future students from reneging, much like imprisoning criminals punish the perpetrator and, perhaps, dissuade others from committing the same crime. Do we want to model our college and university recruitment programs on the criminal justice system?

For the career service offices who are accepting the renege information from the employers and maybe even soliciting it, are you doing the same from the candidates? What about employers who renege on their offers? If you’re punishing the student in some way such as banning them from further use of your services, are you levying the same punishments against the employers?