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Posted June 15, 2017 by

How entry-level assistant jobs can lead to long-term career success

 

Recent college grads seeking the opportunity to develop a wide variety of job related skills can do so by pursuing entry-level assistant jobs.

That’s what Amanda Ponzar did in her first job as an administrative assistant.

“It taught me business skills, computer skills, organization, project management, and how to work with others,” said Ponzar, who is now the Chief Marketing Officer of Community Health Charities, an Alexandria, VA-based non-profit federation that raises awareness and funds through workplace campaigns and strategic partnerships.

From that job, Ponzar moved to a marketing assistant role with the Franklin Mint, a worldwide provider of fine art and collectibles.

“I learned about marketing and advertising, and demonstrated curiosity, competence, dependability, and initiative, so I was soon asked to edit management letters and collateral marketing materials, and then was recommended by my colleagues for a copywriter job at The Franklin Mint’s in-house ad agency,” said Ponzar.

That is when Ponzar’s career took off. She moved into advertising copywriter and marketing management roles, went back to school to earn a Master’s Degree in advertising and marketing, and is now a CMO of a non-profit.

She credits her varied experiences as an assistant for her career growth and success.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without those first entry-level jobs as an assistant that helped me define my career path,” said Ponzar.

College students, and recent college grads should consider assistant jobs as a way to get their foot in a door at a company they would like to work with, or to build important job skills. While most college grads don’t get a degree aspiring to be an assistant, think long-term. Assistant jobs help provide a paycheck to start paying off school loans or debt (and help achieve financial independence to not live at home), and/or provide real world experience and a chance to build important job skills. In addition, it’s a great opportunity for the recent college grad considering grad school to gain work experience before taking the next step of their career. Many assistants could also work with companies as they pursue advanced educational opportunities – and maybe the employer will also help pay for it through tuition reimbursement programs. Building a variety of marketable skills is important, and assistant jobs provide a great opportunity to do just that.

Assistants have unique opportunities to be exposed to all facets of a business, says Brandi Britton, District President of OfficeTeam, a leader in the placement of highly skilled office and administrative professionals into administrative assistant and front office jobs. Assistant jobs are in demand at small and large companies, non-profits, startups, Fortune 500 and Silicon Valley firms. Companies like Google, Facebook, and other leading tech firms all succeed because of good assistants.

“Entry-level assistant can learn valuable technology skills from constant exposure to Microsoft Office, enterprise resource planning, database management and customer relationship management software,” says Britton. “You may even build experience with social media tools since administrative staff are often tasked with monitoring and managing their company’s accounts.”

Recent college grads seeking assistant jobs, whether it be an administrative assistant, marketing assistant, office assistant, personal assistant or executive assistant (which often do take more advanced skills), can also learn these important career skills, says Britton:

  • Time and project management: Assistants often have to keep on top of executives’ schedules as well as project timelines. Let’s not forget that assignments come their way from every direction. That’s why assistants are masters of time and project management, organization, multitasking and adaptability.
  • Continual learning opportunities: You become well-rounded because you’re able to work on a variety of tasks – everything from event coordination to presentation decks. Once you figure out the types of projects you like most, you can hone your skills and consider moving on to a more specialized role in the organization.
  • Budget and negotiation: When you frequently speak with vendors and make purchases on behalf of the company, you quickly become skilled at budgeting and negotiation.
  • Verbal and written communication skills: Assistants are in constant contact with any number of internal and external contacts. If you’re in the role long enough, you’ll develop strong verbal and written communication skills.
  • Specialized skills based on organization/industry: Being an assistant in a specific department or industry exposes you to the day-to-day operations and provides insight into that area’s lingo, processes and technology.
  • Inside company knowledge: You gain knowledge into colleagues’ work styles and the corporate culture, which gives you an advantage at the company if you hope to advance there.

Alissa Carpenter founded Everything’s Not Ok and That’s OK Coaching after over a decade in higher education. She has advised Millennials and GenZ students at institutions such as The Wharton School and Penn State.

“As a recent graduate, being a personal assistant can be beneficial to your long term career goals,” says Carpenter. “You have the unique opportunity to work on numerous tasks and learn transferrable skills. You are often on the front line and are able to build relationships and rapport that can provide valuable connections.”

The three skills organizations believe millennials are lacking can be developed in a personal assistant role, says Carpenter, including:

  • Interpersonal skills: You will be working with people from various levels both in and outside of your organization. You will learn to ask appropriate questions to find the most effective way to complete your tasks at hand and build strategic working relationships.
  • Teamwork: In one of the key positions that is crucial to putting events and tasks together, you will learn how to delegate and how to work with people with varying personalities.
  • Communication skills: As a key point of contact you will quickly learn the most effective ways to communicate with individuals and how people like to receive communications.

Utilizing a role as an assistant to get where you want to be later in one’s career can really be a asset to entry-level jobs seekers, says Lori Williams, Recruiting Coordinator for College Nannies, Sitters, and Tutors of Edmond, Oklahoma.

“Not only does it help build credibility and experience on your resume, but the people you often meet in that role can be sourced as references in the future,” says Williams. “You can develop many skills in this role, including project management, event planning, client relations, and administrative duties. All of these skills are transferable into future roles in just about any industry. Being able to develop these skills on the ground floor will help you add a good section to your resume entitled skills or career highlights and you can translate these into the job description for future career goals.”

Said Ponzar: “Never underestimate an assistant job as a way to get your foot in the door and show what you can do, learn about the company, develop relationships, and new skills.”

Look for assistant jobs right now on College Recruiter! Want more tips and advice on how to build career and job skills? Then stay connected to College Recruiter by visiting our blog, and connect with us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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Posted June 06, 2017 by

7 free marketing strategies that can lead to job search success

 

Are you a recent college grad trying to figure out how to best market your skills and fit your job search into an already busy life? Are you concerned that it’s summer and you’re still trying to find a paid internship? Are you wondering how parents can appropriately – or inappropriately help your job search? Are you a female college grad who aspires to become a leader in your field?

If so, then read on. Because we have tips and advice for all those questions – and more.

1. Develop a focused job search

Many recent college grads simply read job ads and send in resumes, without a plan. Francis says coming up with a job search plan, which includes a list of requirements one would like in a particular job/field, can help created a more focused job search, and target specific jobs or employers. Making a chart that outlines previous experience – part-time jobs, college coursework, clubs or organizations, project work, or previous internships, and jotting down successes from those experiences can help a job seeker realize the successes they have, and then, when they understand those successes, they can start perfecting how they discuss them with employers.

That also builds confidence.

Don’t think that part-time college job in retail or the restaurant industry, or other field, matters? Think again.

“Check back in with previous managers and colleagues to brainstorm all the things you’ve done and skills you’ve developed that may allow you to feel more confident in your abilities,” says Francis.

Once you have a clearer sense of your own experiences, what you desire in a job, company and what job titles to look for, now you can start your search. If you start before then, you’ll be wasting time.

2. Ask your career development center for advice

Meet with a career counselor at your college or university. Even if you have graduated, these professionals are here to assist with job search tips, connecting graduates to a mentor, interview prep, and more.

“Different schools have resources that are specific to their students and their majors,” says Christine Francis, Career Counselor at Hamline University’s Career Development Center. For example, if you graduated in data science, “the counselor may be able to connect you to alum who studied data science who may be able to help brainstorm next steps and get you connected to companies of interest or great internship programs.”

Francis offers these tips for recent grads seeking to find an industry specific internship:

  • Post on social media that you’re seeking a paid internship in data science. “The more specific you are in your request, the better your networks will be able to help you,” says Francis. The key is to be as specific as possible, no matter the industry/career one is pursuing.
  • Check job boards to search for internships and job like College Recruiter, recently named #1 job search site for students and recent grads.
  • Use LinkedIn to connect with your school’s LinkedIn alumni group, and see where students or current alums are interning, or currently working. If there is a connection at a target company, reach out to that person and connect.
  • Once connected, start to develop a relationship. Don’t make it all about your needs, and be willing to return any favors to help the new connection. Eventually though, the goal should be to meet with these connections to conduct informational interviews.

3. Practice, practice, practice, to develop career confidence

It’s easy for recent college grads to be timid in the job search. That’s only natural. In addition to writing a great resume, practice interviewing, conducting mock interviews (many college career centers also offer these services), informational interviews, or getting involved in networking events and industry associations can help a recent college grad develop confidence in the job search. Many people are timid or fearful because of the newness of being in the job search for the first time. Getting involved and becoming active can help recent college grads develop confidence over time. In addition to working with career development professionals, recent college grads could also consider working with a career coach.

“Figuring out where your low confidence is coming from is essential in determining how to overcome this,” says Francis.

4. Start building a professional network

The first steps to marketing your skill often starts by understanding what employers want. Unfortunately, in some instances or fields, women need to figure out how to get past male-sounding job descriptions. In addition, many female college grads may be timid if they are not finding other females, or leaders, within their chosen field, to learn from. This is where networking, or finding organizations/opportunities to volunteer or participate in industry-related events can help make connections and open doors, while also building career confidence. For example, a new grad seeking a data science career may not know where to find a female data science mentor or leader.

“There are plenty of women in leadership types of groups or roles for STEM occupations,” says Francis. “These groups are set up to give women support and to feel more confident in their roles.”

Remember, good old fashioned networking is still very effective.  Inviting professionals in your network for coffee or a quick lunch is good for building relationships and getting others interested in working on your behalf to help you find your next position says

“You can start small, with just a few people and ask them to consider introducing you to others you may connect with and send your resume or portfolio to,” said Melissa Greenwell, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of national retailer The Finish Line, Inc., and a certified executive coach who helps women understand how they can leverage natural strengths to become business leaders, discussed how female college grads can become future leaders. “You will be surprised at how quickly your professional network will grow,” said Greenwell. “It will also take time. People are busy, so be patient. And don’t let your new networks go stale after you’ve landed the job. You may very well be able to repay a favor and you never know when you may need to reach back out to them in the future.”

In a previous College Recruiter article, 6 rules for women who want to become corporate leaders, Greenwell said some job seekers, especially those just starting their career, focus on job titles versus opportunity. Don’t sacrifice doing what one loves for the sake of a title. Instead focus on the work itself.

“People who succeed in whatever they’re doing are people who have aspirations and goals, are willing to work hard and put forth extra effort, communicate clearly, consistently and often, and most importantly, work for the good of the enterprise and bring others along,” says Greenwell, also the author of Money On The Table: How to Increase Profits Through Gender-Balanced Leadership. “Women specifically are driven to work for a purpose and can capitalize on that special drive.”

5. Ask for helpful parents, not helicopter parents

Many college grads have parents who are ready to help their child with the job search. That’s great, if done correctly. The main thing to remember is, this is the real world now, and employers expect recent college grads to take initiative, and own their career/job search. Read this article to learn how helicopter parents hinder college grads in detail.

“Believe it or not, recruiters and hiring managers are seeing a surprising influx of parental involvement in the job search, recruiting, and interviewing process,” says Brandi Britton, district president for OfficeTeam, the nation’s leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled administrative and office support professionals. “As a staffing firm, we’ve heard our share of helicopter parent stories and experienced some unique situations with moms and dads ourselves.”

The reasons for mom and dad getting involved are simple, says Britton: Recent college grads may not have as much job search experience and therefore turn to their parents for guidance.

“The job search process can be extremely challenging and daunting,” says Britton. “Parental support and advice throughout the process can help you stay positive and on track.”

But…

“Although most parents mean well with their efforts, they need to know where to draw the line to avoid hurting their son or daughter’s chances of securing a job,” says Britton.

6. Find a mentor to develop as a professional

Anyone can learn from a mentor. However, there are students who can especially benefit by having a mentor help tap them into a network that might normally be just beyond reach. For example, some studies show that entry level women with a mentor show faster career growth than women without mentors. How can one find a mentor?

“Think about past professors, staff at your school who have supported you, or maybe a new contact – someone you admire in your field,” says Francis. “Set up a meeting to ask for help and tips on how to market yourself.” And when you land that first job, ask if the organization’s has mentorship program.

7. Try something different: Find a way to stand out in the job search

Don’t be afraid to try something different in the job search. Employers like creativity, and those who take risks. And while this seems old fashioned, it’s inexpensive, and different. In addition to applying online for a job, mail your resume to the employer too. (Don’t skip the online part–following the directions of every job ad is important.)

“I’m often asked if sending paper resumes is a thing of the past,” says Greenwell. “In general, it is. However, you never know when one will make it to someone’s desk and cause them to take notice. It’s a relatively low effort and low cost marketing strategy to implement, so my advice is to send them.”

Once the resume is mailed in, take it even further.

“The follow up is important, which I would recommend come in the form of a follow-up email,” says Greenwell. “That email shouldn’t necessarily ask for action to be taken, but rather an invitation to reach out to you if they would like to learn more about your qualifications. Personally, I believe phone calls are relatively ineffective, though leaving a voice mail message to thank someone for reading your resume can’t hurt. Again, the goal is to stay visible.”

Another option to consider? Build your own web site. It’s a built in marketing tool.

“Building your own website is another interesting marketing strategy,” says Greenwell. “There are many tools available to build your own in a cost-effective and simple manner. This is a good way to display your experiences and interests, and to bring your resume to life. Highlighting educational accomplishments, learning adventures and volunteer experiences is critical. Aside from email, phone and a link to your LinkedIn profile, other personal information should be omitted.

It’s normal for recent college grads to fear the unexpected, or not know how to approach the job search soon after college. Follow these tips, and over time you will become confident, connected, and in time, hired!

Want more career advice and job search tips? Then stay connected to College Recruiter by visiting our blog, and connect with us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and YouTube